Forever Settled
Part One : A Survey of Old Testament Documents

Compiled by Jack Moorman

Contents of Part One


(from Edward F. Hills)


During His earthly life, the Lord Jesus Christ appealed unreservedly to the very words of the Old Testament text (Matthew 22:42-45; John 10:34-36), thus indicating His confidence that this text had been accurately transmitted. Not only so but he also expressed this conviction in the strongest possible manner:

Matthew 5:18 For verily I say unto you, Till heaven and earth pass, one jot or one tittle shall in no wise pass from the law till all be fulfilled.

Luke 16:17 And it is easier for heaven and earth to pass, than one tittle of the law to fail.

Here our Lord assures us that the Old Testament text in common use among the Jews during His earthly ministry was an absolutely trustworthy reproduction of the original text written by Moses and the other inspired authors. Nothing had been lost from the text. It would have been easier for heaven and earth to pass than for such a loss to have taken place.

Moreover, our Saviour's statements are also promises that the providential preservation of the Old Testament text shall never cease or fail. That same Old Testament text which was preserved in its purity during the Old Testament dispensation shall continue to be faithfully preserved during the New Testament dispensation until this present age is brought to an end and all the events foretold by Daniel (Daniel 9:27; Matthew 24:15) and the other ancient prophets come to pass. So our Lord has promised, and today the Holy Spirit gives to all true believers the assurance that their Saviour has kept and will keep his promise.

Christ's promises of the preservation of the text are in addition to those already given by inspiration in the OT:

Psalms 12:6,7 The words of the LORD are pure words: as silver tried in a furnace of earth, purified seven times. Thou shalt keep them, O LORD, thou shalt preserve them from this generation forever.

Psalms 119:89 For ever, O LORD, thy word is settled in heaven.

Isaiah 40:8 The grass withereth, the flower fadeth: but the word of our God shall stand forever.

The OT text has been preserved. Christ has kept His promise. The following will help us to better understand some of the details of this preservation.


The OT books as they appear in the Hebrew Bible are divided into three main groups, namely, the Law, the Prophets, and the Writings. The principle on which they were so classified was mainly that of authorship rather than of date or subject matter.

The first five books constitute the Law. They were grouped together because they were all written by one man, Moses. The Law or Torah is an undivided unit. Briefly we know that it was written by Moses for three reasons:

(1) The testimony of Christ, "Did not Moses give you the Law?" (John. 7:19a)
(2) Mosaic authorship is the traditional belief of the Jews from time immemorial.
(3) The evidence of archaeology in Palestine strongly supports this traditional view.

Next in the Hebrew Bible comes the Prophets. This second division is subdivided into the Former Prophets and Latter Prophets. The books of the former Prophets are Joshua, Judges, 1 and 2 Samuel, and 1and 2 Kings. The books of the Latter Prophets are Isaiah, Jeremiah, Ezekiel, Hosea, Joel, Amos, Obadiah, Jonah, Micah, Nahum, Habakkuk, Zephaniah, Haggai, Zechariah and Malachi. There is good evidence also that originally Ruth and Lamentations were included among the books of the Prophets. All the books of the Former and Latter Prophets were written by men who held the prophetic office, men who were definitely called by God to serve Him in this way. Christ and the other NT writers quote from this portion as inspired scripture.

The third division is called the Writings. The books placed in this category are Psalms, Proverbs, Job, Song of Solomon, Ruth, Lamentations, Ecclesiastes, Esther, Daniel, Ezra, Nehemiah and Chronicles.. With the exception of Ruth and Lamentations, these books were written by men who were inspired of God but were not prophets in the official sense. They were not specifically called by God to labour as Prophets among His people. David and Solomon, for example, were inspired, but they were kings, not prophets. Job, though inspired, was not a prophet. Neither was Daniel a prophet in the official sense, for he did not labour among the people. Ezra was a priest, and, according to ancient opinion, Chronicles also was written by him. Again Christ and the NT writers quote frequently from this third division.


The duty of preserving this written revelation was assigned not to the prophets, but to the priests. The priests were the divinely appointed guardians and teachers of the Law.

Deuteronomy 31:24-26 And it came to pass, when Moses had made an end of writing the words of this law in a book, until they were finished, that Moses commanded the Levites… Take this book of the law, and put it in the side of the ark of the covenant of the LORD your God, that it may be there for a witness against thee.

Thus the law was placed in the charge of the priests to be kept by them alongside of the most Sacred Vessel of the sanctuary, and in its innermost and holiest apartment. Also the priests were commanded to read the law every seven years.

Deuteronomy 31:12 Gather the people together, men, and women, and children, and thy stranger that is within thy gates, that they may hear, and that they may learn, and fear the LORD your God, and observe to do all the words of this law.

The priests were also given the task of making correct copies of the law for the use of kings and rulers, or at least of supervising the scribes to whom the king would delegate this work.

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Deuteronomy 17:18 And it shall be, when he (the king) sitteth upon the throne of his kingdom, that he shall write him a copy of this law in a book out of that which is before the priests and Levites.

Aparently a goodly number of such copies were made. The numerous allusions to the law in all the subsequent books of the OT indicates familiarity with it. Psalm 1:2 describes the pious by saying :

His delight is in the law of the LORD, and in his law doth he meditate day and night.

The admiration and affection for the law expressed in such passages as Isaiah 19:7-11, Isaiah 40:7,8, and the exhortations and rebukes of the prophets based upon the requirements of the law imply an acquaintance with it such as could only be produced by its diffusion among the people.

Not only the Law of Moses, but also the Psalms were preserved in the Temple by the priests, and it was probably the priests who divided the Hebrew Psalter into five books corresponding to the five books of Moses. It was David who taught the priests to sing Psalms as part of their public worship service. We are told when David brought the ark to Jerusalem:

I Chronicles 15:16,17 And David spake to the chief of the Levites, to appoint their brethren to be singers with instruments of music .... So the Levites appointed Heman ... Asaph ... Ethan.

Like David, Heman, Asaph and Ethan were not only singers but also inspire authors, and some of the Psalms were written by them.

It is likely that the books of Solomon were collected together and carefully kept at Jerusalem. Some of Solomon's proverbs, we are told were copied out by the men of Hezekiah King of Judah (Proverbs 25:1). During the period of the kings also private and partial collections of the books of the Prophets had already been formed and were in possession of individuals. This is apparent from the frequent references made by the prophets, such as Jeremiah and Ezekiel to the language of their predecessors or to the former history of the nation, from the explicit mention of a prediction of Micah, delivered a century before, by the elders in addressing the people (Jeremiah 26:17-l9), and from "the books" of which Daniel (9:2) speaks at the close of the captivity, and in which the prophecies of Jeremiah must have been included.

Except for periodic revivals under Godly rulers, such as Asa, Jehoshaphat, Hezekiah and Josiah, the days of the kings were times of spiritual darkness in which the priests neglected their God-given task of guarding and teaching God's holy Law. Note for example the years which preceded the reign of good king Asa.

II Chronicles 15:3 Now for a long season Israel hath been without the true God, and without a teaching priest, and without law.

During the reign of Manasseh, the original copy of the Law had been mislaid and was not found again until Josiah's time (2 Kings 22:8). Because the priests were thus unfaithful in their office, Jerusalem was finally destroyed and the Jews were carried away captive to Babylon (Micah. 3:11,12). But in

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spite of everything, God was still watching over His holy Word and preserving it by His special providence. Thus when Daniel and Ezekiel and other true believers were led away to Babylon, they took with them copies of all the Old Testament Scriptures which had been written up to that time.

After the Jews returned from the Babylonian exile, there was a great revival among the priesthood through the power of the Holy Spirit.

Zechariah. 4:6 Not by might, nor by power, but by My Spirit, saith the LORD of hosts.

The Law was again taught in Jerusalem by Ezra the priest, who:

Ezra 7:10 Prepared his heart to seek the law of the LORD, and to do it, and to teach in Israel statutes and judgments.

By Ezra and his successors, under the guidance of the Holy Spirit, all the Old Testament books were gathered together into one Old Testament canon and preserved until the days of our Lord's earthly ministry. By that time, the Old Testament text was so firmly established that even the Jews rejection of Christ could not disturb it. Unbelieving Jewish scribes transmitted this traditional Hebrew OT text, blindly but faithfully, until the dawn of the Protestant Reformation, at which time it again passed into the possession of Christian Church.


Old Testament Israel was under the care of the divinely appointed, Aaronic priesthood, and for this reason the Holy Spirit preserved the OT through this priesthood and the scholars that grouped themselves around it. The Holy Spirit guided these priests and scholars to gather the separate parts of the OT into one canon and to maintain the purity of the text. In the New Testament Church, on the other hand, this Aaronic priesthood has been abolished through the sacrifice of Christ. Every believer is a priest before God, and for this reason, the Holy Spirit has preserved the NT text not through any special priesthood but through the universal priesthood of believers, that is, through the usage of God's people, the rank and file of all those that truly trust in Christ.

Jesus Christ, when He was on earth, acknowledged the authority which the priests, the sons of Aaron, had received from God to guard and to teach the OT Scriptures. Due to their frightful sin and worldliness, the priests had largely abandoned these functions, leaving them mainly in the hands of scribes and Pharisees who were not of the priestly race. Probably only a minority of the scribes were priests in the days of Christ's earthly ministry. But, even so, the order of scribes had developed out of the priesthood and was fulfilling the teaching office which God, through Moses, had assigned to the priests. Hence these scribes and Pharisees, in spite of their hypocritical lives, possessed a certain divine authority. It was this fact that Jesus called to the attention of His disciples.

Matthew. 23:2,3 Saying, The scribes and the Pharisees sit in Moses' seat: All therefore whatsoever they bid you observe, that observe and do; but do ye not after their works, for they say and do not.


From the end of the first century until the Protestant Reformation the Hebrew Old Testament was preserved not by Christians but by non-Christian Jews.

Romans. 3:2 Unto them were committed the Oracles of God

During this period, Christ was faithful to his own promise that the OT Scriptures would not perish or suffer loss. By His special providence He raised up among the Jews generations of scribes, who faithfully transmitted those treasures from which, in their unbelief, they refused to benefit. As Augustine said, those Jewish scribes were the librarians of the Christian Church.

According to G. F. Moore (1927), the earliest of these scribes were called Tannaim (teachers). These not only copied the text of the OT with great accuracy, but also committed to writing their oral tradition, called Mishna, a work of six main sections, dealing with agricultural laws, feasts, laws regarding women, fines, sacrifices, purification's. The Tannaim were followed by a group of scribes called Amoraim (Expositors). These were the scholars who in addition to their work as copyists of the OT also produced the Talmud, which is a commentary on the Mishna.

The Amoraim were followed in the sixth century by the Masoretic (Traditionalists) to whom the Masoretic (meaning Traditional) Old Testament text is due. These Masoretic took extraordinary pains to transmit without error the OT text. Many complicated safeguards against scribal slips were devised. W. J. Martin states the number of letters in a book was counted and its middle letter was given. Similarly with the words and again the middle word of the book was noted. They collected any peculiarities in spelling. They recorded the number of times a particular word or phrase occurred. It is generally believed that vowel points and other written signs to aid in pronunciation were introduced into the text by the Masoretic. God working in Jewish scribes to preserve the purity of the text can be summed up in the words of Rabbi Akiba (died about AD135), ''The accurate transmission is a fence for the Torah. He also stressed the importance of preserving even the smallest letter. Thus the promise of Christ in Matthew 5:18 was fulfilled.

It was this traditional (Masoretic) text which was printed at the end of the medieval period. The Psalms were printed in 1477. And in 1488 the entire Hebrew Bible was printed for the first time. A second edition was printed in 1491 and a third in 1494. This third edition was used by Luther in translating the OT into German. F. F. Bruce says, "For centuries, printed editions. of the Hebrew Bible followed the text of an edition printed in 1524, under a Hebrew Christian named Jacob Ben Chayyim." Before this in 1514-17, Cardinal Ximenes of Acala Spain produced the Complutun Polyglot Bible (Complutun is Latin for Acala). In this edition, the Hebrew, Greek and Latin Vulgate texts were printed side by side, together with the Aramaic Targum of Onkelos for the Pentateuch. (Most of the, above is taken from Edward F. Hills, in 'Believing Bible Study'. It is to be regretted that not all of the sources which of necessity have had to be drawn upon in this paper show the same spiritual scholarship as Edward F. Hills. All too often much of the research in the transmission of the Text of Scripture has been done by men who do not hold God honoring views regarding the inspiration and preservation of the Bible. Much sifting has had to be done and it is trusted that fact has been separated from fiction).


(From 'Our Bible and the Ancient Manuscripts', by Frederic Kenyon).

The total number of Hebrew manuscripts is about two thousand, but the greater part contains only fragments or portions of the Old Testament. Any account of the principal Hebrew manuscripts must begin with Moses ben Asher and his son Aaron. These two were the last in the line of a family of Tiberian Masoretes which can be traced back to the second half of the eighth century AD This was the period of the rise of the Karaites, a kind of "back to the Bible" movement which, setting itself against the prevailing Rabbinical exegesis, helped greatly to stimulate the study of the actual text of the Old Testament - in the words of the founder "search ye well the Torah and do not rely on my opinion." The Karaites thus played their part in the movement towards fixing the Tiberian text, which in turn has been transmitted to us in manuscripts actually prepared by Moses ben Asher and his son. The ben Asher manuscripts are :

  1. A codex (book) of the Former and Latter Prophets written in AD 895. It is presently in a Karaite Synagogue in Cairo. A photographic reproduction is in Berlin.
  1. The Aleppo Codex of the complete OT about 903. It made its way to a synagogue in Aleppo Syria in the fifteenth century. It was seen by Maimonides the great Jewish authority, at the end of the twelfth century and approved by him. Synagogue authorities this century would not allow it to be copied or photographed, and it is now reported to be destroyed.
  2. British Museum Codex of the Pentateuch (No. Or. 4445) containing Genesis 39:20 - Deuteronomy 1:33. It is not dated, but is thought to belong to the 9th or 10th century.
  3. The Leningrad complete Old Testament, 1008. Ginsburg assumed that it had been copied from the Aleppo Codex, but Kahle shows that it was copied from another ben Asher Codex, now lost. This has been selected as the basic text of the fourth edition of Kittels Hebrew Bible. It is designated by the sign "L".

    Among other manuscripts of the ben Asher group listed by Kahle are a Pentateuch scroll of AD 930 and others of 943 and 946; Prophets dated 946 and 989 and a Hagiographa (Holy Writings) of 994 - all at Leningrad.

    Mention should also be made of:
  1. The famous Leningrad Codex of the Prophets, written with Babylonian punctuation and dated 916.
  1. Reuchlin Codex of the Prophets, dated 1105, now at Karlsruhe, West Germany. Kenyon says ''It contains a text in the recension of ben Naphtali, another Tiberian Masorete. The differences between ben Naphtali and ben Asher were studied and described by Mishael ben Uzziel in the tenth century, who cites more than 800 of them. Although the ben Asher text came to be universally adopted, that of ben Naphtali was not without its effect. Kenyon claims that both types were used as a basis of the early printed Hebrew Bibles. It should be remembered that those differences are mainly in areas of pronunciation.

    Ungers Bible Dictionary lists several others MSS:
  2. Codex Laudianus, 11th century, Bodleian Library at Oxford. It is said to agree quite closely with the Samaritan Pentateuch.
  3. Codex Caesenoel end of 11th century, Milatesta Library in Bologna. It contains the Pentateuch, sections of the Prophets, and portions of the Writings.
  4. Codex Parisiensis, 12th century, National Library in Paris. It contains the entire OT.
  5. Codex 634 of De Rossi. 8th century. Contains Leviticus. 21:19 - Numbers 1:50.
  6. Codex Norimbergensis, 12th century, Nuremberg. Contains the Prophets and Hagiographa.

One other source of information regarding the Hebrew text is that of readings quoted in the Middle Ages from Manuscripts since lost. The chief of these is a MSS known as Codex Hillelis, which was at one time supposed to date back to the famous Jewish teacher Hillel, before the time of Christ. It is, however, probable that it was really written after the 6th century. It was used by a Jewish scholar in Spain, and a considerable number of its readings have been preserved by references to it in various writings. Other lost manuscripts are sometimes quoted, but less often, and their testimony is less important, (Kenyon).


The fact that in comparison to Greek MSS of the NT, these Hebrew MSS are of a relative late date is not far to seek. It is largely bound up with the veneration which the Rabbi's regarded the copies of the Holy Scriptures. When these were too old and worn to be of any further use, they were reverently interred. It was better to give them an honorable burial than to allow the risk of them to be improperly used or profaned. Before they were taken to consecrated ground for burial they were stored for a shorter or longer time in what is called a genizah - a room attached to the Synagogue where documents no longer in use were stowed away or hidden. "Genizah" literally means a "hiding place" (F. F. Bruce in The Books and the Parchments).


The division into verses is quite early and can be traced back to the early centuries of the Christian era. There were fluctuations of practice as to verse division but these were standardized and fixed by the Masoretic family of ben Asher about AD 900. This system divides the thirty-nine books of the Old Testament (as we reckon them in our English Bible) into 23,100 verses. The Hebrew text is also divided into paragraphs. The division into chapters on the other hand, is much later, and probably was first done by Cardinal Hugh of St. Cher in 1244. (Bruce).


Commonly denoted the "LXX", the Septuagint is a Greek translation of the Hebrew Old Testament.


Its precise origins are still debated. A letter, purporting to be written by a certain Aristeas to his brother Philocrates during the reign of Ptolomy Philadelphus (285 - 246 BC), relates how Philadelphus, persuaded by his librarian to get a translation of the Hebrew Scriptures for his royal library, appealed to the high priest at Jerusalem, who sent seventy-two elders (six from each of the twelve tribes) to Alexandria with an official copy of the Law. There in seventy-two days they made a translation which was read before the Jewish community amid great applause, and then presented it to the king. From the number of the translators it became known (somewhat inaccurately) as the Septuagint. The same story is told with variations by Josephus, but later writers embellish it with miraculous details.

Aristeas' letter belongs in fact to the 2nd century BC (The International Standard Bible Encyclopedia suggests a date about 100 - 80 BC). Many of its details are exaggerated and even legendary, but it seems fairly certain that a translation of the Law only was made in Egypt (in the time of Ptolomy Philadelphus), primarily for the benefit of the Greek-speaking Jews there. This was the original Septuagint. The remaining books were translated piecemeal later, with the canonical books done some time before 117 BC. Reference is made to them by the grandson of Siroch (a man after whom one of the apocryphal books is named) in the prologue to that Apocryphal book. Subsequently the name Septuagint was extended to cover all these translations. The apocryphal books are interspersed among the canonical books. Bruce believes evidence suggests that prior to the translation of the Septuagint, a number of individual and partial attempts were made it translating the OT into Greek. (Much of the above and following material is taken from D. W. Gooding in The New Bible Dictionary).


The Greek of the LXX is not straight forward Koine Greek. At its most idiomatic, it abounds with Hebraisms; at its worst it is little more than Hebrew in disguise. But with these reservations the Pentateuch can be classified as fairly idiomatic and consistent, though there are traces of its being the work of more than one translator. Outside the Pentateuch some books, it seems, were divided between two translators working simultaneously, while others were translated piecemeal at different times by different men using widely different methods and vocabulary. Consequently the style varies from fairly good Koine Greek, as in part of Joshua, to indifferent Greek, as in Chronicles, Psalms, the Minor Prophets, Jeremiah, Ezekiel, and parts of Kings, to lateral and sometimes unintelligible translation as in Judges, Ruth, Song of Solomon, Lamentations, and other parts of Kings.

Thus the Pentateuch is generally well done, though it occasionally paraphrases anthropomorphism's offensive to Alexandrian Jews, disregards consistency in religious technical terms, and shows its impatience with the repetitive technical descriptions in Exodus by mistakes, abbreviations, and wholesale omissions. Comparatively few books attain to the standard of the Pentateuch; most are of medium quality, some are very poor. Isaiah as a translation is bad; Esther, Job, Proverbs are free paraphrases. The original LXX version of Job was much shorter than the Hebrew; it was subsequently filled in with interpretations from Theodotion. Proverbs contains things not in the Hebrew text at all, and Hebrew sentiments are freely altered to suit the Greek outlook. The rendering of Daniel was so much of a paraphrase that it was replaced, perhaps in the first century AD by a later translation (generally attributed to Theodotion, but differing from his principles and antedating him), and the original LXX rendering is nowadays to be found in only two MSS and the Syriac. One of the translators of Jeremiah sometimes rendered Hebrew words by Greek words that conveyed similar sound but utterly dissimilar meaning.

D. A. Waite states, "It can be clearly seen ... that the Septuagint is inaccurate and inadequate and deficient as a translation. To try to reconstruct the Hebrew Text (as many connected with the modern versions are attempting to do) from such a loose and unacceptable translation would be like trying to reconstruct the Greek New Testament Text from the Living Bible of Ken Taylor!!" D. A. Waite has written a booklet dealing with ASV, NASV, and NIV departures from the Masoretic Text.


In an earlier paper, I indicated that the LXX weakened Messianic prophecy. At this writing I cannot find what I thought to be the source of that information. In contrast to this, Terence Brown, a strong defender of the Masoretic Text has written, "Before the incarnation of the Saviour the Jews held the Septuagint in high esteem, but after his birth and earthly ministry they turned against that version because it was used so effectively by Christians to demonstrate that the Messianic prophecies of the Old Testament were fulfilled in the Person and Work of the Redeemer.

A little before the middle of the second century of the Christian era, Aquila, who had been a professing Christian, but was cast out of the Church for some misdemeanor (some say astrology), became a Jewish proselyte. Having then learned the Hebrew language, he made a new translation of the Old Testament into Greek, in opposition to the Septuagint, translating many passages concerning the Messiah otherwise than they had been rendered by the LXX, so as to make it impossible to apply these passages to the Lord Jesus Christ. Not long afterwards, Symmachus, a Samaritan by birth, who became a Jew, then professed the Christian faith, then attached himself to the Ebionites (Judaizers who denied the deity of Christ), made another translation from the Hebrew into Greek. About the same time, Theodotion, who had once professed faith in Christ and afterwards became a Jew, produced yet another Greek version.

Jerome of Bethlehem, who saw these Greek translations of Aquila, Symmachus and Theodotion, makes it quite plain that these men were Judaizing heretics, and that their versions were made out of hatred to Christianity.

Before the birth of Messiah the Jews used to observe a feast in memory of the translation of the Septuagint. Philo the Jew, who lived in the time of Caliqula the Roman Emperor, while the Apostles were fruitfully engaged in the preaching of the Gospel, tells us in his "Life of Moses" that to that time they kept a yearly feast in memory of the Scriptures having been translated into Greek by the seventy-two interpreters. After Philo's days, the Jews turned that feast into a fast, lamenting that such a translation had been made. As the version became more popular with Christians, it fell from favor with the Jews, who preferred to use a version which the Christians could not so easily apply to the Messiah.

As an example of their tampering with Messianic prophecy, in Isaiah 7:14 Aquila, Symmachus and Theodotion departed from the rendering of the Septuagint PARATHIONS (Virgin) and substituted NEANIS, a term which may be applied to a young married woman.''

Gooding in commenting upon the revisions of the Septuagint says, "Now, laborious as is the work of eliminating revisers readings, it is of practical importance. The expositor who appeals to some LXX word or phrase must be sure that it was not introduced by a reviser after New Testament times. Thus the original Septuagint may hive been faithful in translating verses of Messianic prophecy, but this becomes marred by later revision.''


After discussing Aquila, Ungers Bible Dictionary says the following, "Possibly somewhat earlier than Aquila, Theodotian revised the Septuagint. His version won wide popularity among Christians (this contradicts what was said above). Theodotian 's rendering of Daniel prevails in all extant Greek Manuscripts except one (Gooding says two). Probably toward the end of the second century Symmachus revised Aquila. By the time of Origan, AD 185 - 254, the text of the Septuagint had become woefully corrupt. Origan's Hexapla was a colossal undertaking to revise the LXX text. It contained five columns in Greek. The first column consisted of the Hebrew. The second comprised the Hebrew Text Tendered in Greek letters, the third Aquila's version, the fourth Symmachus' version, the fifth the Septuagint revised by Origen and the sixth Theodotian's version.

Lucian, a scholar of Antioch (martyred 311) also is said to have made a revision of the Septuagint. Jerome mentions another revision by a certain Hesychius of Alexandria (also probably martyred in 311). Gooding says "Well-intentioned as all this revisory work was, it has introduced multitudinous readings which have laboriously to be eliminated to reconstruct the earlier stages of the LXX Text."


Paul Kahle (a famous OT scholar) who has done extensive work in the Septuagint does not believe that there was one original old Greek version and that consequently the manuscripts of the Septuagint (so-called) cannot be traced back to one archetype. The theory, proposed and developed largely by him, is that the LXX had its origin in numerous oral, and subsequently written translations for use in the services after the reading of the Hebrew original. Later an official standardized version of the Law was made, but did not entirely replace the older versions, while for the rest of the books there never was a standard Jewish translation, but only a variety of versions (Gooding).

Peter Ruckman (in the Christian's Handbook of Manuscript Evidences) has taken a similar position. His argument can be summarized as follows :

  1. The letter of Aristeas is mere fabrication (Kahle calls it propaganda), and there is no historical evidence that a group of scholars translated the OT into Greek between 250 - 150 BC
  2. The research of Paul Kahle shows that there was no pre-Christian LXX.
  3. No one has produced a Greek copy of the Old Testament written before 300 AD
  1. In fact, the Septuagint "quotes" from the New Testament and not vice versa, i.e. in the matter of NT - OT quotation, the later formulators of the Greek OT made it conform with the New Testament Text.

He then states further, "The nearest thing to an Old Testament Greek Bible anyone has found was the Ryland Papyrus (No. 458), which had a few portions of Deuteronomy 23 - 28 on it. And even this piece of papyrus was dated 150 BC (he later says this date is questioned), fifty to one hundred years later than the writing of the so-called Septuagint. What scholars refer to as "Septuagint papyri" are 24 pieces of paper, written 200 years after the death of Christ. These fragments are as follows:

  1. Pieces of Genesis written 200 - 400 AD: Berlin Genesis
  2. Pieces of Genesis written 200 - 400 AD: Amherst.
  3. Pieces of Genesis written 200 - 400 AD: British Museum.
  4. Pieces of Genesis written 200 - 400 AD: Oxyrhyncus.
  5. A Bodleian papyrus leaf 600 - 750 AD, containing part of Song of Solomon.
  6. An Amherst papyrus 600 - 700 AD, containing part of Job 1 and 2.
  7. An Amherst papyrus 400 - 550 AD, containing parts of Psalm 5.
  8. Fragmenta Londinensia 600 - 75O AD, in British Museum, containing parts of Psalm 10, 18, 20 - 34.
  9. British Museum "230" 220 - 300 AD, containing Psalm 12:7-l5:4.
  10. A Berlin papyrus 250 - 400 AD, containing Psalm 40:26-41:4.
  11. Oxyrhyncus papyrus "845" 300 - 500 AD, containing parts of Psalm 68, 70.
  12. Amherst papyrus 600 - 700 AD, parts of Psalm 108, 118, 135, 138, 139, 140.
  13. Leipzig papyrus 800 AD, contains part of the Psalms.
  14. Heidelberg Codex 600 - 700 AD, containing Zechariah 4:6 - Malachi 4:5.
  15. Oxyrhyncus "846" 500 - 600 AD, contains part of Amos 2.
  16. A Rainer papyrus 200 - 300 AD, contains part of Isa. 38.
  17. A Bodleian papyrus 200 - 300 AD, contains part of Ezekiel 5,6.
  18. The Rylands papyri: Deuteronomy 2,3 1300 - 1400 AD
  19. The Rylands papyri: Job 1,5,6, 500 - 700 AD,
  20. The Rylands papyri: Psalm 90 400 - 600 AD
  21. The Oxyrhyncus volumes have parts of : Exodus 21 200 - 300 AD
  22. Exodus 22:40 200 - 300 AD
  23. Genesis 16 200 - 300 AD
  24. Genesis 31 300 - 400 AD

Thus Ruckman believes that. manuscript evidence for a pre-Christian LXX is totally lacking.

Other important manuscripts containing large portions of the Greek OT are as follows :

  1. Codex Vaticanus (B), 350 AD, Vatican Library.
  1. Codex Alexandrinus (A), 450 AD, British Museum, Unger says it follows Origen's Hexapla.
  2. Codex Sinaiticus (Aleph), 350 AD, British Museum.

Regarding these three famous manuscripts (which will be looked at more thoroughly when we come to the NT text), Gooding summarizes, "even the great uncials B, A, and Aleph are not immune from pre-Origen revision. Vaticanus follows the Hexapla in Isaiah while in Judges it represents a 4th century AD revision. Generally, however, it is a copy (a poor one, as its numerous emissions show) of a text critically revised according to the best evidence available early in the Christian era. Hence it sometimes presents a text purer than that of still earlier papyri ... Alexandrinus has suffered far more from revision. Sinaiticus, generally speaking, holds a position midway between B and A."

  1. Codex Ephraemi Rescriptus (C), 5th century, Bibliotheque Nationale Paris. The text on sixty-four OT leaves have been erased to make room for a treatise for St. Ephraim of Syria in the 12th century. It is thus a palimpsest and the underlying Biblical text can be deciphered only with great difficulty.

Septuagint manuscripts are quite numerous in the world's libraries. The earliest are called uncial (large lettered) and the later, cursives (small flowing script). There are about 240 uncial manuscripts now in existence (containing mainly small portions of the OT) (Unger).

With this basic manuscript evidence before him, the student is better able to consider whether there was a pre-Christian era Greek OT. The majority feel there was, though Kenyon says, "It must be admitted that Kahle makes out a very strong case."

As shown above, scholars state that the fifth column of Origen's Hexapla is the Septuagint revised by Origen. Ruckman, however, says that the so-called LXX in fact originates with Origen's fifth column. I assume by this he means that the 5th column is based on and constructed from the versions in the other columns. Thus, according to Ruckman, the "LXX" does not appear until the Hexapla is completed in 245 AD. Further, as the Apocrypha has always been "part and parcel" of the Septuagint, it is remarkable that it is in the fifth column that it appears. Thus, we believe, this fifth column has been a leading source of OT corruption and had a huge influence on Jerome's Latin Vulgate and its inclusion of the Apocrypha (380 AD).

Regarding the Apocrypha, Kenyon says, "The Greek Old Testament includes a number of books which apparently circulated in the Greek-speaking world (led by Alexandria) and obtained equal acceptance with the canonical books. These never obtained entrance to the Hebrew Canon." Thus Alexandria and its "greatest" teacher Origen are the impetus for bringing the Apocrypha into the Bible. At this writing, I cannot find any clear information to show that the Apocrypha was part of any Bible prior to the Hexapla. It does survive in some Old Latin Version manuscripts, but see the discussion on that version.

Ruckman says further, "Origen's fifth column is a translation of the OT into classical Greek not Koine, and Origen (as Vaticanus) uses the orthography of 400 - 200 BC (Plato, Euripedes, and Aristophanes). To conceal this obviously "non-neutral" text, Eberhard Nestle has informed his readers that the orthography of Vaticanus and Sinaiticus has been altered to the Koine of the first century, so you will think that these manuscripts were written in the language of the New Testament. This is why Nestle had to alter it in publishing his critical text; see remarks on p. 63, on English Introduction, Nestle, Novum Testamentum, 1956." (I do not fully understand this statement, but have included it, believing it to be pertinent) .


From a Bible-honoring point of view and taking the position that there was a pre-Christian era Septuagint, Terence Brown says, "At the time of our Lord's earthly ministry, it was the universal practice of Greek-speaking Jews throughout the whole of the Middle East to read in their synagogues and to quote in their discussions the Old Testament Scriptures in this Greek Version.

It is agreed that the Septuagint was far from perfect, and no claim can be advanced for the divine inspiration of the translators. However, if we observe the manner in which the Apostles refer to the Old Testament Scriptures, we see a striking indication of the inspiration under which they themselves wrote. When they refer to the Septuagint, they do so under the supernatural guidance of the Holy Spirit, the Divine Author of the original revelation. Authority is therefore higher than that of a translator.

This higher authority is shown in three ways. Firstly, where the LXX translators were correct, the Apostles quote verbally and literally from the Septuagint, and thus remind their readers of the Scriptures with which they were already familiar in that particular form. Secondly, where the LXX is incorrect, the Apostles amend it, and make their quotations according to the Hebrew, translating it anew into Greek, and improving upon the defective rendering.

Thirdly, when it was the purpose of the Holy Spirit to point out more clearly in what sense the quotations from the Old Testament Scriptures were to be understood, the Apostles were guided to restate the revealed truth more fully or explicitly. By the hands of the Apostles, the Holy Spirit thus delivers again His own inspired message, in order to make more clear to later generations what had been formerly declared through the prophets in earlier age. By giving again the old truth in new words, the Holy Ghost infallibly imparted teaching which lay hidden in the old, but which could only be fully understood by a later generation if given in a different form.

There are about 263 direct quotations from the Old Testament in the New, and of these only 88 correspond closely to the Septuagint. A further 64 are used with some variations, 37 have the same meaning expressed in different words, 16 agree more closely with the Hebrew, and 20 differ both from the Hebrew and the Septuagint. (Note, this tabulation adds up to only 225). From this it is evident that the Holy Spirit exercises independence of all human versions when He guides His Apostles to quote in the New Testament that which He had caused to be written in the Old. The Lord Jesus Christ, being One in Divine power and glory with the Eternal Father and Eternal Spirit, demonstrated the same independence, and exercised the same authority."

D. A. Waite (also from a Bible-honoring point of view) is prepared to question whether there was a pre-Christian era Septuagint and says, "'There are various references in the New Testament which would show that the Lord Jesus referred to the Hebrew OT rather than to the Greek Septuagint or other versions.

  1. Matthew 5:17,18 Think not that I am come to destroy the law or the Prophets: I am not come to destroy, but to fulfill. For verily I say unto you, Till heaven and earth pass; one jot or one tittle shill in no wise pass from the law, till all be fulfilled.

The reference to the "Law or the Prophets" is a reference to the two major portions of the three-division Hebrew Canon, including the Writings! And of course our Lord's reference to 'jot' and 'tittle' could only refer to the Hebrew and not the Greek Old Testament.

  1. Matthew 7:12 ... Law and the Prophets
  2. Matthew 11:13...all the Prophets and the Law
  3. Matthew 22:40 ...all the Law and the Prophets
  4. Luke 24:27,44 And beginning at Moses and all the prophets, He expounded unto them in ill the Scriptures the things concerning Himself... These are the words which I spake unto you, while I was yet with you, that all things must be fulfilled, which were written in the Law of Moses, and in the Prophets, and in the Psalms, concerning me.

Here is a very clear indication of the threefold division of the Hebrew Canon into Law, Prophets and Psalms (or the Writings in which they are found) . The Septuagint interspersed with the Apocrypha does not have this threefold division, thus Christ was not using it.

  1. Luke 4:16-21 ...He went into the Synagogue on the Sabbath day, and stood up for to read. And there was delivered unto him the book of the prophet Esaias.

Since the language of the Jews in their Synagogues was Hebrew, we can be certain that it was the scroll in Hebrew which was delivered to Him. Even today the Jews read and use Hebrew in their Synagogues since it is their one and only holy language in which their Scriptures were originally written. The Lord showed great respect for God's OT Word and upheld it completely.

  1. Matthew 23:35 That upon you may come all the righteous blood of righteous Abel unto the blood of Zacharias son of Barachias, whom ye slew between the temple and the altar.

By this reference, the Lord intended to charge the scribes and Pharisees with all the blood of righteous people shed in the entire OT. Abel is found in Genesis, but Zacharias is found in II Chronicles 24:20-22. If you look at your OT Hebrew Bible, you will find that II Chronicles is the very last book (i.e. it is the last book in the third section, the Writings). If, on the other hand, you look at your Septuagint edition, such as that published by the American Bible Society, 1949, Third Edition, edited by Alfred Rahlfs, you would find that it ends with Daniel followed by 'Bel and the Dragon'!! This is a clear proof that our Saviour referred to and used the Hebrew and not the Greek Old Testament."

Regarding the origin of the Septuagint, Waite says, "The first real evidence of a Greek OT is in a group of new translations in the second century AD". By this he means those of Aquila, Symmachus and Theodotian, beside scanty remnants of further unanimous versions.

Coming now to the matter of quotation, he says, "Quite often I hear the objection being voiced that we cannot take the Masoretic Text as the proper basis of the Old Testament translation process because the NT allegedly quotes from the LXX thus sanctioning that translation as a whole! Let's analyze this objection as follows :

  1. Does the NT actually quote from the LXX? How do we know that the present text of the Septuagint was not that found in those Greek OT translations of the second century AD by Aquila, Symmachus and Theodotian, or even that of Origen and his Hexapla. If this were the case, this text would follow that of the NT and you might have these translators quoting the OT quotes found in tile NT rather than vice versa!
  2. Suppose you reject this hypothesis. Does a mere similarity in wording of the NT to that of the Greek OT necessarily mean that those were direct quotations? Is not God the Holy Spirit, who inspired the very words of the OT and the NT, able to pick and choose what set of words He wishes to employ to reveal His truth in the NT? Is He bound to His own words exactly on every occasion in the OT Hebrew text, or does He not have liberty to alter, reinterpret, add to, or subtract from that text as He presents truth in the Now Testament?
  3. But suppose you reject this thought. Does it necessarily mean, just because there appears to be a similarity in wording, and in some instances perhaps following the Greek OT more closely than the Hebrew that this is some sort of proof that the Greek OT is somehow superior to the Masoretic Text? Most assuredly not! This does not hold true for the particular passage quoted, nor does it hold true for the entire Greek OT. God did not inspire the Greek words of the OT only the Hebrew words! This is a very important distinction and caution which must be borne in mind in this matter of OT translation.

    The debate about the Septuagint will continue to go on but the student now has before him the main points at issue. However, when in doubt, or until the facts prove otherwise, always take the view that is most God-honoring.


The earliest Latin version of the Old Testament was a translation not from the Hebrew, but the Greek OT. Scholars think that this translating was probably done at Carthage in North Africa during the later part of the second century AD. The importance to us today of the Old Latin Version or Vetus Itala as it is called to distinguish it from the later version of Jerome, is much greater in the New Testament than the Old. In the former, it is one of the earliest translations of the Original Greek which we possess, and is an important witness for the kind of text used in the second century. In the later it is a translation of a translation. Thus we refer to it as a "secondary translation", a "Primary translation" comes from the original Hebrew.

The Old Latin exists today only in fragments. No entire manuscript survives of the OT. And what does remain is often from the Apocrypha (no doubt because of lack of use and see below). For the rest, we are indebted for most of our knowledge of this version to the quotations of the early Latin Fathers. P. Sabatier made a collection of these in the 18th century. Since then, further evidence has accumulated which has helped to establish its text.

As has been said, the Old Latin version is first known in North Africa and is quoted by Tertullian (died 221) who certainly had a partial if not complete Latin Bible. Our best authority is Cyprian, bishop of Carthage (died 258), who quotes copiously and accurately from all parts of both Old and New Testaments.

As with the Septuagint, some have questioned (probably wrongly) as to whether the Old Latin was one standardized version or in fact a plurality of versions. Augustine said at about the time that Jerome was preparing the Vulgate (380 AD) that there was "an infinite variety of Latin translations", and Jerome himself said, "there were as many texts of this version as there were manuscripts." In both cases, though, this is seen is propaganda designed to promote the new version of Jerome (much of the above is based on Kenyon).

Regarding surviving MSS:

  1. Codex Vindobonesis 17, a palimpsest MS now at Naples, contains, fragments of Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus and portions of Samuel and Kings.
  2. A 5th century MS at Lyons, contains portions of Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, the whole of Numbers and the first two chapters of Deuteronomy. At the Bibliotheque Nationale in Paris is the rest of Deuteronomy, the whole of Joshua and Judges 1:1 - 11:21.
  3. At Madrid there is a MS containing Ruth and Esther (Kenyon).

History shows that this version spread from North Africa throughout Europe. Regarding the matter of the Latin language, Unger says, "During the first two centuries the Church of Rome was essentially Greek speaking. The same holds true of Gaul; but the Church of North Africa seems to have been Latin speaking from the first. As the Latin language spread through Europe so the need for the Latin Bible." Benjamin Wilkinson says, "Since Italy, France and Great Britain were once provinces of the Roman Empire, the first translations of the Bible by the early Christians in these parts were made into Latin. The early Latin translations were very dear to the hearts of those primitive churches, and as Rome did not send any missionaries toward the West before 250 AD, the early Latin Bibles were well-established before those churches came into conflict with Rome. Not only were such translations in existence and well established long before the Vulgate was adopted by the Papacy, but the people for centuries refused to supplant their Old Latin Bibles by the Vulgate. God in His wisdom invested these Latin versions by His Providence with a charm that outweighed the learned artificiality of Jerome's Vulgate. For nine hundred years, we are told, the Old Latin held its own after the Vulgate appeared. The critical version of Jerome never displaced it, and only replaced it when the Latin ceased to be a living language."

Concerning the inclusion of the Apocrypha in the Old Latin version, Peter Ruckman quoting the International Bible Encyclopedia says, "The Old Latin manuscripts used by the Waldensians (1170 - 1600) do not contain the Apocrypha. The Apocrypha was added to many Old Latin manuscripts by the admirers of Origen and Augustine."

Wilkinson declares that the very word "Vulgate" was falsely used by Jerome. "The word Vulgate means 'commonly used', or 'current'. This word has been appropriated from the Bible to which it rightfully belongs, and given to the Latin Bible of Jerome. It took hundreds of years before the common people would call Jerome's Latin Bible, the 'Vulgate'."

As to revisions of the Old Latin OT, Ruckman states that in 540, Cassiodorus had it revised to bring it into line with the "LXX" of Origen.



As stated earlier, in order to gather and sift through as many facts as possible, it has been necessary to draw from the research of men like Kenyon, Bruce and others who hold to a basically naturalistic transmission of the text. What a breath of fresh air it is to read behind men who believe in the promises of God to providentially preserve His word through the centuries. Unfortunately though, for too long, the bulk of textual research has been left in the hands of the former group, who treat the text as they would any other piece of literature. It is trusted though when out of necessity I have had to draw from these sources, that the facts have really been the facts and have been properly interpreted.

The naturalistic scholars unite in telling us, (Kenyon is typical), "By the end of the fourth century, the imperfections of the Old Latin Version had become evident to the leaders of the Roman Church. Not only was the OT translation taken from the Greek (a valid point), but the current copies of it were grossly disfigured by corruptions." Unfortunately, we do not have enough pre-3rd century manuscript evidence to fully test this claim, but we do have the promises of God that He would preserve His Word. The hue and cry of two Roman Fathers Augustine and Jerome (quoted above) against the Old Latin should probably be taken in about the same light as the outcry of modern Bible revisers against the "many errors" of the King James Version. Remember that the first textual critic was the one who said in the Garden of Eden, "Yea hath God said"!! But the historical fact is, it was not the errors of the Old Latin Version that gave impetus for a new version but rather the desire of the Roman Church to bring out a version which would be more in line with the rapidly developing Papal system. For Benjamin Wilkinson's excellent summary of this, see "The Latin Vulgate of Jerome" in "A Survey of the New Testament Manuscripts and Versions".


Regarding his OT revision. He began first with the Psalms and produced three versions all of which are still extant. The first was a very slight revision of the Old Latin version, with references to the Septuagint, and is known as the Roman Psalter. It was officially adopted by Pope Damasus, and still remains in use in the Cathedral of St. Peter at Rome. The second, made between 387 and 390 in Bethlehem, still with reference to the Septuagint; but Jerome attempted to bring it into closer conformity with the Hebrew by using Origen's Hexapla text (first column).

This version was first adopted in Gaul, whence it is known as the Gallican Psalter, and it has held its place as the Psalter in general use in the Roman Church and the Roman Bible from that day to this, and this in spite of the superior accuracy of the third version which Jerome subsequently published. This is known as the Hebrew Psalter, being an entirely fresh translation from the original Hebrew. It is found in a fair number of MSS of the Vulgate, often in parallel columns with the Gallican version, but it never attained to general usage or popularity.

About the time when Jerome produced his Gallican Psalter, he also revised some of the other books of the Old Testament, such as Job with reference to the Hexapla text (Job still survives in this form).

But it would appear that this undertaking was not carried to completion. It is probable that Jerome, as his knowledge of Hebrew increased, grew unsatisfied with the task of merely revising the Old Latin translation. He then resolved to take in hand an altogether new translation from tile Hebrew. He appears to have been convinced as to the superiority of the Hebrew text over the Greek (i.e. the Septuagint), and in all cases of divergence regarded the Hebrew as alone correct. This great work occupied him from about the year 390 to 404. The first to appear were the books of Samuel and Kings, next the Prophets, then Ezra, Nehemiah and Genesis, then after an interval the books of Solomon and the remainder of the Old Testament (Kenyon).

Jerome did not want to include the Apocrypha but consented reluctantly. He made a hurried translation of Judith and Tobit, but left the remainder untouched as it presently appeared in the Old Latin. (This last statement is the view of our naturalistic textual scholars. As stated above, those who followed Origen added the Apocrypha to their Old Latin Bibles, but those used by the Waldensians do not contain the Apocrypha. Certainly the presence of the Apocrypha in the fifth column of Origen's Hexapla was tile primary influence for its inclusion in the Vulgate.)


In addition to what was said above, Kenyon adds, "In the prefatory letters prefixed to these books, Jerome tells us much of his work and its reception. In spite of much individual support which he received, the general attitude towards it was one of great hostility. The sweeping nature of the changes introduced … alienated those who had been brought up to know and love the old version… Jerome felt this opposition keenly, and raged against what he regarded as its unreasonableness. This finds vigorous expression in his prefaces." 'Which Bible" states that in 400 AD Augustine himself expressed preference for the Old Latin Version.


Merril Unger refers to the textual corruption that befell the Vulgate. "Meanwhile the text of the different parts of the Latin Bible (the Vulgate) was rapidly deteriorating." He states that the simultaneous use of both versions was a principle cause. "The growing corruption which could not be checked by private labour, attracted the attention of Charlemagne, who entrusted to Alcuin (about 802) the task of revising the Latin text for public use. This Alcuin appears to have done simply by the use of manuscripts of the Vulgate, and not by reference to the original texts. His revision probably contributed much toward preserving the Vulgate text. But the new revision was gradually deformed, though later attempts at correction were made by Lanfrome of Canterbury (1089), Cardinal Nicolaus (1150), and again by the Cistercian Abbot Stephanus.

The above revisions apply to the New Testament also. We will look at these and the MSS when we come to the New Testament of the Vulgate.


The Samaritan Pentateuch is not really a translation into a different language, but a direct descendant of the original Hebrew Scriptures in the same language and written in the suite characters, though as Kenyon says, "in a somewhat degenerate form." Thus more accurately it is the Hebrew Pentateuch of the Samaritans.


In 732 BC, the far northern areas of Israel were overrun by the Assyrian king Tiglath-Pileser III, and many of its inhabitants were deported to other parts of the Assyrian Empire. Eleven years later, a similar fate befell the remainder of the Kingdom of Israel at the beginning of the reign of Sargon II. Sargon tells how he removed 27,290 people from Samaria. In II Kings 17:24-41 we are told of the colonists whom the Assyrian Kings sent to take the place of the deportees, and how they intermarried with the people left in the land, which was now organized as the Assyrian province of Samaria. Although these colonists at first worshipped their own gods, they ultimately gave up their idolatry and worshipped Jehovah, as did the native Samaritans. In the closing centuries BC the Samaritans were as free from idol worship as the Jews.

After the return of the Jews from the Babylonian captivity in 530 BC, the Samaritans offered their aid in rebuilding the Jewish Temple. The books of Ezra and Nehemiah show that this was rightly refused. They then became the inveterate enemies of the Jews and did all in their power to hinder the work. Under Nehemiah's governorship, the grandson of the high priest Eliashib was discovered to have married the daughter of Sanballet, the governor of Samaria, and a bitter foe of the Jews. This incident, which took place around 432 BC, has been widely regarded as furnishing the historical background of the Samaritan split with the Jews.

Josephus, the historian of the first century AD displaces this account by putting it a century later. He names the expelled priest as Manasseh and says that he took with him a copy of the Law when he fled to Samaria. Though reasonable, some have questioned Josephus' account. Yet all agree that the copies of the Samaritan have descended from an archetype not later than the 5th century BC.

About 400 BC, the Samaritans built their own temple on Mount Gerizim near the ancient sanctuary of Shechem. To this place the woman of Sychar referred when she said to Christ: "Our fathers worshipped in this mountain."

Until the Romans came, the Samaritans were under Jewish domination. They survived as an Israelite group (though repudiated by Orthodox Jewry) for many centuries in a variety of centers. To this day, a small remnant has survived in Palestine. They have preserved their ancient traditions and worship at Nablus near to ancient Shechem.

The Samaritans regard the Pentateuch alone as canonical and they have preserved a text of these five books in Hebrew which has been transmitted independently of the Masoretic text. (The above is drawn from Bruce and Unger).


The Samaritan Pentateuch was known to some of the Church Fathers such as Eusebius (265 - 340) and Jerome (340 - 420), but down to within the last 250 years no copy had reached Europe, and it began to be pronounced as fiction. W. J. Martin, writing in the New Bible Dictionary, says "The first copy of this version reached Europe in 1616 through Pietro della Valle, and in 1628 an evaluation of it was published by J. Morinus, who claimed it to be far superior to the Masoretic text. This seems to be the case with every new discovery of documents, prompted either by a preference for the LXX or an innate hostility to the traditional Jewish text. There was in this instance another motive at work: the desire on the part of certain scholars to weaken the position of the Reformers in their stand for the authority of the Bible. Gesenius, probably Germany's greatest Hebrew scholar, brought this barren controversy to an end and demonstrated the superiority of the Masoretic text. We are witnessing in our day an attempt to reinstate the Samaritan Pentateuch.''

It departs from the Masoretic text in about 6,000 cases, of these about 1,900 agree with the LXX (Unger). It is not easy to account for the agreements; one possibility is that when corrections had to be made in the Samaritan Pentateuch, an Aramaic Targum was used (the Samaritan dialect and Aramaic are practically identical, and the Samaritan version in places agrees verbatim with the Targum of Onkelos). There are numerous traces of the influence of the Aramaic Targums in the LXX. (Martin) See The Aramaic Targums.

The most important Samaritan Variants are the ones which reveal the fundamental points at issue between the Samaritans and Jews. The Samaritans emphasized the importance of Shechem and Mount Gerizim and declared that God had chosen them to be the center of the nation. Thus, where Moses in Deuteronomy 12:5 and other places, speaks of "the place which the Lord your God shall choose" (later identified as Jerusalem), the Samaritan edition translates it "the place which the Lord your God has chosen" - meaning Mount Gerizim, which has already been specified in Deuteronomy 27:4-8 where Moses commands that the stones bearing the words of the Law and an altar of unknown stones are to be set up on Mount Ebal, the Samaritan text has Gerizim for Ebal. After the Ten Commandments in Exodus 20 and Deuteronomy 5, the Samaritan inserts Deuteronomy 27:2-7 with Mount Ebal replaced by Mount Gerizim and Deuteronomy 11:30 with Gilgal changed to Shechem. It reads thusly:

And it shall be that when Jehovah thy God brings thee into the land of the Canaanite ... thou shalt erect for thyself great stones and shall plaster them ... upon Mount Gerizim ... And thou shalt sacrifice ... and eat there and rejoice before Jehovah ... that mountain is across Jordan in the direction of the going down of the sun ... over against Shechem.

They made sure that there would be no mistake about the identification of the mountain! This addition is reckoned by the Samaritans to be the Tenth Commandant. What we call the First Commandment is said by them to be a preamble (Bruce)

The extant manuscripts of the Samaritan Pentateuch are of a late date. No manuscript is (as far as known) older than the tenth century. There is a Samaritan MS dated AD 1211 in the John Rylands Library at Manchester, where older fragments are also to be found. What is probably the oldest Samaritan MS in Codex form is in the university library at Cambridge which contains a note that it was sold in AD 1149, and in the opinion of Paul Kahle may leave been written some centuries earlier (Kenyon).

The most interesting, if not the most important MS is a parchment roll in the possession of the Samaritans at Nablus. It has a colophon or scribal tailpiece, which makes the remarkable claim, "I Abishua, son of Phinehas, son of Eleazar, son of Aaron ... have written this holy scroll at the gate of the tent of assembly on Mount Gerizim the House of God, in the thirteenth year of the settlement of the children of Israel in the land of Canaan." In fact the first half of it (to Numbers 34) dated from the 13th century AD, the latter part from possibly the 11th century AD (Bruce).

The most recent printed edition (as of 1958) was that of A. von Gall in 1918, it was based on eighty MSS and fragments of varying dates. (Kenyon).

As to translations of the Samaritan Pentateuch into other languages, Paul Kahle'. research has shown that several Arabic versions were made from the 11th to 13th centuries. From about fifty quotations preserved in the notes of Origen's Hexapla it is believed that there was a Greek translation known as the Sauariticon (Unger).

In reading about this version, how thankful we can be that God has preserved a pure stream of transmission through the Masoretic text of the Hebrew scriptures, the text underlying the King James Version. When naturalistic critics say, "The text of i.e. Exodus has many corruptions", what they are in fact saying, is that the Hebrew disagrees with the. LXX or Samaritan, as if they were the standard to follow. By now we trust the student can see how foolish such an assertion is.


Aramaic, traditionally the language of Syria, became in Old Testament times the chief language of most of the peoples from Mesopotamia to the Mediterranean Coast and indeed continued to be so until the Arab conquests in the seventh and eighth centuries AD (Kenyon). It is a close cognate, though not a derivative of Hebrew. The letters arc the same in the two languages. It was formerly inaccurately called "Chaldee", but since the Childeans are known to have generally spoken Akkadian, the term Chaldee has been abandoned.

In the closing centuries BC when Hebrew was becoming less and less familiar to the ordinary people as a spoken language, it became the practice in the synagogues to accompany the public reading of the Scriptures by an oral paraphrase in Aramaic. This paraphrase was called a Targum. The word means "to translate from one word to another", or "to interpret" (Bruce, Unger).

This was probably more than a strict translation, embodying a certain amount of interpretative comment. The methurgeman (the translator), we are told was not allowed to read his interpretation out of a roll, as the congregation might mistakenly think he was reading the original Scriptures. With a view to accuracy it was first laid down that not more than one verse of the Pentateuch and not more than three verses of the Prophets could be translated at one time (Bruce).

At first these paraphrases were simply given by word of mouth, extemporaneously. They were unofficial, and varied from place to place. Subsequently they were written down. It is to those written paraphrases that the word Targum most directly applies. The first mention of such a written Targum is that of Job in the first century AD (Kenyon). Otherwise the earliest Targum we possess seems to have been committed to writing by the 5th century AD (D. F. Payne in the New Bible Dictionary).

Targums are extant covering all the Old Testament between them, except for Daniel, Ezra, and Nehemiah. We have several of the Pentateuch notably Targum Onkelos and two Jerusalem or Palestinian Targums. On the Prophets (both Former and latter) we have Targum Jonathan ben Uzziel.

Onkelos is claimed by some to be the Aquila who translated the Scriptures into Greek (250 AD), see Septuagint. His Targum is very literal and adheres closely to the original. Jonathan ben Uzziel lived in the 1st century BC and his is much more interpretative (Payne).

One marked feature of the Targums is their avoidance of the anthropomorphism's which often characterize references to God in the Old Testament. One frequent device is the use of the phrase "the Word of God" instead of simply "God". Thus in Gen. 3:8, instead of "they heard the voice of the Lord God walking in the garden", the Targums of Onkelos have "they heard the voice of the word of the Lord God walking in the garden". Where the Hebrew OT says "God was with the lad" (Gen. 21:20), the Targum equivalent is: "the Word of God was with the lad". Edersheim counted 179 occurrences of this in Onkelos. (Bruce). See "the Books and the Parchments" by F. F. Bruce for many examples of the liberties that the Targums take with the Hebrew text.

Perhaps the most serious perversion can be seen from the Targum of Jonathan in his rendering of Isaiah 53. Here the servant is clearly identified as the Messiah, but all the ascription's of suffering to Him are transferred either to tile Jewish people suffering at the hand of their Gentile oppressors or to the Gentiles receiving retribution at the hand of the Messiah (Bruce).

Thus the truth of Christ's substitutionary work on the cross is obliterated.


The Syriac language is virtually the same as what we have seen above. It was the language of Syria and Mesopotamia, and is called East or Christian Aramaic to distinguish it from the closely related West Aramaic which was spoken in Palestine in the time of our Lord's life on earth. In the case of the New Testament, as we shall see, several translations into Syriac were made. But of the Old Testament there was only one (apart from Paul of Tella's version of Origen's Hexapla text, and some other late translations from the Septuagint of which only fragments remain). The Syriac was known as the Peshitta, or "simple" version. Whether this was to distinguish it from Paul of Tella's with its apparatus of signs and variant readings is uncertain (Kenyon).


Despite scholarly research into the origin of the Peshitta OT, we have no direct information of the authors or the date of the translations. As early as Theodore of Mopsvestia (died 428 AD) details concerning its beginnings were unknown. Some of the evidence indicates that it was the work of Christians and some that of Jewish translators. Although in many cases the text agrees with the Hebrew, and, what is more remarkable, with the Palestinian Targum, there are other passages which seem to presuppose the Septuagint (R. Gunner in the New Bible Dictionary and Kenyon).

Internal evidence enables us to arrive at some probable conclusions. Linguistic affinities have been noted between the Palestinian Aramaic Targum (Western Aramaic) and the Syriac translation of the Pentateuch, whereas Syriac (the name usually given to Christian Aramaic language) , is an East Aramaic language. These linguistic traces of West Aramaic in a version which is otherwise in East Aramaic dialect reveal some acquaintance with a Palestinian Targum of the Pentateuch. This indicates that the Peshitta Pentateuch originated in an East Aramaic district which had some relationship with Jerusalem.

The ruling house of Adiabene, a kingdom situated east of the Tigris, was converted to Judaism about AD 40. Royal children were sent to Jerusalem for their education, and some members of the royal house were buried there. Judaism spread among the people of Adiabene. They needed the Hebrew Scriptures in a language they could understand - i.e. Syriac, so it is probable that parts of the Old Testament, and at first the Pentateuch were translated into Syriac in the middle of the 1st century.

Further examination of the MSS of the Peshitta Pentateuch has revealed that at an early period there existed two texts, one a more literal translation of the Hebrew and the other a rendering, as has been described above closely related to the Palestinian Targum. Many scholars think that the literal translation is the earlier on the grounds that the Syriac Church Fathers Aphrahal and Ephraem used a text which followed the Hebrew more closely than did the text in common use in the 6th century.

There is the alternative view that the Peseta OT owed its origin to the Christians of that area. Such a view is possible as the Syriac Church included a large Jewish element who would have had access to the Hebrew Scriptures and translations (R. Gunner) .

As for the rest of the books of the OT, they show considerable variety both of style and method, and are clearly the work of different hands at different times. Thus Proverbs is close to the Targum, as is Ezekiel, Isaiah and the Minor Prophets are somewhat freely translated. While Ruth is a paraphrase, Job and Song of Solomon are very literally rendered (Kenyon).


The Peshitta originally omitted the Apocrypha, but these were later added from the Septuagint. It is also said that it was originally without Chronicles (Kenyon). It was one of the very best early versions of the Old Testament, and was clearly God's Word for a large number of people in the world of that day. Corruptions did not enter the text until the middle of the third century, when Origen moved from Alexandria to Caesarea. Further corruptions took place during the time of Eusebius and Pamphilus (260 - 340) and at the time of the revisions known as the Philoxenian (508), the Harclean (616) and the Jerusalem Syriac (c 6th century). (Based on Ruckman).

At the end of the first quarter of the 5th century, a schism broke in the Syriac Church, with the result that Nestorius and his followers withdrew eastwards. Nestorius was expelled from the bishopric of Constantinople in 431 and he took with him the Peshitta Bible. Following the destruction of their school at Edessa in 489, the Nestorians fled to Persia and established a new school at Nisibis. The two branches of the Church kept their own Bible texts. It is said that the Eastern branch of the text underwent fewer revisions, because of the more isolated location of the Church (R. Gunner).

Regarding the above mentioned revisions. The Jerusalem Syriac was made from the LXX, a few fragments remain. Philoxenus of Mabbug commissioned the translation of the entire Bible from the LXX, again only a few fragments remain. Another Syriac version of the OT was made by Paul, Bishop of Tella in Mesopotamia in 617. It is based on the 5th column of Origen's Hexapla, with notes and readings given from the other columns of Aquila, Symmachus and Theodotian. It was known as the Syro-Hexaplaric Version. (R. Gunner). There is dispute as to whether the Philoxenian Syriac Version was reissued by Thomas of Heraclea (known as the Harclean Syriac) or whether this was an entirely new version (R. Gunner in New Bible Dictionary).


The main ones containing the Old Testament include:

  1. A MS in the British Museum, dated AD 464. This is the oldest MS with an actual date. It contains the Pentateuch except for the book of Leviticus.
  2. A 5th century MS of Isaiah and Psalms.
  3. The West Syriac Codex Ambrosianus in Milan, 6th or 7th century. This consists of the entire Old Testament and is close to the Masoretic Text. It his been published photolithographically (R. Gunner).


Coptic is the language which was used of the natives of Egypt at the time when the Bible was first translated for their use. It is indeed a modified form of the language which had been spoken in the country from time immemorial. About the end of the 1st century AD it began, owing to the influence of the great number of Greeks who settled in Egypt, to be written in Greek characters, with six additional letters, and with a considerable admixture of Greek words. It is to this form of the language that the name Coptic was given.

There were, however, differences in the dialects spoken in different parts of the country, and consequently more than one translation of the Scriptures was required. The number of these dialects is still a matter of uncertainty, for the papyri discovered in Egypt of late years have been, and still are, adding considerably to our knowledge of them. It appears that four or five different versions of the New Testament have been identified, and four of the Old. Two of these stand out as of real importance, the others being mere fragments.

There is the Sahidic or Thebaic version of Upper or Southern Egypt, which is the oldest; and the Bohairic of Lower or Northern Egypt which eventually became the Bible of the whole Coptic Church, and is the most complete. (Kenyon). Unger says the Sahidic version was completed by 350 AD (Kenyon 250), and that both versions were made from 4th century Septuagint texts. Thus we are not surprised to find that the Coptic versions contain the Apocrypha.

Gehmans textual researches on Daniel demonstrate that the Sahidic version reflects a blending of Origen's Hexaplaric text, Theodotian and Hesychius (a reviser of the LXX, died 311). He found also that the Bohairic was made from the Hexaplaric text and affected by Hesychius. Sahidic Acts shows a close connection with Codex Vaticanus (Unger).

The Sahidic exists in very considerable fragments (Kenyon):

  1. A complete MS of Deuteronomy and Jonah (with Acts), 4th century, British Museum
  2. Joshua, Judges, Ruth, (Judith) and Esther, 7th century, British Museum
  3. 62 Leaves of Proverbs, Ecclesiastes, Song of Solomon, (Wisdom and Ecclesiasticus), 7th century, British Museum
  4. The Psalms (complete), 7th century, British Museum.
  5. Psalms (incomplete), AD l00 (?), Berlin. (Kenyon)


With the versions of Egypt may naturally go the version of Ethiopia. The Ethiopic MSS (many of which were acquired by the British Museum at the time of the Abyssinian War in 1867) are of very late date, the oldest being of the 13th century (Kenyon). Christianity was introduced into Abyssinia by Christian missionaries in the 4th century. Between the 5th and 8th centuries the Bible was translated into Ethiopic. Gleaves studies uphold Charles thesis that the Ethiopic reflects Symmachus and Origen in the Hexapla (Unger). Naturally then, it contains the Apocrypha, with two books not usually included Jubilees and Enoch.

Four other versions can be mentioned but being of later date they need not be considered in this survey. They are the Armenian, Arabic, Georgian Slavonic and Gothic. Kenyon says they were all made from the Septuagint. Unger, however, says that the Arabic was influenced by Hebrew and Samaritan texts; that the Armenian may have come from the Syriac, and that the Armenian and Greek formed the basis of the Georgian version.


As we have seen, the Jewish rabbits venerated their copies of the Old Testament so much that they did not allow them to be read to pieces. As soon as they became too worn, they were stored and then reverently buried. Hence until rather recently no ancient Hebrew MSS were available to scholars, the oldest known dating no earlier than the 9th century AD. All the available MSS, however, were found to contain the Masoretic text and to agree with one another very closely. The first to demonstrate this was Bishop Kennicott, who published at Oxford in 1776 - 80 the readings of 634 Hebrew MSS. He was followed in 1784 - 88 by De Rossi, who published collations of 825 more MSS. No substantial variation among the MSS was detected by either of these two scholars.

The discoveries of the present century have altered this situation. The first of these now finds was a small papyrus fragment acquired in 1902 by W. L. Nash and presented by him to the Cambridge University Library. At first it was assigned to the 2nd century AD, but W. F. Albright (1937) moved it back to the 2nd century BC. It contains the Ten Commandments in a form closer to that found in Deuteronomy than to that in Exodus. Also it transposes the sixth and seventh Commandments, as the Greek text in Codex B (Vaticanus) does.

The Nash Papyrus, however, was but a harbinger of what was to come, namely, the Dead Sea Scrolls, which Albright hailed as "the greatest manuscript discovery of modern times." In the following paragraphs we will endeavor to summaries what eminent scholars say concerning this development and to state its meaning for Bible-believing Christians.


The Dead Sea Scrolls had been placed in earthen jars and deposited in caves near Wadi Qumran by the Dead Sea. They were first brought to light in 1947 by an Arab who was looking for a goat which had wandered away. After a few months some of the scrolls from this first cave were sold by the Arabs to the Syrian Orthodox Monastery of St. Mark in the Jordanian section of Jerusalem and others to the Hebrew University in the Israel section of the city. In 1955 the Monastery of St. Mark sold its share of the Dead Sea Scrolls to the State of Israel. Thus these two lots of ancient writings were finally reunited under the same owners.

This collection includes the following documents: 1) Isaiah A, an almost complete copy of Isaiah in Hebrew; 2) Isaiah 11, another copy of Isaiah in Hebrew, reasonably complete from chapter 41 onwards but containing only fragments of the earlier chapters; 3) a copy in Hebrew of the first two chapters of Habakkuk with a verse-by-verse commentary also in Hebrew; 4) the Rule of the Community, a code of rules of a community written in Hebrew; 5) a collection of hymns in Hebrew; 6) the Rule of War, a description in Hebrew of ancient warfare; 7) an Aramaic paraphrase of chapters 5 to 15 of Genesis.

Of these seven manuscripts Isaiah A is regarded as the oldest. One expert sets its date at 175 - 150 BC; another expert makes it 50 years younger. The other manuscripts are thought to have been written from 50 to 150 years later than Isaiah A.

After these manuscripts had been discovered in the first cave, ten other caves in the same vicinity were found to contain similar treasures. Of these, Cave 4 has proved the most productive. Thousands of fragments, once constituting about 330 separate books, have been taken from this location. These fragments include portions of every Old Testament book except Esther. In 1952 also Hebrew Old Testament manuscripts said to date from the second century AD were discovered at Wadi Marabba' at about eleven miles south of Qumran.


Near the caves in which the Dead Sea Scrolls were discovered was an old ruin called in Arabic Khirbet Qumran. Under the stimulus provided by the Scrolls, excavations were begun at this site in 1951. These excavations revealed that Khirbet Qumran had been the center of a Hellenistic-Roman settlement which spread nearly two miles northward along the cliffs and some two miles southward to an agricultural unit at a place called En Feskhah. The people of this Qumran settlement lived in caves, tents, and separate houses, but they possessed many things in common, such as, a common irrigation system, common stores of food and water, a common kiln for pottery, and common central buildings with rooms for gatherings and ritual meals. There was also a writing room in which they copied their Scrolls.

According to F. M. Cross (1961), the members of this ancient Qumran settlement can be identified definitively with the Essenes, a Jewish sect described by Philo (Lt. 42 AD) and Josephus (d. 100 AD). Both these ancient writers mention the communistic way of life which these Essenes followed, and this fits in well with the facts disclosed by the, excavations at Qumran. From the information given by Philo and Josephus and especially from his study of the Dead Sea Scrolls, Cross has reconstructed the history of the Qumran colony. He believes that this community was founded about 140 BC by a group of resolute Jews who steadfastly refused to recognize Simon Maccabaeus as lawful high priest. Many of these dissenters were priests themselves of the family of Zadok, to which all the high priests had belonged since the days of Solomon. Therefore, when Simon made himself high priest, these Zidokites opposed him as a usurper. For Simon was not a Zadokite, but was a member of the Hasmonaean family. Seeing that no direct resistance to Simon's power was possible, these dissenting priests retreated to the desert and established themselves at Qumran. The leader of this movement was evidently a Zadokite priest to whom the Scrolls give the title Righteous Teacher. Later the Essenes came to regard this "Righteous Teacher" as the forerunner of the Messiah.


The discovery of the first Dead Sea Scroll, Isaiah A, was generally regarded by scholars as a victory for the Masoretic (Traditional) Hebrew text of the Old Testament. M. Burrows (1948) wrote as follows: ''The text of Isaiah in this manuscript is practically complete. With the exception of a few words lost where the edge of a column has been torn off and the relatively unimportant omissions to be noted below, the whole book is here, and it is substantially the book preserved in the Masoretic text. Differing notably in orthography and somewhat in morphology, it agrees with the Masoretic text to a remarkable degree in wording. Herein lies its chief importance, supporting the fidelity of the Masoretic tradition." And according to Albright (1955), the second Isaiah -scroll (Isaiah B) agrees even more closely with the Masoretic text.

But the discovery in 1952 of Cave 4 with its vast store of manuscripts has altered the picture considerably. It became apparent that the Proto-Masoretic text of the Isaiah scrolls was not the only type of Old Testament text that had been preserved at Qumran. In the manuscripts from Cave 4 many other text types have been distinguished. In a recent article F. M. Cross (1964) presents some of the conclusions which he has drawn from his Qumran studies. He believes that three distinct ancient texts of Samuel can be identified, namely, (1) an Egyptian text represented by the Septuagint, (2) a Palestinian text represented by manuscript 4Q from Cave 4, and (3) a Proto-Masoretic text represented by a Greek text of Samuel also from Cave 4. And in the Pentateuch also Cross divides the text into the Egyptian, Palestinian, and Proto-Masoretic varieties.

Albright (1955) and Burrows, (1958) agree with Cross in regard to his threefold division of the Old Testament documents, a conclusion which Cross presented in an earlier article (1956). But unless those two scholars have reconsidered their positions, they differ from Cross in their estimate of the age of the Proto-Masoretic and the relationship of this text to the Egyptian and Palestinian texts.

Albright holds that the Proto-Masoretic text was developed in Babylon during the days of the captivity and ''then brought back to Palestine by the returning exiles during the late sixth and fifth centuries BC." The other two texts were derived from this Proto-Masoretic text. Burrows also believes in the superiority of the Proto-Masoretic text. "The Proto-Masoretic text," he says, "existed at Qumran and elsewhere along with the divergent texts, on the whole it is fair to say that it was the trunk and they were the branches that spring out of it. The greatest contribution of the Dead Sea Scrolls to textual criticism is still their demonstration of this fact." Cross, on the other hand, denies that the Proto-Masoretic text was the ancestor of the other two. He believes that it was ''the local text of Babylon which emerged in the fourth to second centuries BC." According to Cross, the Proto-Masoretic text did not arrive in Palestine until comparatively late.

G. R. Driver (1965) disagrees with the interpretation which Albright, Burrows, Cross and other scholars have placed upon the Dead Sea Scrolls. Denying that these documents date from pre-Christian times, he relates them instead to the Jewish Revolt against Rome in AD 66 - 73, thus making them roughly contemporary with the New Testament. He believes that the Righteous Teacher mentioned in the Scrolls was Manaemus (Menahem), a leader in the Revolt and perhaps a son of the rebel Judas mentioned in Acts 5:37. Hence, in Driver's opinion, the Dead Sea Scrolls were written in the first and early second centuries AD, a theory which, if true, greatly alters the significance of these Scrolls both for history and for textual criticism.

Thus we see that, despite the new discoveries, our confidence in the trustworthiness of the Old Testament text must rest on some more solid foundation than the opinions of naturalistic scholars. For as the current Qumran studies demonstrate, these scholars disagree with one another. What one scholar grants another takes away. Instead of depending on such inconstant allies, Bible-believing Christians should develop their own type of Old Testament textual criticism, a textual criticism which takes its stand on the promises of Christ and views the evidence in the light of these promises.

With this summary by Edward F. Hills on the Dead Sea Scrolls, we conclude our survey of the Old Testament manuscripts and Versions. We end just where we began that the foundation of the study on how we got our Bible is the promise of God to preserve His word. It is tragic that so-called textual criticism has been left in the hands of those who proceed with their research totally oblivious to this promise. And worse, many who claim to be fundamentalists take the same naturalistic approach to the transmission of the Holy Scriptures.

Yes, the battle between God and Satan has raged over His Holy Word; there have been many pretenders; some streams of textual transmissions have become seriously corrupted. But, in carefully pondering the facts and evidence as given above, the student can clearly see that God has been faithful to His promise; the Old Testament has been preserved through the Masoretic Hebrew Text.

"Not one jot or tittle has passed away"

continue with Part Two: The Issues We Face Regarding the New Testament Text