Textual Growth in Isaiah 40:7-8? (Part 1)

This series of posts may be too ambitious for a blog, but I hope to present some of the key issues and the scholars involved with this textual problem and the other significant textual problems in Isaiah generally. I will present the texts in this post and the two theories used to explain the textual situation. In a second post, I will present the interpretation of Eugene Ulrich, “The Developmental Composition of the Book of Isaiah: Light from 1QIsaa on Additions in the MT,” Dead Sea Discoveries 8,3 (2001): 288-305. In a third post, I want to convey some of the main ideas in a recent article by Drew Longacre, “Developmental Stage, Scribal Lapse, or Physical Defect? 1QIsaa’s Damaged Exemplar for Isaiah Chapters 34-66,” Dead Sea Discoveries 20 (2013): 17-50. In a fourth post, I will offer my own conclusion to this textual problem. These texts are the most relevant to this problem but I will comment on all of the evidence in post four.

MT:  יָבֵ֤שׁ חָצִיר֙ נָ֣בֵֽל צִ֔יץ כִּ֛י ר֥וּחַ יְהוָ֖ה נָ֣שְׁבָה בֹּ֑ו אָכֵ֥ן חָצִ֖יר הָעָֽם ׃יָבֵ֥שׁ חָצִ֖יר נָ֣בֵֽל צִ֑יץ וּדְבַר־אֱלֹהֵ֖ינוּ יָק֥וּם לְעֹולָֽם׃ ס. The text in red is what is under consideration.

NRSV: The grass withers, the flower fades, when the breath of the Lord blows upon it; surely the people are grass. 8 The grass withers, the flower fades; but the word of our God will stand forever.

LXX: ἐξηράνθη ὁ χόρτος, καὶ τὸ ἄνθος ἐξέπεσεν, […] τὸ δὲ ῥῆμα τοῦ θεοῦ ἡμῶν μένει εἰς τὸν αἰῶνα.

NETS: The grass has withered, and the flower has fallen, […] but the word of our God remains forever.

1QIsaa: יבשׁ חציר נבל ציצ כי רוח ֑֑֑֑ נשׁבה בוא הכן חציר העם יבשׁ חציל נבל ציצ ודבר אלהינו יקום לעולם. The text in red represents a later addition to this text, perhaps written in a different handwriting by a later scribe. I provide the image from the manuscript (see here for the whole digital scroll).


As one can see, the Masoretic text is longer than the text of the LXX. Furthermore, 1QIsaa has an interesting and perhaps a mixed text. The image above shows that originally 1QIsaa had a shorter text similar to the LXX and that another hand added the longer reading of MT above the line and then continued the longer text down the left margin.

In order to describe this text and the factors involved one needs a theory which can explain these kinds of problems. Currently, the two theories on this problem and others like them are (1) 1QIsaa represents the shorter original and MT represents a growing and expanding text of Isaiah and (2) 1QIsaa and LXX represent a text that became shorter by a scribal error during the transmission of the longer text. In addition to a theory, one also needs an understanding of the character of these textual witnesses in order to describe the factors involved. For example, (1) would need to show that 1QIsaa usually has a shorter text than MT and the reason for MT’s longer text is due to intentional scribal additions. (2) would need to show that an unintentional scribal error is probable in 1QIsaa and would have to supply an equally probable solution for the rest of the shorter texts in that manuscript. In other words, a global knowledge of the textual character of 1QIsaa combined with a theory of its transmission is prerequisite to deciding between the two theories.

As we unpack this problem, I want to keep an eye on the theory which most simply explains the difference between these texts. Both theories are plausible from the outset, but which one will offer the simpler solution in the final analysis?

Peace on Earth: The Text and Message of Luke 2:14 for Christmas Time


Henry Wadsworth Longfellow wrote a poem entitled “Christmas Bells” in which the last line of every stanza is “Peace on earth good-will to men.” Of course this line echoes part of the angelic choir’s pronouncement to the shepherds that Christ, the LORD, had been born, and it is the wording of the AV. The translation preserves the correct meaning of ευδοκια, since it preserves its meaning as divine favor “to men”, but the AV obscures the intended recipients of peace and favor which is present in the original text [if you get bored with the technical, skip to the conclusion for the payoff].

The Variant in Luke 2:14

The critical edition of the Greek New Testament has the following reading:

δόξα ἐν ὑψίστοις θεῷ καὶ ἐπὶ γῆς εἰρήνη ἐν ἀνθρώποις εὐδοκίας (Glory to God in the highest and on earth peace to men of favor [understood as men of God’s favor; see below]).

The genitive singular ending is considered to be the original text and not the nominative singular. Thus the angels are pronouncing peace to men of God’s favor, not peace on earth, goodwill to men [indiscriminately].

I won’t give the full listing of the evidence in NA 27, but I will draw attention to the reading in Codex א (codex S if you are a Septuagintalist). Follow the link to the on-line edition here. This link goes to the proper lief in the codex, but the settings will have to be changed. I suggest using “raking light” and zoom in on the top right hand column, where the lemma may be found. The raking light reveals a very interesting feature about the texture of the codex. Stretching over lines 5-6 in uncials, you should see ΕΥΔΟΚΙΑ (note the ε in medial/hyper position). Now, does your eye see the ruffled texture of the parchment after the letter Α? I see what appears to be a scraping (that’s an erasing in today’s vernacular) of the parchment and the remnant of the bottom part of the stroke of a lunar sigma (i.e. Ϲ). It appears that the scribe originally wrote, ΕΥΔΟΚΙΑϹ and then a later corrector erased the sigma so that what now remains in the text is the nominative singular “favor or good-will.”  Supposedly, codex B had the same erasure, but when I examined the exact replica of this codex, it was not easy to see the erasure. [Perhaps an electronic online edition of B with raking light would reveal the same phenomenon ;).]

The external evidence favors the reading in the critical edition since the reading is preserved in the oldest and best manuscripts over and against the text underlying the AV. The later correction of the codices S and B and the text of the other witnesses probably arose either to facilitate the difficult reading or accidentally on palaeographical grounds, since in some mss the lunar sigma may have been small in size (see Metzger, Textual Commentary, 111).

Meaning of the Phrase ανθρωποις ευδοκιας

Once the genitive is restored as the original text, there is still some debate over whether the phrase should be understood as “to men with a disposition of good will”, or “to men of God’s favor” or “to men whom God favors.”  The first option seems plausible only if one is not reading the text through the lenses of the LXX and DSS. In the LXX, ευδοκια means God’s favor on his people. Psalm 5:12(11)ff says, “And let all who hope in you be glad; forever they will rejoice, and you will encamp among them, and those who love your name will boast in you, because you will bless the righteous; O Lord, you crowned us as with a shield of favor.” Psalm 105(106):4 says, “Remember us, O Lord, in the good pleasure of [towards?] your people; regard us in your deliverance.” 1 Supplements (Chronicles) 16:10, “Praise in his holy name. When a heart seeks his good pleasure, it shall be glad.” Significantly, scholars have also noted a Semitic parallel in 1QH iv.32f (the sons of his [God’s] good pleasure); xi.9 (the elect of his [God’s] good pleasure) (see Metzger, 111). I found no examples of ευδοκια in the genitive modifying ανθρωπος in LXX, and LSJ did not have any examples. This reading in Luke 2:14 is truly difficult, yet the Hebrew examples from the DSS offer sufficient evidence to interpret this text as an indirect Hebraism or Septuagintalism.

Luke 2:14, then, is best read in light of the LXX and the DSS. This context indicates that the angels sing about peace to men whom God favors, not the favorable disposition of men or men in the disposition of goodwill.


Christmas time, therefore, is not encapsulated in the slogans, “peace, man” or “let’s end all wars” or “world peace” with a fundamentally future orientation. Fundamentally, it seems to me, Christmas is about remembering that the angels declared peace to men on whom God’s favor rests, and that declaration was actually fulfilled in the first advent of Jesus. Christ, the LORD, has brought peace to men whom God has favored. Christ came to preach the favorable year of the LORD (Is 61:2; Luke 4:19-21) and he accomplished this by shedding his own blood and inaugurating the new covenant [or the covenant of peace in Ezek. 34:25 et al.], which procures the forgiveness of sins for all who repent and believe in him (Luke 22:14-20; 24:44-49). His sacrifice made peace and formed a people, a new humanity (Eph. 2:14-18), who now endeavor to live as  the people of God by speaking the truth in love [i.e. living faithfully with one another as members of the new covenant. cf. Zech 8:16-17].

The cries “to end all wars” and “world peace” refer to the second coming of Jesus Christ, when he will announce the day of the judgment/vengeance of our God (Isaiah 61:2). On this day, he shall remove the tears from the eyes of the people of God’s favor, and he will judge his enemies with absolute justice and righteousness.

Christmas, then, is not an empty hope for world peace. It is remembering how God in Christ actually brought peace on earth to the people of his favor in the past, and that past historical reality is the ground for a certain hope that he will act in the future, that he will indeed come again to establish his justice and righteousness in the consummation of his kingdom in the new creation. “World peace” is part and parcel of why we cry,”Come, Lord Jesus!” It is not a lament or a gripe to God, as if the first advent of Christ had failed. The first advent brought peace through the blood of Jesus’ cross. The second advent will fulfill or consummate what Christ’s first coming inaugurated.

With this understanding, may we have a merry Christmas indeed!

What is a Septuagintalism and why is it important to NT Studies?

Natalio Fernandez Marcos, author of The Septuagint in Context, says, “Nowhere in the New Testament is the need for a Semitic Vorlage demanded by the evidence, and most of the Hebraisms invoked by philologists are more easily explained as indirect Hebraisms or Septuagintalisms through the sub-language that was created for the Scriptures by the translations of the Bible in Greek” (Septuagint, 333).

In my study of Greek Job, I have come across at least two examples of the use of προσθείς + finite verb which translates Hebrew יסף + infinitive, “to X again”, in which the action to be repeated is carried by the infinitive. In Job 27:1 and 29:1, Job takes up his parable/discourse again. The OG renders this construction as προσθείς + εἶπεν: lit. having added/furthered, Job said… Or “Again, he spoke his discourse.” LSJ lists this meaning for προστίθημι only for LXX and NT. A simple example from the NT comes from Luke 19:11: Ἀκουόντων δὲ αὐτῶν ταῦτα προσθεὶς εἶπεν παραβολὴν, “Now after hearing these things, he again spoke a parable…”

Since there is some debate over whence this NT construction comes (Hebrew or Aramaic Vorlage or LXX influence), it is interesting to compare it to Aquila’s revision of Job 27:1: καὶ προσέθηκεν Ἰὼβ ἆραι τὴν παραβολὴν αὐτοῦ καὶ εἶπε (lit. And he added Job to take up his parable and he said). Predictably, Aquila renders every word of his Hebrew source into Greek, even preserving the exact Hebrew word order. He has translated the Hebrew verb ultra literally, which preserves the Hebrew parataxis, whereas the OG translator created a hypotactic construction. Nowhere do the NT authors use the construction of Aquila to my knowledge, but they do use the construction of the LXX with some frequency.

This observation and the phenomenon of Septuagintalisms in general (see the list in Marcos on pages 333-35) indicate probably that the NT authors were influenced by the LXX and perhaps in some cases the early revisers, but might it also indicate that they did not have much recourse, if any, to a Hebrew parent text and that they were not very influenced by its linguistic makeup? If they had recourse to the Hebrew parent text of the Greek OT, would we expect more literal renderings such as we find in Aquila or Theodotion, who clearly had such an access? Of course there are more angles to this discussion, which I have left out (e.g. revision of the OG by the time of the NT, what was the exact form of the Greek OT during the first century AD? etc.). All I’m asking at this time is, do the presence of Septuagintalisms add to the growing consensus that the NT authors were more, if not exclusively, influenced by the LXX than the Hebrew text and therefore they may not have made ad hoc renderings from this text?

[Caveat: Text form does not indicate a different canon thus the NT authors’ dependence on the LXX does not mean that they were thinking in terms of the so called “wider canon” of the LXX. That such a conception existed at all is dubious according to a thorough examination of all of the evidence.]

Does the NT Misread the OT?

Daniel O. McCellan and I are having a bit of an exchange on his blog regarding the whole issue of the NT’s use of the OT here. Daniel posits that Hebrews 2:5ff has misread Psalm 8 via the mistranslation of the LXX. In Daniel’s view, this example shows that one cannot read the Bible “univocally,” since the NT is reading into the OT text and using it for its purposes. I disagree with Daniel for two reasons: 1) I’m not convinced that the LXX has misread the Hebrew text when it translates אלהים with αγγελοι. On his thread I said:

The Greek Psalter uses αγγελος 13 times to render three Hebrew words: אביר אלוהים, and מלאך. Of these 13 times, it uses αγγελοι to render “gods” 3 times (8:5, 96(97):7, and 137(138):1). In 96:7, αγγελοι is a very fitting translation of אלוהים since it clearly has “gods” or “divine beings” in view and not the God of Israel, YHWH, while the other two references are debatable. There is clearly not a different Vorlage underlying the LXX, since it is an established equivalent in the Psalter (see also Job 1:6 et al.). So there is no textual fluidity here, but rather indication that the translator is attempting a somewhat close rendering of a text similar to M. When the Hebrew Psalter refers to false gods/judges(?) or elohim in 81(82):1 and 85(86):8, the translator uses θεοι. Thus it would seem that the LXX has detected three meanings of elohim: God, angels or divine beings, and false gods/judges, and it has a different equivalent for each, clearly distinguishing the true God of Israel from the false gods by employing the singular and plural of θεος respectively. All of this seems like good translating on the part of the LXX, not a different Vorlage.

Therefore, in my view, LXX Psalms is actually a faithful translation of the Hebrew text (Peshitta and Targum also have “angels” here). Daniel thinks the translator made a translational (?; I don’t think he means an unintentional error of hearing or sight) mistake here, but I think he needs to show that αγγελοι is an insufficient Greek equivalent in those instances where elohim means something other than false gods or the God of Israel. It may be a novel translation equivalent in the LXX (though I’m not certain of this point), but does that mean the translator misread the Hebrew text?

2) I’m also not convinced that Hebrews has misinterpreted Psalm 8 by applying it to Christ. There is some debate over whether this text is Christocentric or anthropocentric, but let’s assume the former for the sake of discussion. I understand Psalm 8 to be written by David on the basis of the superscription attested in both MT and LXX, and therefore it is quite early. If it is Davidic, then one should read it in light of the covenant God made with David (2 Sam. 7:13ff) and in the light of the original creation of Adam, since it is a commentary on creation. I understand humanity and, therefore Adam as the first human, to be a kingly figure, since he is identified as the image and likeness of God. Genesis 5:3 also links Son with image, and therefore Adam is considered the Son of God, which is a title of kings in the ancient world. David also realizes that the covenant God made with him and his genealogy places him as King over all of the peoples, since there is one God over the entire world in the Israelite worldview  (Deut. 6:4; 2 Sam. 7:19; cp. Isaiah 2:1-3).

Hebrews 2:5ff, then, continues the Christological argument of the author, begun in 1:4ff. The word οικουμενη links 1:6 to 2:5ff, showing that the argument in chapters 1-2 is actually the same one. The author effectively shows in the categories of the OT that Jesus is the great Davidic King, the Son of God, who is at the same time fulfilling the covenant made with creation.


Daniel has set up the argument that there are some who understand the relationship between NT and OT as “univocal.” I’m not sure to whom he is responding, since most Evangelical scholars I know and read, affirm the relationship between the Testaments to be something like “unity in diversity.”  This means that the Bible has essential unity but that it also has contours and development, similar to a well-woven tapestry, which has individual patterns and colors, but of course these all create a unified pattern. The question is then, does the evidence reveal that Hebrews diverged from the essential message and theology (-ies) of the OT in a way that the OT would not approve or affirm? Or does the evidence indicate that the exegesis of Hebrews develops the OT theologies (creation and Davidic covenant et al.) in light of the first advent of Jesus Christ in a way that the OT would stand and say, “Amen.”

These are big questions, but each one needs to wrestle with this issue. Thanks Daniel for raising this important question, even if we do disagree on the answer.

The Translation of the “LXX” of Job 37:18

This post is a response to Ed Babinski’s questions on my “About” page. He raised a significant question regarding the differences between Brenton’s translation and the NETS (New English Translation of the Septuagint) at Job 37:18. His question also gave me the opportunity to look ahead at a verse that I will have to prepare for my dissertation, since this verse is sub asterisk (※).

He asked two questions, 1) what accounts for the disparity between the English translations of the Septuagint, and 2) how does the “LXX” translate Job 37:18? I will answer them in order.

The Problem with Brenton’s Translation

Brenton differs with NETS in two instances in this verse: he has a verb in v. 18a, where NETS has a noun and he reads the word “mirror”, where NETS has “appearance.” I have not done an exhaustive study of Brenton’s translation, but my experience with it is that he sometimes translates the Hebrew text at the expense of faithfulness to the Greek of the LXX. This verse seems to be an example of this phenomenon in both places. In the first example, the LXX has στερεώσεις, which is a plural noun from στερεωσις, “a making firm, a making solid” (see LSJ) or as NETS has it “solidifications.” I prefer NETS here because the noun is a -σις noun and it usually indicates an abstract noun, thus a solidification. The Hebrew text has a Hiphil verb from רקע, and Brenton seems to translate this word instead (see BDB). In the second example, LXX has ὅρασις “appearance”, while the Hebrew has ראי “mirror”, which is listed in both BDB and KB. This word does seem to be a genuine hapax legomenon. Brenton has read the Hebrew text again, for the Greek word does not mean “mirror” (see LSJ). NETS has translated the Greek text more faithfully here, and there is a reason for the Greek translation to which we now turn.

The Reading of the “LXX”

The second question regarding the Greek translation of ראי brings us to the main issue. Most significantly, this reading does not come from the (O)ld (G)reek translator (1-2 centuries BCE), but from the Jewish reviser Theodotion, who completed his work in the 1st century CE (many argue for a late second century date, but see Peter J. Gentry, The Asterisked Materials of the Greek Job for a contrary and persuasive proposal). The text is under the asterisk (※), marking a text present in the Hebrew but absent in the OG, and in this case the Syro-hexapla and Catena Ms 740 preserve the attribution to Theodotion. Thus, when attempting to discover the translation technique, one needs to understand Theodotion’s use of ὅρασις, not necessarily the technique of the OG. Here is the available evidence of ὅρασις for Th (the references correspond to Field):

מראה: Ezek 1:13, 16; 10:22; Dan 8:16, 26  Th.

רוהּ: Dan 3:25 Th

חזון: Dan 9:24; 10:14; (7:13?) Th.

חזוי: Dan 2:28 Th.

Is 22:1 Sym and Th for חזיון.

Ezek. 13:16 Sym and Th for חזון.

Ezek 1:27, 28; 10:10 Aq and Th מראה.

Amos 5:26 Th for סכות perhaps for שכה “to observe, behold.”

Problematic readings occur in Dan 4:7, 7:2, 8:2, and so have been left out of this analysis.

The plethora of evidence allows one to leave aside the double attributions or those instances where Th is joined by Aq and Sym as the author of the lemma, since there are clear cases where only Th uses ὅρασις for Hebrew מראה and חזון.


In Job 37:18, Th must be reading ראי “mirror” as a form of מראה “appearance.” Perhaps, he was unaware of the meaning of this hapax legomenon in the Hebrew Bible. A comparison of the rest of the Versions confirms this, since none of these Versions have an equivalent for “mirror”:

Aquila: also uses ὅρασις “appearance.”

Symmachus: uses an infinitive ὀφθῆναι “to appear.”

Vulgate: qui solidissimi quasi aere fusi sunt.

Peshitta: No equivalent for the reading in question or it has interpreted the reading with “to support simultaneously.”

The Versions all take an interpretive stance, which is almost certainly because of the hapax in the Hebrew text. The only other possibility is to posit that modern Hebrew lexicography is wrong in this case and to posit that the Hebrew word really does mean “appearance” on the basis of Th, Aq, and Sym.

These translators are attempting to render the Hebrew text in front of them in a quite literal way. I doubt we can discern their cosmology based on their rendering of the text. They want to be faithful to the Hebrew text and its message from what I can tell. Perhaps Ed can now enlighten us as to what he thinks is happening in this text regarding ancient cosmology.

Translators Consulting other Translations

Regarding the consultation of other Versions in his own translation work, Jerome says,

Sed de Hebraeo transferens, magis me Septuaginta Interpretum consuetudini coaptavi: in his dumtaxat, quae non multum ab Hebraicis discrepebant.

(But when translating from the Hebrew, rather I joined myself to the knowledge/experience of the 70 translators [i.e. the Septuagint]: precisely in the places which were not differing much from the Hebrews.)

With the launch of the NIV update, some scholars are wondering whether the editors should have scrapped some of the readings of the previous NIV all together. It is interesting that Jerome had a very common sense criterion for the use of other Versions in translation: when they don’t differ much from the Hebrew. It stands to reason, therefore, that if modern scholars can trace gross mistranslations back to previous versions, which do not convey the Hebrew sense well, that they should indeed attempt a new translation of the source text. This principle seems consonant with the Reformation, and Luther and Tyndale seemed to follow it well. What is the church to gain by preserving bad or worse misleading renditions of the original text?

Dating Sources: Peshitta of Qoheleth

I have not posted here in a long time, but I have been thinking through the whole matter of dating sources with an eye on the Syriac (P)eshitta in particular.  Debate has arisen regarding the date of this Version, some claiming the Version was completed circum 200 AD, while others claim the fourth century AD.  Some scholars will only go as far as the evidence, as if the version was composed at or near the time it was cited by church fathers.  How does one determine? Continue reading