While Psalm 28 states the fact of Christ’s resurrection, Psalm 30 prophetically records Christ’s retelling after-the-fact and his rejoicing over this happy outcome.
2 O LORD my God, I cried to you for help, and you have healed me. 3 O LORD, you have brought up my soul from Sheol; you restored me to life from among those who go down to the pit. (Psalm 30 ESV)
11 Thou hast turned my mourning into joy for me: thou hast rent off my sackcloth, and girded me with gladness; 12 that my glory may sing praise to thee, and I may not be pierced with sorrow. O Lord my God, I will give thanks to thee for ever. (Psalm 30 LXE) Note: “pierced with sorrow” reflects a single word in Greek for “pierced” or “pricked.” In both Testaments, it is nearly always used in this metaphorical sense with the concept of sorrow, which is not part of the word itself.
Structure of Psalm 30
It’s good for the reader to remember that the Psalter is a book of ancient Near Eastern poetry. The poetic and literary conventions were a bit different back then. However, if the Christian reader keeps the basic fact of the prophet David’s being a voice of Christ foremost in thought, then the more often she reads Psalms, the easier it becomes to understand the abbreviated, minimalized structure inherent in its poetry. Certain word choices within the poem also underlie its resurrection theme.
Since Psalm 30 is relatively short, I will use some space here to print it out fully and fill in words in places where a narrator’s explanatory voice would prove helpful. As always, it is good to consult more than one translation.
29(30) For the end, a Psalm and Song [literally, a psalm of a song] at the dedication of the house of David.1 I will exalt thee, O Lord; for thou hast lifted me up, and not caused mine enemies to rejoice over me.2 O Lord my God, I cried to thee, and thou didst heal me.3 O Lord, thou hast brought up my soul from Hades, thou hast delivered me from among them that go down to the pit.4 Sing to the Lord, ye his saints, and give thanks for the remembrance of his holiness.5 For anger is in his wrath, but life in his favour: weeping shall tarry for the evening, but joy shall be in the morning.6 And I said in my prosperity, I shall never be moved.7 O Lord, in thy good pleasure thou didst add strength to my beauty: but thou didst turn away thy face, and I was troubled.8 To thee, O Lord, will I cry; and to my God will I make supplication.9 What profit is there in my blood, when I go down to destruction? Shall the dust give praise to thee? or shall it declare thy truth?10 The Lord heard, and had compassion upon me; the Lord is become my helper.11 Thou hast turned my mourning into joy for me: thou hast rent off my sackcloth, and girded me with gladness;12 that my glory may sing praise to thee, and I may not be pierced with sorrow. O Lord my God, I will give thanks to thee for ever.–Available at https://ebible.org/eng-Brenton/PSA029.htm. Accessed August 16, 2019.
- The speaker addresses the Lord his God: verses 1 through 3.
- The speaker addresses the Lord’s saints: verses 4 through 10.
- Within the address to the saints, the speaker records how his condition changed from prosperity (vs 6) to tragedy (vs 7), how he proposed in his heart to call upon the Lord (vs 8), the words of his prayer (vs 9), and the final outcome (vs 10).
- The speaker addresses the Lord: verses 11-12.
- John 1:1-18 is a Christian condensation of the book of Genesis.
- Jesus often called himself the “Son of Man,” or “Son of Anthropos,” rather than any number of other names he might have chosen. (See, for example, Matthew 12:40, Mark 10:45, Luke 6:5, and John 1:51.) By choosing this name, he indicates that he came to bring salvation to the entire human race.
- Jesus claimed the Old Testament spoke prophetically of himself (Luke 24:26-27).
- With reference to something Jesus spoke or did, the Gospel writers repeatedly made statements such as, “as it is written,” and that what a certain prophet or Scripture foretold, “might be fulfilled.”
- Jesus in his public ministry made many references to the Law.
- The New Testament quotes from Psalms close to 100 times, most of these with regard to Jesus’s ministry.
- The authors of the letters base the bulk of their evangelism upon the words, actions, and events of the life of Christ, and they weave these pieces of factual recent history into theological arguments bound together by the Scripture of the Old Testament. They constantly sought to prove how Jesus fulfilled the Old Testament Messianic promises.
- “for the end”: This phrase is found in the superscript, which is not part of the biblical text. The words before the first verse of any psalm have been added by ancient text editors. “For the end” in Greek is “εἰς τὸ τέλος”, roughly pronounced eess-toe-tell-os, (Psalm 29:1 BGT). I have come to observe that this phrase in itself refers to Christ, since he is the “end” or goal, of our faith. He is the fulfillment of the Law and the Prophets. Further, Christ himself stated on the cross, “It is finished.” In Greek, this is “τετέλεσται”, pronounced teh-tell-ess-tay (John 19:30 BGT). This Greek word is a verb that means, “to bring to a close, to finish, to end.” (Thayer’s Lexicon)
- “at the dedication of the house of David”: Jesus referred to his body as the “temple,” or dwelling place, i.e., house, of God. (See John 2:19-22 and Mark 14:58)
- “thou hast lifted me up” (vs 1): As explained above, the Greek verb could be used either of the crucifixion (John 12:32, which is a different Greek verb but is translated “lifted up” in English) or the resurrection, in the sense of to be lifted, or drawn up from under, as though someone were beneath and pushing up; or in the sense of pulling someone up from under something. We say that someone or something “lifted my spirits.”
- “not caused my enemies to rejoice over me” (vs 1): My favorite media depiction of Christ’s resurrection is from an old BBC animated production of C. S. Lewis’s The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe. In this particular film version, as they considered the dead Lion Aslan, the scary, animated beasts who opposed him were very nearly throwing a party to celebrate his death. Aslan was Lewis’s symbol for Christ. We can imagine the celebration in Satan’s realm had Christ remained in his grave.
- “I cried to thee, and thou didst heal me” (vs 2): Christ did indeed cry out to God, so much so, that he sweat as it were great drops of blood in the Garden of Gethsemane. He also cried from the cross itself, “My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me?” In the second clause, the Greek word “heal” is the same word used in Septuagint Isaiah 53:5. It refers to both physical healing and spiritual healing from sin. These together form a complete salvation. Christ was healed physically from death. He was spiritually healed from sin, as the sacrificial lamb of God upon whom was laid the sins of the world. Paul writes in 2 Corinthians 5:21, “For our sake he made him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.” (ESV)
- “thou hast brought up my soul from Hades, thou hast delivered me from among them that go down to the pit” (vs 3): This verse most definitely speaks of death and dying. Most English translations acknowledge this. The NET writes, “O LORD, you pulled me up from Sheol; you rescued me from among those descending into the grave.”
- “ye his saints” (vs 4): “Saints” is a favorite word for God’s people in the Psalter, in Daniel, and in the New Testament. When reading a psalm in which the events of the speaker’s life strongly evoke the events of Christ’s life, and when this speaker turns in his speech to directly address the people of God as his “saints,” a careful reader should sit up with ears alert. The translation version here can make a difference. Brenton, The Orthodox Study Bible, the ESV, KJV, and NKJV translate the Scripture with the word “saints,” while the NIV, NET, and CJB, say either “faithful ones,” or “faithful followers.” NETS translates the Greek word as his “devout.”
- “thou didst turn away thy face, and I was troubled” (vs 7): As mentioned above, Jesus in his passion perceived that God had turned away and even abandoned him.
- Verses 8-10, again as mentioned above, are entirely suitable to the passion and resurrection of Christ.
- “my glory” (vs 12): The ESV uses the word “glory” 161 times in the New Testament. Many of these occurrences refer to Christ. Jesus uses the phrase, “my glory,” in John 17:24, “Father, I desire that they also, whom you have given me, may be with me where I am, to see my glory that you have given me because you loved me before the foundation of the world.” Although King David may have had a certain kind of glory, I am sure that his glory is nothing compared to that of the Son of God.
- “that my glory may sing praise to thee, and I may not be pierced with sorrow” (vs 12). The ESV states, “that my glory may sing your praise and not be silent.” The Septuagint expresses greater lexical depth. Its Greek word “pierced” is another example of what could be a double meaning. First, while the Greek word used in this verb does not in itself contain the concept of sorrow, most often the Greek verb is used in a context where sorrow is connoted. The idea is that if one’s emotions are pierced with sorrow, this will lead to the person’s silence. The Septuagint word choice can carry this meaning. Additionally, Christ was, of course, literally pierced, first, by the crown of thorns upon his head, next by the nails that fixed him to the cross, and lastly, by the soldier’s spear thrust into his side. If this piercing had resulted in permanent death, that would indeed have been a most sorrowful outcome for all concerned. And, a permanent, final death would have ended in silence. As a tie-in with the first clause about “my glory,” Scripture associates Christ’s glory with his eternal existence, both as crucified-then-resurrected man and as divine God. The Lord of Glory (1 Corinthians 2:8 and James 2:1) chooses to use that glory to praise the Lord, his God. The sorrowful silence of death was defeated by the joyfully glorious resurrection unto praise.
4. A final means by which a careful reader is alerted to the crucifixion/resurrection theme of Psalm 30 is the “plot” of the psalm. The plot traces the movement in the life of the psalm’s speaker from the happiness and well-being that proceeded from God’s favor, into death, and then back from death to life, and finally to joy, praise, and thanksgiving. That the speaker turns to an audience he calls the Lord’s “saints” and commands them also to praise the Lord for his action of turning the sorrow of condemnation into the joy of life restored–the darkness of night into the light of morning– strongly favors Christ as being the protagonist. He intends that the church share the salvation God gave him by means of his resurrection victory.
The Reader May Choose Either of Two Ways to Read This Blog. 1) Wade through my horrible writing style, or 2) Read the words on this photo. As regards Psalms, the photo sums up my heart.
For those who choose to wade through my arduous writing, begin here.
The text of Psalm 28(27 in LXX):
What I want to draw attention to in this post is the phrase found in verse 7: The Septuagint translation reads, “my flesh has revived,” while the ESV, based upon the Masoretic text, reads, “my heart exults.”
Consider this statement by Natalio Fernández Marcos, a current Septuagint scholar:
The Fathers of the Church did not formulate specific exegetical rules as did the rabbis, however they relied on a few principles or criteria of interpretation common to them all: the principle of the unity of the biblical text of the two Testaments, the interpretation of the Old in the light of the New, and the conviction that all the texts of the Old Testament spoke of Christ and of Christian mysteries. (Natalio Fernandez Marcos, The Septuagint in Context: Introduction to the Greek Version of the Bible, translated by Wilfred G. E. Watson (Brill: Leiden, the Netherlands, 2000), 342.
We can see by the principles of biblical exegesis the Church Fathers employed that their focus was upon Christ. After Jerome, however, the focus in the Western church, as distinct from the Eastern, shifted away from presenting Christ as central to Old Testament Scripture toward “correcting” the Church’s Old Testament text to place it in agreement with the Hebrew texts that rabbis were using and attested to. After Augustine’s time, the Old Greek text, and Latin texts based upon the Greek text, were substituted with a Hebrew text and translations that agreed with rabbinical texts. These rabbinical Hebrew texts had been edited centuries before the Masorites began copying them. Also, the Masorites introduced vowel points, which were not present in the original Hebrew texts. By the end of the first millennium, a single Old Testament Jewish Hebrew text, known as the Masoretic, dominated the Bibles produced by the Western Church. This remains so today, while the Eastern Church continues to use the Septuagint.
For all practical purposes, Western exegesis seemingly lost sight of the fact that the New Testament authors were largely quoting and relying upon the Septuagint as their Old Testament text. We find Western biblical theologians bending over backward, as it were, to explain the theology of the New Testament writers. The prevailing consensus was, “How did they ever get that out of this?” One common response to explain some of the surprising ways New Testament authors apply Old Testament Scripture was to say that the New Testament authors were “inspired,” i.e., they were specially permitted by the Holy Spirit to pull rabbits out of a hat–but we may not imitate them.
Some of the mind boggling mental gymnastics performed to explain the hermeneutics of New Testament authors involve words, phrases, and concepts such as sensus plenior, fuller meaning, allegory, typology, Midrash, Pesher, authorial intent, continuity or discontinuity of the Testaments, canonical approach, and others. Most of these terms and concepts are beyond the grasp of everyday Bible reading believers, including myself. I find that the simplest way to “find Christ in the Old Testament” is to read the Psalter from the Septuagint. (I make no claims of having read other portions of this translation.) When reading the Psalter from the Septuagint, all that’s needed is to let the text speak for itself.
For example, Psalm 28 provides a beautifully simple example of my meaning.
<<A Psalm of David.>> To thee, O Lord, have I cried; my God, be not silent toward me: lest thou be silent toward me, and so I should be likened to them that go down to the pit.
2 Hearken to the voice of my supplication, when I pray to thee, when I lift up my hands toward thy holy temple.
3 Draw not away my soul with sinners, and destroy me not with the workers of iniquity, who speak peace with their neighbours, but evils are in their hearts.
4 Give them according to their works, and according to the wickedness of their devices: give them according to the works of their hands; render their recompense unto them. (Psalm 27(28):1-4 LXE) (1)
For one whose ears are attuned to the crucifixion and the voice of David prophetically expressing the voice of Christ, the first three verses draw attention to the cross. Verse 1 indicates that the supplicant perceives God’s persistent silence towards him, and that his life is in grave danger (2). This accords well with Psalm 22:1, those words having been spoken by Christ on the cross and cited in the New Testament (Matthew 27:46 and Mark 15:34).
My God, my God, why have you abandoned me? I groan in prayer, but help seems far away. (Psalm 22:1 NET) (3)
Verse 2 is a direct statement of the psalmist’s action of prayer throughout the entire psalm–he is lifting his hands in supplication to his Father, just as Jesus did throughout his ordeal on the cross.
Then Jesus, calling out with a loud voice, said, “Father, into your hands I commit my spirit!” And having said this he breathed his last.
(Luke 23:46 ESV)
Psalm 31:5 Into thine hands I will commit my spirit: thou hast redeemed me, O Lord God of truth. (Psalm 31:5 LXE)
Verse 3 speaks of the cross in two manners. First, “Draw not away my soul with sinners,” can reference at least one of the two condemned men hanging on crosses of their own on either side of Jesus (4). Second, “destroy me not with the workers of iniquity, who speak peace with their neighbours, but evils are in their hearts,” is an apt description of Judas, who traveled with Jesus as one of his twelve and later betrayed him with the peaceful words, “Greetings, Rabbi!” (Matthew 26:49) and a kiss of brotherly fellowship. The prayers of verses 3b and 4 were answered when Judas was destroyed as a worker of iniquity (Matthew 27:3-10).
What do Verses 6-7 tell us?
6 Blessed be the Lord, for he has hearkened to the voice of my petition. 7 The Lord is my helper and my defender; my heart has hoped in him, and I am helped: my flesh has revived, and willingly will I give praise to him. (LXE)
Psalm 27(28) is a psalm whose action is straightforward: A supplicant cries out to the Lord, pleading with him not to ignore his prayers, lest he die and go to the pit. He asks that his soul not be carried away with evil doers, as though that were a possibility. He prays that the Lord will bring upon the evil ones his justice for their evil deeds, bringing back upon themselves what they themselves have done to others, vs 4. Verse 5 may be a choral or narrator’s comment that the Lord will indeed judge them with destruction that will not be undone (5). Verse 6 announces in first person again that the psalmist’s prayer has been answered, that God heard and replied. In verse 7, the psalmist rejoices in the Lord, reflecting upon the completed action of his prayer. He adds the fact that his body “has revived,” verifying the meaning of his words in verses 1 and 3 as pleas for escape from death. The words, “My flesh has revived,” signals resurrection. The final verses, vv 8-9, sound once more like the voice of the chorus or narrator, summing up the action of the psalm with the phrase, “The Lord is the strength of his people, and the saving defender of his anointed.” Additionally, verse 8 identifies the supplicant as the Lord’s “anointed,” his Christ in Greek, his Messiah in Hebrew (cf. Psalm 2:2 and others).
So why would the Septuagint translation of an ancient Hebrew text contain a revelation of resurrection, while our modern versions, based upon the less ancient Masoretic text, do not? Scholars are still using their best detective work to sort this out. However, they do know that the Septuagint translates a Hebrew text extant approximately 1,000 years before the oldest Hebrew texts the world now owns, the Aleppo (10th century) and Leningrad (11th century) Codices (6). Scholars tell us that while the Masoretic text can be reliably traced back nearly a millennia, the Septuagint received strong verification with the discovery of the Dead Sea Scrolls, dated between the first and third centuries BCE. Scholars thereby confirmed that back in those days, there existed more than one pedigree of Hebrew text (7). For whatever reasons, the Hebrew Masoretic text does not speak of resurrection in Psalm 28:7, while the Greek Septuagint version does. The Greek version and the Dead Sea Scrolls bear witness to the existence of an ancient Hebrew text that did include those words of resurrection.
Should a reader who applies Psalm 28(27 LXX) to Christ become alarmed that none of its verses are quoted in the New Testament?
Short answer: Not at all. You won’t be alone in seeing the resurrection in verse 7.
Encouragement Number One: The Existence of Good Texts and Translations
Under this point, first, consider the various translations available to us with this reading. We have already seen Brenton’s Septuagint. Next, the following is an original translation of Psalm 28:7 from the Masoretic Hebrew by Bishop Horsley of a prior century:
Jehovah is my strength and my shield; On Him my heart hath-placed-trust, and I am helped; My flesh hath-resumed-its-bloom [C], and from my heart I will praise Him. (Horsley, see footnote 8)
As explained in footnote 8, Horsley chose to substitute the Septuagint for the Hebrew and justified in his critical notes his reasons for doing so. “My flesh hath-resumed-its-bloom,” in Horsley’s translation is literal Greek.
The third translation is the Orthodox Study Bible, an original English translation from the Greek Septuagint used currently in many Orthodox churches. Verse 7c states, “And my flesh revived,” identical to Brenton. The study notes for this psalm begin, “Ps 27 is a prophecy concerning the death and Resurrection of the Lord Jesus Christ…” (9)
Fourth, the recently completed New English Translation of the Septuagint, NETS, translates this portion of verse 7, “and my flesh revived.”
Finally, for those of you who have access to a Greek dictionary, the Greek text reads, “ἀνέθαλεν ἡ σάρξ μου” (Psalm 27:7 BGT).
Encouragement Number Two: Common Sense and Faith
In addition to the veracity of the Greek text, the New Testament itself encourages us to apply verses of the Psalter to Christ, even though we may not find all such verses quoted in the New Testament. Bear with me as I develop this argument.
First, even Jesus’s own disciples missed the message of the Old Testament with regard to the suffering, death, and resurrection of Christ. Jesus called them, “foolish ones, and slow of heart to believe” (Luke 24:25). We readers learn from this that the truths of Christ are apprehended by faith, but that these truths are manifest in Old Testament Scripture. After chastising his disciples for their lack of faith, Jesus walked back through these verses and taught his disciples (Luke 24:44-47). Now, Jesus blessed us with the gift of the Holy Spirit, who performs this same teaching function for us by walking us back through the Old Testament, including Psalms, and illuminating the text to our hearts, so that we, too, may discover and believe these things. Now we who have the advantage of hind sight, how is it that we should continue to miss these texts? Do we also wish that Jesus will say to us, “Foolish ones, and slow of heart to believe?”
As a second point in this argument, how many pages are contained in the Old Testament you use at home? And how many pages are in the New? My home Bible has 879 pages in its Old Testament and 262 pages in the New. The Psalms alone are 84 pages. The Psalms in my home Bible contain 32% of the number of pages in its New Testament. John the Apostle spoke to this subject. He said the following words:
Now Jesus did many other signs in the presence of the disciples, which are not written in this book; 31 but these are written so that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that by believing you may have life in his name. (John 20:30-31 ESV)
Now there are also many other things that Jesus did. Were every one of them to be written, I suppose that the world itself could not contain the books that would be written. (John 21:25 ESV)
Even though John made reference to Jesus’s “signs,” or miracles, and the things he did, the point holds that there is too much material to be written down. Moving on, the portions of the New Testament which are not the Gospels are all letters. Have you ever written a letter? And when have you ever written down everything in that letter that is on your heart to say? We don’t write that much. As another example, how many have ever written a report, a term paper, a discussion response, a letter to an editor of a newspaper, or the like? When we write such things, we give examples to support our viewpoint, but do we ever write down everything that we know?
The point is that the New Testament could not possibly quote all the Scripture in the Old that makes reference to Christ, simply for lack of space.
There is more to say on the topic of how Messianic references are established. Many scholars and the study portions of many editions of Scripture limit the Christological Old Testament prophecies to those which are exactly quoted in the New Testament. One of my study Bibles contains a chart on page 742 called, “Messianic Prophecies in the Psalms.” It lists 20 examples containing 22 verses. It gives Psalm 22 four separate listings, Psalm 69 two separate listings, Psalm 110 two listings, and Psalm 118 two. Did the author of this chart intend the reader to conclude that the portions of Psalms 22, 69, 110, and 118 that were not quoted are not therefore Messianic? Did they possibly mean that since other verses are not particularly quoted, we may not be certain that they are included and had better play it safe? This is called “atomization” of Scripture–deconstructing the Bible into tiny pieces answerable only to themselves. When I grew up, I thought that the New Testament quotations were like rabbits out of a hat. How did they get that out of this? I see now that I used to read my Bible as though it were separate little pieces disconnected one from another. When reading Psalms, I ignored the overall context–Christ–and the cohesive themes–Christ. I have since learned to read differently. Since Psalm 22 is given 4 separate listings, this means that all of Psalm 22 is about Christ, since it reads as a cohesive unit. The entirety of Psalm 69 is one cohesive unit, as well as Psalms 110 and 118. Since New Testament authors chose verses from these psalms to quote in connection with what later happened to Jesus, that most definitely does not mean that only those verses are about Christ. No writer quotes an entire book–all writers choose their quotations to make specific points, many of which are representative.
Compare this atomized approach to what Jesus most likely did. When Jesus taught his Emmaus Road disciples and later all the disciples gathered in the upper room, did he teach them to memorize that list of 20 examples, or did he teach them how to read the psalms with himself in view? I believe the latter.
Finally, one argument that evangelicals hear taught again and again is that the New Testament authors were “inspired.” Yes, of course they were. But all Christians who receive the Holy Spirit are also inspired. The New Testament authors alone were inspired to write the Bible. None of us has been chosen to write even one word of Scripture. However, we have been chosen to read the Bible. And the same Spirit that taught the New Testament authors how to write the Bible is the same Spirit, one and the same Spirit, that teaches us how to read the Bible.
How many reading this are teachers? Or, were you ever a student? Does a math teacher teach you how to do a certain set of particular math problems only, or does the teacher teach you how to “do math?” Does a history teacher teach only a specific set of facts, or does the teacher also teach students how to read history, perceive history in the making, think about history, and uncover historical facts beyond the material in the course? God gave his people the Bible, and he gave his people the Holy Spirit to help them read it. If the Spirit witnesses in your heart that Psalm 27(28) is about Christ and that verse 7 in the Septuagint English version is a prophecy of his physical resurrection, or a re-blooming, a re-viving, a re-vivifying, a bringing-to-life-again of his flesh, then please allow your faith in God to be stronger than what the academic pundits may be telling you about how you may and may not read Scripture.
1 In some Bibles, the numbering of some psalms differs in the Septuagint. The Brenton edition that I own differs in its numbering system from my ESV. In Brenton’s LXE Psalm 27 is the ESV’s Psalm 28. The title of this blog follows the ESV numbering.
2 Most major English versions translate the Hebrew as, “the pit,” with the definite article; the Septuagint translator uses the definite article as well. NET writes, “the grave,” indicating of which pit, i.e., the pit of death, the psalmist speaks. Interestingly, however, the Complete Jewish Bible (CJB) and Pietersma’s translation found in the New English Translation Septuagint (NETS), both translate an optional grammatical indefinite, “a pit.” In other words, both the Greek and Hebrew allow for either a definite or indefinite interpretation. Context, then, is the determiner. What is the significance of this choice, definite or indefinite? “A pit,” I propose, keeps the reader’s mind focused on imagery local to the time of David, perhaps an actual pit in the ground, such as Joseph’s brothers threw him into, while “the pit,” definitely speaks of death, which does allow the reader’s mind to travel to Christ on the cross.
3 As a word to the reader to use more than one reference Bible, please hear that while NET has extensive notes about the Hebrew language and use of its words for this verse, including the fact that the literal, “the words of my groaning,” in Hebrew are sometimes applied to a lion’s roar and sometimes to human groaning, NET notes say nothing about the far more significant Christian citation of this verse in Matthew and Mark, which record Christ’s words while being crucified. I was forced to go to another translation, in this case ESV, to discover the exact NT citation of Psalm 22:1. A person reading Psalms for the very first time in their life might not realize that Christ spoke these words while dying, unless someone tells him or her.
4 I prefer the Septuagint here, because it distinctly speaks of the soul being drawn away, which can indicate the afterlife of punishment. Other English verses sound more as though it is the body that will be dragged off with sinners. If this is the case, however, then it would match the fact of Jesus’s life that indeed his body was not dragged off and disposed off with the two criminals. The rich man Joseph of Arimathea, a “highly regarded member of the Council,” (NET) buried Jesus alone in his own fresh tomb.
5 Bishop Horsley divides Psalm 28 with just such an “oracular voice,” in verse 5b. See Horsley, Samuel Lord Bishop. The Book of Psalms; Translated from the Hebrew: With Notes, Explanatory and Critical. London: 1815, Volume 1, 59.
6 Timothy Michael Law, When God Spoke Greek: The Septuagint and the Making of the Christian Bible. New York: Oxford University Press, 2013, 21.
7 Ibid., 20-26. See also, “Psalm 28: Why the Septuagint? Part 1–Background,” by the author of this blog, available at https://onesmallvoice.net/2019/08/03/psalm-28-why-the-septuagint-part-1-background/, accessed 8/06/2019.
8 Praise God for his saints of former days! Bishop Horsley, see footnote 6, made an original translation from the Hebrew. For verse 7, in his critical notes, he writes that he consulted the LXX. He quotes the Greek text, and states that he confirmed this text with the Latin Vulgate. He believed the Septuagint translation, and posited a Hebrew text used by its translator in which two Hebrew words were transposed. He consulted the Syriac and found that it confirms his postulate for one of the Hebrew words. The good Bishop also writes, “Bishop Lowth approves this reading.” (Horsley, Psalms, Volume 1, 213-214).
9 Academic Community of St. Athanasius Academy of Orthodox Theology, Elk Grove, California. The Orthodox Study Bible. Nashville: Thomas Nelson, 2008, 699.
What is the Septuagint? The Septuagint (LXX) is the ancient Greek translation of the Old Testament of the Bible, dated from the second to third centuries BCE. Why is the Septuagint important?
The LXX was the Bible of the authors of the New Testament. Its ubiquity can be seen not only in the quotations from the Old Testament in the New but also in the hermeneutic techniques and in many other forms of influence.
The LXX was transmitted in Christian circles once it was adopted as the official Bible of the Church.
…the LXX was also the Bible of early Christian writers and the Fathers of the Church, and even today continues to be the Bible of the Eastern Orthodox Church … The Greek version, either directly or through the Old Latin [which was translated from the Greek, not from Hebrew], provided the basis for Christian interpretation of the Old Testament, an interpretation which regulated the religious and social life of early Christianity (See footnote 1 for here and above).
Near the end of the first century and the completion of the writings that would comprise the New Testament, we enter into a period known as the Patristic age, characterized by the writings of the church fathers. …during this time the Septuagint was the Bible of the church: in its original Greek form, in its revisions, and in early translations into Latin used mostly in the North African church. The formation of Christianity–through preaching, teaching, apologetics, theological formation, and liturgical practices–depended almost entirely on the Septuagint as the Old Testament (2).
Many modern Bibles use the “Masoretic” Hebrew textual tradition for the Old Testament. In other words, the Hebrew text that is the basis of many modern translations was produced by the Masoretes. This textual tradition received its final, edited form in the centuries following the birth of Christ, although the oldest complete text is the Aleppo, dated at 930 CE. (3) On the other hand, many scholars agree that the Septuagint uses a Hebrew text that lies outside the Masoretic tradition. In other words, the Hebrew texts used as the basis for the Septuagint, which was translated in the centuries before Christ, possess a lineage distinct from the Hebrew texts which later became finalized as the Masoretic. Academic studies of the Septuagint textual tradition blossomed in the decades following the discovery of the Dead Sea Scrolls.
… the Hebrew Vorlage of the Greek Psalter may have differed in places from the extant Hebrew text (4).
The oldest layers of the Latin versions can attest text forms of great value for restoring the LXX and can even be used to recover some readings that have disappeared from Greek manuscripts and go back to a Hebrew text that is different from the Masoretic (5).
The above statements clearly contradict a popular notion that the current Masoretic Hebrew text is very nearly the original Hebrew Bible. As it turns out, there was more than one lineage of early Hebrew text. The world no longer has ancient copies of the Vorlage (prior version) of either the Septuagint translation or the Masoretic text. Textual critics must perform a great deal of detective work to piece together the facts of the origins of these Bibles (6).
Reconstructing the textual history of the LXX would be complicated enough if there had been but one Hebrew edition (preserved as the MT) from which the original Greek translation was made. The evidence of the Judean Desert material [i.e., Dead Sea Scrolls], however, confirms that the Hebrew text itself circulated in more than one form during the very time that the first Greek translation was being made. In other words, at least some of the elements of the LXX previously attributed to translation technique or recensional [editing] activity are now known to represent a Hebrew Vorlage different from the MT (7).
How does this affect you and I when we read the Bible?
Have you ever wondered why Old Testament quotations by New Testament authors, such as the Apostle Paul and the gospel writers Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John, often seem to differ from the same Old Testament passages in our modern Bibles? Based on the above discoveries, the answer lies in the fact that these authors likely used the Septuagint text, which differs somewhat in wording and focus from our modern English versions, which are mostly based upon the Hebrew Masoretic texts (8). For example, consider the following quotations:
When the reader of John 1:23 turns to the Old Testament to find the source of the quotation John uses, she will encounter a slightly different verse. In most modern versions, except those following the Greek Orthodox tradition, the Isaiah verse that John quotes has the additional phrase, “in the desert.” Well, John just left that out, you say. After all, he also left out the phrase, “Prepare the way of the Lord.” Okay, but this is not the only verse that differs. There are many such differences between our versions of the Old Testament and the New Testament quotations of it. Consider the following:
You took up the tent of Moloch and the star of your god Rephan, the images that you made to worship; and I will send you into exile beyond Babylon.’ (Acts 7:43 ESV)
But when you look up this quotation from Amos 5:26 in most translations, you will find that the quotation doesn’t match the OT verse:
You shall take up Sikkuth your king, and Kiyyun your star-god– your images that you made for yourselves, (Amos 5:26 ESV, the phrase “and I will send you into exile beyond Babylon” is from verse 27).
Compare the above modern translation based upon the Masoretic text with the Septuagint of Amos 5:26:
Yea, ye took up the tabernacle of Moloch, and the star of your god Raephan, the images of them which ye made for yourselves (Sir Lancelot Brenton translation of the Septuagint)
Clearly, the New Testament author was quoting the Septuagint (9).
Some of the differences in the Masoretic text tend to erase or minimize references to Messiah that come across strongly in the Septuagint. The following chart is from the “Orthodox Life” website: https://theorthodoxlife.wordpress.com/2012/03/12/masoretic-text-vs-original-hebrew/, accessed August 1, 2019.
In the chart above, the right hand column for Psalm 40:7 is very similar to the NIV, ESV, and KJV. The NET gives its own interpretive paraphrase, “You make that quite clear to me!” Note that the New Testament in Hebrews 10:4-10, far left column, appears to quote the Septuagint to its immediate right, rather than the Masoretic text underlying the quotation on the far right. If we were to follow the NET, then the messianic prophecy in Hebrews 10:5, “…a body you have prepared for me,” is transformed into, “You make that quite clear to me!”
As another example in the chart above, among the English versions NIV, ESV, KJV, and NET, for Isaiah 7:14, NET is the only translation that insists upon the phrase, “this young woman.” The other three translations do say, “virgin,” perhaps following the Septuagint’s lead.
Modern biblical versions sometimes consider the Septuagint to help decipher Hebrew that doesn’t always appear clear. An example of this is found in Psalm 22:16 (LXX 21:17), “They pierced my hands and my feet,” as in the Septuagint, versus, “like a lion, my hands and my feet,” as in many, but not all, extant Hebrew manuscripts. Although the NET Bible has a very long study note for the lion phrase, both its translation and its study note fall far short of the simple note found in the ESV for its translation, “They have pierced my hands and feet.” The ESV translators chose to follow extant texts that differ from the MT. They explain, “Some Hebrew manuscripts, Septuagint, Vulgate, Syriac; most Hebrew manuscripts like a lion they are at my hands and feet.” So, some Hebrew manuscripts do say, “They have pierced my hands and feet.” In explanation of the lack of specific NT citations in the far left column, the Gospel accounts of the crucifixion imply rather than state that the soldiers nailed Jesus’s hands and feet to a cross; they state he was “crucified,” which by definition means to be suspended by nails to a cross. In confirmation of this, Luke 24:40 reads, “And when he had said this, he showed them his hands and his feet.” John 19:37 reads, “They will look on him whom they have pierced.” Again, John 20:25 speaks of nail marks in Jesus’s hands. But once again, the main point is that the Complete Jewish Bible and the NET choose to pass by a prophecy of the crucifixion in Psalm 22:16 when they choose to follow certain Hebrew texts rather than the Bible of the early Christian church, the Septuagint. And please note again that some Hebrew texts do contain what later became the Christian reading of this text.
The Septuagint Today
- Carefully consulting the study notes of the ESV reveals that this recent translation often follows the reading of the Septuagint, Vulgate, and Dead Sea Scrolls in verses that differ significantly from the Masoretic text. Some of the notes indicate the comparative readings, as in Deuteronomy 32:43. Interestingly, the NET, which translates only the Masoretic Text for the Deuteronomy verse, gives no study notes at all, even though this is a verse with several instances of multiple readings.
- The Orthodox faith has always used the Septuagint as their Old Testament Bible. According to Wikipedia, the world wide population of Eastern (Greek) Orthodoxy is 200-260 million people.
How does this impact us? Think about this. What is your favorite biblical translation, the one you use in your personal devotions and worship on a daily basis? Would you call that book, “the Bible?” Isn’t it for all practical purposes your Bible? Truth is that whenever a people group receives a Bible in their own tongue and uses it regularly, it becomes for them the Bible. If I happen to live in Papua New Guinea and I am a native, and if I receive a Bible that has been translated into my native language, then that translation for me is the Holy Word of God. Chances are it is the only Bible I will ever read.
Perhaps the most important cultural impact of the LXX in early Christian literature is due to the many translations of it into the main languages of late antiquity.
Not only did Christianity adopt a translated Bible as the official Bible, but from its beginnings it was a religion that favoured translation of the Bible into vernacular languages. Unlike Jewish communities, the Christian communities did not feel themselves to be chained to the Hebrew text as such but only to its contents, nor were they tied to the Greek text of the LXX. The new translations, as distinct from [what (inserted to correct text)] happened with the Aramaic Targumim, became independent and took the place of the original in the life of the communities. This attitude conferred on the new versions of a Bible a status unlike that of the Jewish translations. They were not merely an aid to understanding the text but they replaced the original with authority. Hence, biblical translation is spoken of as a specifically Christian activity.
It is appropriate to note that, with the exception of the Aramaic translations, most of the ancient versions of the Bible were made from the LXX and not from the Hebrew. Not even the Peshitta or the Vulgate, most of which was translated from Hebrew, are immune to the influence of the LXX.
–The entire quotation above is contiguous from Natalio Fernandez Marcos, The Septuagint in Context: Introduction to the Greek Version of the Bible, translated by Wilfred G. E. Watson (Brill: Leiden, the Netherlands, 2000), 346.
Worldwide, among believers of all times and places, there is not now nor has there ever been one, single, original Bible. And, like the Ark, Aron’s staff, and the cross of Christ, if there once were such a Bible, it is quite unavailable to everyone now. Believers have always used the Bible they like and the one that is at hand. And why should any believer be told by a group of remote scholars that “their” Bible is incorrect for purposes of “exegesis?” Modern scholarship has declared that Jesus’s followers and the authors of the New Testament used the Septuagint as their Bible. For these people, the Septuagint was God’s Holy Word.
But even deeper than all written texts and translations, God himself protects the substance of his Word by the gift of the Holy Spirit, who indwells each believer’s heart. The aggregate of the Spirit inspired beliefs of all Christians creates what is known as the “rule of faith.” It was by the “rule of faith” that the early church established the traditions of what was genuinely from the Lord and what was not. The “rule of faith,” not a body of influential and elite scholars, determined which gospels and which letters were genuinely from God. After many centuries, an important standard for canonicity was the “rule of faith,” that is, what the church as a body determined was orthodox, based upon what was spoken by the apostles and later repeated by word of mouth to all believers. What the “rule of faith” determined was Scripture, became New Testament Scripture (10). A group of church elders did no more than put their seal of approval upon those letters and gospels which the body of Christian believers through usage over time agreed to be the apostles’ teaching. This explains why there are two Bibles for two branches of Christian faith, namely, the Western and the Eastern.
Galatians 5:1 For freedom Christ has set us free. Stand firm, then, and do not be subject again to the yoke of slavery. (NET)
Are we free to choose? Scholars come, and scholars go, but the Word of our God stands forever. Personally, in my private devotions and worship, almost since my beginning in Christ, I have relied upon the Septuagint Bible and its English translation by Brenton for the book of Psalms and the book of Isaiah. I love this version because I find it speaks of Christ more directly than many of our other English choices. And isn’t Christ who the Bible is entirely about?
1 Natalio Fernandez Marcos, The Septuagint in Context: Introduction to the Greek Version of the Bible, translated by Wilfred G. E. Watson (Brill: Leiden, the Netherlands, 2000), 338-339.
2 Timothy Michael Law, When God Spoke Greek: The Septuagint and the Making of the Christian Bible (Oxford University Press: New York, 2013), 118-119.
3 “The Aleppo Codex, the oldest Hebrew Bible that has survived to modern times, was created by scribes called Masoretes in Tiberias, Israel around 930 C.E. As such, the Aleppo Codex is considered to be the most authoritative copy of the Hebrew Bible. The Aleppo Codex is not complete, however, as almost 200 pages went missing between 1947 and 1957.” Overview summary by Bing, original article available at https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Aleppo_Codex, accessed August 3, 2019.
4 Karen H. Jobes and Moises Silva, Invitation to the Septuagint (Baker Academic: Grand Rapids, 2000), 278.
5 Natalio Fernandez Marcos, The Septuagint in Context: Introduction to the Greek Version of the Bible, translated by Wilfred G. E. Watson (Brill: Leiden, the Netherlands, 2000), 357.
6 Jennifer M. Dines, The Septuagint (T&T Clark Ltd: New York, 2004), 24 and 41-62.
7 Karen H. Jobes and Moises Silva, Invitation to the Septuagint (Baker Academic: Grand Rapids, 2000), 281. See pages 273-287 for further information on the history of the text of the Septuagint.
8 An interesting, easy-to-read article on this topic appears at this link: https://www.biblestudytools.com/bible-study/topical-studies/does-the-new-testament-misquote-the-old-testament.html. Another appears here: http://orthochristian.com/81224.html.
9 See Fr. John Whiteford, “The Septuagint vs. the Masoretic Text“ in Orthodox Christianity, http://orthochristian.com/81224.html, accessed August 1, 2019.
10 Andreas J. Kostenberger, L. Scott Kellum, Charles L Quarles, The Cradle, the Cross, and the Crown (B&H Academic: Nashville), 2009, 9. See also https://www.earlychurchtexts.com/public/tertullian_on_rule_of_faith.htm, accessed 08/02/2019.