|Only a few short years after the destruction of Herod’s Temple, the rabbis (aka “sages”) formed an instruction academy in the village of Jamnia (outside of today’s Tel Aviv), allegedly with permission directly from Titus himself to preserve the Jewish religion. The rabbis would teach young students the ways of the Torah, preparing them for a life of leadership in synagogues inside and outside of Judah. In the course of their work, not only did they begin to write down their “Oral Torah” forming the Mishnah, but they also decided to alter the words of the Tanakh. According to their leader Rabbi Akiba ben Yosef (50-135 A.D.), this startling practice was permissible since the rabbis were now the exclusive elders charged with determining what the Torah demanded. Essentially, they saw themselves as the sole authorities of a new Judaism (no longer tied to a religion built around sacrificial worship and other Temple rites). The rabbis – not the Torah – were now the final authorities.|
Their focus, to thwart the heretical sect called Christianity, was to alter the words of scripture associated with the Messiah – his supernatural identity, his messianic mission, his means to bring salvation to the Jews, and the signs that accompanied his ministry. Therefore, any passage that was a favorite of Christian evangelists expressing why Jesus of Nazareth fulfilled the prophecies of Messiah must be occluded (i.e., “hidden”). To accomplish this, a new Hebrew Bible was created, which became the new “original” Hebrew Bible (to wit., a Hebrew Vorlage). Then, three brand-new Greek versions were fashioned (almost 400 years after the Old Greek Septuagint was translated in Alexandria, Egypt), which adhered to the exact wording of the “new” Hebrew to make sure that orthodox Jewish perspective and practice hid any seeming correlation between Jesus of Nazareth and the prophesied Messiah. Examples of this treachery follow. This first new Greek version was spun by Aquila, which was highly rigid. More “freeform” versions would follow from Symmachus and Theodotion.
In the following sections, I provide a brief comparison of the Messianic passages presented in the Septuagint, in contrast with those in the proto-Masoretic Text (by proto-Masoretic Text, we mean that this text would eventually become what we know today as the Masoretic Text – there was a different textual tradition before the birth of Jesus and before the rabbis adopted it. And it unquestionably became a different text after they adapted it to their new Judaic religion based on Mishnah and Talmud). After presenting this information, I walk the reader through the illogic of basing one’s faith upon any published Bible held to be inerrant – and show you a better way.
We begin with how the Messiah would come to us, his mission, and the means of salvation he would provide. Isaiah spoke of how the Gentiles would hope and trust in Christ. In the LXX, Isaiah 11:12 reads: “And in that day there shall be a root of Jesse and he that shall rise to rule over the Gentiles; in him shall the Gentiles trust, and his rest shall be glorious.” The Masoretic Text (MT), as translated in the King James Version and all other Protestant Bibles, reduced the appetite and acclaim of the Gentiles for the Messiah. The Gentile’s objective was merely something they sought as a sign or symbol. The MT impersonally says, “And in that day there shall be a root of Jesse, which shall stand for an ensign of the people; to it shall the Gentiles seek: and his rest shall be glorious.” When Paul the Apostle quotes the OT, it’s obvious he cites the LXX instead: “And again Isaiah says, ‘The Root of Jesse will come, even he who arises to rule the Gentiles; in him will the Gentiles hope.’” (Romans 15:12) Paul sees in the Septuagint something that the Masoretic Text did not or would not contain after the end of the second century A.D.
We see the same treatment of Isaiah 42:4 when comparing the LXX with the Masoretic: “He shall shine out and shall not be discouraged until he has set judgment on the earth: and in his name shall the Gentiles trust.” On the other hand, the Masoretic Text (KJV) states, “He shall not fail nor be discouraged, till he has set judgment in the earth; and the isles (in Hebrew, ey, also translated “coast-lands”) shall wait for his law.” Therefore, in the Masoretic Text, not only do the Gentiles equate to little more than an idiom, equivalent to “faraway places,” the MT alters their relationship from one of faith to one focused on the Mosaic Law. Consequently, it is easy to see that Matthew 12:20-21 references the LXX when quoting Isaiah 42:4, for its reading is, “A bruised reed he will not break, and a smoldering wick he will not quench until he brings justice to victory; and in this name, the Gentiles will hope.” Throughout these passages in the Septuagint, we should note that the Gentiles are not told they must follow the Torah as the means to obtain salvation. Instead, they are to trust in Him. One of the fundamental reasons for the Messiah is to bring the Gentiles into the fold.
As to the incarnation of the Messiah – being both God and man – the LXX says one thing and the MT another. In the LXX, we see his deity stressed as not only superior to the Law but even to the heavenly angels; for we read the following (in the LXX) from Psalm 40:6, “Sacrifice and offering thou wouldest not, but a body thou hast prepared me: whole-burnt-offering and sacrifice for sin thou didst not require.” Once again, we see a radical difference regarding the same passage in the Masoretic: “Sacrifice and offering thou didst not desire, mine ears hast thou opened; burnt offering and sin offering hast thou not required.” Given the contrast, isn’t it undeniable which version the New Testament cites? “For when Christ came into the world, He said, ‘Sacrifices and offerings you have not desired, but a body have you prepared for me; in burnt offerings and sin offerings you have taken no pleasure.’” (Hebrews 10:5) The Messiah would be human, with a human body. That human body would become the perfect sacrifice. Psalm 40:6 provides us with a clear-cut case of foreshadowing the incarnation and, less obvious but intimated, a vicarious atonement of the Messiah’s death in exchange for our own. But by “incarnating,” God became human. The Messiah was not just human.
This was not a picture of Messiah compatible with the Jewish mindset. The LXX prophesies the incarnation; the MT doesn’t.
Deuteronomy 32:43 provides us another distinctive affirmation of the deity of the Messiah – distinctive, that is, if you are reading the LXX’s account: “Rejoice, ye heavens with him, and let all the angels of God worship him; rejoice ye Gentiles, with his people, and let all the sons of God strengthen themselves in him; for he will avenge the blood of his sons, and he will render vengeance, and recompense justice to his enemies, and will reward them that hate him, and the Lord shall purge the land of his people.” The writer to the Hebrews celebrates the mention of the angels, aka the sons of God, who not only worship the Messiah but strengthen themselves through the Messiah’s power. Once again, we see that the Gentiles are specifically called out. We read in the NT, “And again, when he brings the firstborn into the world, he says, ‘Let all God’s angels worship him.’” (Hebrews 1:6) Neither Abraham nor Moses merited angelic worship. But the Messiah does. Angels worship Him and draw strength from His power. Such worship remains something that any good Jew knows God alone deserves. So why did the Messiah merit worship? Because He was “the God-man.”
When we encounter the Masoretic Text, we don’t enjoy this explanation in its witness. It omits the same astonishment regarding Messiah’s essence and mission. Instead, we find the Masoretic Text’s plain words: “Rejoice, O ye nations, with his people; for he will avenge the blood of his servants, and will render vengeance to his adversaries, and will be merciful unto his land, and to his people.” We see that there is no mention of the Gentiles. And there is no mention of worshipping angels or thesons of God drawing strength from the supernatural power of the Messiah. What is present in the LXX is missing altogether in the MT.
Was this just a case of misquoting the Hebrew text? Or was the author of the Letter to the Hebrews reciting and expositing words that were present in the Septuagint but had been removed from the proto-Masoretic text by the rabbis at Jamnia in Judah? If it was accidental, happening only once, we could be satisfied that the fault lies in our understanding, not the composition. But it happens again and again.
Next, we observe how the miracles and signs that accompany and authenticate the identity of the Messiah are also described differently. We see an important distinction between the LXX and the MT in Isaiah 61:1, “The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he has anointed me; he has sent me to preach glad tidings to the poor, to heal the broken in heart, to proclaim liberty to the captives, and recovery of sight to the blind…” In contrast, there is no mention of the miracle of restoring the sight of a blind man in the Masoretic Text as translated by the King James Old Testament, “The Spirit of the Lord GOD is upon me; because the LORD hath anointed me to preach good tidings unto the meek; he hath sent me to bind up the brokenhearted, to proclaim liberty to the captives, and the opening of the prison to them that are bound.” The Messiah of the Masoretic Text can’t heal the blind or raise the dead. Social justice? Apparently, yes, the Messiah cares about social justice. But miracles? The Masoretic Text excludes them.
The reader might reply, “Surely Jesus read just Hebrew in the synagogue.” I’m relatively sure he did read a Hebrew scroll. But one thing is rather obvious. This wasn’t the same Hebrew reading as what became the Masoretic Text. Listen to what Jesus spoke forth according to Luke 4:18, “The Spirit of the Lord is upon me because he has anointed me to proclaim good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim liberty to the captives and to recover sight to the blind, to set at liberty those who are oppressed….”
Suppose we agree that the rabbis altered this passage as part of their cover-up. In that case, we might conjecture that the story of “the man born blind,” as recorded in chapter nine of John’s gospel, continued to be a topic of discussion, setting Jesus apart from all other messianic claimants roaming about in Judea. As the man born blind said directly (and without fear of the Pharisees who would throw him out of the synagogue), “Never since the world began has it been heard that anyone opened the eyes of a man born blind. If this man were not from God, he could do nothing.” (John 9:32,33)
And, of course, there is the matter of how Jesus came into the world. The LXX said one thing, but as recorded in the Biblia Hebraica, the Masoretic Text tells a different story. We read there, “Therefore the Lord Himself shall give you a sign: behold, the young woman shall conceive, and bear a son, and shall call his name Immanuel.” (Isaiah 7:14). This is certainly not how the LXX read. Its prophecy stated, “Therefore the Lord himself shall give you a sign; behold, a virgin shall conceive in the womb, and shall bring forth a son, and thou shalt call his name Emmanuel.” Once again, Luke confirms what the LXX predicts. The Masoretic Text doesn’t. The King James translators couldn’t help themselves with this verse. They had to go with the Septuagint and translate the Hebrew word almah, virgin. “There is no instance where it can be proved that ‘almâ’ designates a young woman who is not a virgin. The fact of virginity is evident in Gen 24:43, where ‘almâ’ is used for one who was being sought as a bride for Isaac.” (R. Laird Harris et al. Theological Wordbook of the Old Testament, p. 672.)
In conclusion, the rabbis of the second century were not only creating a new religion without Temple worship and based on an Oral Law (and not primarily the written Word), they saw to it that the new Judaism would not convey a Messiah who was divine as well as Human. They rejected the Septuagint, which bore witness that God would come in the flesh.
[This article is drawn from A BIOGRAPHY OF THE CHRISTIAN BIBLE, available in the Faith Happens Books bookstore. It is a sequel to the book, Rebooting the Bible, Second Version.]