The Answer: the LXX.

The Answer:  A figment of someone’s imagination.

The Explanation:

First, let’s define what the LXX is supposed to be. An ancient document called “The Letter of Aristeas” revealed a plan to make an OFFICIAL translation of the Hebrew Bible (the Old Testament) in Greek. This translation was to be accepted as the official Bible of the Jews and was to replace the Hebrew Bible. Supposedly this translation work would be performed by 72 Jewish scholars (?), six from each of the twelve tribes of Israel. The supposed location of the work was to be Alexandria, Egypt. The alleged date of translation was supposedly around 250 BC, during the 400 years of silence between the close of the Old Testament in 397 BC and the birth of Christ in approximately 4 BC (due to a four year error in the calendar).

It has become known as the Septuagint, “The Interpretation of the 70 Elders”. Also it is represented by the Roman (?) numerals whose combined value is 70, hence L-50, X-10, X-10. Why it isn’t called the LXXII  I’ll never know.

This so called “Letter of Aristeas” is the sole evidence for the existence of this mystical document. There are absolutely NO Greek Old Testament manuscripts existent with a date of 250 BC or anywhere near it. Neither is there any record in Jewish history of such a work being contemplated or performed.

When pressed to produce hard evidence of the existence of such a document, scholars quickly point to Origen’s Hexapla written around 200 AD, or approximately 450 years later than the LXX was supposedly penned, and more than 100 years after the New Testament was completed. The second column of Origen’s Hexapla contains his own (hardly 72 Jewish scholars) Greek translation of the Old Testament including spurious books such as “Bel and the Dragon”, “Judith” and “Tobit” and other apocryphal books accepted as authoritative only by the Roman Catholic Church.

Proponents of the invisible LXX will try to claim that Origen didn’t translate the Hebrew into Greek, but only copied the LXX into the second column of his Hexapla. Can this argument be correct? No. If it were, then that would mean that those astute 72 Jewish scholars added the Apocryphal books to their work before they were ever written. (!)  Or else, Origen took the liberty to add these spurious writings to God’s Holy Word (Rev. 22:18).

Thus we see that the second column of the Hexapla is Origen’s personal, unveilable translation of the Old Testament into Greek and nothing more.

Eusebius and Philo, both of questionable character, make mention of a Greek Pentateuch. Hardly the entire Old Testament and not mentioned as any kind of an officially accepted translation.

Is there ANY Greek manuscript of the Old Testament written BEFORE the time of Christ? Yes. There is one minute scrap dated at 150 BC, the Ryland’s Papyrus, #458. It contains Deuteronomy chapters 23-28. No more. No less. If fact, it may be the existence of this fragment that led Eusebius and Philo to assume that the entire Pentateuch had been translated by some scribe in an effort to interest Gentiles in the history of the Jews. It most certainly cannot be a portion of any pretended official Old Testament translation into Greek. We can rest assured that those 72 Jewish scholars supposedly chosen for the work in 250 BC would be just a mite feeble by 150 BC.

Besides the non-existence of any reason to believe such a translation was ever produced are several hurtles which the “Letter of Aristeas”, Origen’s Hexapla, Ryland’s #458, and Eusebius and Philo just cannot clear.

The first one is the “Letter of Aristeas” itself. There is little doubt amongst scholars today that it was not written by anyone named Aristeas. In fact, some believe its true author is Philo. This would give it an A.D. date. If this were true, then its REAL intention would be to deceive believers into thinking that Origen’s second column is a copy of the LXX. A feat that it has apparently accomplished “in spades”.

If there was an Aristeas, he was faced with two insurmountable problems.

First, how did he ever locate the twelve tribes in order to pick his six representative scholars from each. Having been thoroughly scattered by their many defeats and captivities, the tribal lines of the 12 tribes had long since dissolved into virtual non-existence. It was impossible for anyone to distinctly identify the 12 individual tribes.

Secondly, if the 12 tribes had been identified, they would not have undertaken such a translation for two compelling reasons.

(1)  Every Jew knew that the official caretaker of Scripture was the tribe of Levi as evidenced in Deuteronomy 17:18, 31:25,26 and Malachi 2:7. Thus, NO Jew of any of the eleven other tribes would dare join such a forbidden enterprise.

(2)  It is obvious to any reader of the Bible that the Jews were to be distinctly different from the Gentile nations around them. Unto them was given such distinct practices as circumcision, Sabbath worship, sundry laws of cleansing and their own homeland. Added to this is the heritage of the Hebrew language. Even today, practicing Jews in China and India refuse to teach their children any language but Hebrew. The Falasha Jews of Ethiopia were distinct among the many tribes of their country by the fact that they jealously retained the Hebrew language as an evidence of their Jewish heritage.

Are we to be so naive as to believe that the Jews who considered Gentiles nothing more than dogs, would willingly forsake their heritage, the Hebrew language, for a Gentile language into which would be translated the holiest possession of all, their Bible? Such a supposition is as insane as it is absurd.

“What then,” one might ask, “of the numerous quotes in the New Testament of the Old Testament that are ascribed to the LXX?” The LXX they speak of is nothing more than the second column of Origen’s Hexapia. The New Testament quotations are not quotes of any LXX or the Hexapla. They are the author, the Holy Spirit, taking the liberty of quoting His work in the Old Testament in whatever manner He wishes. And we can rest assured that He certainly is not quoting any non-existent Septuagint.

Only one more question arises. Then why are scholars so quick to accept the existence of this LXX in the face of such irrefutable arguments against it? The answer is sad and simple.

Hebrew is an extremely difficult language to learn. It takes years of study to attain a passing knowledge of it. And many more to be well enough versed to use it as a vehicle of study. By comparison a working knowledge of Greek is easily attainable. Thus, IF THERE WAS an official translation of the Old Testament into Greek, Bible critics could triple the field of influence overnight without a painstaking study of biblical Hebrew. Unfortunately, the acceptance of the existence of the Septuagint on such thin evidence is based solely on pride and voracity.

But stop and think. Even if such a spurious document as the LXX really did exist, how could a Bible critic, who, in reference to the King James Bible, say that “No translation has the authority of the original language, ” claim in the same breath that his pet LXX has equal authority with the Hebrew Original? This scholarly double-talk is nothing more than a self exalting authority striving to keep his scholarly position above those “unschooled in the original languages.”

If you accept such an argument, I have a bridge to sell you in Brooklyn!

©All material is copyright of Dr. Sam Gipp. Used with permission.

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Posted on July 19, 2011, in The Answer and tagged , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 15 Comments.

  1. OK, Dave, Daniel, and Tonja…what is your response? I can barely count to 10 (X) in, much less LXX.

  2. I’m sure I will regret being a part of this conversation, but it pains me to read such silly things being propagated. Sam Gipp is spouting little more than poorly contrived conspiracy theories.

    Aside from the LXX being the favored translation of the early Gentile church and that Jesus quoted from it (I realize Sam says Jesus was making up His own translation on the spot) Gipp insists that the LXX never existed.

    A few things for your consideration:
    Gipp tries to say that there is no Greek OT texts that date prior to the time of Christ, he derogatorily notes “one minute scrap” of Deuteronomy as if that’s not evidence and then says the rest of the textual evidence is about 200 AD or after. So let us examine what he says. 1. even one “scrap” of a Greek translation of any part of the Hebrew Bible shows that people were in fact translating the Hebrew into Greek. 2. The Jew Philo, who lived 20 BC to 50 AD wrote of the existence of the LXX which means there was at least some evidence of it in his time. 3. Gipps statement that there is no more Greek textual evidence of an LXX before the time of Jesus beyond a srap that contains Deuteronomy and his saying, “There are absolutely NO Greek Old Testament manuscripts existent with a date of 250 BC or anywhere near it” is simply not true. He is either out right lying or he is just plain ignorant of the historical facts. The oldest manuscripts of the Septuagint include 2nd century BC fragments of Leviticus and Deuteronomy (Rahlfs nos. 801, 819, and 957), AND 1st century BC fragments of Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers, Deuteronomy, and the Minor Prophets (Rahlfs nos. 802, 803, 805, 848, 942, and 943). I would say 100 BC is pretty close to 250 BC, wouldn’t you? We see that Philo had quite a bit more manuscript evidence than a “scrap” he used to “assume” there was an LXX. Actually, look at Gipp’s statement, “If fact, it may be the existence of this fragment that led Eusebius and Philo to assume that the entire Pentateuch had been translated by some scribe in an effort to interest Gentiles in the history of the Jews.” In fact, it may be? So he is saying the fact of the matter is that it could possibly have happened this way? It seems Gipp is the one assuming, not Philo. Again, this is how conspiracy theories are propagated.

    Concerning the letter of Aristeas: Gipp tries to insinuate that the letter was more than likely a forgery of Philo’s making stating that some believe this (he doesn’t say who or how many). This doesn’t prove it true. Some believe men came from monkeys but would you say that makes it true? Of course not. Look at the evidence. Yes, the letter was probably pseudepigraphal (not really written by Aristeas) this isn’t new. It doesn’t change the fact that whoever wrote it was a 2nd century BC Hellenist. And it’s a bit of a stretch to say the letter never existed until Philo when over twenty manuscripts of this letter are preserved and it is often mentioned and quoted in other texts. And note, Pseudepigrapha was common in those days, the Apocrypha contains much of it.

    Next, Gipp tries to say the Jews were so scattered and intermingled that finding their tribal ties and family trees would be impossible. Which is very problematic when we are given Jesus family tree, also, there could be no real Priests as one wouldn’t know if he was in the Levitical lineage, so all the priests during Jesus’ time weren’t legit. Again, Gipp is simply wrong. Jesus knew what tribe he was from. Paul also knew what tribe he was from – Phil. 3:5. So the lines had not yet been abolished. Their captivity during the intertestamental period actually made many Jews strive to be more Jewish. Also, if Jerusalem sent people from every tribe it wouldn’t be a problem obtaining them, would it? Once again, Gipp misrepresents the truth in order to support his conspiracy theories.

    Gipp also seem void of knowledge of the Helenization of the Jews. During the intertestamental period, some Jews adopted much of Greek culture, yet they still considered themselves Jewish. There would have been plenty of Jews willing to translate the Hebrew texts into Greek.

    I’ve spent enough time on this, but hope it shows that Gipp offers nothing more than conspiracy theories that have no historical substantiation masked in arrogant and empty rhetoric. His “evidence” is far from “irrefutable” and only the naïve would believe what he has said.

    It is sad that stuff like Gipp’s writing are being propagated.

    • And a hearty “Amen!” comes from me on this. This is really embarrassing. Where is his doctorate *from*, anyway? I know you have a disclaimer, Heather, about not agreeing with everything…but this doesn’t do any service to the KJV-only position(s).

  3. The Book of Aristeas is a unique document. It served a purpose in the ancient world that we are largely disconnected from in the age of photos, films, and YouTube- to legitimize. It does not detail a plan to create a Greek translation of the Hebrew Bible, instead it attempts to legitimize the Greek translations in use at its time with an incredible story- a common tool of that day. While some find it useful as a piece of history concerning biblical literature, a text critical look at the actual manuscript evidence of the Greek Bibles shows that while Aristeas has much to do with Greek Bible, Greek Bible has nothing to do with Aristeas. There is no need to appeal to Aristeas or the legend of the 70 to read, understand, and even confess the Greek Bible (and all the traditions that created it)- as we do as freethinking Baptists (yes we’ve had this conversation with our elders and church body). Bottom line: Aristeas did not determine the Greek OT. Nothing guided it but God working through people with problems like us over many generations.

    Further, if you’ve ever read the OT in English (like the King James), then you’ve read Greek OT in translation. Whenever English translators run into translation issues, or sometimes even theological issues from the Masoretic Traditions they don’t like, they regularly resort to Rahlf’s LXX. Whoever cannot appreciate the Greek OT, obviously has not tried to translate the Hebrew. The Greek OT is no figment.

  4. I see that this series is nothing more than a reprinting of the book Dr. Gibb provides on his website. Do you plan to copy and paste all of Dr. Gibb’s content?

    It would be more fun to interact with your thoughts supporting KJV-onlyism.

    As a Hebrew-Aramaic-Greek-onlyist, the KJV is a wonderful translation into an older type of Standard English. But I would like a KJV-onlyist to answer a question about the social location of Ancient Hebrew in relation to the social location of King James’ English (first asked- to my knowledge- by John Hobbins at ancienthebrewpoetry.typepad.com). What happens when one translates from a vernacular (a native ethnic language) into a lingua franca (a language of the dominant culture/country)? Ancient Hebrew was a vernacular, an ethnic language bound to the experience of those who spoke it- a minority language. English in King James’ day- and following- was (and is) a dominant language spoken by native English and by those who England conquered. In terms of the slave/master relationship, translating Hebrew into English would be for the ancient Hebrew slave people like translating Scripture into Egyptian, the language of their slave-masters. In King James’ day, a slave translation from a slave people (the Irish perhaps?) would have been wonderful. How different English might be if King James learned from Scripture and empowered those with no power! Instead King James funded a beautiful, remarkable translation that God has used to save people despite the fact that it was created to serve King James’ political agendas rather than Kingdom agendas.

    That being said- us English speaking Egyptian-like slave-masters still need a Bible to read. And the KJV is a good one.

  5. This is harmful-

    “Hebrew is an extremely difficult language to learn. It takes years of study to attain a passing knowledge of it. And many more to be well enough versed to use it as a vehicle of study. By comparison a working knowledge of Greek is easily attainable.”

    This is simply not true. This is how church people get scared off of learning Biblical Hebrew for themselves. We have taught biblical Hebrew and Greek to church laypeople and to university students. It does not take anything more than a good teacher and a good student. If someone was unsuccessful getting the basics of a biblical language within six months, either its their teachers fault, or more often their own fault. Yes it takes a lifetime to understand the Hebrew Bible, but not to be proficient in the tools necessary for original language exegesis.

    Further, as languages go- biblical Hebrew is quite straight forward. It exists is a rather short corpus (the Hebrew Bible- as opposed to ancient Greek which exists in the ancient poets, philosophers, etc) and its own speakers by-and-large quit speaking it during the “Hellenistic” period. Biblical Hebrew plateaus in its complexity. It reaches a point and goes no further, in the development of languages. Greek on the other hand has not stopped being spoken since the ancient poets, like Homer, and the ancient philosophers, like Socrates. It is an extremely complex language. Koine Greek (New Testament Greek) is no different. Some of it is near-classical quality (Hebrews) and some of it is the street Greek spoken/written by a non-native (1 John).

    Biblical Hebrew is not extremely difficult. Like everything, it takes time, patience, and a good teacher.

  6. THIS is the kind of stuff that takes blog comments to a refreshing, new level.

    I have never studied Hebrew, only Greek, and I am not proficient. I appreciate you guys taking the time to comment. Even if you are wrong (probably not), your comments are well-reasoned and intelligent, which is far better than the hyperbole and ad hominem attacks which sadly characterize responses.

  7. I believe Heather does this (blogs such as this) for one of two reasons. Either 1) She’s seeking attention via controversy; or 2) because (and this is not an ad hominem attact) she is severly deluded and actually believes it. In any case, she is someone to be pitied, not taken seriously.

    • There could be two other reasons (I am not speaking for Heather, just positing other potential reasons):
      1) She read the book and wanted to confirm how much is true, so she is posting the book in her blog to get feedback to help her better understand what is true.
      2) She is interested to see how other Christians view the material.

      She may post these answers and questions for some of the controversial attention. Most bloggers (myself included!) have done that! However, she has posted in the top corner of the blog itself (not the posted entries) “I do not necessarily agree with all of his featured material.” That almost completely rules out your second option.

      Please be more respectful. Notice the vast majority of the comments she has received have been dissenting views, but they have not attacked our sister’s character. Complained about Dr. Gipp’s sense of research and tact they may have done, but she has said this is for opening discussion. We are happy you wish to comment, we just ask the comments actually relate to the topic or are an encouragement.

      Thanks! God bless!

      • I’ll second danklemitis. As a Christian in the UK I am sometimes surprised at the stuff discussed, for example I only found out about KJVonlyism through this site – I was totally unaware of it before to the level that I didn’t even know it was an issue. Personally it’s not a problem for me to hold in balance the fact that is important to Heather but not to me.

        As someone who hasn’t always agreed with Heather let me say this – she is the most agreeable person to disagree with that I have ever met. If you state your case logically and without lowering yourself to insult, she may not change her views but she won’t force you to change yours either. How many of us can say that about ourselves?

      • Thank you, Dan. I appreciate your comment. God bless.

    • Timothy, I’m not going to attempt to defend myself or my blog to you in this comment. I simply want to thank you for stopping by Grow Up!, reading a bit, and leaving a footprint. I appreciate the time you spent here.

  8. danielandtonya

    We left 3 footprints!

    Will you respond to us?

    D&T

    • danielandtonya,
      If you refer to the Comment Policy (http://growup318.com/commentpolicy/), I mentioned the following:
      “rarely will I reply to comments left under these posts. These posts are my way of asking you all something instead of telling you something. I want to hear from you, rather than do all the talking (or typing, rather) myself. If you post something that I would like you to expand on or clarify, I will respond to your comment. These are always legit questions – things that I either don’t know the answers to, or things I want to know more about – I’m not just trying to use up cyberspace.”

      Thank you though for your many visits to this blog and for engaging in the conversations that take place here. I appreciate what you bring to the table for discussion!

      God bless. :]

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