Please explain to me the differences between the Septuagint
and Masoretic text in relation to your belief in the faithful transmission
of Scripture. How also does it impinge on your belief in the prophetic
element in the OT ?


I have found in my study that the transmission of the original has been
extremely good. The relationship between the Septuagint and the Masoretic
text is relatively less important than that between the Masoretic and the
Dead Sea Scrolls. The reason is that the Septuagint is a translation of
the Hebrew. I am not an expert, and cannot comment in detail about the
quality of the Septuagint as a translation. In any case, in order to
judge the accuracy of the transmission of the OT, it is far more useful to
compare the DSS to the Masoretic, as this represents a 1000+ year gap for
the Hebrew text. The DSS are much closer to the Masoretic than to the
Septuagint, which tells us a lot about the accuracy with which the Jews
preserved their scripture. This is true because the Dead Sea Scrolls were
copied within one hundred years or so of the Septuagint translation into
the Greek. If the Hebrew text were corrupted in the following one
thousand years, we would expect the Dead Sea Scrolls to be much closer to
the Septuagint translation. There are a few places where the Isaiah scroll
is closer to the Septuagint, but in general it is much closer to the
Masoretic. There were only a very small number of differences between the
DSS of the Isaiah Scroll and the Masoretic. Almost all the differences
are slight spelling errors and minor things like missing articles. There
is virtually no substantive difference.

My general conclusion about the Greek NT is that the evidence is that we
have the virtually exact original. I cannot make the same statement with
regard to the Hebrew OT. I believe that our Hebrew OT is quite similar to
the original (I am choosing my words carefully). Things such as numbers
are relatively unreliable because of particular issues in copying Hebrew
numbers. It is my opinion that we have an OT which is similar enough to
the originals that we can be fairly confident that no truly important
teaching about God will be affected by problems of transmission.

Of course, I am a man of faith, which has a significant effect on my
thinking. I believe, by faith, that the same God who inspired the
original had his hand in the process of transmission–that he would
prevent any blatantly false teaching from entering into the Bible we reach
today. You do not have to accept my faith-inspired belief here, but I
believe that even from the point of view of simple evidence, we know that
the transmission of the Hebrew text was surpassingly good.

John Oakes

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