In this article further illustrations of where the Septuagint, the best known Greek version of the Old Testament, is used in the New Testament, will be under consideration.

“And Recovering of Sight to the Blind” Luke 4:18,19

When the Lord went into the synagogue in Nazareth on the Sabbath day, he stood up to read and was given the scroll of the prophet Isaiah. He opened the book and found the place where it was written:

“The Spirit of the Lord [God] is upon me, because he hath anointed me to preach the gospel to the poor; he hath sent me to heal the brokenhearted, to preach deliverance to the captives, and recover­ing of sight to the blind, to set at liberty them that are bruised. To preach the acceptable year of the Lord” (Isa 61:1,2)

It was so read that the eyes of his hearers were fastened upon him as he rolled up the scroll, handed it to the minister and sat down. Then proceeded from his mouth a glorious exposition of these words as he informed them that those words were fulfilled in their ears. Their response was compulsive: they were caused to marvel at “the gracious words which proceeded out of his mouth” (Luke 4:22).

Whilst it is intriguing and profitable to contem­plate this event, the point of our study is to note that he was quoting from the Septuagint version of Isaiah. Clearly this Greek version was the one com­monly read and understood in the synagogue. How do we know this? Well, the phrase, “and recovering of sight to the blind” (kai tuphlois anablepsin) does not appear in the Hebrew text, and hence is absent from the av of Isaiah 61:1; but it does occur in the Septuagint. There we find the identical Greek words appearing. This is one of the conclusive proofs that the Septuagint was in common use in the Lord’s day. But there are others.

“If the Righteous Scarcely be Saved…?”

1 Peter 4:18

Peter points out that judgment will begin with the “house of God”, the ecclesia. After that judgment will be poured out on the nations—“if it first begin at us, what shall the end be of them that obey not the gospel of God?” (cp use of the same phrase by Paul in 2 Thess 1:8). He continues to speak of the fate of the righteous and the wicked in verse 18, “And if the righteous scarcely [molis, with labour, pain, difficulty] be saved, where shall the ungodly and sinner appear?” If the righteous are barely saved, what chance will the “impious and sinner” (rsv) have? The marginal note alongside this quotation says, “Cited from Prov 11:31”. But when we read this passage in the av this does not seem to be the case—“Behold, the righteous shall be recompensed in the earth: much more the wicked and the sin­ner”. The mystery is solved by reference to the Septuagint, for the Greek texts are identical (kai ei ho dikaios molis sozetai, ho asebes kai hamartolos pou phaneitai).

“In His Humiliation His Judgment Was Taken Away” Acts 8:33

The Ethiopian eunuch was reading from the prophecy of Isaiah when the Spirit said to Philip the evangelist, “Go near, and join thyself to this chariot” (Acts 8:29). Philip responded readily and ran to him and heard him reading from the Serv­ant Prophecy. To the enquiry, “Understandest thou what thou readest?” the eunuch replied, “How can I except some man should guide me?” In his humil­ity he recognised the limitations of his knowledge and he desired Philip to sit with him and enlighten him. The passage he was reading was Isaiah 53:7,8, which would have special interest to a man who was unable to have children:

“He was led as a sheep to the slaughter;

and like a lamb dumb before his shearer,

so opened he not his mouth;

In his humiliation his judgment was taken away:

and who shall declare his generation?

for his life was taken away from the earth.”

When this is compared with the Hebrew text in the av certain differences can be seen:

“He is brought as a lamb to the slaughter,

and as a sheep before her shearers is dumb,

so he openeth not his mouth.

He was taken from prison and from judgment:

and who shall declare his generation?

for he was cut off out of the land of the living.”

First of all it can be seen that the words for “sheep” and “lamb” have been reversed.

Secondly Isaiah 53:8 says:

“He was taken from prison and from judgment” (av)

“By constraint and by sentence was he taken away” (roth)

“By oppression and judgment he was taken away” (rsv)

These versions, all translated from the Hebrew text, speak of the oppression to which the Lord was subjected and the consequent miscarriage of justice by which he was taken away and crucified. But the av in Acts 8:32 refers to the “humiliation”, the result of the “oppression” and “constraint” inflicted upon him by his enemies, as the reason why he was taken away.

Reference to the Septuagint version in Isaiah 53:7,8 shows that Acts 8:32,33 is word for word from this text. The Ethiopian eunuch was reading from the Greek Old Testament, and it is reasonable to assume that he could speak this language which had become universal in his day, rather than Hebrew.

“But if Any Man Draw Back” Hebrews 10:38

In Hebrews 10:37–39 the writer encourages his readers to be patient for the difficulties of the present would soon give way, and they would “re­ceive the promise”. They needed to believe God’s Word in order to endure. Words are taken from Habakkuk to drive home the point (2:3,4).

“For yet a little while, and he that shall come will come and will not tarry.

Now the just shall live by faith: but if any man draw back, my soul shall have no pleasure in him.

But we are not of them who draw back unto perdi­tion; but of them that believe [but of faith—roth] to the saving of the soul.”

Verse 37 appears to be a paraphrase of Habakkuk 2:3, having no exact equivalent in the lxx or He­brew texts, but it does convey the sense. In the Hebrew text the “vision” is the subject to be “waited for”—“For the vision is yet for an appointed time, but at the end it shall speak, and not lie: though it tarry, wait for it; because it will surely come, it will not tarry” (Hab 2:3).

In the lxx “the vision” is personified and inter­preted. The Lord Jesus Christ is the essence of “the vision”—“for the vision is yet for a time, and it shall shoot forth at the end, and not in vain: though he should tarry, wait for him; for he will surely come, and will not tarry” (cp Hab 3:3 “God came from Teman”, lit “Eloah will come…”).

In Hebrews 10:37 we have this ‘interpretation’ of the lxx endorsed, “For yet a little while, and he that shall come will come, and will not tarry”.

Verse 38 is taken from the lxx and there are three points of interest.

1 In the lxx two clauses in the verse are reversed.

2 In Hebrews 10:38 we read, “Now the just shall live by faith…”, but the lxx of Habakkuk 2:4 reads, “but the just shall live by my faith” (ek pisteos mou zesetai). Otherwise both Greek texts are identical. It is notable also that in the other two New Testament quotations of Habakkuk 2:4, “my” does not appear (cp Rom 1:17; Gal 3:11). Clearly “God is faithful”, and we must have faith in His faithfulness to perform what He has promised (1 Thess 5:24; 2 Thess 3:3).

3 In Hebrews 10:38 those who lacked faith are spoken of as “drawing back” (Gk huposteiletai, rsv “shrinks back”). The Greek is the same in the lxx, showing that this was the text cited from. But the Hebrew reads differently; it is not “drawing back” or “shrinking”, but being “lifted up”; that is, “Behold, his soul which is lifted up is not upright in him” (Hab 2:4). The rv reads, “Behold, his soul is puffed up, it is not upright in him”. The words “lifted up” or “puffed up” are translated from the Hebrew aphal, which comes from a root meaning “to swell”, and hence “to be elated” and even “to presume”. When one presumes, he does not act in faith and God is not pleased. This is well illustrated by another occurrence of this verb in Numbers 14:44, where the unfaithful generation of Israelites refused to accept Moses’ words telling them that God was not with them, and they went up to take the land promised them: “But they presumed [aphal] to go up”. They were smitten as a result. The basic ideas behind the Hebrew word aphal, “to presume”, and the Greek word uposteiletai, “to draw back, or shrink”, are similar. Both convey the idea that the Word of God was not adhered to and one’s own will was preferred and followed. There is a lesson here for us, too. We profess to believe God’s promises and to acknowledge that His way is best. Do we always act in accordance with this profession? Do we live lives that demonstrate we are earnestly awaiting the Kingdom of God? Can it be said of us, “we are not of those shrinking back into destruction; but of faith in order to a preservation of life” (Diag)?

The Septuagint and Diabolos

The usage of certain Greek words in the lxx can sometimes throw light on their meaning and help thereby to elucidate New Testament passages and meanings. An important example of this is the word diabolos, meaning false accuser, calumniator, liar, slanderer, but frequently translated “devil” (1 Tim 3:11; 2 Tim 3:3; Titus 2:3; Heb 2:14; 1 Peter 5:8; John 6:70; Rev 2:10 etc). Diabolos is derived from two Greek words, dia meaning “through”, and the verb balo meaning “to throw, cast”. Hence the verb diabolo means “to strike through”. In a figurative sense it means “to strike or to stab with an accusa­tion”, and hence, “to defame, malign, lie, falsely accuse etc”.

The wrong understanding of this word has contributed to the false doctrine of orthodox Christianity, that there is a personal devil, who is in contention with God, and who is the cause of men sinning and all the evil that is in the world. So the importance of understanding the true meaning of this word, and of being able to demonstrate this from the lxx in use in apostolic times apart from the New Testament, can be appreciated. The noun diabolos and the verb diabalo both occur twice in the lxx. The two occasions where diabolos oc­curs are in Esther and the word is translated “the slanderer”—“For both I [Esther] and my people are sold for destruction, and pillage, and slavery: both we and our children for bondmen and bondwomen; and I consented not to it, for the slanderer is not worthy of the king’s palace. And the king said, Who is this that has dared to do this thing? And Esther said, The adversary is Aman [Haman], this wicked man” (Esther 7:4–6).

So we are plainly told who this “devil” or di­abolos was, namely, Haman, a wicked man; and we are told why he was a diabolos—he had slandered God’s chosen race and had obtained a royal decree from Ahasuerus to have them destroyed (Esther 3:5–11). This is very helpful in understanding the meaning of diabolos, translated “devil” in the New Testament.

The other occasion where diabolos occurs is in Esther 8:1, where again it is translated “slanderer” in the lxx, and is used in reference to Haman: “On that day king Artaxerxes gave to Esther all that belonged to Aman the slanderer” (av “Haman the Jews’ enemy”).

The two occasions where the verb diabolo oc­cur in the lxx are in Daniel 3:8 and 6:24. In each case reference is made to false accusation made against Daniel’s three friends, and Daniel himself respectively.

1 “Then came near certain Chaldeans, and accused the Jews to the king, saying…” (Dan 3:8 lxx).

2 “And the king commanded, and they brought the men that had accused Daniel, and they were cast…” (Dan 6:24 lxx).

Again the sense and meaning of the word is clear from the lxx and our doctrinal understanding of the word diabolos is vindicated.

Conclusion

The Septuagint helps us to understand some Bible difficulties which on the surface seem perplexing. Clearly both the Lord and the apostles had ready access to it and made use of it. Also reference to its use of the Greek language in the centuries just before the apostolic era throws light on the New Testament usage.

In the next article in this series some combined quotations will be considered.