The Septuagint and the Bible question


#1

I actually just purchased a copy of a translation of the Greek Septuagint which I have always been under the impression was the reason the Catholic church has more Old Testament books than Protestants who use the Hebrew Bible. What confused me is why are there books in the Septuagint that didn’t make it into the Catholic bible if that is true? I was always under the impression the Latin Vulgate was translated directly from the Septuagint but books missing in the Catholic bible which are present in the Septuagint are Thr prayer of Manessah 1 and 2 Esdras,( which i have read are in appendixes to the Vulgate), and also 3 and 4 Maccabees and Psalm 151. What I don’t understand is how the early Catholic church decided some of these books in the Septuagint were scripture (the Deuterocanonical books), and some are considered apocryphal by the Catholic church yet regarded as canon by Eastern Orthodox churches because they were in the Septuagint? I know this is complicated most likely but someone must know who decided this and when?


#2

Ultimately, the Spirit revealed this through the conciliar process as we saw in the consistency of early regional councils at Rome, Carthage, Hippo, 2nd Nicea, and later at Florence and Trent.

As to what indicators the early Church used, criteria included apostolic origin and use in the churches, with certain favoritism given to the premier sees of the hierarchy. St. Augustine gives us a glimpse of this process:*Now, in regard to the canonical Scriptures, he must follow the judgment of the greater number of Catholic churches; and among these, of course, a high place must be given to such as have been thought worthy to be the seat of an apostle and to receive epistles. Accordingly, among the canonical Scriptures he will judge according to the following standard: to prefer those that are received by all the Catholic churches to those which some do not receive. Among those, again, which are not received by all, he will prefer such as have the sanction of the greater number and those of greater authority, to such as are held by the smaller number and those of less authority. If, however, he shall find that some books are held by the greater number of churches, and others by the churches of greater authority (though this is not a very likely thing to happen), I think that in such a case the authority on the two sides is to be looked upon as equal. (Augustine, On Christian Doctrine, II.12)*An example of the true deposit of faith having apostolic origin, I believe, can be found in Irenaeus’ Against Heresies, although I can’t think of specific index reference for that at the moment.


#3

Modern Jews use versions of the Jewish bible that were ratified by Jewish council hundreds of years after Christ. If you believe in Christ, such councils had no authority as that authority had been taken away from them and “given to another”. Luke 20:9-16

On the other hand, there is no “the” Hebrew bible, that dates to the time of Christ.
Arguments between Christianity and Judaism led to later Jewish councils rejecting several books that were regularly read in synagogues before those councils rejected them.

What confused me is why are there books in the Septuagint that didn’t make it into the Catholic bible if that is true? I was always under the impression the Latin Vulgate was translated directly from the Septuagint

Jerome actually translated from several Hebrew manuscripts, and generally not from the Septuagint. He only translated certain books from the Septuagint who’s Hebrew originals (if any), were lost by the year 200AD.

That’s not to say Greek can’t be an inspired language, as the Gospels have no Hebrew originals that remain today, either. Only Matthew might have had a Hebrew or Aramaic original… and it was lost before Jerome’s time. But Jerome was swayed by Jewish rabbi’s about the old testament. Note: Several people have made comments to me on these forums that Jerome disobeyed the pope’s orders to translate from the Septuagint because he held a theory which the Catholic church never ratified, eg: that the Hebrew was more “original” or inspired. The problem is compounded by the fact that Jerome was not a Greek expert, although he could read Greek fairly well. Some of his translation choices split the Eastern Churches from the west, and mutual charges of Heresy for hundreds of years – all because of some of his “small” mistakes.

On the other hand, Jerome also had many versions of Hebrew scriptures and his notes show that he often argued with Jewish rabbis over which was the “authentic” rendering in Hebrew. The ancient Hebrew was as plagued with inconsistencies as any other versions. There were, in fact, many versions of the Jewish scriptures during Jerome’s time.

The protestant bibles of today are based on the Masoretic texts which is a very limited subset of what Jerome had access to, and which has a long history of anti christian bias in their keeping. (As you would expect from people who don’t believe in Christ, and had to choose among ancient versions available to them – they chose to preserve the versions of Hebrew Scriptures which tend to support him least.)

Friction with Christianity is a major reason many of the books found in the Septuagint were rejected by later Jewish councils, for the Greek texts supported the coming of the Messiah as Jesus far better than did some of the Hebrew manuscripts. So, basically, the later Jewish councils weeded out any Hebrew or Greek scriptures which pointed too distinctly to Jesus as the messiah. Hardly a surprise…

but books missing in the Catholic bible which are present in the Septuagint are Thr prayer of Manessah 1 and 2 Esdras,( which i have read are in appendixes to the Vulgate), and also 3 and 4 Maccabees and Psalm 151. What I don’t understand is how the early Catholic church decided some of these books in the Septuagint were scripture (the Deuterocanonical books), and some are considered apocryphal by the Catholic church yet regarded as canon by Eastern Orthodox churches because they were in the Septuagint? I know this is complicated most likely but someone must know who decided this and when?

Now you’re getting into the question of the “canon.”
That is something that developed over time. Many of the books were used in the liturgy of the church itself, the so called “canon” of the mass or Holy Mysteries. Those books which all churches used as part of the prayers in the church were universally accepted as the first canon; or if you will, the books of highest respect as part of the divine liturgy. Those books which were used more outside the liturgy were called Deutero-canonical. Second Canon or Second list. The protestants renamed the second canon, “apocryphal” or “hidden work”, over a thousand years later. Their complaints are often based on Jerome’s translation notes, but essentially they ignore that Jerome has no proof of what books were or were not inspired. Jerome had to follow the church for that.

The formal processes of taking an accounting of which books the church used and which ones they did not use, and which books had been corrupted was taken up at the council of Rome; I think around 382. That’s right about the time Jerome was doing his translation work, although (keep in mind) Jerome is not the church, and his comments are merely that of a scholar; not of the church as a whole.


#4

I think Marco has given the best answer that can fit in a post on this thread.

I invested in a three volume set called Outside the Bible(OTB) published by the Jewish Publication Society (JPS). It’s on sale right now. It’s three enormous volumes, over 3000 pages.

I’m about 50 pages into it. It discusses the Septuagint (LXX) right off, because it’s so important.

what I didn’t know was that LXX was originally just the Torah (first 5 books) but then expanded over more than a century to include all the other highly regarded Jewish scriptures.

now OTB jumps right in with comparisons where there are differences between it and what was later canonized in Judaism, the Masoretic text.

OTB describes itself as an attempt to bridge the history, beliefs, scripture, and practices of Judaism after the period of prophecy ended, during the “second Temple period” – which is to say, until things really changed, and Judaism was redefined, after the destruction of the temple in 70 AD.

So far, OTB is comparing the LXX, MT, and SP (Samaritan Pentateuch), all of which were found at Qumran – they were found or the precursor texts were found at Qumran. Now, they fairly agree or generally agree, so OTB vol 1 so far is looking at some of the differences in these texts. LXX seems older (for a number of reasons) than the others, which makes is still very important to Judaism.

The one neat thing that OTB has explained so far is the meaning of the “cities of refuge.” If you accidentally killed somebody, their relatives would come after you, and you would hasten to a city of refuge – there were some number of them. You’d have to make a “probable cause” reason why you should be admitted there – they weren’t going to admit fugitive murderers. OK, so you get in, and you are there until the death of the high priest (who was appointed for life, in Jerusalem). Now, there’s the puzzle, for me. What’s this all about?

I love reading JPS commentaries, because the sages and rabbis have noodled over these kinds of questions, to fill in the gaps, for centuries. so here it is: They theorize that the death of the high priest (does that sound like anybody you know) ATONES for the accidental death. So, when the atonement is complete, you can go home. that’s a big deal. You’re free. Your guilt has been atoned.

LXX was created by Jews for Jews before the Christian era. but christians were greek-speaking and poured over the LXX looking for meaning, meaning that the pharisees/rabbis didn’t always agree with. So, that partially explains why LXX is not the official version. another part of the reason is that LXX was the first known translation of a major set of texts anyplace. It was quite an intellectual feat and nobody can translate a text exactly into another language. So, another question is, was the LXX simply mistranslating the Hebrew text or did the translators have a different Hebrew ‘variant’ of scriptural texts from what become the MT? (that’s a real possibility.)

The Bible just does not give up its secrets easily, or at all necessarily. the beauty is the journey, not just the destination.


#5

So, who lived at Qumran. The Essenes? Well, that’s not been a main topic so far in OTB, but they point out that it appears that at qumran, they were mostly saduccees, who had left Jerusalem. They only accepted the Torah, and not the later Jewish writings, as inspired.

JPS scholars investigate every nook and cranny of Jewish history and try to understand every controversy and they try to squeeze everything they can out of comparing these texts. They ARE “people of the book” (see paragraph 108 or 109 of the Catechism of the Catholic Church).


#6

That doesn’t make much sense. I would be careful about believing what you are reading without careful cross examination.

Josephus talks about trying the Essene way, and indicates that it was more of a conservative Pharisee oriented kind of Judaism. The Sadducees were far more worldly and tending to integrate Greek culture into the Jewish religion, where the Pharisees tended to be more separatist.

From my own reading of the Qumran works, they are clearly a very ritualized and stylized religious sect that goes far beyond anything the Sadducees were known to do or associate with.

In the book of Maccabees, there are indications that a sect which would later become the Essenes developed because King David assigned the high priesthood to the line of Zadok the priest (Zadoktes) in perpetuity. But Judas Maccabeus and his brothers were not of the line of Zadok, and refused to yield the high priesthood back to the Zadokites. eg: The Maccabees essentially stole the high priesthood by military might and refused to give it back to the few remaining Zadokites. This resulted in a split of conservative Jews in the time of Macabbes, where the remaining pure-blood Zadokites went to Egypt and built another temple there and lived in exile for a time.

As I understand the history, those who claimed to be from the Zadokite lines eventually developed into the Essenes. They had no political power, but had a claim to the high priesthood from David. That claim is what gave them popularity with Jews who longed for the past of David’s reign and expected God to respond to a sort of ritualized warfare (in the extreme) which they thought would eventually reinstate them as the government for the Jewish nation.

The Pharisees (on the other hand) generally came from the Macabees and the military approach taken by them; eg: They claimed all religious prerogatives as being theirs since God blessed them by granting them victory. (Might makes right.)

On the other hand, the Sadducees are a faction that favored mixing the Jewish religion with concepts of pagan and Greek origin; They conspired with pagans to gain power by political intrigue and compromises. They were anything but religious purists. The Sadducees were “liberal” in their ideology and interpretation of the scriptures. For example, the Sadducees did not even believe in life after death. In some ways, they are more like modern atheists in the views they hold than any kind of purist religious sect.

The things I have read from the Essenes don’t agree with what I read in scripture about the Sadducees. I simply don’t see how they can be the same group of people.

The scriptures that the Essenes had were of different traditions than the modern Masoretic texts. The order of the psalms, etc. are different.Because we know the Essene texts are older than the masoretic texts, we can prove certain things about how the Masoretic texts changed. This has settled some longstanding disputes over whether the LXX was “corrupt” in places, or whether it merely was accurately preserving a different Hebrew tradation; generally in favor of the LXX being an accurate representation of an older set of Hebrew Scriptures and not corrupt.


#7

Can you tell us the details about the Bible you purchased? Is it the one from Oxford U. Press?


#8

That is my understanding as well, that the oldest Masoretic texts in existance date back only to the ninth or tenth century AD. What I’ve read in JPS sources is that the text was still fluid and undergoing anti-Christian polemical modifications, for example. That emphasis on the scripture itself was became a major focus of Judaism after the destruction of the Temple. Generally speaking, that seems to have gravitated towards any purported original Hebrew source, rather than the Greek translation of it, a position that Jerome and later Luther seem to have agreed with.

but, The Jewish Study Bible (an included essay) [Oxford U Press] clearly asserts as does the JPS OTB that at Qumran were found the precursors of the MT, the SP, and the LXX. This subject is exactly what OTB is discussing, line by line. OTB mentions some sort of writings which documents the Essenes objections to (as I recall) some positions taken by pharasaical / rabbinic teachings, which strongly point to what the latter actually were, thus fulfilling the objective of OTB to document Judaism of the second temple period.


#9

A different approach to the same subject.—There’s a book I’m thinking of getting, and I’d be grateful to hear the opinions of anyone here who has read it. The publishers describe it as written “for non-Jewish readers interested in the Jewish roots of Christianity and for Jewish readers who want a New Testament that neither proselytizes for Christianity nor denigrates Judaism.”

From the publisher’s website (link below):

*The Jewish Annotated New Testament
Edited by Amy-Jill Levine and Marc Z. Brettler

• First New Testament annotated by Jewish scholars
• Brings out Jewish background of early Christianity, New Testament writers
• Explains Jewish concepts (e.g., food laws, rabbinic argumentation) for non-Jews, Christian concepts (e.g., Eucharist) for Jews
• Helpful for non-Jewish readers interested in the Jewish roots of Christianity*

global.oup.com/academic/product/the-jewish-annotated-new-testament-9780195297706?q=amy levine&lang=en&cc=us

Thanks
Bart


#10

The Pharisees and the Essenes both had claims to authority to rule the Jews through their ancestors; so they definitely wanted to slit each other’s throats as a matter of law/governance. They did not like each other at all, as both viewed the other as a threat politically. However, in terms of doctrine they were far more similar to each other than to the Sadducees.

What is telling about Josephus, who is a turn-coat, and a person who curried favor as much as possible based on public popularity; is that Josephus viewed both the Pharisee sect and the Essene sect as worthy of pretending to be an official in, whereas I don’t recall him ever pretending to have been a Sadducee. The same people who were awed by the Pharisees, would also (however) be awed by the Essenes.

Notice that Josephus tells us that the Essenes believed in the immortal soul: See paragraph 11, here:

ancienthistory.about.com/od/josephus/l/bl_josephus_JW_essenes.htm

“but they [Essenes] smiled in their very pains, and laughed those to scorn who inflicted the torments upon them, and resigned up their souls with great alacrity, as expecting to receive them again. 11. For their doctrine is this: That bodies are corruptible, and that the matter they are made of is not permanent; but that the souls are immortal, and continue for ever; and that they come out of the most subtile air, and are united to their bodies as to prisons, into which they are drawn by a certain natural enticement; but that when they are set free from the bonds of the flesh, they then, as released from a long bondage, rejoice and mount upward.”

So clearly, the Essenes sided with the Pharisees on the existence of an after-life through an immortal spirit (spiration/air). They did not side with the Sadducees for: “The Sadducees say that there is no resurrection, angels nor spirits, but the Pharisees believe all these things.” (Acts of the Apostles, chapter 23 verse 8).

The problem facing the Essenes is that conquest and being ruled over by Pagans with no promised land under their jurisdiction was considered by many as a sign the Essenes were accursed by God; and so the Essenes had to deal with people believing that their state was a punishment for not having followed the RITUALS of the law perfectly enough. Thus, the Essenes tried to over-compensate by becoming even more rigorous observers of the law than even the Pharisees. The Essenes regularly tried to claim the Pharisees were not “pure” enough, and would bring about God’s wrath on the holy land.

I would caution you not to believe everything Josephus says, for you need to grasp his motivation for building up the Essenes before you recognize that he has strong reasons to exaggerate; The Pharisees did indeed fail to save Jerusalem in 70AD. But still, Josephus could not outright say the Essenes believed things which they absolutely did not without be made a mockery of. His exaggerations had to be at least plausible by not contradicting what people knew of their basic doctrines.

The Essenes were often hypocrites (just like the Pharisees), as can be demonstrated from some of their writings when compared to examples of how they actually carried out their own law from day to day. But none the less, they did hold most of what Josephus claims for them because it aligns with their belief that following rituals even more rigourously would get God to favor them again.


#11

First, there was no such thing as a ‘Jewish council’. If you’re referring to the so-called council of Jamnia … no. It didn’t decide which books were scriptural, it didn’t decide which textual version of the OT the Jews were to use.

There was a tradition that the Rabbinic academy at Yavneh (Jamnia) discussed the issue of the sacredness of two books (Song of Songs and Ecclesiastes) - are they really holy or not? That’s it.

All Holy Scriptures defile the hands. Song of Songs and Ecclesiastes defile the hands. Rabbi Judah says, “Song of Songs defiles the hands but there is a dispute regarding Ecclesiastes.” Rabbi Jose says, “Ecclesiastes does not defile the hands, and there is a dispute about Song of Songs.”

Rabbi Simeon says, “[The status of] Ecclesiastes is one of the lenient rulings of the School of Shammai, and one of the strict rulings of the School of Hillel.” = The School of Shammai opines that Ecclesiastes is not sacred - ‘does not defile the hands’; the School of Hillel on the other hand does.]

Rabbi Simeon ben Azai said, “I have a tradition from the seventy-two elders (of the Sanhedrin) that on the day when Rabbi Eleazar ben Azariah was appointed head of the Academy, it was decided that Song of Songs and Ecclesiastes defile the hands.” (This is pretty much where the idea of a ‘Council of Jamnia’ came from: the Rabbis supposedly finally determining the status of the two books on the day Rabbi Eleazar ben Azariah (post AD 70-early 2nd century) became the head of the academy at Yavneh (Jamnia). Though as you might notice, the actual reference is pretty vague. And of course, there’s also the issue of whether the tradition Rabbi Simeon received is accurate/factual.)

Rabbis Akiva said, “God forbid! No one in Israel disputed about Song of Songs, saying that it does not defile the hands. For all of eternity in its entirety is not as worthy as the day on which Song of Songs was given to Israel, for all the Writings are holy, but Song of Songs is the Holy of Holies. And if they are disputed at all, they disputed only regarding Ecclesiastes.”

Rabbi Yohanan ben Joshua the son of Rabbi Akiva’s father-in-law said, “As according to Ben Azzai, so did they dispute and so did they determine [that both Song of Songs and Ecclesiastes defile the hands].”

  • Mishnah, Yadayim 3.5

If anything, when the Rabbis discussed scriptures at Jamnia, they discussed works which were already considered ‘sacred’ (i.e. the protocanonical books) and basically only ruminated about whether they really merited that designation or not. They weren’t talking about whether to consider more books ‘sacred’ or to subtract from the list. It was purely internal problems that troubled them, such as theology, apparent contradictions, or seemingly unsuitable content. They weren’t even talking about textual versions.

I think what really throws off Christians (Catholics especially) is the use of the term ‘council’ here. Judaism didn’t and doesn’t really work like Christianity. ‘Council’ here doesn’t imply a sort of assembly of all the Rabbis in the world and promulgating binding dogmas on all Jews worldwide.

In fact, the image of Jamnia being a ‘council’ is actually just the product of later legend and speculation. Our modern image of the ‘Council of Jamnia’ (which scholars accepted as ‘fact’ for about a hundred years) was really just devised by a 19th-century scholar, Heinrich Graetz, who took these later descriptions at face value. In reality, the Yavneh academy lasted for a number of years, and the significant opinions of this school is persevered in piecemeal fashion in later Jewish writings.

Gary Michuta discusses the issue here.

Essentially, the problem with the ‘Council of Jamnia’ theory is that it’s not just that we aren’t really sure whether the later Mishnah (or the even later Talmud) is recording an event that really happened (see, the Jewish Rabbis have a different view of history than we do; from our perspective, they often engaged in what we would today call revisionist history - they recorded “this was how things should have been” rather than “this was how things were”), or if it did happen, whether it was not embellished or something along those lines, but also that the source/s doesn’t really say anything about any canon being ratified or any books being included or thrown out.

What actually happened is probably more like: the Jews in Palestine simply stuck to the same old books and the same textual version that they have been using for years. It just became the de facto ‘standard text’ by accident.


#12

Oh yeah. For the Septuagint I recommend this book: Timothy Michael Law’s When God Spoke Greek: The Septuagint and the Making of the Christian Bible.


#13

You’re right. What basically happened was:

The Zadokite Onias IV (former high priest Onias III’s son) hoped that the Maccabean revolt would put him in office as high priest. However, a string of events - another man, Alcimus, being elected to the high priesthood; Jonathan Maccabee eventually appropriating the high priesthood for himself - frustrated his plans. So he and some supporters of his went to Egypt - which was controlled by the Seleucids’ rivals, the Ptolemies - and managed to curry enough favor from the court to gain permission to settle down and build a temple.

He apparently hoped that his Leontopolis temple would be regarded as the only legitimate one - he was the legitimate claimant as per tradition, after all - since the Jerusalem temple was desecrated. But he never really gathered enough support for this, even among Egyptian Jews; Jews continued to hold Jerusalem sacred and even condemned Onias’ temple as illegitimate.

The Pharisees (on the other hand) generally came from the Macabees and the military approach taken by them; eg: They claimed all religious prerogatives as being theirs since God blessed them by granting them victory. (Might makes right.)

Their relationship is actually more complicated than that.

The Pharisees were probably the derivative group of the so-called Assideans (Hasidim, not to be confused with modern Hasidic Judaism). These Assideans did support the Maccabean revolt at first, but they eventually parted ways with the Maccabees (and the dynasty Jonathan Maccabee founded, the Hasmonean) apparently because they found them too worldly, and possibly because they really lacked that Davidic-Zadokite credential to rule as high priest-kings. They especially didn’t like the Hasmoneans expanding their territory by conquering neighboring lands and forcing their peoples to convert to Judaism. That’s probably why they were called ‘Pharisees’: they were one of those who “separated” from the Hasmonean hegemony.

In fact, the relationship between the Pharisees and the Hasmoneans hadn’t been very good: two Hasmonean kings (John Hyrcanus and his son and successor, Alexander Jannaeus) actually persecuted the party in favor of the Sadducees.

They had a golden age under Alexander’s widow, Salome Alexandra (in fact, it was in her reign that they grew to power), but at the time of Jesus, the Pharisees had no political power - their Sadducean rivals (in the form of the high priesthood) had that again. They did continue to have a popularity among many laypeople though, that Josephus even went so far to claim that the (Sadducean) priests used the Pharisaic interpretation of the Law as a concession to the people, because the people considered them to be the most expert interpreters of Jewish Law.

On the other hand, the Sadducees are a faction that favored mixing the Jewish religion with concepts of pagan and Greek origin; They conspired with pagans to gain power by political intrigue and compromises. They were anything but religious purists. The Sadducees were “liberal” in their ideology and interpretation of the scriptures. For example, the Sadducees did not even believe in life after death. In some ways, they are more like modern atheists in the views they hold than any kind of purist religious sect.

I think you’re reading older scholarship here. In the old days, scholars did think this was the case: the Sadducees were the ‘liberals’ while the Pharisees were ‘conservative’.

In reality, it would seem that the opposite is true: the aristocratic/priestly Sadducees were the religious conservatives/fundamentalists who supposedly held a rather literal, hard-line interpretation of Scripture and a Judaism centered on the Temple and the priesthood, while the (mainly) lay Pharisees were the ones who were more open to theological development and advocated a more populist, grassroots approach to Judaism.

(The Pharisee argument pretty much went like: since the Torah describes Israel as being a “kingdom of priests,” that means that the laws of the Torah - the purity laws in particular - are applicable not just to the priests of the Temple but to every Jew. Sadducean priests would have seen that as encroaching on their prerogative as a sort of special caste.)

The Sadducee disbelief in a life after death can be attributed to the fact that the Torah doesn’t really describe the afterlife or describes it only in the vaguest terms. It’s really more concerned with this life than the next. Same goes for the resurrection of the dead: “It’s not written in the Torah.” Or for the belief in angels: the Torah describes only “the angel/messenger of Yhwh,” and frankly, the descriptions of this ‘messenger’ are vague (the messenger and Yhwh Himself are conflated with each other) that he might as well not be there.


#14

I didn’t say Jamnia, although you would agree that it still does fit my description of “not having authority”, correct?

:popcorn:

The Jews did have councils; eg: the so called Sanhedrin is an example: They decided things like putting anyone out of the synagogue that believed Jesus was the Christ. (John 9:22, Mark 15:1, etc.), and knowing how Jewish rabbis interpret rules like that, I’m pretty sure that would also extend to any synagogue leader who kept versions of scripture which unequivocally supported that Jesus was the Christ… since there was no official “canon” of scripture, each rabbi had to defend himself… riiiiight??? :smiley:

Although, I totally agree that in historical terms; the Jews were divided when it came to authority. School of Hillel vs. School of Shimei. etc.

There was a tradition that the Rabbinic academy at Yavneh (Jamnia) discussed the issue of the sacredness of two books (Song of Songs and Ecclesiastes) - are they really holy or not? That’s it. [snip]

  • Mishnah, Yadayim 3.5If anything, when the Rabbis discussed scriptures at Jamnia, they discussed works which were already considered ‘sacred’ (i.e. the protocanonical books) and basically only ruminated about whether they really merited that designation or not. They weren’t talking about whether to consider more books ‘sacred’ or to subtract from the list. It was purely internal problems that troubled them, such as theology, apparent contradictions, or seemingly unsuitable content. They weren’t even talking about textual versions.

OK.

I think what really throws off Christians (Catholics especially) is the use of the term ‘council’ here. Judaism didn’t and doesn’t really work like Christianity. ‘Council’ here doesn’t imply a sort of assembly of all the Rabbis in the world and promulgating binding dogmas on all Jews worldwide.

Fair enough. So let’s just say I wasn’t referring to a particular council convened with the intent to determine scripture officially but to the idea in general (and it not having any authority). And regarding the idea of “all the rabbis in the world”… well, even in the time of Jesus; the Essenes were totally excluded from the council/sanhedrin. So it’s not like there ever has been a council of all rabbis even predating Christ or during the time of Christ. But there still are things called “councils”.

I mean, the fluidity of Jewish authority is part of my point about the Maccabean revolution… the high priesthood was suborned by people not of the Zadokite line and the Zadokites were excluded from then on. But Jesus still says of the Pharisees, (and not the Essenes): Matthew 22:2-3 “The scribes and the Pharisees have taken their seat on the chair of Moses. 3Therefore, do and observe all things whatsoever they tell you, but do not follow their example. For they preach but they do not practice.”

In fact, the image of Jamnia being a ‘council’ is actually just the product of later legend and speculation. Our modern image of the ‘Council of Jamnia’ (which scholars accepted as ‘fact’ for about a hundred years) was really just devised by a 19th-century scholar, Heinrich Graetz, who took these later descriptions at face value. In reality, the Yavneh academy lasted for a number of years, and the significant opinions of this school is persevered in piecemeal fashion in later Jewish writings.

Gary Michuta discusses the issue here.

interesting read.

What actually happened is probably more like: the Jews in Palestine simply stuck to the same old books and the same textual version that they have been using for years. It just became the de facto ‘standard text’ by accident.

Well, not entirely by accident; although I do accept most of what you are saying here.

Certain texts were discriminated against, or else Jerome would “probably” not have had different Jewish Scritpures than are preserved in the Masoretic texts today. Clearly: Over time, some texts were preserved and others were not. “Probably” some text led to Jews becoming converts and were subsequently lost as the Catholic Church didn’t preserve them; (regrettable) or else, prejudice led to Jews favoring other texts and being more careful to preserve them and not the ones which favored Christian readings.

It’s not like we can’t read prophecy like “the young girl (almah) shall be with Child” and are unable to interpolate that a young girl ought to be a virgin; It’s just that the prophecy is far less clear when read in that way. Just so, the psalms that read “you have given me an ear to hear” … is quite less clear about the messiah’s sacrifice than a reading along the lines of: “a body you have prepared for me, as it is written in the book – Lo, I come!”

So, of the variations of Hebrew Scriptures which were available in Jesus’ time and before; either the method of interpreting them, or the textual strains, were changed over time and during the disputes between Christians and Jews some readings became target practice and disappeared.


#15

He apparently hoped that his Leontopolis temple would be regarded as the only legitimate one - he was the legitimate claimant as per tradition, after all - since the Jerusalem temple was desecrated. But he never really gathered enough support for this, even among Egyptian Jews; Jews continued to hold Jerusalem sacred and even condemned Onias’ temple as illegitimate.

But obviously not all Jews condemned it.
For there was clearly a romantic tie of the Essenes/and the Zadokite priesthood which caused Jews to hold it in enough esteem for Josephus to try and exploit it.

Their relationship is actually more complicated than that.

So I had a reasonably good memory for something I skim read over 15 years ago while I was looking for something else. :slight_smile:

The Pharisees were probably the derivative group of the so-called Assideans (Hasidim, not to be confused with modern Hasidic Judaism). These Assideans … eventually parted ways with the Maccabees … possibly because they really lacked that Davidic-Zadokite credential …

Oh? Where did you get the idea that the Davidic-Zadokite tie had anything to do with the split?

They especially didn’t like the Hasmoneans expanding their territory by conquering neighboring lands and forcing their peoples to convert to Judaism. That’s probably why they were called ‘Pharisees’: they were one of those who “separated” from the Hasmonean hegemony.

Fair enough, I oversimplified the history a bit.

but at the time of Jesus, the Pharisees had no political power - their Sadducean rivals (in the form of the high priesthood) had that again.

Now, you’re oversimplifying. The Roman’s controlled the priestly vestments…
and so it’s as I said; the Sadducees and the Pagans were in (uneasy/corrupt) partnership with respect to power over the Jewish people. We may disagree as to the depth of that failing, but it did exist. OTOH. Jesus statement about the “scribes and Pharisees” having come into the chair of Moses would in fact be false if the Pharisees had no power. Notice: Jesus does not say “the Sadducees” have come into the chair of Moses.

They did continue to have a popularity among many laypeople though, that Josephus even went so far to claim that the (Sadducean) priests used the Pharisaic interpretation of the Law as a concession to the people, because the people considered them to be the most expert interpreters of Jewish Law.

Which goes right back to the Pharisees being a political power; much like the judicial branch interprets the law here in the U.S., a similar (not the same) situation clearly existed in Jerusalem. Power, in different forms, existed among the sects.

I think you’re reading older scholarship here. In the old days, scholars did think this was the case: the Sadducees were the ‘liberals’ while the Pharisees were ‘conservative’.

It was just a potshot at liberals. :wink:
In the modern sense, liberal Catholics are generally those who fall away from beliefs that the church holds as true, whether the afterlife, sanctity of life, vs. abortion, etc. The etymological meaning of “liberal” is actually the antithesis of what I meant. Saying they were “liberal fundamentalists” would still be within my intended meaning. It was an analogy.

But I don’t see that the Sadducees could possibly be “conservative.”; Reductionist, perhaps, but not really conservative. Fundamentalists tend to be reductionist, so I see no conflict in calling Sadducees “fundamentalist”. You say that they claim only to believe in the Torah (which reminds me of the Samaritans who were quite polluted with Pagan beliefs and made the same claim…) and I’ll admit the Sadducees clearly do take one sentence from those texts, while ignoring the contradiction in the very next verse. That’s precisely why Jesus refutes them with counter-examples from the very texts they claim to believe in; Jesus says there is an afterlife proved by God to Moses because God says: " I am (not past tense) the God of Abraham." see: Matthew 22:32.

In reality, it would seem that the opposite is true: the aristocratic/priestly Sadducees were the religious conservatives/fundamentalists who supposedly held a rather literal, hard-line interpretation of Scripture

I don’t think this is worth putting much credit in. “Hard liners” as the word is understood today, means people who would have died rather than accept Roman intervention in their government. The Sadducees clearly made compromises.

The Sadducee disbelief in a life after death can be attributed to the fact that the Torah doesn’t really describe the afterlife or describes it only in the vaguest terms.

It can, but that doesn’t make them conservative. It makes them opportunistic.
Abraham never got the promised land – therefore, the Sadducees had to see the promise as empty, or as something meant only for Abraham’s children. (Them).
It’s a revisionist history which neglects the essential truthfullness of God.

The disbelief also reflects a wholesale rejection of the prophets; and an ostrich approach to history. Ignoring anything which stood in the way of their ideas about a monetary kingdom where God was little more than a calculation in their money machine who blessed whatever method made the most money. The prosperity God.

It’s a religion, which bears a stirring resemblance to modern marxism or atheism far more than to something a Christian would recognize as spiritual and religious.

That is the point I was trying to underscore and perhaps did a bad job of in my previous posts. Sadducee beliefs had degenerated relative to what we, as Christians, understand as the epitome of religious beliefs.


#16

Huiou Theou, to be honest whenever I look at your posts I think I feel like other people when they’re trying to read my posts. It’s gonna take me a bit to skim through 'em. :smiley:

Well, here’s the thing.

It’s still common for many scholars nowadays to speak of ‘the (Great) Sanhedrin’ and to take its existence for granted, admittedly. But, the problem with this is that the concept only comes from later Rabbinic sources - the Mishnah, the Talmud - and doesn’t exactly quite jive in with what contemporary sources (Josephus, etc.) describe. In other words, it’s possible that the idea of a ‘Great Sanhedrin’ being the sort of a supreme religious body was another sort of revisionist history on part of the later Rabbis.

In a way, Jews did have ‘councils’. I say ‘councils’ (plural) because there were really different ones: every Jewish village or town were governed by a group or council of local elders. For Jerusalem, the councils in charge were composed of the high priest and the local aristocrats who acted as his advisors.

In the case of Jerusalem, there is a consultative body made up of local aristocrats and men of power which Josephus calls the boulē (a la the Greek institution), which discussed daily affairs and issues pertinent to the city of Jerusalem. Meanwhile there were two further informal, ad hoc institutions known simply as a ‘council’, synedrion (the Aramaic word sanhedrin/sanhedrim comes from this Greek term), which functioned only for specific tasks, either consultative, where a Roman official called on specific Jewish groups to assist in determining a course of action, or judicial, which was convened usually by a leading official such as the high priest.

In fact, the synedrion only played an adjunct role to the high priest, who was really the man in power. The high priest, with the support and assistance of the chief priests and some of the powerful lay people (who usually fills up the advisory ‘councils’ he convenes), handled local government; the boulē, meanwhile, normally did very little, if at all.

By the time the prefects and procurators began to govern Judaea Province, the high priest was still head of his council, but usually he could not convene his synedrion without Roman approval. (In Acts 22:30, the tribune had the power to summon “the chief priests and all their council.”) But then again, the Romans left daily government to local hands anyway, preferring to stay in the background.

These Jerusalemite, high priestly councils is what in the later tradition became the ‘Great Sanhedrin’ (the local city/town/village councils became what is dubbed the ‘Lesser Sanhedrin’). Now, the Rabbis made it appear as if the Pharisees (rather than the Sadducees and the Temple priests - as attested in the gospels and Josephus), sages like themselves, were the ones who were running this ‘Sanhedrin’ - hence the idea of the ‘Prince’ or Nasi who supposedly functioned as head or representing president of this council. In other words, they rewrote history in order to make the Pharisees more prominent.

Of course, later scholars who studied all the texts became perplexed because on the one hand, you have Josephus and the New Testament saying one thing (a high priest-run political and judicial city council) and the Mishnah and the Talmud saying another thing (a Pharisee-run religious council). They merely assumed that both are right, and that both of these courts coexisted: the Mishnaic ‘Sanhedrin’ ran religious affairs while the high priestly council ran political ones.

I personally think that the harmonization is half-right: maybe the Pharisees did have a sort of council/s within their own party that made rulings on religious matters, but it isn’t as influential to all of Judaism, or even to Palestinian Judaism, as the Mishnah would like to suggest it was. I think the Mishnah’s picture of the ‘Great Sanhedrin’ is the result of the Rabbis projecting the Pharisaic council onto the high priestly council(s), conflating the two.


#17

(Continued)

They decided things like putting anyone out of the synagogue that believed Jesus was the Christ. (John 9:22, Mark 15:1, etc.), and knowing how Jewish rabbis interpret rules like that, I’m pretty sure that would also extend to any synagogue leader who kept versions of scripture which unequivocally supported that Jesus was the Christ… since there was no official “canon” of scripture, each rabbi had to defend himself… riiiiight??? :smiley:

Although, I totally agree that in historical terms; the Jews were divided when it came to authority. School of Hillel vs. School of Shimei. etc.

Okay, about this.

There’s this whole issue about whether the description in John about people being kicked out of synagogues for believing in Jesus is the result of John (anachronistically) retrojecting his and other Christians’ later experiences onto the time of Jesus or not.

Synagogues back then are not like churches. Technically speaking, synagogue meetings back then was not a sort of formal worship as the Mass/Divine Liturgy is. ‘Worship’ if anything were the sacrifices and the rituals in the Temple; synagogue assemblies were really more like informal social gatherings. They’re really the equivalent of our prayer meetings or Bible studies combined with get-togethers.

As such, many synagogues back then were not really controlled by any party (whether the high priest or the Pharisees): they’re unlike our churches, where every local parish church is connected to the diocese as a whole. Synagogues in Jesus’ day were pretty much kind of local, autonomous affairs. The one(s) who ran the local synagogue was the so-called archisynagogos (the ‘ruler’/chief/leader of the assembly; Jairus was one). These head men didn’t even have to be priests or to be affiliated with any party or sect; even a layman could be the organizer of an assembly. They were the ones who conducted public worship and supervised the daily business of the local synagogue as they saw fit.

So assuming that the detail in John is historical / has a historical grain in it, that would have simply meant that there were some local synagogues run and organized by (some) anti-Jesus Pharisees or sympathizers who didn’t allow believers in Jesus to join their weekend assemblies. It’s not like as if the Pharisees - or even the Temple priests - forced all the synagogues in the land to do their bidding or passed a sort of nation-wide excommunication edict or something along those lines. Judaism wasn’t as unified or as monolithic back then, and the Pharisees - despite their popularity - didn’t have the political power to do that. (Of course, as you mention, even within the Pharisees there were different competing schools and differences of opinion. And there were of course a number of Pharisees who agreed with Jesus and even became His sympathizers and followers.)

(To use a very rough analogy: it would be like a local neighborhood hosting a get-together party. It’s not like the president or the local mayor or governor has any direct say or would say anything about what goes on in the party. I mean, when was the last time your local bishop gave you any directive or ruling for your bedtime family rosary? :D)

Fair enough. So let’s just say I wasn’t referring to a particular council convened with the intent to determine scripture officially but to the idea in general (and it not having any authority). And regarding the idea of “all the rabbis in the world”… well, even in the time of Jesus; the Essenes were totally excluded from the council/sanhedrin. So it’s not like there ever has been a council of all rabbis even predating Christ or during the time of Christ. But there still are things called “councils”.

Okay. To add to what I said in my last post about the synedrion and all that:

Those ‘councils’ (whether the high priestly one or the Pharisaic one) is really a different matter from the ‘Council of Jamnia’. To clarify, I’m not so much saying that the Jews didn’t have any councils - only that the thing Heinrich Graetz called the synode of Jamnia wasn’t really a kind of ‘council’ (in the Christian sense mainly, but not even in the Jewish sense) at all.

And to be fair, most Jews didn’t belong to any council either. Men of power - village elders, the high priest and his lackeys, aristocrats - occupy the seats. :wink:


#18

(Continued)

I mean, the fluidity of Jewish authority is part of my point about the Maccabean revolution… the high priesthood was suborned by people not of the Zadokite line and the Zadokites were excluded from then on. But Jesus still says of the Pharisees, (and not the Essenes): Matthew 22:2-3 “The scribes and the Pharisees have taken their seat on the chair of Moses. 3Therefore, do and observe all things whatsoever they tell you, but do not follow their example. For they preach but they do not practice.”

I would combine this what you said in your second post.

Now, you’re oversimplifying. The Roman’s controlled the priestly vestments…
and so it’s as I said; the Sadducees and the Pagans were in (uneasy/corrupt) partnership with respect to power over the Jewish people. We may disagree as to the depth of that failing, but it did exist. OTOH. Jesus statement about the “scribes and Pharisees” having come into the chair of Moses would in fact be false if the Pharisees had no power. Notice: Jesus does not say “the Sadducees” have come into the chair of Moses.

Now I don’t really see Jesus’ comment about the Pharisees sitting on Moses’ seat as implying that the Pharisees having a sort of political authority during His time. It just means what essentially Josephus said: that most of the people considered the Pharisees as being the most accurate and the most expert interpreters of Moses’ Law and revered them for it. And Jesus as per this comment pretty much agrees with the public sentiment, hence “do and observe whatever they tell you.” (Note that He really just attacks Pharisees for what He saw as hypocrisy - “they preach, but do not practice” - and for some strict rulings of theirs, and even many of these points of dispute are areas Pharisees would dispute each other for. In fact, a few people even wondered whether Jesus was a Pharisee Himself. While that’s quite unlikely, that just shows how close He was in contact with them, which is no surprise, given that they were trying to attract the same target audience: the common people.)

They enjoyed public respect even though they were pretty much had little to no actual political influence. In that sense, they had ‘power’: the people were on their side. But for political clout, they haven’t had it for quite some time. Their Sadducean rivals occupied the important positions - say, the office of high priest - and ran government (for the Romans).

Oh? Where did you get the idea that the Davidic-Zadokite tie had anything to do with the split?

Well, the Pharisees - or some of them at least - apparently held to a sort of restorationist Davidic messianism like many Jews: the idea that the Davidic line would eventually be restored to kingship. There’s this work called the Psalms of Solomon which was composed around the late 1st century BC, thought to be the product of Pharisaic circles. This work shows a very strong discontent with the ruling power (the Hasmoneans) and hopes for an eventual restoration of the Davidic monarchy. Guess what? One of the psalms (Psalm of Solomon 17) contain this:

Thou, O Lord, didst choose David (to be) king over Israel,
and swaredst to him touching his seed that never should his kingdom fail before Thee.

But, for our sins, sinners rose up against us;
They assailed us and thrust us out;
What Thou hadst not promised to them, they took away (from us) with violence.
They in no wise glorified Thy honorable name;
They set a (worldly) monarchy in place of (that which was) their excellency;
They laid waste the throne of David in tumultuous arrogance.

But Thou, O God, didst cast them down and remove their seed from the earth,
In that there rose up against them a man that was alien to our race.
According to their sins didst Thou recompense them, O God;
So that it befell them according to their deeds.

This psalm is pretty much a thinly-veiled criticism of the Hasmoneans, the “sinners” who “rose up against” the authors and “laid waste the throne of David.” Note that the psalmist considers the rise of “a man that was alien to our race” (= Pompey) as divine punishment against the Hasmoneans. In fact, the psalm goes on:

Behold, O Lord, and raise up unto them their king, the son of David,
at the time in the which Thou seest, O God, that he may reign over Israel Thy servant
and gird him with strength, that he may shatter unrighteous rulers,
and that he may purge Jerusalem from nations that trample (her) down to destruction.


#19

Very good memory you have there. :slight_smile:

It was just a potshot at liberals. :wink:
In the modern sense, liberal Catholics are generally those who fall away from beliefs that the church holds as true, whether the afterlife, sanctity of life, vs. abortion, etc. The etymological meaning of “liberal” is actually the antithesis of what I meant. Saying they were “liberal fundamentalists” would still be within my intended meaning. It was an analogy.

But I don’t see that the Sadducees could possibly be “conservative.”; Reductionist, perhaps, but not really conservative. Fundamentalists tend to be reductionist, so I see no conflict in calling Sadducees “fundamentalist”. You say that they claim only to believe in the Torah …] and I’ll admit the Sadducees clearly do take one sentence from those texts, while ignoring the contradiction in the very next verse. That’s precisely why Jesus refutes them with counter-examples from the very texts they claim to believe in; Jesus says there is an afterlife proved by God to Moses because God says: " I am (not past tense) the God of Abraham." see: Matthew 22:32.

When I said the Sadducees were religious ‘conservatives’, what I mean is that they preserved (or maybe just reconstructed) aspects of more archaic religious thought and practice. They rejected what they saw as later ‘accretions’: resurrection, the idea of a clearly-defined afterlife. They might even rejected, or at least, just accorded a lesser status to, books other than the Torah. (It’s not really clear which.)

In other words, the Sadducees’ fault were really that they were stuck in the past and went on. They’re the people who didn’t want a seed to grow into a tree. They would be the equivalent of 18th-19th century Evangelicals who thought that only the ‘old-time religion’ is good enough for them, and the subsequent 1,900 years of Christianity (when it was ‘contaminated’ by all those smells and bells and ritualism :rolleyes:) is bad. Or some ‘traditionalist’ Catholics who are stuck in the 1950s, or hippie-type liberals that still think that it’s the 1970s. :wink:

That’s why I think that the ‘fundamentalist’ monicker is still applicable: Christian fundamentalism after all developed as a counter-movement to what was seen as growing liberalism and modernism within Christianity and the world at large. Some scholars think the Sadducees arose in a similar way: as a sort of counter-movement and a reaction to the Pharisees, who was seen as the ‘innovators’.

(which reminds me of the Samaritans who were quite polluted with Pagan beliefs and made the same claim…)

I’ll go on later about the Samaritans, but I’ll just say this for now: it’s actually highly likely that the pagan ‘Samarians’ mentioned in 2 Kings and the Samaritans that existed since around after the Exile and even today are only tangentially related to one another, and that the connection between the two was only the result of polemics.

I don’t think this is worth putting much credit in. “Hard liners” as the word is understood today, means people who would have died rather than accept Roman intervention in their government. The Sadducees clearly made compromises.

You have to remember that for the Sadducees, the Temple was of prime importance. That’s what makes their form of Judaism ‘archaic’: it was centered on the physical sanctuary, the Temple rituals, and the priestly caste. In fact, that’s probably why they didn’t survive its destruction: after all, with the Temple destroyed, their Judaism had been rendered meaningless. It was the populist and more flexible Pharisees, who could survive even without a physical Temple standing, that prevailed.

That’s why they collaborated with the Romans: to protect the Temple cult. The survival of Temple religion was more important than political autonomy. Apparently, their line of thinking was: if they revolted, who’s to say that the Temple and the priesthood will not be compromised as a result? So it’s better to just keep the status quo rather than upset the balance.


#20

You’re absolutely right.

The thing is, the ‘Septuagint’ as we know it is really a Christian construct.

The very first Jewish literature to be translated into Greek was the Torah, made in Egypt around the early 3rd century BC. Just about a hundred years after this translation was made, a legend was already circulating about how it was made by seventy-two Jewish scholars from Jerusalem. This legend later became the basis for the thinking that this Greek Torah must have been divinely inspired in some way.

In the 1st century, the Greek-speaking Alexandrian Jew Philo was already according a sort of special status to the Greek Torah by claiming a sort of miracle during the translation process: each of the seventy-two elders (who are said to work individually) all produced the exact same translation. (By comparison, in the version of the story retold by Josephus, there’s no miracle involved: he only tells the bare ‘fact’, that the translators just worked “ambitiously and painstakingly.” Upholding the Greek translation was not as important for Josephus the Palestinian Jew as it was for Philo the Greek-speaking Diaspora Jew.)

The early Christians - who were mostly Greek-speaking gentiles - went the way of Philo and upheld the idea of the legitimacy of the Greek Scriptures. (You might say that it was very important, because most of these Christians knew little to no Hebrew or Aramaic, and so the Hebrew text would have had little, if any relevance for them.) But under their hands, the legend was amplified: they began considering other Jewish sacred literature that existed in a Greek version to be part of what they called “the version of the seventy” (somewhere along the way, the seventy-two elders was rounded into seventy).

In other words, it was the early Christians that invented the term “the version of the seventy” (versio septuaginta in Latin) and invented the concept of the ‘Septuagint’ as encompassing Greek translations of other OT books, not just the Torah - which is what the original legend was referring to. (By comparison, the Talmud - which was fixed around the 6th century - in its retelling of the legend still retains the original version: that the work that was produced by these translators was just that of the Torah and not the complete OT.)

Oh yeah, I’d again do a plug for Timothy Michael Law’s When God Spoke Greek. It’s a very good, and (most importantly) easy to read introduction into the Septuagint and its history and how it shaped Christianity.


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