Genesis 47:31 Does the LXX Trump the Masoretic?

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Eoghan

Puritan Board Senior
It appears that the NIV has ignored the original Hebrew and used the LXX and gone with the LXX. This despite the recumbent Jacob lying on his bed asking Joseph to place his hand under his thigh. I assume that the older paraphrase (LXX/Message) is considered more reliable than the carefully transmitted original Hebrew text which is younger but has 'provenance' (Masoretic Text/NASB '77)

John Gill Commentary
and worshipped, leaning upon the top of his staff; not that he "worshipped the top of his staff", as the Vulgate Latin version renders it, either his own, or Joseph's, or any little image upon the top of it; which would be an instance of idolatry, and not faith, contrary to the scope of the apostle; nor is there any need to interpret this of civil worship and respect paid to Joseph, as a fulfilment of his dream, and with a peculiar regard to Christ, of whom Joseph was a type; whereas, on the contrary, Joseph at this time bowed to his father, as was most natural and proper, Gen_48:12 nor is there any necessity of supposing a different punctuation of Gen_47:31 and that the true reading is not "mittah", a bed, but "matteh"; a staff, contrary to all the Targums (f), and the Talmud (g), which read "mittah", a bed, seeing it is not that place the apostle cites or refers to; for that was before the blessing of the sons of Joseph, but this was at the same time; and the apostle relates what is nowhere recorded in Genesis, but what he had either from tradition, or immediate revelation; or else he concludes it from the general account in Gen_48:1 and the sense is, that Jacob, having blessed the two sons of Joseph, being sat upon his bed, and weak, he leaned upon the top of his staff, and worshipped God, and gave praise and glory to him, that he had lived to see not only his son Joseph, but his seed also, see Gen_48:2.

(f) Onkelos, Jonathan & Jerusalem in Gen. xlvii. 31. (g) T. Bab. Megilla, fol. 16. 2.
 

Eoghan

Puritan Board Senior
I could say the capital T was accidental but I would be lying. The ESV and NASB 77 are both masoretic but the NIV (pew Bible) is LXX leaning on this one.
 

iainduguid

Puritan Board Sophomore
It appears that the NIV has ignored the original Hebrew and used the LXX and gone with the LXX. This despite the recumbent Jacob lying on his bed asking Joseph to place his hand under his thigh. I assume that the older paraphrase (LXX/Message) is considered more reliable than the carefully transmitted original Hebrew text which is younger but has 'provenance' (Masoretic Text/NASB '77)

John Gill Commentary
and worshipped, leaning upon the top of his staff; not that he "worshipped the top of his staff", as the Vulgate Latin version renders it, either his own, or Joseph's, or any little image upon the top of it; which would be an instance of idolatry, and not faith, contrary to the scope of the apostle; nor is there any need to interpret this of civil worship and respect paid to Joseph, as a fulfilment of his dream, and with a peculiar regard to Christ, of whom Joseph was a type; whereas, on the contrary, Joseph at this time bowed to his father, as was most natural and proper, Gen_48:12 nor is there any necessity of supposing a different punctuation of Gen_47:31 and that the true reading is not "mittah", a bed, but "matteh"; a staff, contrary to all the Targums (f), and the Talmud (g), which read "mittah", a bed, seeing it is not that place the apostle cites or refers to; for that was before the blessing of the sons of Joseph, but this was at the same time; and the apostle relates what is nowhere recorded in Genesis, but what he had either from tradition, or immediate revelation; or else he concludes it from the general account in Gen_48:1 and the sense is, that Jacob, having blessed the two sons of Joseph, being sat upon his bed, and weak, he leaned upon the top of his staff, and worshipped God, and gave praise and glory to him, that he had lived to see not only his son Joseph, but his seed also, see Gen_48:2.

(f) Onkelos, Jonathan & Jerusalem in Gen. xlvii. 31. (g) T. Bab. Megilla, fol. 16. 2.
Was there a question in your post, Eoghan?

Some observations:
1. The NIV did not "ignore the original Hebrew", nor did the LXX. The LXX was reading an unpointed Hebrew text in which both readings would have looked the same; the only difference is in the vowel pointing. As a general observation, the NIV was in the vanguard of a movement back toward the MT post-Qumran in comparison to the relatively LXX-oriented RSV.
2. I think I've said this before, but no scholar chooses a reading from the LXX because it is older than the MT. The choose them because they think they are better readings for a variety of reasons.
3. The LXX is not a paraphrase, it is a translation. This is especially true in the Pentateuch where it is notoriously wooden (NASB-like) in its translation style.
4. In this case, the NIV (unlike the majority of modern translations) followed the LXX, probably influenced by the exact quotation of this verse in Hebrews 11:21: προσεκύνησεν ἐπὶ τὸ ἄκρον τῆς ῥάβδου αὐτοῦ. Gill provides an alternate explanation for this reading.

So yes, the NIV has made an unusual judgment call in this case, probably under the influence of an apparent NT quotation. It has nothing to do with the translators general opinion of the MT and LXX, or any supposed paraphrastic tendencies in the latter. For the record, I would stick with MT here.
 

Contra_Mundum

Pilgrim, Alien, Stranger
Staff member
Hebrews 11:21 is surely an intentional reference to previous Scripture, namely Gen.47:31; and--I say in contradiction to Gill's comment included above--it is surely indivisible from the blessing of the sons of Joseph that follow instantly, the very next v 48:1.

So, there is in fact some two readings of the traditional text: one that treats הַמִּטָּֽה (pointed here acc. to Masorete) as "bed," and with different punctuation as "staff." The LXX doubtless follows a second reading, and reflects such in its Greek of Gen.47:31; which translation is properly regarded as "holy writ" (as we reverence our translations as still being God's inspired word) and which reading thus finds its way into the NT text.

This is one place where an argument for the inspiration of the punctuation/vowel pointing is at its weakest. It is not as if the two readings conflict so they may not be harmonized. Gill actually presents the most plausible form of harmony: that Jacob could be observed to bow both with respect to his bed and his staff.

The point is not to try to force both readings work together (though there is that curious place where it seems KJV translators tried to put multiple interpretations together in a single reading, Gen.32:28); the point is that the inspired text is preserved, and whether one thinks the Masorete reading is best, or the LXX-reflected reading, a good sense comes forth; and more importantly, the essential quality of the text's meaning is hardly affected no matter the choice.

For my part, I say the NIV appears to "tinker" with the OT (Masorete) text, and replace it with a "preferred" reading (as those translators think) the inspired NT writer confirmed. I do not think it is wise to emend based on conjecture, no matter who the scholar is or his bent (lib/cons). The evidence I'd like to see is DSS or other Hebrew (as opposed to the ancient translations).

The fact the LXX (and Heb.11:21 following it) gives the alternative proves only that those who read the LXX and the book of Hebrews possessed a reliable and trustworthy translation, and the sense it gave of the Hebrew of Gen.47:31 was sufficient to accurately convey the divine revelation.
 

BayouHuguenot

Puritanboard Clerk
What we call the MT isn't the original Hebrew. Josiah didn't discover an MT mss in the Temple. The MT is a much later, albeit valuable witness to the text.
 

Eoghan

Puritan Board Senior
Is the LXX a translation or a family of mss?
One of the views I have heard defended is that there was no single translation of the OT into the Greek but different parts were translated at different times. It is even said that the OT had not been completely translated into Greek by the time of Christ. I think family is a very good adjective(?)

The OT was not as now in a single folio edition but rather separately curated scrolls.

I would like to think that in the time of Christ that in terms of expository preaching the Hebrew was considered closer to the original than the Greek translations of the Hebrew. We need to think of individual scrolls not bound books.
 

BayouHuguenot

Puritanboard Clerk
I would like to think that in the time of Christ that in terms of expository preaching the Hebrew was considered closer to the original than the Greek translations of the Hebrew. We need to think of individual scrolls not bound books.

Do we have evidence of synagogue preachers preaching expositionally through Tanakh? It is true there is no single codex called the LXX. At the same time, the LXX is much, much older than the MT.
 

SolaScriptura

Puritanboard Brimstone
An Eastern Orthodox priest I know is aghast that we don’t use the LXX. After all, it was the Bible of Jesus and the Apostles and the church is built upon Apostolic tradition, so we should use the same Bible they cite. After all, when Paul tells us that “all Scripture is God-breathed,” he has in mind the LXX, not a Hebrew text that wouldn’t be around for hundreds of years.

I wonder if that is his position alone or is that the position of the Eastern church?
 
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SeanPatrickCornell

Puritan Board Sophomore
An Eastern Orthodox priest I know is aghast that we don’t use the LXX. After all, it was the Bible of Jesus and the Apostles and the church is built upon Apostolic tradition, so we should use the same Bible they cite. After all, when Paul tells us that “all Scripture is God-breathed,” he has in mind the LXX, not a Hebrew text that wouldn’t be around for hundreds of years.

I wonder if that is his position alone or is that the position of the Eastern church?

As I understand it (and I just did a quick Google that seems to bolster my memory). the LXX is the "canonical" OT in the Orthodox Church.
 

JM

Puritan Board Doctor
AMR asked this question on another forum, "I am still waiting for someone to show me where I may obtain a copy of the Greek LXX for reference purposes. Not a Greek translation of Daniel, or of Isaiah, or any other individual book, but a Greek translation of the Old Testament which is known to have been available during the time of Christ."

Useful links:




 

B.L.

Puritan Board Sophomore
An Eastern Orthodox priest I know is aghast that we don’t use the LXX. After all, it was the Bible of Jesus and the Apostles and the church is built upon Apostolic tradition, so we should use the same Bible they cite. After all, when Paul tells us that “all Scripture is God-breathed,” he has in mind the LXX, not a Hebrew text that wouldn’t be around for hundreds of years.

I wonder if that is his position alone or is that the position of the Eastern church?

I have a couple acquaintances that are EO, both GOARCH and ROCOR, and I've heard the same from them as well.

Last week I nearly purchased the volume Jobes and Silva put out titled "Invitation to the Septuagint". I spent my book allowance this month, but may circle around and pick it up next month...some here may enjoy the volume.
 

BayouHuguenot

Puritanboard Clerk
An Eastern Orthodox priest I know is aghast that we don’t use the LXX. After all, it was the Bible of Jesus and the Apostles and the church is built upon Apostolic tradition, so we should use the same Bible they cite.
I wonder if that is his position alone or is that the position of the Eastern church?

That is correct. Their argument is a bit simplistic. Much of the NT does use the the LXX, though not all.
 
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