Which Old Testament?

Growing up Protestant, I was always told that Catholics had a different Old Testament, with the implication that the differences — seven extra books — were added by the Catholics.

As I've matured and researched the issue, and having come to embrace the Catholic Faith, I've found that my earlier understanding couldn't be further from the truth.

Facts about the Septuagint

1) Those seven extra books are part of the Septuagint (LXX - so called because it was done by seventy elders), the Greek translation of the the Old Testament which predates the birth of Christ.

2) Almost every New Testament citation of the Old is not a direct translation from the Hebrew, but taken from the LXX.

3) Jesus celebrated The Feast of Dedication, i.e., Hanukkah (John 10:22-23).  While not a Levitical feast, neither is the Feast of Purim.  But, Purim is a Biblical feast, as is Hanukkah (if one accepts the LXX)

4) I'd always heard that the Book of Esther was the one book of the Bible without reference to God.  But, God is mentioned in the LXX version

5) A Second-Century Christian Apologist, Justin Martyr, in his Dialogue with Trypho states

“But I am far from putting reliance in your teachers, who refuse to admit that the interpretation made by the seventy elders who were with Ptolemy [king] of the Egyptians is a correct one; and they attempt to frame another. And I wish you to observe, that they have altogether taken away many Scriptures from the translations effected by those seventy elders who were with Ptolemy, and by which this very man who was crucified is proved to have been set forth expressly as God, and man, and as being crucified, and as dying; but since I am aware that this is denied by all of your nation, I do not address myself to these points, but I proceed to carry on my discussions by means of those passages which are still admitted by you. For you assent to those which I have brought before your attention, except that you contradict the statement, ‘Behold, the virgin shall conceive,’ and say it ought to be read, ‘Behold, the young woman shall conceive.’ And I promised to prove that the prophecy referred, not, as you were taught, to Hezekiah, but to this Christ of mine: and now I shall go to the proof.”

6) It was the Bible of the Early Church

7) The textual tradition of the LXX is supported by many of the Dead Sea Scrolls.

So, what can we say?

It makes much more sense to use the LXX as a Christian Old Testament than to use the Hebrew, Masoretic text (which, according to Justin, was altered in the Second Century).

Where to find the Septuagint?

The Orthodox Study Bible is a new translation.

And Lancelot Brenton translated it in middle of the nineteenth century.

Sadly, the original Vulgate is not based on the LXX.


"When he was asked by Pope Damasus to make a new Latin translation, around 400 CE, he chose the post-Christian Hebrew text as the basis for his work.  Augustine warned him that this was a mistake, since it implied that the Greek text was less valuable than the Hebrew. Jerome went ahead, using both the current Hebrew text and the Hebrew canon. His reason? So that the Jews would not be able to say that the Church had false scriptures."  (Margaret Barker, Temple Mysticism, SCPK, 2011)

The preceding was posted by me on another blog on 15 Dec 2014.
I would like to add the following passage from a paper by independent Bible Scholar, Margaret Barker.
The paper is entitled Restoring Solomon, and the passage begins at the bottom of page 8.

Now the transmission of any sacred text is a difficult matter to determine, but there are several clear examples of a Hebrew text used at Qumran being different from the one that  became the standard ‘Masoretic’ Hebrew text at the end of the first century CE - the beginning of the Christian era. According to the great Isaiah scroll from Qumran,17 Isaiah told king Ahaz to ask for a sign from the Mother of the LORD your God (Isaiah 7.11), and he gave the prophecy of the Virgin who would bear a son. The Masoretic Hebrew has ‘Ask a sign from the LORD your God’ - no Mother. This difference requires changing one letter into another that is very similar.18. According to the great Isaiah scroll from Qumran, the mysterious servant of the LORD was an anointed man, but the Masoretic Hebrew has a disfigured man (Isa.52.14). This difference requires removing, or adding, one letter to the end of the word. The Christians understood the word as ‘anointed’ and said this was a prophecy of Jesus, but the Masoretic text excludes this understanding. The Targum of Isaiah, however, the Aramaic translation made by a Jew, did have a text that said ‘anointed’. So too the texts of Deuteronomy 32.8 and 32.43 are different in the Qumran and Masoretic forms, and in each case, the Masoretic text excludes the Christian interpretation of the verse. From this we could conclude that the Masoretic Hebrew text is not reliable as evidence of the scriptures that the Hebrew Christians knew and used, and so not the best source for what they knew about the first temple and its teachings.