Wisdom of the Two Jesuses (or, Adapting to the LXX)

I’m still getting used to using a Septuagint-based Old Testament.

It is one thing to deal with a different book order. It is another thing when the verses have been re-arranged. Of courser even saying “re-arranged” implies that it was one way and then changed to another. I have to remember to avoid an Masoretic-centric view.

Proverbs seems to be one book where there are quite a lot of arrangement differences. I was trying to see how Proverbs 16:18 in the Masoretic Text was translated from the Septuagint. However, clearly “Pride goes before destruction, And a haughty spirit before a fall,” is not the same as, “A man wise in his deeds is a discoverer of good things, but he who trusts in the Lord is most blessed.” Since I don’t have an concordance or electronic version of the OSB, I can’t find the verse for which I’m looking without reading the whole book.

It’s not that I’m opposed to reading Proverbs, but right now I’ve really enjoying Sirach. Speaking of which, this is an oddly named book. It contains the wisdom of Jesus ben Sirach as translated by his grandson. So really it should be called the Wisdom of Jesus, not the Wisdom of Sirach. Of course I could see where that might lead to some confusion.

Since it could be said that the Wisdom of Jesus ben Sirach is the wisdom of Jesus ben God, it could be called he Wisdom of the Two Jesuses. Admittedly, that would be even more confusing.

Anyhow. . . Before using the OSB to quote any Old Testament text, I will need to have my NKJV at hand (or Bible Gateway in a browser tab) so I don’t make a reference where all my faithful readers grab at Masoretic-based translation and collectively go, “Huh?”

14 Responses to “Wisdom of the Two Jesuses (or, Adapting to the LXX)”

  1. Michael Says:

    Oh, well, look at it this way. Anyone out there who’s used to using the Living Bible or the Message (and that’s quite a few) will already be used to verse-scrambling.

  2. Michael Says:

    PS – WRiting in defense of a “Masoretic-centric view”, many scholars today are gaining an even higher opinion of the job the Masoretes did in preparing an edition of the Hebrew Bible that faithfully represented one strain of the the Hebrew manuscript base. The other side of it is, it’s increasingly apparent that the LXX in many cases is based upon another Hebrew textual tradition that is, at the very least, equally valid. As for the book orders, the complete standardization we’re used to today is a comparatively recent phenomenon.

  3. sol Says:

    I never meant to be dissing the Masoretes.

  4. John Says:

    Why are you trying to read the LXX apart from the MT?

  5. sol Says:

    I don’t think I have to always keep them side by side and compare. The LXX is the textual authority in the Orthodox Church. I’m usually not reading the texts themselves, as I only have a MT in Hebrew – if I’m comparing, I’m comparing translations of each.

    Of course the question could be reversed: why try reading the MT apart from the LXX?

  6. John Says:

    Sol –

    I think I understand your point.

    Do you simply abide by the text of the LXX as authority or do you hold that the LXX had a wider Jewish canon as well?

    Ultimately, my concern is to hod to the OT canon, which Jesus affirmed. I think the MT best accounts for this, but I would like to have an answer to my question above. Thanks.

  7. Michael Says:

    If I may jump in while awaiting Sol’s answer to your question, John, I’d like to know your take on the presence of the second Cainan in Luke 3:36. I seem to be the only kid on the block who thinks this is a piece of evidence that the LXX reading of Genesis 11:12 is preferable to the MT. In general I stand by the pro-MT comment I made above, but I also think that the LXX and MT stand together (but not alone) as important pieces of evidence of the original autographs, which weren’t exactly like either.

    I followed the link to your site, John, and found it fascinating. You’re a bit further along an academic path I’m trying to follow, as I’m working on an MS in Jewish Studies, hoping to specialize in the very period in which the LXX arose. All the best in your studies!

  8. John Says:


    I have not thought about this one, and I would want to think more about it. The MT, Pesh., and Targ. O have שלח, which seems different. LXX spells Cain as Καιν in 4:1. So the problem is why does Luke use the same spelling for both figures in his genealogy?

    On the surface he looks like he is borrowing from LXX, but he has chosen an alternate spelling from Gen. 4:1. We have to be careful about drawing simplistic connections between the OG and the NT. There was revisional activity in the first century BC which may account for some of the differences.

    Stay in touch.

  9. sol Says:


    To answer your question, I abide by the LXX as authority because the Orthodox Church accepts it as authority and I accept the authority of the Orthodox Church. I’m not suggesting that there is no value in other texual traditions, however neither do I have any concern for discovering the text closest to the autographs because I don’t hold to a dictation theory of inspiration.

  10. John Says:

    Sol –

    I read your presuppositions loud and clear, but that is not what I asked you.

    Do you or the Orthodox church hold to the wider canon view of the LXX? The textual issue is another issue for now. My concern is with the canon. For example, does the orthodox church believe that 1 and 2 Macc. are canonical books because they have traditionally been handed down with the LXX?

    We can discuss whether I hold to a dictation theory of inspiration later, but for now it should be sufficient to say that I do not consciously hold to that theory. Maybe you will show me how I do.

  11. sol Says:

    Starting with the last thing first, I will probably not show you anything. Back in the days when I was a Protestant and very aggressive about textual criticism and inspiration I would have argued to no end about New Testament issues. Of course back then I would not have been arguing for the LXX anyway. I just accepted the MT with regard to the Old Testament.

    I cannot speak for the Orthodox Church as to why it accepts any of the books of the LXX as canonical. I just accept that the Church treats 1, 2, and 3 Maccabees as canonical. As a general rule the Orthodox Church accepts all manner of things because that is the way they have traditionally been handed down. I’m sorry I’m not particularly helpful in answering your question.

    For me, it has been a discovery of books the early Church considered canonical about which I spent 40 years oblivious. I knew most of them existed, but never read them.

    That being said, my whole view of the Bible itself has changed. I blogged about this at some length about a year ago.

  12. John Says:

    Sol –

    Thanks for your reply. I will check out the other post.

    As for the early church considering some of these books as “canonical,” I would be interested to see some of the evidence that you have seen. Justin Martyr had a different view of the OT in the second century, but he is the only early source I can find that seemed to accept some apocryphal books as authoritative; although I’m not entirely convinced that he would do so.

    Ultimately, I have become convinced that Jesus has affirmed what is canonical and what is not. If we can arrive at some certainty on the state of the Jewish canon by the time of the first century AD, then I think we have the canon of Jesus. And the conclusion of the matter for me has been that the MT encapsulates the parameters of this Jewish canon. The testimony of Josephus and Jerome of the 22 books fits the evidence best. The testimony of Ben Sirach (133 BC) himself affirms that his grandfather did not write Scripture when he says of his grandfather, “since he had given himself increasingly both to the reading of the Law and the Prophets and the other ancestral books…he too was led to compose something pertaining to education and wisdom.” The prologue to the work recognizes that the work is not a segment of one of the three sections of the Hebrew canon. This work was written later in time and it was meant to aid the wise application of the canonical books of the OT so that the reader “might gain much more in living by the Law.”

    The Jews had a definite structure and list to the canon at least by 133, but it is more probable to say by Ezra and Nehemiah so that no new books were being added. It is my understanding that the apostles followed Jesus in this manner.

    I apologize for the length of this comment. I will give you the last word, for I have spoken mine. I will continue to stop in and read your posts.

  13. sol Says:

    I’m sorry to hear that this is your last word as you raise some interesting questions.

    Do you think that the Jewish canon was fixed at the time of Jesus? Also, did the first century Jews have the same idea of canonicity as 21st century Christians?

    As for the testimony of Ben Sirach, do you think that all authors of writings eventually recognised as canonical knew they were writing Scripture? In fact, I would venture to question whether any writers knew. After all, even with the works of the prophets, who knew that their prophecies were God, there were many other prophets who spoke from God whose works are not preserved. The testimony of whether something is canonical would seem to be with the Church rather than the presumptiveness of the author.

    Even with regard to the New Testament, the early Church was not unified as to what was or was not canonical, but the matter was eventually decided, not by decree but by the use of the Church. Likewise, the canon of the Old Testament was decided by the use of the Church.

    I would be interested in your further comments.

  14. John Says:

    Sol –

    I will take your questions in order:

    1. Yes. When Jesus says that all that was written about him in the Law and the Prophets and the Psalms had to be fulfilled, I think he is referring to a fixed document. Of course, the question is what books were in his mind. Also, when Jesus says that the pharisees are guilty of blood from Abel to Zechariah, I think he has in mind the order of the canonical books, not a chronological order of Jewish history. So Abel’s death is mentioned in Genesis and Zechariah’s martyrdom is mentioned in 2 Chronicles, the last book of the TANAK. The liberal thesis of an open canon in the first century simply does not hold.

    What conception of canon do people in the 21st century have? I’m trying to work from early Christian and Jewish sources to arrive at the canon as conceived by them. Jerome and Josephus both listed specific books from the OT canon, which omitted the apocrypha. Other Christians of course listed books. The Apocryphal works were never accepted in the West until Trent in the 16th century. When were they adopted in the East? I do not know.

    2. Do biblical authors know they are writing scripture? Good question. I think Peter knew that Paul was writing Scripture (2 Peter 3:14ff). Paul knew he was an apostle of Christ, therefore that he wa bearing the message of Christ himself. Also, Christ promised the apostles his Spirit which would remind them of Christ’s teaching (John 14; 16), of which the gospel of John would have to be proof of the Spirit at work in John. Therefore, I think they were a bit more conscious that you think they were.

    The point from ben Sirach is slightly different. He was conscious in a negative way. He knew that his work was not a part of the fixed tri-partite Hebrew canon (The law, prophets, and other ancient writings). His work was to simply help others to live according to the canonical books, not to be a canonical book itself. Therefore on ben Sirach’s own testimony, he did not consider his work canonical and neither should anyone else. The age of prophecy had ceased with Zechariah, Haggai and Malachi (Zech 13:1ff).

    3. Did the church publish the Scriptures? Here I will be technical. The church recognized the Scriptures as canonical, they did not make the canon or the Scripture. Furthermore, the church did not decide the OT. I think Jesus and the apostles decided the OT and we can confirm that it is the canon of the MT, not the supposed wider canon of the LXX. This past point needs clarification. I do not think the LXX translators or scribes themselves believed in a wider canon which included the so called apocrypha, anymore than NT scribes believed that 1 clement or the Didache or the Epistle of Barnabus were canonical simply because these books were appended to the codex. I think these works were recognized from the beginning to be edificatory, but not canonical or authoritative. Therefore, I do not think there was a different canon in Alexandria and Palestine. They had the same canon, but the LXX of Alexandria contained other edificatory books, which the church much later mistook to be canonical.

    So I reject the thesis that the church published or formed the canon. Rather, I think the NT itself testifies to two facts: 1) Jesus stamped his authority on the tripartite OT canon, which had the order of books which we find in the TaNaK today. 2) The NT testifies to its own inspiration and at least the incipient forming of a canon since Paul’s writings were already being recognized as on par with Scripture. The church receives the apostolic tradition which they received from Jesus.

    Does this clarify my position a little? I guess I can stick around a little longer :).

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