Posted by: chuckbumgardner | November 29, 2007

Roger Nicole on the Septuagint and the OT Text

Roger Nicole’s explanation for the NT writers’ use of the Septuagint in spite of the fact that the Septuagint does not always line up with the Masoretic text of the OT:

When the NT writers wrote, there was one Greek version of the OT, the Septuagint.  It was widespread, well known, and respected in spite of some obvious defects when appraised from the standpoint of modern scholarship.  In most cases, it was a fair translation of the Hebrew text, and possessed distinctive literary qualities.  Its position in the ancient world is comparable to that of the Authorized Version before the Revised was published. A conscientious scholar writing nowadays in a certain language will use for his quotations from foreign sources the translations which his readers generally use.  He will not attempt to correct or change them unless some mistake bears directly on his point. When slight errors or mistranslations occur, generally he will neither discuss them, for in so doing he would tend to direct the reader’s attention away from his point, nor correct them without giving notice, for this might tend to arouse the reader’s suspicion.  This practice is followed by many preachers and writers who use the Authorized Version in English or Luther’s translation in German.  They are often well aware that some verses rather inadequately render the Hebrew or the Greek, but no blame can be laid on them as long as they base no argument on what is mistaken in the translation.  Similarly, the writers of the NT could use the Septuagint, the only Greek version then existing, in spite of its occasional inaccuracy, and even quote passages which were somewhat inaccurately translated.  To take advantage of its errors, however, would have been inadmissible.  We do not find any example of a NT deduction or application logically inferred from the Septuagint and which cannot be maintained on the basis of the Hebrew text.

Roger Nicole, “The New Testament Use of the Old Testament,” in The Right Doctrine from the Wrong Texts? Essays on the Use of the Old Testament in the New, ed. G. K. Beale (Grand Rapids: Baker, 1994), 18-19.  Reprint of Roger Nicole, “The New Testament Use of the Old Testament,” in Revelation and the Bible, ed. Carl F. H. Henry (Grand Rapids: Baker, 1958), 135-51.


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