Biblical Literalism and the Tanakh


Tonight's reading is the (conservative) Christian theological journal's article which begins....

The Septuagint of Jeremiah is about one-eighth shorter than the Masoretic Text. Janzen explains, "The divergence in length, consisting of some 2700 words which are present in [the Masoretic Text] but absent in [the Septuagint], may be described briefly as follows. The Greek omissions...comprise single words, phrases, sentences, and some entire passages, the longest amounting to about 180 words"- In addition, the Oracles against the Nations are located in different places (in the middle in the Septuagint, but at the end in the Masoretic Text) and have some internal differences. The main issue is which should be considered the better text- the Septuagint or the Masoretic Text. Over the past one hundred years, opinions have varied, now favoring the Septuagint, now the Masoretic Text. Those favoring the Masoretic Text have tended to dismiss the Septuagint as sui generis with its own agendas and tendencies.

Once More, Jeremiah 10:4-10 Masoretic Text and The Septuagint, Homer Heater Jr., Bib. Sac #174

Every time I encounter serious scholarship regarding biblical texts, these sorts of issues are remarked on and confronted. It becomes clearer and clearer to me that any theology based on specific word choice or specific fragments without a deep survey of the source texts(+) is likely wrong, and certainly misunderstands the nature of the Biblical material actually available today. Any idea or doctrine which claims to be legitimate is going to have prove itself from multiple sources in the text demonstrating the semantic meaning - and any big idea should be pulled from multiple books and, probably, attested to by honest and decent Christian living to boot. The issue at hand is that if, say, you pull a doctrine from Jeremiah in an English bible, without doing some good critical comparisons (or commentary doing same), you simply don't know if those verses are present in the different versions of Jeremiah we've gotten from the ancients.

So, as my knowledge of how the entire system of getting to the Bible we hold in our hand has increased, it necessarily has limited the ways to properly interpret the Bible, based upon the uncertainties present in the process.

As time and chance occur, I'll share more of these sorts of knowledge encounters and the way they've shaped my thinking in the past 3-4 years as I go along.

(+) To be precise, I mean source texts as not the compiled texts available in typical chapter and verse form (I.e., the standard Hebrew bible at seminary, the BHS), but the actual texts from which the chapter and verse are deduced from - the original primary sources available.