Does Jesus misquote OT Scripture?

I was asked recently by some Jewish friends of mine why Jesus misquotes the OT in the Gospels. One example they provide is Luke 4:18.

Quote:
“The Spirit of the Lord is upon me,
because he has anointed me
to proclaim good news to the poor.
He has sent me to proclaim liberty to the captives
and recovering of sight to the blind,
to set at liberty those who are oppressed,

and they compare that to Isaiah 61

Quote:
The Spirit of the Lord God is upon me,
because the Lord has anointed me
to bring good news to the poor;
he has sent me to bind up the brokenhearted,
to proclaim liberty to the captives,
and the opening of the prison to those who are bound;
to proclaim the year of the Lord's favor,
and the day of vengeance of our God;
to comfort all who mourn;

Their particular concern is the phrase Jesus uses, "and recovering of sight to the blind." This phrase is not used in Is 61, yet Jesus puts it in as he reads from Isaiah. They claim this is either Luke misquoting Jesus or Jesus misquoting Isaiah, or both.

I found a web site that articulates the same argument:

http://www.messiahtruth.com/luke.html

How would you respond to this question and position?

8214 reads
Luke Wolford's picture

It might be good to look at the LXX of Is 61 and see if the particular phrase is there.

T Howard's picture

The LXX does contain the phrase in question in Isaiah 61. However, what does that prove? The LXX translation is in error?

ssutter's picture

I think several ideas have to be considered.

1) A pre-modern concept of quotations - typically ANE sources do a lot of "misquoting" - and it was an accepted practice nearly up until the enlightenment. There was a more forgiving set of rules when it came to quotes and even credit.

2) Midrash - the idea that ANE Jewish readers/preachers commonly did what Jesus did - to read the text and to add or subtract from it as a form of commentary. That's what Jewish Rabbis did. People knew the text, they knew when it was being commented on - so explicit distinction was less necessary.

3) Textually - no one objected. The scribes and the priests marveled at what Jesus said - no one in the Christian story objects to Jesus being unethical with the text - whatever he's doing, it was within the scope of normal interpretive rules. If this is a good objection, the Jewish leaders would have made it back then.

A better-known (thought not great) example would be how Jesus answers the question of the greatest commandment - Love God, Love Neighbor - or how Matthew quotes Hos 11.1 - both cases doing different from what we do when we do grammatical/historical exegesis. - And it's ok.

_______________
www.SutterSaga.com

Ed Vasicek's picture

Ssuter makes some good points.

This could be a midrash or combination of texts. Another possibility, however, is that the Hebrew manuscript read at the synagogue was from a different family than our Masoretic texts. It could be that the LXX was not only translated poorly, but from another family of manuscripts.

So the best answer is that Jesus was reading a Hebrew text that follows the text of the Jewish scholars who translated the LXX, which, at this point, slightly departs from the Masoretic.

Alternatively, one could suggest that the wording of this passage suggests Jesus read from Isaiah at this point, but then he quotes not what Jesus read, but what that "point" was, namely Isaiah 61:1-2a. But rather than translate Jesus' words from Hebrew into Greek, Luke uses the translation that was done by the translators of the LXX.

Ssuter is completely right about the nature of quotations in ANE cultures.

John Gill adds:
and recovering of sight to the blind;
which in the prophet is, "and the opening of the prison to them that are bound"; and which the Septuagint render, as here in Luke, and the Chaldee paraphrase in part agrees with it, interpreting it thus, "to the prisoners", (rwhnl) (wlgta) , "be ye revealed to the light" now because persons in prison are in darkness, and see no light, therefore they are represented as blind; and both are the case of sinners, they are in the prison of sin and of the law, and are blind, ignorant, and insensible of their state; until Christ both opens the prison, and sets them free, and opens their eyes, and gives them spiritual sight; when he says to the prisoners go forth, to them that are in darkness show yourselves,

"The Midrash Detective"

T Howard's picture

Ed Vasicek wrote:
This could be a midrash or combination of texts. Another possibility, however, is that the Hebrew manuscript read at the synagogue was from a different family than our Masoretic texts. It could be that the LXX was not only translated poorly, but from another family of manuscripts.

So the best answer is that Jesus was reading a Hebrew text that follows the text of the Jewish scholars who translated the LXX, which, at this point, slightly departs from the Masoretic.

Ed, what does the fact that Luke cited or Jesus quoted from a poorly translated / corrupted text mean to the inerrancy of Scripture?

Ed Vasicek's picture

T Howard wrote:
Ed Vasicek wrote:
This could be a midrash or combination of texts. Another possibility, however, is that the Hebrew manuscript read at the synagogue was from a different family than our Masoretic texts. It could be that the LXX was not only translated poorly, but from another family of manuscripts.

So the best answer is that Jesus was reading a Hebrew text that follows the text of the Jewish scholars who translated the LXX, which, at this point, slightly departs from the Masoretic.

Ed, what does the fact that Luke cited or Jesus quoted from a poorly translated / corrupted text mean to the inerrancy of Scripture?

It means that God's view of "versions" is more relaxed than ours! It is not so much about whether the originals were inspired inerrantly (they were), but rather how strictly they are translated! We fail to interpret properly when we fail to ask "what was originally intended" and "how would a text be understood by the original audience?" It is very difficult to get people to understand that Jesus spoke in either Aramaic or Hebrew (my view is that He spoke in Mishnaic Hebrew) and that it would be helpful to the interpreter to examine the likely words Jesus spoke in the language He spoke.

It also affects our perspective on transmission of the text. Many scholars, for example, believe that, on rare occasion, the LXX might preserve the original more accurately (although almost all prefer the Masoretic text as the best by far).

"The Midrash Detective"

Ben Howard's picture

There are many places in the Gospels where it seems pretty clear that Jesus quotes the LXX, and this is one of them. If you look at any modern translation of Scripture, you will see in the footnotes in the OT many places where the Septuagint offers a different translation (based on older, sometimes more accurate to the original) than the Masoretic, but looking up, I see Ed already pointed that out. Just one of the things that was pointed out to me years ago to help me understand that there is nothing wrong with modern versions; even Jesus used the one of his day!

Ed Vasicek's picture

Ben Howard wrote:
There are many places in the Gospels where it seems pretty clear that Jesus quotes the LXX, and this is one of them. If you look at any modern translation of Scripture, you will see in the footnotes in the OT many places where the Septuagint offers a different translation (based on older, sometimes more accurate to the original) than the Masoretic, but looking up, I see Ed already pointed that out. Just one of the things that was pointed out to me years ago to help me understand that there is nothing wrong with modern versions; even Jesus used the one of his day!

Great points! Are you two Howards related?

Also, an interesting sideline: when Jesus spoke, He spoke in either a form of Hebrew or Aramaic. His words were the Word of God. When Luke wrote his Gospel, he translates Jesus' words into Greek, under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit. Sometimes the Greek translation can further nuance what Jesus was saying, and sometimes the (Mishnaic) Hebrew better captures the thought.

This possibility would not exist under a dictation theory of inspiration. But it does under verbal, plenary. Yet many who believe in verbal inspiration interpret as though they believed in dictation. Since the goal of a good interpreter is to look at all the clues that help us understand what was in the mind of the speaker/writer, we need to learn to consider this.

"The Midrash Detective"

Stephen Schwenke's picture

Wow
1. There is no proof anywhere that would indicate that Jesus spoke Aramaic or Hebrew. It makes a very convenient argument for many scholars on many fronts, because this would allow them a great deal of flexibility in interpretting what Jesus said as compared to what is written. SCRIPTURE is the WRITTEN word of God, as the word itself indicates ("script" is a written text...) This allows for too much subjective reasoning for my liking. I certainly will not base my doctrine on what I think Jesus said, what I think Jesus meant to say. I want to know what is written - I can build on that! Consider what Peter reminds us of in II Peter 1:16-21. Peter tells us that the written word is much more valuable than the spoken word. If anyone would know, it was Peter. He even reminds his readers that he was on mount of transfiguration, and heard the voice of God.
2. There is no proof anywhere that the Septuagint was written in the BC era. In fact, all of the facts point to its origin at the time of Origen. The Septuagint is the fifth column of Origen's Hexapla.
3. THere is no proof anywhere that Jesus or the apostles accepted, used, read, or quoted the Septuagint.

This points to a bigger issue concerning the translation issue. Is a translation of Scripture required to match exactly for it to be considered Scripture?
Hardly any of the NT quotations of the OT match exactly, if any at all. However, we know from scripture that these translations from Hebrew into Greek were "given by inspiration" and thus the authoritative word of God. However, they always give the sense of the passage, and they never contradict the "original" passage; nor are these quotations used to teach anything that would otherwise be contrary to the revealed word of God.
Thus in application, we can safely say that a translation that accurately gives us the sense of the passage, does not contradict revealed truth is the authoritative word of God. The translation is not required to match exactly, for indeed it cannot. The Scriptural standard for judging Scripture is the Scriptures themselves, which describe the words of the Lord as pure, true, faithful, etc. Any version that does not meet this criteria cannot by definition be considered the word of God.
The KJV meets the criteria; the new versions do not.

In regards to the text at hand, Isaiah 42:7 says, "To open the blind eyes, to bring out the prisoners from the prison, and them that sit in darkness out of the prison house."

I know from experience that as I quote a passage, I will at times intertwine several different passages - sometimes purposefully, and sometimes inadvertently. I have heard many preachers do this over the years.
Mark 1:2-3 illustrate this also. Mark quotes a verse from Malachi and immediately follows it with a quotation from Isaiah.

I don't know that anyone here has an absolutely dogmatic answer as to why the phrase is included in Luke 4, but this seems the most plausible, IMO.
As far as the Lord not reading the last part of v. 2, this was done purposefully, as the Luke 4 passage indicates.

In Christ,

Pastor Steve Schwenke
Liberty Baptist Church
Amarillo, TX

T Howard's picture

Steve,

We have existing manuscript fragments of the Septuagint from the 1st Century BC. We have the written record of the Jews and Josephus. Are these not proof enough for you that the Septuagint existed? Just curious.

Stephen Schwenke's picture

If you could provide documentation for the manuscript fragments, I would appreciate it. This is news to me.
Ira PRice, Gleason Archer, Philip Schaff, HG Herklotts, and many others consistently interchange the LXX and Origen's fifth column of his Hexapla. The Septuagint was invented by Origen to MAKE the OT quotations in the NT match the original OT passage.
THe entire story surrounding the origin of the Septuagint is questionable, and the method employed to translate the LXX is entirely ANTI-SCRIPTURAL. The Levites were the guardians of the OT Scripture. Furthermore, it was translated in Egypt, not in Israel. This is too far fetched from Scriptural view point for me to believe that (1) it was actually translated in the OT era, and (2) if it was, that the Lord would use it.
Again, there is no proof anywhere that Jesus or any of the apostles read, used, or quoted the LXX.

Pastor Steve Schwenke
Liberty Baptist Church
Amarillo, TX

Charlie's picture

Most OT Intros use Origin's Hexapla as kind of a "vanilla" LXX, but don't hesitate to admit that it is just one testimony to the Septuagint family. The actual edition that you would buy is not Origen's, but the critical edition by A. Rahlfs.

Archer, for example, lists these manuscripts as belonging to the LXX tradition -

Rylands Papyrus 458 - 150 BC

Qumran Cave 4 - various fragments very close to the critical LXX, all 1st cent. BC.

Chester Beatty Papyri - a collection of papyri that seem to be related found at Oxcyrynchus, Egypt; dates extend from AD 150-350

Papyrus 911 - 3rd cent. AD, considered to be a pre-Hexaplaric text

Freer Greek Manuscript V - 3rd cent. AD, considered to be pre-Hexaplaric

Now, as to the assertion that Origen "made up" the LXX, that's preposterous. His Hexapla includes 4 Greek translations of the OT. The other three come from prior known sources. Now, Origen may have been attempting his own critical edition of the LXX, but no ancient source disputes the reality of the LXX. Hellenistic Jews outside Palestine were conducting synagogue services in Greek, so they must have been reading from something, even if it wasn't the LXX as we know it.

Of course, no one can prove Jesus quoted from the LXX (or the Hebrew) without manuscript evidence that is simply not available (such as the scroll in the synagogue at Nazareth). We make our hypotheses based on what Jesus said compared to what manuscripts we possess. My personal opinion is that Jesus probably spoke Aramaic or Mishnaic Hebrew for most of his ministry. The Gospels accurately record the sense of Jesus' words, putting them into the standard Greek text when they could responsibly do so.

My Blog: http://dearreaderblog.com

Cor meum tibi offero Domine prompte et sincere. ~ John Calvin

T Howard's picture

Stephen Schwenke wrote:
The Septuagint was invented by Origen to MAKE the OT quotations in the NT match the original OT passage.

This is the same argument my Jewish friends make when discussing how the NT writers / Jesus misquote the OT. They view this as a Christian conspiracy / corruption of the Hebrew text. The other argument they make is that the LXX only contained the torah and not the entire OT. Therefore, Jesus couldn't be quoting from the LXX version of Isaiah...

These arguments are based on bad information, I believe, and Charlie's info is helpful.

Stephen Schwenke's picture

How can one argue that the Jews had Greek-speaking synagogues prior to Christ's birth, but that Jesus spoke Hebrew?
THis is subjective reasoning. It is subjective to state that Jesus spoke Hebrew or Aramaic.
THe quotes provided by Charlie above do not prove there was a BC era Septuagint. Look again closely at the quotes: "...very close to the LXX...seem to be related...considered to be...." This is the same type of phrasology the Evolutionists use to propagate their false theory. The scholars don't have any sure hard facts, so they invent facts, and hope nobody noticed.

Charlie quotes Archer, but Archer occasionally calls Origen's fifth column the LXX. So do many other scholars. Maybe it is, and they just don't want to admit it outright! (even though they do accidentally...)

It seems preposterous to me that we can have Greek manuscripts that date to the second century AD - within 100 years of the original writings - but we don't have any solid evidence of a BC septuagint until the 3rd Century AD - that is 500 years after the fact.
Then add into the equation the fact that if in fact it WAS written in the BC era, then it was not done in accordance with Scripture anyway, so it is of no value to the true believer anyway.

Pastor Steve Schwenke
Liberty Baptist Church
Amarillo, TX

georgetcc's picture

How is possible for the Incarnate Word of God to misquote the inscripturated Word of God? Surely someone has dealt with this issue before (William Arndt, Gleason Archer?).

Magister Reformatus Classicusque

Charlie's picture

Stephen Schwenke wrote:
How can one argue that the Jews had Greek-speaking synagogues prior to Christ's birth, but that Jesus spoke Hebrew?
THis is subjective reasoning. It is subjective to state that Jesus spoke Hebrew or Aramaic.
THe quotes provided by Charlie above do not prove there was a BC era Septuagint. Look again closely at the quotes: "...very close to the LXX...seem to be related...considered to be...." This is the same type of phrasology the Evolutionists use to propagate their false theory. The scholars don't have any sure hard facts, so they invent facts, and hope nobody noticed.

Charlie quotes Archer, but Archer occasionally calls Origen's fifth column the LXX. So do many other scholars. Maybe it is, and they just don't want to admit it outright! (even though they do accidentally...)

It seems preposterous to me that we can have Greek manuscripts that date to the second century AD - within 100 years of the original writings - but we don't have any solid evidence of a BC septuagint until the 3rd Century AD - that is 500 years after the fact.
Then add into the equation the fact that if in fact it WAS written in the BC era, then it was not done in accordance with Scripture anyway, so it is of no value to the true believer anyway.

Steven, you're distorting my words. It is a commonly known fact that from the time of the Babylonian captivity, the ability of Jews to speak in Hebrew was on the decline. There is plenty of information available on that. I said that there were Greek-speaking synagogues outside Palestine. Inside Palestine the most common language was Aramaic, although some scholars believe that a dialect of Hebrew continued to be spoken - Mishnaic, rabbinic, or Tannaitic Hebrew. The classical Hebrew of the Old Testament was definitely not commonly spoken, hence the rise of the Aramaic targums and such.

Also, there is no inconsistency going on regarding the LXX. When I use the term "close to the LXX," I mean close to the critical edition of the LXX, published in 1939 by A. Ralphs. Ancient documents do not come with titles including their textual dependence. If you found in a classroom half sheets of paper with Bible verses hand-written on them, how would you know what version they came from? You would look at which version they best match, ignoring the occasional spelling error or missing word. So, the Septuagint is something of a text family, just like the TR or the Majority Text or the Critical Text. Like the TR, it is witnessed to by a number of very similar though not identical manuscripts. Also like the TR, there is no one manuscript (including Origen's) that is identical to the final product. The textual evidence is actually very similar to the New Testament's. All we possess from the 1st and 2nd century are scraps and fragments, complete codices coming in the third century. Likewise, we possess scraps and fragments from the LXX dating from 1st cent. BC to 2nd century AD. In the 3rd century, several people are actually taking the time to collate materials.

There are other evidences of the Septuagint. For example, the copies we have of the Samaritan Pentateuch match the text of the LXX much better than the Masoretic text. Other ancient versions show dependence on a non-Hebrew text that just so happens to match the wording of the LXX very closely. Also, there is the Letter of Aristaeus. Now, nobody believes that the LXX came into being as the letter suggests, but obviously the letter was written to explain something that actually existed. Since it is referred to by Aristobulus (2nd cent. BC), Philo (1st cent. AD), Josephus (1st cent. AD), Justin Martyr (2nd cent. AD), Irenaeus (2nd cent. AD), and Clement of Alexandria (3rd cent. AD) - all before Origen - there must have been some translation of the Old Testament into Greek around 2nd-3rd cent. BC, the origins of which they were attempting to explain.

My Blog: http://dearreaderblog.com

Cor meum tibi offero Domine prompte et sincere. ~ John Calvin

T Howard's picture

georgetcc wrote:
How is possible for the Incarnate Word of God to misquote the inscripturated Word of God? Surely someone has dealt with this issue before (William Arndt, Gleason Archer?).

That is why my Jewish friends use this argument (one of many) to disprove that Jesus is the messiah, let alone God. How could God misquote the OT...

Matthew Olmstead's picture

Stephen Schwenke wrote:
How can one argue that the Jews had Greek-speaking synagogues prior to Christ's birth, but that Jesus spoke Hebrew?
THis is subjective reasoning. It is subjective to state that Jesus spoke Hebrew or Aramaic.
THe quotes provided by Charlie above do not prove there was a BC era Septuagint. Look again closely at the quotes: "...very close to the LXX...seem to be related...considered to be...." This is the same type of phrasology the Evolutionists use to propagate their false theory. The scholars don't have any sure hard facts, so they invent facts, and hope nobody noticed.

Charlie quotes Archer, but Archer occasionally calls Origen's fifth column the LXX. So do many other scholars. Maybe it is, and they just don't want to admit it outright! (even though they do accidentally...)

It seems preposterous to me that we can have Greek manuscripts that date to the second century AD - within 100 years of the original writings - but we don't have any solid evidence of a BC septuagint until the 3rd Century AD - that is 500 years after the fact.
Then add into the equation the fact that if in fact it WAS written in the BC era, then it was not done in accordance with Scripture anyway, so it is of no value to the true believer anyway.

Stephen,

How is your view any less subjective than Charlie's? You seem to have some sharp animosity toward the LXX. In your view, how would a believer's use (or valuing) of the LXX be wrong?

---

Back on topic : Does Jesus' humanity come to bare on this discussion? Or is it best to stick with the textual argument here?

Father of three, husband of one, servant of the Lord Jesus Christ. I blog at mattolmstead.com.

Ed Vasicek's picture

Stephen Schwenke wrote:
Wow
1. There is no proof anywhere that would indicate that Jesus spoke Aramaic or Hebrew.

The NT itself proves Jesus spoke at least Aramaic:

Quote:
Mark 5:41 And he took the damsel by the hand, and said unto her, Talitha cumi; which is, being interpreted, Damsel, I say unto thee, arise.

Mark 15:34, And at the ninth hour Jesus cried with a loud voice, saying, Eloi, Eloi, lama sabachthani? which is, being interpreted, My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me?

Both David Bivin (Understanding the Difficult Words of Jesus) and Brad Young (Meet the Rabbis, Jesus the Jewish Theologian) document that Mishnaic Hebrew was used frequently in first century Palestine. This is a blend of Hebrew with some Aramaic. It is likely, to my way of thinking, that Jesus spoke in Mishaic Hebrew, but broke into Aramaic in a few instances, which are the instances when the phrases above were cited and singled out as "interpreted."

The scholars who contribute to the Jerusalem Perspective lean this way. You might check things out at http://www.jerusalemperspective.com/
I am not sure what is free and what is not (I subscribe), and I no longer know how to add a link with this new Sharper Iron format.

"The Midrash Detective"

Ed Vasicek's picture

georgetcc wrote:
How is possible for the Incarnate Word of God to misquote the inscripturated Word of God? Surely someone has dealt with this issue before (William Arndt, Gleason Archer?).

John Haley, in the handy volume, "Alleged Discrepancies of the Bible" (originally penned in 1874) writes on this passage:

Quote:
It will be seen in both these cases, the original sense is substantially preserved in the citation. We have elsewhere remarked upon the relation which the inspired authors sustain to one another; and especially, with reference to their use of similar phraseology. A thorough investigation of the subject will show conclusively that the sacred writers, in quoting from one another, quote according to the sense, and not according to the letter. They seldom, almost never, quote verbatim.

In other words, the NT writers do not quote the OT word for word, in many cases, but aim for the idea. So we just need to "get over it." Of course, those SI participants who believe in dictation (or who supposedly believe in verbal inspiration but act like they believe in dictation) will not find this explanation suitable.

Rene Pache, in "The Inspiration and Authority of Scripture," wrote, "The authors of the New Testament felt free to paraphrase a quoted text or to make use of only the one word or thought in it which was suitable to their ends. Sometimes they gave a free rendition of the Hebrew text rather than translating it literally,... They sometimes permitted themselves slight liberties, such as a change of pronoun...etc. ... Someone has said, 'A careful paraphrase that does complete justice to the source is preferable to a long quotation... a passage is sometimes cited quite loosely....."

In the original post, I think Jesus read the manuscript that was before Him. If someone doesn't like it, their argument is with the keeper of the manuscripts, not Jesus Smile

"The Midrash Detective"

georgetcc's picture

Thank you, Ed. I had quite forgotten John Haley. I have read William Arndt (the scholar who helped edit the Greek lexicon) on such issues ("Does the Bible Contradict Itself?" and "Bible Difficulties") and, of course, Gleason Archer ("Encyclopedia of Bible Difficulties"). My belief in plenary, verbal inspiration of Canonical Holy Scripture (per chapter 1 of the Westminster Confession of Faith) remains unsullied.

Magister Reformatus Classicusque

Ed Vasicek's picture

georgetcc wrote:
Thank you, Ed. I had quite forgotten John Haley. I have read William Arndt (the scholar who helped edit the Greek lexicon) on such issues ("Does the Bible Contradict Itself?" and "Bible Difficulties") and, of course, Gleason Archer ("Encyclopedia of Bible Difficulties"). My belief in plenary, verbal inspiration of Canonical Holy Scripture (per chapter 1 of the Westminster Confession of Faith) remains unsullied.

What I like about Haley is that he covers just about everything. Archer covers certain issues in more detail, but only selects the big ones.

"The Midrash Detective"

Mike Durning's picture

Stephen Schwenke wrote:
THere is no proof anywhere that Jesus or the apostles accepted, used, read, or quoted the Septuagint.

Stephen,

It is estimated that some 300 OT quotes in the NT come from the Septuagint. I agree that many of these are fragmentary and thus the claim to LXX provenance is a bit fishy. I wonder if you could comment on one in particular: Acts 15:16-18.

Thanks,

Mike