Faith & Self Defense

Building Confidence Through Evidence

Can I Trust The Bible? (Part 23)

Before we look at the next apocryphal book, let’s answer an important question. Some scholars believe that the Old Testament Jesus read, memorized and quoted from was the Greek version, the Septuagint, and that gives credibility to the apocryphal books. True or false?

The translation of the Septuagint began during the 3rd century BC in Alexandria, Egypt. The Letter of Aristeas details how King Ptolemy commissioned a Greek translation of the Hebrew Torah (Law) for his growing library. Aristeas wrote that Prolemy wrote to the chief priest of Israel and arranged for six translators from each of the 12 tribes of Israel to travel to Alexandria to translate Hebrew to Koine Greek (“common” Greek). Philo of Alexandria (1st century AD) confirmed that only the Torah was commissioned by Ptolemy, but other Hebrew Scriptures were translated and added at a later time (2nd and 1st centuries BC). The Septuagint had been in use for more than two centuries when Jesus was born, but the Hebrew text of the Old Testament was also in use at that time in Israel (as evidenced by the discovery of the Dead Sea Scrolls). Israel had both Hebrew and Hellenist Jews at the time of Christ (Acts 6:1). So, which text did Jesus use?

The Gospel accounts give us several clues. In Matthew 5:18, Jesus is quoted as saying: “For assuredly, I say to you, till heaven and earth pass away, one jot or one tittle will by no means pass from the law till all is fulfilled.” The word “jot” refers to the smallest letter in the Hebrew alphabet (yodh). The word “tittle” refers to a small decorative point or spur on the upper edge of the yodh that distinguished between two similarly written letters. The “jot” and “tittle” refer to the Hebrew text – not the Greek.

Another clue: Jesus referred to the Scriptures as the Law (Torah) and/or Prophets (Nevi’im), or as the Law, Prophets and Psalms (Ketuvim). That was how the Hebrew Bible (Tanakh) was divided. The Septuagint had no similar division.

“Do not think that I came to destroy the Law or the Prophets. I did not come to destroy but to fulfill. ” Matthew 5:17

“Therefore, whatever you want men to do to you, do also to them, for this is the Law and the Prophets.” Matthew 7:12

“For all the prophets and the law prophesied until John. ” Matthew 11:13

“On these two commandments hang all the Law and the Prophets.” Matthew 22:40

“The law and the prophets were until John. Since that time the kingdom of God has been preached, and everyone is pressing into it. ” Luke 16:16

“Then He said to them, ‘These are the words which I spoke to you while I was still with you, that all things must be fulfilled which were written in the Law of Moses and the Prophets and the Psalms concerning Me.” Luke 24:44

“Philip found Nathanael and said to him, ‘We have found Him of whom Moses in the law, and also the prophets, wrote—Jesus of Nazareth, the son of Joseph.” John 1:45

It’s important to remember that Jesus Christ is God and has All Knowledge. The Spirit of Christ (God) inspired the writings of the Old Testament in the Hebrew language. Jesus certainly knew that. Jesus confused the original language of earth into many languages  when He scattered the human race (Genesis 11:5-9). He knows every language and translation of the Hebrew Bible and could have certainly quoted the Old Testament in perfect Koine Greek if He wanted to do that. However, even if He had quoted in Greek, that does not prove Jesus used the Septuagint instead of the Tanakh.

The three primary languages used in Israel during the 1st century AD were Hebrew, Aramaic and Koine Greek. Even though the Greek culture was an influence in Israel, Hebrew was still the primary language of native residents and used during worship in the Temple and synagogues. Aramaic was also used both in speech and writing of the time of Jesus. Aramaic was often used as a “bridge” language between Jews and some non-Jews. From what I’ve been able to glean from the many studies done about the language of Israel at the time of Christ, Hebrew appears to be the language of instruction in the home as well as in schools, synagogue and Temple. Hebrew would have been the Lord’s native language, though He was also conversant in Aramaic and could have spoken in Greek if He had wanted.

One last note on this point is that when the Apostle Paul spoke to Jews in Jerusalem he used Hebrew, even though he spoke to the Roman commander in Greek. It’s another clue about which language was the native tongue  of Jews in Israel.

“Then as Paul was about to be led into the barracks, he said to the commander, ‘May I speak to you?’ He replied, ‘Can you speak Greek? Are you not the Egyptian who some time ago stirred up a rebellion and led the four thousand assassins out into the wilderness?’  But Paul said, ‘I am a Jew from Tarsus, in Cilicia, a citizen of no mean city; and I implore you, permit me to speak to the people.’ So when he had given him permission, Paul stood on the stairs and motioned with his hand to the people. And when there was a great silence, he spoke to them in the Hebrew language, saying …” Acts 21:37-40

Keep in mind that Jesus always knew exactly what He was doing and how what He was doing would impact the entire history of the Christian Church and the world. Jesus left many clues for us to follow to find the Truth that would set us free. Some clues are in plain sight for everyone to see. Others are hidden and need His help in uncovering (e.g. Matthew 11:10-11; Ephesians 3:1-7). So, where are the clues that He read, memorized and quoted the Septuagint more often than the Tanakh? Where are the clues that He sanctioned and supported the Apocrypha of the Septuagint?

Jesus quoted scores of times from the Word of God. Did He ever quote from any of the apocryphal writings and refer to them as the Word of God? Did He ever quote directly from any of the apocryphal writings? The answer to both questions is NO. Knowing that the question about the “inspiration” of the Apocrypha would be a sticking point to many believers through the ages, why did Jesus not refer to any apocryphal writing? even once?

What about the Lord’s Apostles – those who were closest to Him and “filled” with the Holy Spirit? Did Peter quote from or even mention an apocryphal writing? Did John? Did James? Did Paul? They did not – not even once. Jude quoted from 1 Enoch as to the prophesy of the seventh from Adam about the Lord coming with ten thousands of His saints to execute judgment on the ungodly. However, Jude did not call it Scripture. As we will see later in our study about the Apocrypha, Jude’s quote give credence to the legitimacy of the existence of 1 Enoch, but does not support the claim of Holy Inspiration.

In Christ’s Love and Grace,

Mark McGee

Faith Defense

Building Confidence Through Evidence

“Scripture taken from the New King James Version. Copyright © 1982 by Thomas Nelson, Inc. Used by permission. All rights reserved.”

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