The Septuagint and the Defense of the Christian Bible
From the Author of Rebooting the Bible and The Final Babylon
by S. Douglas Woodward
The Book asserts that the Septuagint is essential to defend the validity of the Christian Bible. It is a work of apologetics much more than history. First, however, this book seeks to familiarize the reader – at a 30,000-feet level – concerning the Bible’s message, how and when it was written down, how it evolved during several significant stages of transition and translation (from Hebrew to Greek to Latin to English), and what its key influencers were in the early life of the Church shaping the Bible we have today. And it seeks to shed light on how essential biblical truth has remained the same for 2,000+ years.
The book emphasizes how the Septuagint provides a Greek translation of the most ancient Hebrew scripture based on a textual tradition hundreds of years older than what was used as the basis of the Masoretic Text. The book recaps the types of alterations made by the rabbis of the second century to obfuscate the fact that Jesus of Nazareth was the Messiah prophesied in the Hebrew Bible. Essentially, the Messianic prophecies were corrupted in some cases and the chronology of the primeval timelines of the book of Genesis Chapters 5 and 11 was shortened by 1,500 years in an attempt to invalidate the claim of Christian evangelists that Jesus was the Christ. (It was believed that the Messiah would come 5,500 years after Adam – the Masoretic Text was altered to present a timeline of 4,000 years from Adam to the time of Christ.)
Key topics include the contest between Alexandria and Antioch to articulate the core truths of Christianity, how the Old Testament was transmitted, how the New Testament mirrors nearly perfectly what the original authors wrote, why certain books were excluded from the canonized Bible, how Higher Criticism has harmed rather than helped our faith, Justin Martyr’s witness to the authenticity of the Septuagint, and how we should defend the Bible by appealing the Septuagint when quoting Old Testament verses asserting messianic prophecy.
The book is just short of 100,000 words. It provides an accessible version of the information detailed in the author’s two books, Rebooting the Bible. This book is, in part, the second edition of the book, A Biography of the Christian Bible. Almost two dozen photos and charts were added along with 5,000 additional words to explain certain subjects better. Finally, the book is thoroughly edited with over 1,000 “tweaks” fixing grammatical errors, verb tenses, and punctuation, but mostly changing the prose of the book to employ the active voice rather than the passive to make for more enjoyable reading. It is impeccably formatted to be “easy on the eyes” when reading. The Table of Contents and an exhaustive index are gateways to the topics covered.
Over the past few years, I discovered that my learned colleagues who teach Bible prophecy and biblical history had only heard the term Septuagint tossed about without knowing what it teaches us about the history of the Bible. In short, few of my friends understood why this “ancient relic” of Bibles used in the Greek Orthodox Church might be necessary for Protestants to appreciate the New Testament’s message better. Why would this be so? Simply put: The Greek translation of the Hebrew Bible says things differently – often more favorably to support the Christian Gospel.
To explain for those that don’t know: The Septuagint is the Hebrew Bible, aka Biblia Hebraica, translated into Greek as the Hebrew stood 2,300 years ago. This took place in Alexandria, Egypt. Jewish scholars familiar with Hebrew and Greek performed the translation, initially of only the Pentateuch, and completed that circa 282 B.C.
I believe the Bible is the Word of God, and it speaks to us. But like any other believer, I perceive that what the Bible says to us may vary from time to time based on our circumstances and needs. Despite its age, it is alive and active (Hebrew 4:12). The Bible stays relevant. Moreover, this “staying relevant” should cause us to ask questions that most don’t. I contend we know far too little about the foundation of our faith and how it was handed down to us. Understanding the Bible is a vitamin shot to a meaningful Christian experience. Likewise, knowing about the Bible is also conducive to our spiritual well-being. It increases our confidence in why we believe. Hence, we must understand the truth about the Bible and why we should trust it.
Enabling Christians to get better acquainted with the Bible’s background as you would a person with whom you wish to build a relationship might be a vibrant way to induce learning and make its history more personal to each of us. Armed with this conviction, the mental outline came to me. The items listed below are not chapter titles but represent how I see the story unfolding:
- a) Ancestry and Family of Origin – The Prologue
- b) Growth and Development – Chapters 1 and 2
- c) The Early Challenge – Chapter 3
- d) Key People and Places of Influence – Chapter 4
- e) An Unexpected Impact – Chapter 5
- f) A Test of Character – Chapters 6 and 7
- g) A Test of Time – Chapter 8
- h) Overcoming Accusations and Impersonators – Chapter 9
- i) Evidence of the Life Well-lived – Chapter 10
- j) Withstanding False Witnesses – Postscript
I have been writing articles for my website for several years, defending the value of the Greek Septuagint. I have shown that the Bible’s history differs from what Protestants typically understand. Most of my articles tackled the Fundamentalist notion that the King James Bible alone is the only Bible we should use. While the less educated may suppose that the King James Bible was the original language of the Bible (I have heard stories that some think that), most know that the Old Testament was almost entirely Hebrew and the New Testament Greek. But very few Evangelicals know that the New Testament quotes the Greek Septuagint 80-90% of the time rather than the Hebrew when it quotes the Old Testament. Experts state that two-thirds of the time, the citations are easily discernible as the way the Septuagint words the Old Testament passage. My research bears this out.
Furthermore, as I methodically wrote about in Rebooting the Bible, Part 1, few Christians or Jews know the Hebrew Old Testament was altered early in the second century A.D. to discourage Jews from converting to the Christian faith. Rabbinical leaders changed Old Testament passages targeted by Christian evangelists, which were used as proof texts supporting their claim that Jesus of Nazareth was the promised Messiah. This led the newly recast rabbis (previously known as Pharisees) to obscure several dozen messianic passages and, not so obviously, the Old Testament’s primeval chronology disclosed in Genesis 5 and 11. This fact is not fully developed here. However, I do discuss it several times and supply a summary. The detailed treatment can be found in the two books, Rebooting the Bible, Parts 1 and 2.
Consequently, this lack of historical insight among Evangelicals made me realize why it is a primary issue when speaking with Jews today. Once Jews realize that the first rabbis established rabbinic Judaism with a tampered Bible, it undermines their whole system. This is not antisemitism. It is a historical fact, as I have demonstrated. Furthermore, I support Israel and believe that the Jews were right to push for a homeland. Someday I expect them to embrace Yahweh in the person of Yeshua completely.
I will pour out on the house of David and on the inhabitants of Jerusalem, the Spirit of grace and of supplication, so that they will look on Me whom they have pierced; and they will mourn for Him, as one mourns for an only son, and they will weep bitterly over Him like the bitter weeping over a firstborn. (Zechariah 12:10, NASB)
Indeed, the outside world thinks committed Christians are uneducated and anti-intellectual. For the most part, this is certainly not the case. Those believers that do fit the bill, I label Fundamentalists. And the basis of the Fundamentalist faith, an unreasoned reliance upon Fundamentalist tradition, differs from the rest of Conservative Evangelicals, with whom I number myself. But distinguishing what sets Conservative Evangelicals apart from Fundamentalists remains nuanced to the secular mind. Despite any clarification I make, from their vantage point, both are lumped together as weak fools who rely upon superstitions to get by.
Nevertheless, to help set the record straight, we must ask ourselves what the Bible is and is not – how we know it is true and how our faith has changed over the past few decades in America. This leads us to the ultimate question about whether there is one and only one English translation of the Hebrew and Greek scriptures that Christians must adopt. It is still a hot topic.
I assert that the Septuagint is essential to defend the validity of the Christian Bible. It is a work of apologetics much more than history. First, however, this book seeks to familiarize the reader – at a 30,000-feet level – concerning the Bible’s message, how and when it was written down, how it evolved during several significant stages of transition and translation (from Hebrew to Greek to Latin to English), and what its key influencers were in the early life of the Church shaping the Bible we have today. Lastly, I hope to shed some light on how essential biblical truth has remained the same for 2,000+ years.
One of my areas of study in my theological education was what philosophers call epistemology, i.e., the study of knowledge – “how we know” and “how we know we know.” This mental inspection can easily entangle the intellectual. Happily, for Christians, what we know and how we know it is concrete. Specifically,
- What does the Bible say?
- Can we trust what it says to be what it always said?
- What processes ensure that what has come down to us (what has been transmitted) is reliable?
- Is our faith purely subjective? Is just having faith preferable to having confidence in what we believe?
- Do we believe in the Bible because our heart tells us it is God’s Word? Do we believe because it is how we were raised, or does it keep us “in the club”?
- What does objective truth have to do with what the Bible tells us about the history and the supernatural world?”
For most of us, to develop trust in someone, we must know a good deal about them. We likely ask, “What is his story?” “What is her worldview, and what values does the person hold dear?” Eventually, we dig deeper to learn about their ancestry and what their immediate family is like. We also might want to ask questions like, “How have they changed during recent years?” Lastly, “Does having a relationship benefit both parties?” And even, “What do they want from me?” and “What do I want from them?”
Because our faith is a personal, existential faith, we must ‘know’ the bible differently than any other book. Knowing God requires us to understand the Bible by asking the questions above. Learning more about the Bible tells us much about who God is. Conversely, to the extent we have limited knowledge about the Bible, we are restricted in our appreciation of who God is.
For those who know the Bible as a Fundamentalist, you likely assume that the King James Bible is the only permissible Bible. Your view of the Bible is much more lassie-fare for those who consider themselves Evangelical but not particularly conservative in theological or political matters. Or you might not care much which Bible you rely upon because you don’t rely much on it. Or you may think that all Bibles are pretty much the same. The message does not change. Its meaning does not demand that I know much about how it came to be. Maybe I’m curious – or perhaps, not so much.
However, if you are like me, a Conservative Evangelical, you can agree that what we believe about the Bible has vast implications. Our Christianity is vitally impacted based on what we know about God’s Word. Selecting a Bible is crucial because we want to get the most exact wording possible from our Bible and words we can understand. Hopefully, for more than a few, we know that digging into the Scriptures – be they English, Hebrew, Greek, or Latin – dramatically impacts what we know about God and the standard by which He holds us accountable. We may even be eager to learn more about the Bible in another language if it genuinely enhances the meaning of the words of the Bible. Most of us have experienced teachers referencing the Bible in these ancient languages, which increases our understanding. The strengthened knowledge influences how we live our lives, our relationships, how we raise our children, and how well we sleep at night. God communicates to us in many ways, but the language remains essential. Those devoted only to the KJV have little interest in the original languages. It is the Queen’s English that was inspired in 1611. That is the end of the matter.
The first edition of this book was entitled A Biography of the Christian Bible. In this significant rewrite (constituting a second edition) I chose to change the name to emphasize the central source that enables a much stronger defense of the Bible we Christians use (whether we are Protestant, Catholic, or Orthodox) – The Septuagint. My offering intends to provide a solid apologetic for not only the defense of the Bible, but the Christian faith altogether. For without a Bible strengthened by its miraculous transmission and preservation, our faith itself falls apart.
Therefore, it is to the message of the Bible, how it has been written, and how it was handed down, that we turn. I pray my words increase your understanding of the Bible and deepen your knowledge and love for Yeshua.