Masoretic Text, LXX, and Dead Sea Scrolls

Which is closer to the Dead Sea Scroll’s Biblical texts, the LXX’s translation or the Masoretic Text?

It is rough trying to ask the question, when considering the New Testament quotes of the Old Testament, which is closer, the LXX or the Masoretic text?


Hi Jim,

Regarding your first paragraph, my impressions are:

  1. The Masoretic Text is closer to the DSS than the LXX.

  2. The DSS show that the LXX represents another Hebrew tradition that is older than the Masoretic.

  3. The DSS have bolstered the assessment of the LXX in the eyes of scholars.

I skimmed some Internet sources before making such **unfounded **claims. I made the above simplistic generalizations in hopes that some kind expert will come along and correct me!

John 8:44 Ye are of YOUR FATHER the DEVIL, and the lusts of YOUR FATHER ye WILL DO. He was a MURDERER from the BEGINNING, and abode NOT in the truth, because there is NO TRUTH IN HIM. When he speaketh a LIE, he speaketh of HIS OWN: for HE IS A LIAR, and the** FATHER OF ALL LIES**.

-There is technically no such thing as a ‘Hebrew’ language in regards to any kind of ancient language or manuscript (yes you read that right).

-The ancient ‘Paleo Hebrew’ is an ‘invention’ and lie out of academia to ‘steal’ the identity of** authentic **ancient regional languages like Aramaic and Syriac. This is done for political purposes regarding the state of Israel (they want to build a 3rd Temple and start animal sacrifices again and 70% of American ‘Christians’ support this)

-Please see the 4th column in this link as proof that this lie has been inserted into history and proof that there was no such thing as Hebrew language.

-Today’s Hebrew is very modern and called ‘Block Hebrew’. It’s a copy of a middle ages Syriac script, but conforms to the Star of Moloch (Acts 7:43). 6 Points, 6 triangles, 6 sided polygon (666). See below

-A communist from Russia came to Israel in 1881 and essentially took modern Arabic words and pronunciations and ‘invented’ todays ‘functional’ Hebrew language and word meanings and created the first modern Hebrew dictionary. Here’s proof they copied another language.

-“The characteristics of spoken Hebrew only began to seep into literature in the 1940s, and only in the 1990s did spoken Hebrew start widely appearing in novels.” -wikipedia

-The Leningrad Codex (Codex Leningradensis) is the OLDEST KNOWN manuscript of the HEBREW BIBLE in HEBREW–FROM RUSSIA DATING 11-13TH CENTURY (not a typo).

-The LXX is closer to the DSS and the NT.

-The King James Version is often an ‘idol’ to self professed ‘Christians’. It is based on the Masoretic text so the vast majority of sources on the web in English contain lies to defend their idol.

-The LXX is VASTLY DIFFERENT than the Masoretic text. Here’s some examples

NKJV - Isa 9:8 The Lord sent A WORD against JACOB, And it has fallen on Israel.

LXX Literal - Isa 9:8 DEATH was sent forth by THE LORD upon JACOB and then it came upon ISRAEL (hence John 4:12-13)

A DAY BEFORE 9/11 on September 10 - Which describes it more accurately?:

NKJV - Isa 9:10 “The bricks have fallen down, But we will rebuild with hewn stones; The sycamores are cut down, But we will REPLACE THEM with CEDARS.” (illogical)

LXX Literal - Isa 9:10 The bricks have fallen, but COME STONE CUTTERS [MASONS] and lets CUT DOWN sycamore trees and cedars and BUILD OURSELVES a TOWER.

I’m pretty much copy-pasting myself here from past posts:

From David H. Lim’s The Dead Sea Scrolls (part of Oxford University Press’ Very Short Introductions series):

[INDENT]‘Text-type’ is an important concept that refers to the version of a particular document or literary composition. Let us say that you are composing a report or essay on your portable computer; you work on it for a while and save it on your hard disk in order to continue it at a later time. A good practice is to save the document in successive versions in order to minimize loss in the event of a crash or corruption of a particular file. Thus, you first save the file as ‘sampledocument.doc’ and having worked on it further save it as another file called ‘sampledocument2.doc’ and so on. If ‘sampledocument2.doc’ becomes corrupt, then you can return to ‘sampledocument.doc’, having lost only the incremental amount between the two. Moreover, you can revert to original formulations and calculations with this electronic paper trail. Each one of these files will share a common core, but will also be a slightly different version. If one were to ask which was ‘the original’ text, then the answer surely depends upon what we mean by the term. The initial commission of your thoughts to writing would be preserved in ‘sampledocument.doc’. However, if by ‘original’ you mean the copy that you sent off or submitted, then it would be the final or official version of the file.

In ancient times, ‘manuscripts’, as the word suggests, were written and copied out by hand. The production of literary works involved the compositional and copying stages, with the Qumran scrolls attesting to the latter. As we know from our own experience of copying, such a process is susceptible to expansions, contractions and all manner of scribal errors. For instance, our eyes could skip from one line to another or from one phrase to another that is either identical or similar. We could misspell a word or mis-form a letter. All these human errors contribute to the creation of different text-types. Other changes are intentional revisions of a text for ideological and religious reasons or mechanical ones, such as the stereotype or consistent rendering of one word by another in the target language.

Before the discovery of the scrolls, there were three previously known text-types of the Hebrew Bible: the Masoretic Text, the Samaritan Pentateuch and the Septuagint. The second of these refers to the Torah of the Samaritan community who consider themselves descendants of the ancient Northern Kingdom of Israel. The origins of the Samaritan community is a question of much debate; some sources hold that they were foreigners (2 Kgs 17.24-34), the indigenous people of Samaria (Ezra 4.4), or a sect that broke away from Judaism in the Hellenistic period (Josephus, Jewish Antiquities 11.340-345). The Samaritans regard the real sanctuary of God to be situated on Mount Gerizim and not in Jerusalem. They still reside today on that holy mountain in Israel and practise their own traditions. Their version of the Torah is characterized by expansionist and ideological readings. Strictly speaking the Samaritan Pentateuch refers only to the first five books, but the text-type is applied to the rest of the Hebrew Bible by analogy.

In the years following the discovery of the scrolls, Frank Cross proposed a local text theory that identified geographical areas with the three text-types. Accordingly, the Masoretic Text was representative of the Babylonian, the Samaritan of the Palestinian and the Septuagint of the Egyptian location. Cross classified all the Qumran biblical scrolls into one of the three text-types. For instance, 4QSam[sup]a[/sup] was considered a non-Masoretic Text much closer to the Vorlage of the Old Greek. Yet this text also has affinities with the Masoretic Text, the so-called proto-Lucianic text (a revision of the Greek translation), Chronicles and Josephus’s text of Samuel.

It became evident that the Qumran biblical texts could not be so pigeon-holed. A rival view was advanced by Emanuel Tov which posited a multiplicity of biblical text-types. Tov preferred to call them textual ‘groups’, but the more common designation is ‘text-types’. There were not just three text-types, but at least five or more groups of texts. Tov provided the following statistical data on the textual characteristics of the Qumran biblical scrolls: 35% were proto-Masoretic Text; 15% were pre-Samaritan; 5% were Septuagintal; 35% were non-aligned: 20% were texts written in the Qumran practice. Note that the total of 110% is due to the double counting of some of the texts in categories 1, 4 and 5, and category 4 is a ‘catch all’ for non-aligned and independent texts. Moreover, category 5 is a controversial group based upon the scribal practice of the Qumran community; not everyone agrees that this is a text-type.

It is now widely recognized that the Qumran biblical scrolls attest to a greater number of text-types than was previously thought. The Masoretic Text is surely an important text-type; it may even be argued that it was the dominant text-type, but there were several others that cannot be discounted. Some scholars, usually of the more conservative position, continue to hold the Masoretic Text as the text of the Hebrew Bible and all other text-types as translational, interpretative or recensional derivatives, even though they do not exhibit any of the relevant textual characteristics. This ‘Masoretic Text fundamentalism’, as it is called, prejudges the new evidence of the Qumran scrolls with unwarranted convictions.[/INDENT]


When the MT = Masoretic Text] is said to be ‘later’, you really have to qualify it. Strictly speaking, the ‘Masoretic text’ refers to the Hebrew text which has vowel markings or niqqud (remember that Hebrew was originally - and still is, to an extent - is an abjad, a writing system that only represented consonants) and concise marginal notes, added to the text. These ‘additions’, which was fixed from the 6th to the 10th centuries, are collectively known as masorah (the “transmission” of a tradition), and the Rabbis who developed these are known as the Masoretes.

The MT is ‘late’ in the sense that the masorah are only added by the early Middle Ages, but the underlying consonantal text - i.e. the letters only, without the vowels or the marginalia - is ancient (the proto-Masoretic / proto-Rabbinic text).

In fact, the majority of the biblical texts found in Qumran and other places in the Judaean desert are proto-MT texts. There are a few texts from Qumran that show similarity with either the LXX or the Samaritan version of the Torah or are ‘non-aligned’ (i.e. don’t exhibit particular agreement with a single version). All this shows that all three texts - Masoretic, Septuagint and Samaritan - have ancestors of nearly-equal antiquity, that there was not always the scrupulous uniformity of text that was so stressed in later centuries, and that even within textual families there could be variation.

In fact, one would notice that while there is a plurality and variation in the earlier biblical manuscripts from the Judaean desert, the later biblical manuscripts (1st/2nd century AD) are almost all proto-Masoretic ones. Which shows that just around about AD 100, all the biblical texts had unified into the proto-Masoretic Text or proto-Rabbinic text-type - chosen as the ‘standard’ text out of the other ones - and the textual variation was limited to orthographical differences.

So, in a nutshell, the answer to your question is:

Most of the biblical manuscripts found in Qumran do agree with the Masoretic Text (and thus are thought to represent the ancestor of the MT), but there are a few that agree with the Greek, as well as others that agree with the Samaritan, and still others that either go back and forth between these three versions or don’t agree with them at all.

As for your second question:

Limiting myself to the four gospels here.

[LIST]*]Matthew is the most divergent of the four: out of all the fulfillment quotations in his gospel, only three (1:23; 3:3; 13:14-16 - all quotes from Isaiah) are Septuagintal. The rest are unique translations/paraphrases/interpretations which interestingly reveals influence from the (proto-)Masoretic text or from targumim (Jewish Aramaic translations of the OT). We’re not sure if Matthew himself brought the LXX text closer to the Hebrew or whether he had employed a Greek version which has done so.
*]Mark predominantly uses Septuagintal quotations (1:2-3; 7:6-7; 12:10-11; 12:36), although he departs from it in a few passages (4:12, which departs from both the Hebrew and LXX). Same goes for OT allusions (4:29 “But when the fruit yields itself, immediately he sends out the sickle, for the harvest has come;” cf. Joel 3:13 MT).
*]Luke is mostly Septuagintal (only 7:27 diverges from the LXX text), though he technically has relatively relatively few direct quotations in his gospel; what he tends to do instead is to allude rather than quote.
*]John is evenly divided: in four passages where he quotes the OT, his Greek is Septuagintal (10:34; 12:13, 38; 19:24); in several others he makes some minor adaptations to suit the context (1:23; 2:17; 6:31, 45; 15:25; 19:36); in yet four others he diverges completely from the Old Greek (12:15, 40; 13:18; 19:37).[/LIST]

So in a nutshell, it really depends with the author. Sometimes they do use the ‘Septuagintal’ text, but at other times they don’t.


SnoopSword and Patrick and Barzillai, thanks!

Again, thank you so much for your time, help, and love.

This clarification needs to be taught to all Christians.


Please correct:

In terms of earliest work…
about Septuagint 200 years before Jesus Christ
Dead Sea Scrolls, Bible texts??
New Testament
Vulgate from Septuagint and Greek New Testament
Masoretic texts about 800-900 finalized


Yes, let me add my thanks too. And thanks to Jim for asking his questions. Great. SnoopSword and Patrick were the experts I hoped would come along. They knew good sources and then pinpointed the relevant information.

Patrick’s summary of the LXX in the NT is excellent.

SnoopSword’s and Patrick’s information show that the fuller story about the Bible is more fascinating as it unfolds than the theories.

I enjoyed your information, thanks again.

Speaking of timelines, I’ll be limiting myself to the OT.

Ketef Hinnom Scrolls (650-587 BC): Two small silver scrolls containing the text of the Priestly Blessing (Numbers 6:23-27), probably used as amulets. Currently the oldest artifact known with a written biblical text.

Greek Torah (3rd century BC): The Torah/Pentateuch section of the Septuagint.

Dead Sea Scrolls (3rd/2nd century BC-AD 73): The biblical scrolls span three centuries and various textual versions (proto-Masoretic, proto-Septuagintal, proto-Samaritan and mixed / unaligned versions).

Nash Papyrus (150-100 BC): A single sheet of papyrus containing the text of the Ten Commandments and the Shema. Before the DSS were discovered this was the oldest Hebrew manuscript fragment known.

Hexapla (ca. AD 240): An edition of the Old Testament made by Origen, consisting of six (possibly originally eight) versions placed side-by-side in parallel columns: (1) the Hebrew (Proto-Masoretic) text, (2) said Hebrew transliterated into Greek letters (aka the Secunda, because it is the second column), (3) Aquila of Sinope’s Greek version, (5) Symmachus’ Greek version, (5) A version of the Septuagint with interpolations indicating where the Hebrew is not represented in the text as well as signs indicating words, phrases, or occasionally larger sections which do not reflect the Hebrew, and (6) Theodotion’s version.

Ein Gedi Leviticus Scroll (3rd-4th century AD): A parchment scroll containing the text of Leviticus found in a synagogue in Ein Gedi. Notable because the scroll is a representative of the pure proto-Masoretic text, the ancestor of the Masoretic text (i.e., the Masoretic without the vowel points).

Vulgate Old Testament (386-407): Jerome’s translations out of the proto-Masoretic text (OT protocanon), late Aramaic versions of Tobit and Judith, and the Greek versions of Daniel, Esther and the Psalms.

Codex Cairensis (AD 895)
Aleppo Codex (10th century)
Leningrad Codex (AD 1008-10)



I thought there were no extant complete copies of Origen’s Hexapla, but that there were fragments embedded in the text of other books.

Same goes for any complete copies of Jerome’s Vulgate. I think his Vulgate only survives in some much later possibly altered mss.

So while your timeline is accurate, no one should suppose we actually have those texts.

That is what makes Biblical Historical Criticism so theoretical. There are a lot of speculative bridges built by scholars which may or may not be correct.

You’re right there isn’t. But fun fact: the Hexapla - specifically, Origen’s edit of the Septuagintal text, what’s called the ‘Hexaplaric’ text - had affected every other manuscript of the Greek OT that came after it. It became that influential. The only reason why we still have any idea as to what the Septuagintal text - if you want to get technical, the ‘Old Greek’ text - may have read before Origen (aside from older manuscripts of course) is the presence of other textual traditions which preserve it to varying degrees.

I’m gonna quote from Timothy Michael Law’s When God Spoke Greek: The Septuagint and the Making of the Christian Bible (speaking of which, I really recommend this book to anyone interested in the Septuagint’s history and its role in the early Christianity):

Origen’s Hexapla was the beginning of the end of the Septuagint in the church, but only by accident: his attention to the Hebrew text led some later scholars to ponder whether or not the church had been missing out by ignoring it. If Origen included the Hebrew Bible in the first column of his Hexapla, didn’t that imply it was worth studying? The fifth column, in which he had created a hybrid text composed of the church’s Septuagint with additional readings from other Greek Jewish versions, may have begun as a scholarly tool for exegesis, apologetics, and textual analysis. But the new fifth column text was soon copied with the signs removed and was dispersed widely. It moved out from a scholarly and professional realm, where caveats could have helped to prevent its misuse, and into the church. Unintentionally, Origen’s work contaminated the stream of biblical transmission: from the fourth century almost all Septuagint manuscripts had been influenced by the so-called Origenic, or Hexaplaric, version. (145)

Origen’s Septuagint text produced in the fifth column of his Hexapla didn’t seep into the stream of textual transmission. it exploded onto the map and changed the course of the Septuagint’s history thereafter. The devotion of Eusebius and Pamphilus [of Caesarea] to their theological hero, and the subsequent burst of scribal activity to meet the emperor’s [Constantine’s] order of Bibles expedited its course from an academic text to one read and used widely in the church, now transmitted without the critical signs that the original editor had placed into it. A new spirit was unleashed, and if scholars had not noticed before the divergent nature of the Septuagint and the Hebrew Bible they would soon find it impossible to ignore. The final days of the Septuagint in the West had begun. (p. 151)

Same goes for any complete copies of Jerome’s Vulgate. I think his Vulgate only survives in some much later possibly altered mss.

So while your timeline is accurate, no one should suppose we actually have those texts.

That is what makes Biblical Historical Criticism so theoretical. There are a lot of speculative bridges built by scholars which may or may not be correct.

I was not so much talking about the manuscripts for these two, but to when these works were originally made. We have a pretty good idea as to when Jerome made his OT translations, even if we don’t have his original notes or the ‘first edition’ copies of his finished products.

Speaking of Hebrew:

The peoples of ancient Canaan were so similar to each other in terms of language and culture. Yes, the Israelites weren’t very ‘unique’: culture-wise and language-wise they were not that different from the peoples around them.

Most peoples in the region who are culturally related like the Edomites, Ammonites, the Moabites, and the Israelites-Judahites all spoke languages that are so alike. They are apparently (based on what little we know about these other non-Hebraic languages), to use a technical term, mutually intelligible with one another that you could pretty much consider the Israelite, Edomite, Moabite and Ammonite ‘languages’ to be just different dialects of the same language. (To be fair, the divide between language and dialect is murky and ambiguous anyway.)

All these different languages/dialects coexisted with each other, no one becoming a ‘standard’ above the others. Since you have the Moabites and the Edomites and the Israelites each having their own kingdoms, obviously you can’t have a sort of linguistic unity. This was somewhat opposite to what was happening in Syria and upper Mesopotamia, where Damascus Aramaic was becoming the standard, thanks to its adoption by the Neo-Assyrian Empire.

Hebrew (and Edomite and Moabite, etc.) and Aramaic are sisters, essentially: they both belong to the same language family - the Semitic branch of Afroasiatic languages (same family as Ancient Egyptian and its descendant Coptic, Arabic, Berber and the languages spoken in Ethiopia) - and are descended from the same language (Proto-Northwest Semitic).

What we know as ‘Biblical Hebrew’ is actually the written version of the Jerusalemite dialect of Judahite Hebrew. (Whew!) Reason for this is rather obvious: because it was Judahite scribes, and descendants of exiled Judahites, that passed down the biblical text to us.

Here’s a comprehensive (if rather heady) history of Hebrew from its origins to the development of modern ‘Israeli Hebrew’ (which does owe as much from the native languages of its developers - Yiddish, Russian, German - as to the ancient language of the Jews).

The “star of Moloch” hmmmm? Exactly what are you trying to imply here? C’mon, out with it, say it straight out and have the courage of your convictions instead of tippytoeing around what you really want to say.

I am the OP.

I have not been able to keep up with these ideas, too busy.

If it is possible, give the bottom line of this thread, thanks!

I also posted a question about Hab. 2: 4, any help there will be most welcomed!


One will never know if the LXX or the Masoretic texts are better. But using both I gain a better understanding.

I am really weak on the Greek and Hebrew, so I must depend on the translators and scholars.


IMO. Generally: The Septuagint is the most oft quoted version in the New Testament. Since no originals of any scripture exist - not even Saint Jerome had a single original (“autograph”) manuscript in the late 300s, all - even back then - were copies of copies of copies. Since a certain amount of information is simply unknown about the precise form of the original manuscripts, whichever version you use must be viewed in light of the deposit of faith, i.e. the catechism, as well as the alternative manuscripts available. The following quote is attributed to Saint Jerome:

“If we are to pin our faith to the Latin texts, it is for our opponents to tell us which; for there are almost as many forms of texts as there are copies. If, on the other hand, we are to glean the truth from a comparison of many, why not go back to the original Greek and correct the mistakes introduced by inaccurate translators, and the blundering alterations of confident but ignorant critics, and, further, all that has been inserted or changed by copyists more asleep than awake?”

Thus, he sought to purify the available manuscripts and produce a cohesive collection from them. Yet, all are translations and all lose something in that translation - particularly given the rapid change in language. Even though any translation performed by a single man is considered to be somewhat idiosyncratic, Saint Jerome’s Vulgate and the translations it produced seem warmer and more human to me than some of the other translations I have read.

Of all sources, only the Vulgate has been defined by the Church as the sole authentic Latin text of the Sacred Scriptures. Many in post-reformation/modern times have criticized the Church for relying on Latin, but it was the lingua franca of the ancient empire, and is a dead language - set in stone - resistant to change or alteration. We can see that the precise original content of the scriptures cannot be known with perfect accuracy and, knowing this, our Lord founded an infallible Church on divine Authority, rather than the vagaries of fallible human minds and hands in copying documents.

Bear in mind that if I wrote a book it would not be “for Dummies” but rather, by a dummy.

Yeah, as I’ve been re-reading that post I’m getting a rather creepy vibe. Is he trying to imply what I think he’s trying to imply?

What purpose would it serve to teach this to “all Christians?” I don’t know what point you’re trying to drive home here.

The OP question is very complicated. You have to know a lot just to ask such a question. I’ve read a couple essays on these subjects, and they are far off the beaten path of Bible study. People’s eyes glaze over when I bring up relatively simpler issues about the Bible.

At the parish level, most people I’ve encountered are at the starting point of Bible study. They trust anything “Catholic” that they read and maybe what a priest says, but they can’t work their way through understanding or even being interested in such a question as has been posed here.

Sure, if someone is curious to look up all the cross references in their favorite Bible, they may be headed down the path towards this subject. Or there may be footnotes that explain what the LXX says, by comparison, and that may pique their curiosity.

I would disagree, that only seminarians and priests in graduate studies on the Old Testament would have to deal with any such issues.

Oh, I think there is a practical lesson to be gained by studying this subject, but I haven’t noticed in the preceding comments that anybody expressed what that practical lesson might be?

For example, the LXX becomes a sort of dictionary for the Hebrew texts, because there were no dictionaries when those Hebrew texts were composed and edited. So, the LXX gives the best idea of how the Jews understood their scriptures, at the time that the LXX was written. That’s practical, to me.

Another practical point may be to understand which of the ancient scrolls that the scholars who wrote the LXX considered to be inspired, for the benefit of Jews in the diaspora who were not literate in Hebrew and Aramaic.

There you go for free, two practical insights about these texts. My examples could be totally wrong, but at least I’m trying to get the ball rolling about the academic and practical reasons for burning one’s eyes out on this subject.

Here’s #3. Practical. The Jewish commentaries I’ve looked at sometimes even mention the translation / understanding by comparing their notes with the KJV and/or the Vulgate. What’s practical here is to give credit to modern Jewish scholars who study their subject with a wide view of translation possibilities.

#4 I can’t say for sure, but the fact that the NAB is in the 4th edition, because of the desire for better translations, could indicate an appreciation for this general subject. Somebody must have been pounding the table to get better and more modern translations, more accurate for sure.

see my next post

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