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3c The Greek language and the Hebrew Bible

The first five books of the Bible were all written by Moses, (the Hebrew deliverer) appointed by God, who led his people (the Israelites), out of captivity from Egypt, up to the Promised Land,

Moses death is mentioned at the end of Deuteronomy. Joshua, who had written it down did not write it in Egyptian or any other language but his own Hebrew language, the Hebrew Scriptures continued to be written in Hebrew throughout the whole Old Testament period (apart from some portions that had been written in Aramaic).

In 586 B.C., Jerusalem was captured by the Babylonians. The Jews had been exiled into Babylon by God. Their Temple in Jerusalem was looted and then destroyed by fire. After 70 years in Babylon, while in captivity, they learned to speak an additional language, (the language of Aramaic). The Jewish captives returned to Jerusalem, according to the biblical record in the fifth century BCE, when Ezra had recovered a copy of the Torah (Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers, and Deuteronomy) and read it aloud to the whole nation which brought a revival. The people understood their waywardness from God and wept.

It has been assumed by some that Hebrew ceased to be a spoken language of the Jews long before Jesus. But recent archaeological evidence shows that the Hebrew language was still used by the Jews in Israel into the second century AD.

The coins minted in Israel during the second Temple period include inscriptions written in Hebrew. Written in the late Semitic script bearing the inscription "yerushalem" (Jerusalem). Coins were also found with (paleo) Hebrew script with the word "sh'ma" (hear referring to Deut.6:4).

Ezra 7:6 “ Ezra came up from Babylon; and he was a skilled scribe in the Law of Moses, which the LORD God of Israel had given.”

Ezra was a priest and a scribe, who established the tradition of the scribes. He is also credited for changing the Hebrew alphabet (paleo Hebrew) to the Babylonian square type script, which is in use in today’s Hebrew.

Ezra 7:9-10 “On the first day of the first month he began his journey from Babylon, and on the first day of the fifth month he came to Jerusalem, according to the good hand of his God upon him. For Ezra had prepared his heart to seek the Law of the LORD, and to do it, and to teach statutes and ordinances in Israel. This is a copy of the letter that King Artaxerxes gave Ezra the priest, the scribe, expert in the words of the commandments of the Lord, and of His statutes to Israel” Artaxerxes, king of kings, To Ezra the priest, a scribe of the Law of the God of heaven: Perfect peace, and so forth.”

Ezra’s legacy was continued by a group known as the Soferim (Scribes); they preserved the sacred traditions of Israel’s Scripture. At this point the Jewish scribes solidified the following process for creating copies of the Word of God.

Sopherim were the scribes, who at a later time were succeeded by the Masoretes. The Jewish Sopherim, held such a high regard for the Scriptures as being the Word of God that they regarded the copying of any error as a sin. (Read more: https://www.jewishvirtuallibrary.org/soferim )

Some rules in copying the Hebrew to Hebrew

The following description of Hebrew copyist practices are going to be very detailed in explaining the intricate process that the Hebrew copyists took in order to preserve Gods Word. The reason for this detail will be explained when we get further into our expose of Michael Heiser’s beliefs.

First, the writing must be done on the skins of clean animals and are fastened together, also with the strings taken from clean animals prepared for synagogue use by a Jew only. Each skin must contain an exact number of columns, which must be equal throughout the entire manuscript.

Some words in the text were not intended to be read out loud, such as the name of God. Yahweh was considered so sacred to the Jews that they taught it should not be pronounced out loud.

From 500 B.C. to A.D. 100, the Scripture was handled by Sopherim (scribes) preserving Israel’s sacred traditions. In the Babylonian Talmud (Qidd. 30a) says, “The early [scholars] were called soferim because they used to count [sfr] all the letters in the Torah.”

The Sopherim scribes had rules. Before they started copying the Word, the scribe must wash his whole body. When he came across the name of God, (YHWH), he had to stop and wash his whole body again, to begin translating again, and this would continue throughout the entire manuscript he was copying. However, before he wrote the name of God it was to be written with a pen newly dipped into the ink. The black ink was prepared from a special recipe that was used only for the copying of Scripture. This was all, as you can imagine, extremely time consuming.

Nothing could be written from memory; the scribe must always look first at the original, before writing his copy. Considering this was the Scribes job or lifelong occupation, they had to be careful not to apply their memory first. The original that was used to make the copy had to be authentic, and with the exception of God’s Name, the scribe would speak each word out loud as he wrote it down.

The letters, words, and paragraphs were counted, and the document became invalid if two letters touched each other, the middle paragraph, (word and letter) must correspond to the original document and there was checking and rechecking of the letters, throughout the entire process.

As mentioned before; this was an extremely tedious time-consuming process to make sure everything on a page was correct. One mistake on it, the parchment was condemned. Imagine writing a whole page and at the last line making a mistake; you would have to start all over again. Each scroll had to be checked within thirty days of its writing, or it was considered unholy, and if mistakes were made, no document containing God's Word could be destroyed. The documents could be stored only in sacred places (synagogues, etc.) or a genizah - a Hebrew term which means "hiding place."

Ancient Hebrew was only written with consonants, no vowels, it was called Paleo Hebrew.

Since the Hebrew text traditionally omitted vowels in writing, it was the Masoretes who later introduced vowel signs to guarantee correct pronunciation (5th cent AD).

The Masoretes

For thousands of years the Hebrew language was only written with consonants, no vowels were used, but the Hebrew language was always spoken with vowels. While reading these texts, they had to supply all of the vowels based on the oral tradition of the pronunciation of their language. At that time the Hebrew Scriptures were not divided by chapter or verse.

The Masoretes vowel points were tiny markings above and below the Hebrew consonant characters, (a series of dots and dashes above and below the text), identifying which vowel to use in order to show how each word should be pronounced. This made the Hebrew more readable for those who were not familiar with the language, as a series of consonants would be hard to pronounce correctly without the vowels.

Adam Clarke, an 18th Century Protestant scholar, demonstrates that the vowel-point system is actually a running commentary which was incorporated into the text itself.
In the General Preface of his biblical commentary published in 1810, Adam Clarke writes:

The Masorets were the most extensive Jewish commentators which that nation could ever boast. The system of punctuation, probably invented by them, is a continual gloss on the Law and the Prophets; their vowel points, and prosaic and metrical accents, &c., give every word to which they are affixed a peculiar kind of meaning, which in their simple state, multitudes of them can by no means bear. The vowel points alone add whole conjugations to the language. This system is one of the most artificial, particular, and extensive comments ever written on the Word of God; for there is not one word in the Bible that is not the subject of a particular gloss through its influence.”

Textual tradition of the Jewish scholars known as the Masoretes (or Masorites) were (Rabbis) who copied and paid special attention to correct the faults that had crept into the text of the Old Testament during the Babylonian captivity, and to prevent any future corruption by any alteration.

A tradition had been handed down to carefully copy each letter in order to maintain the highest quality in preserving the written texts. No imperfection, no matter how small, was tolerated. If more than three pages required any corrections, the entire manuscript was to be redone.

The Masoretes had a system of checks and balances to make sure that the text was copied accurately by the Scribes. Numbers were used, placed at the end of each book, telling the copyists the exact number of words that a book contained in its original manuscript. At the end of each book, the Masoretes also listed the word or the phrase that would have numerically been found in the exact middle of the book. If the copy had a few more words or a few less words than the original, the copy was discarded, stored away.

The Masoretes followed the Sopherim tradition in many ways. They not only counted and noted down the total number of verses, words, and letters in the text but further indicated which verse, which word, and which letter marked the center of the text. In this way any future emendation could be detected. This rigorous care was taken, in order to produce a pure consistency of the Old Testament Hebrew texts that would be read in the synagogues. Hebrew versions of the Old Testament continued to exist, even at a time the language wasn't spoken by many.

The Masoretic work enjoyed an absolute monopoly for 600 years among the Jews, Scholars today are amazed at the trustworthiness of the earliest printed version (late 15th century A.D.) compared to the oldest surviving codices (late 9th century A.D.). The Masoretic text is universally accepted as the authentic Hebrew Bible.

It is after Alexander the Great (King of Macedon) conquered the regions that Greek ideology, thought, religious beliefs, and especially its language spread throughout the known world. Greek then became the universal language starting from about 300 BC. Then around 200 A.D. there was Classic Greek and Koine Greek which became the type of Greek dialect that the common person spoke in ancient times.

The Egyptian king, Ptolemy declared war on Antiochus I in 274 BC., invading Seleucid Syria. At first, he succeeded but was later defeated in battle by Antiochus and forced to retreat back to Egypt.

The Syrians had adopted the Greek language. Around 200 A.D. the Syrians had rule over the Jews in there land, and the Jews who tried to live their lives according to Moses’ law, began to be eliminated or made slaves. The Syrian Empire was forcing the Jews to conform to their culture, speak Greek instead of Hebrew, and to worship their foreign gods.

The war of the Maccabees took place in 167 BC when Antiochus Epiphanes goal was to eliminate Judaism. As the story goes, he overtook the temple and erected an idol of Zeus and defiled the temple by sacrificing a pig. He found the Scriptures and cut them to pieces or burned them. The temple was defiled and desecrated, but later God performed a miracle to restore the temple, and this later became known as the feast of Channukah. (Which means the Feast of dedication or lights).

The Jews won the war against the Syrian ruler and his armies by the courageous acts of faithful men, specifically led by one family, the Maccabees (Judah Maccabee). During the Maccabean revolt, the observant Jews saw the other Jews who had learned the Greek language and culture as traitors and were now enemies.

The Jews fought hard to retain their temple, language and culture; they were not willing to abandon it. We read in the New Testament, when they were under Roman occupation the written and spoken language was Hebrew. When the Romans invaded; the Latin language was also introduced, but the Jews continued to speak Hebrew and retained their own culture and their own unique language. The Gentiles (non-Jewish) spoke Greek and the Jews were able to converse and speak Greek to the Gentiles, but they spoke Aramaic or Hebrew among themselves.

During this time period they had to two forces of change to contend with, one was being under Roman occupation and the other, being under the Pharisees who would include their many traditions to live by that became more important than Moses law. The Pharisees added 100 or more laws for each of the 613 laws of Moses. In time the people knew the laws the Pharisees introduced better than their Hebrew Old Testament.

What we find in Biblical History?

To say there is uncertainty attached to the origin of the LXX, (Septuagint- Greek translation of

the Hebrew Old Testament) would be an understatement of the matter. The story of its translation some claim is more a legend, than the truth. The Septuagint translation allegedly began as seventy-two translators were enlisted to come to Egypt by Ptolemy II around 250 BC.

As the story goes, there were six that were selected from each of the twelve tribes. The number seventy apparently being an approximation for seventy-two; (referring to Exod. 24:1, 9 which apparently refers to the seventy elders of Israel, and the later membership number of the Sanhedrin. First, let’s start by looking into the time of Jesus, and then we will take a deeper look into the translation of the Septuagint. This is necessary to understand what Heiser falsely uses in order to validate his divine council invention.

Jesus nor the Apostles ever read from a Greek Bible in the synagogues; nor was it read in the Temple, the Hebrew texts were read, not (the Greek Septuagint), nor any Aramaic parchments. Josephus, a priest and Jewish historian, who lived during the time of Jesus, says Jews hated the things of the Greeks (we can see this animosity continue in the book of Acts 9:29). Hellenists were foreign Jews who spoke only Greek.

Jesus began his ministry reading from the Hebrew scroll in the synagogue, Lk.4:21. Jesus, being a Jew spoke Hebrew when it came to their religious beliefs. Always, when Jesus spoke in the synagogue, it would have been in Hebrew, not in Greek, which was considered a pagan language by the Jews of their day.

The Tanakh (the entire Old Testament) was wholly written in Hebrew, so it was necessary for all Jews everywhere to be able to read (except for the few portions of Aramaic, such as in the book of Daniel). The whole Old Testament was written in Hebrew right up to Malachi, the last book in the Old Testament which was penned about 430 B.C.

Jesus (Yeshua) would have spoken Hebrew to the Rabbis and Pharisees, He would not have spoken Greek to them. The Jews considered Hebrew to be their Holy Language and other languages to be pagan. Jesus would have had no credibility to convince Israel that He was their Jewish Messiah if he quoted and spoke to them in another language they considered pagan. When the Pharisees questioned Jesus, He would many times answer their question with another question; “Have you never read, etc.?” (Matthew 19:4) referring them back to their own Scriptures.

The Hebrews spoke their own language and there is no proof that they did not speak and write in their native Hebrew language, long before the Septuagint version was made, in fact! that is what the Greek Septuagint translation was copied from. However, the oldest full Masoretic text only goes back to 900 AD. But just because we haven’t yet found an older Masoretic text does not mean the Greek offers us the original, or more accuracy as some like Heiser seem to think. Hebrew scrolls can still be in hiding, just waiting to be found. AMONG the Dead Sea scrolls discovery, were fragments and scrolls, a full scroll of Isaiah was found, which matched 95 % of the Masoretic text that was written 1,000 years later.

Of the Dead Sea fragments, approximately 90% are written in Hebrew while only 5% are in Aramaic and 5% in Greek. Maybe the percentages will change as they find more manuscripts.

It is obvious the Jews spoke Hebrew long before they ever spoke Greek, (even Aramaic in Babylon)! They loved their culture, and especially their Hebrew religion and their language, of which the Scriptures were written in. The Jews of this period could speak several languages, Greek and Aramaic, but the Jews read, and strictly spoke Hebrew in the Synagogues and the Temple.

In fact, the Hebrew is found all throughout the New Testament Greek translation, and, is filled with Hebraisms and Hebrew expressions.

Luke 1:26-38 when Gabriel spoke to Mary by what name he should be called, he was not speaking in Greek, but Hebrew. The name “Jesus” is pronounced Yeshua, in the Hebrew, the root-meaning “to save” (In Hebrew His name meaning is “Salvation”)

In Lk. 2 When Jesus is brought to the temple at 8 days old, Simeon (the priest) says ” For mine eyes have seen your salvation” Simeon speaking in Hebrew is saying “my eyes have seen your Yeshua,” the name for Jesus is salvation in Hebrew. Simeon says he is now ready to die because he has finally seen the Messiah. M

BS031 Highlights of the Birth and Early Life of Jesus

Jesus in Matt. 5:18: says Not one ‘jot’ and not one ‘tittle’ will pass away…” this is a Hebrew idiom. The ‘jot’ and ‘tittle’ are two letters in the Hebrew alphabet. A ‘jot’ in Hebrew is translated as ‘yod,’ it is the smallest of all the Hebrew letters. The ‘tittle’ is the tiniest stroke of a pen, a small curve at the top of a letter like this `.

We see Hebrew phrases used throughout the New Testament. When Mary first saw Jesus after He had risen, she spoke it in her language Hebrew, “Rabboni” (John 20:16).

Numerous times John in the New Testament refers to the Hebrew from the Greek words (Jn.5:2.19:13, 17; Rv.9:11; 16:16) the sign above Jesus in the crucifixion was in 3 language including Hebrew for all the people that were citizens.

For those who think Hebrew is passe let me point out. God spoke to Paul at his conversion, on the way to Damascus, in the Hebrew language in Acts 26:14.

Paul also spoke to the people in Hebrew, found in Acts 21:37 to Acts 22:2: ‘Just as Paul was about to be taken to the barracks, he asked the commandant, “ May I say something to you?” The commandant replied, “Can you speak Greek? Are you the Egyptian who not long ago stirred up a rebellion and led those 4,000 men who were cutthroats into the wilderness? ” Paul answers, “ I am a Jew from Tarsus … I beg you allow me to address the people .” He grants Paul permission, then Paul spoke to them in Hebrew saying: “ Brethren and fathers, listen to the defense which I now make in your presence.” And when they heard that Paul addressed them in the Hebrew tongue.”

Luke 24:44 "And He said unto them, These are the words which I spake unto you, while I was yet with you, that all things must be fulfilled, which werewritten in The LAW of Moses, and in The PROPHETS, and in The PSALMS, concerning Me."

Jesus referred to the Hebrew Bible that had these three divisions contained in them. Nowhere does the New Testament in the gospels mention

The New Testament Scripture is filled with Hebrew[isms]. Saying ‘Shalom’ a common Jewish greeting translated peace. (Gn.43:23). It means more than ‘peace’ as we would understand it from our language today (as no trouble or conflict). It carries the meaning ‘to be completely whole, well and prosperous. It addresses the whole being of a person; spiritually, emotionally, and physically (Lk.8:48; 24:46). Jesus in John 14:27 says, “ Peace I leave with you, my peace I give to you; not as the world gives do I give to you.” The New Testament Greek carried both grace (a Greek saying) and peace (Hebrew).

Some of the early church ‘fathers’ (pastors, apologists) on the gospel of Matthew believed it was written in Hebrew.

Irenaeus: (170 AD) “ Matthew indeed, produced his Gospel written among the Hebrews in their own dialect .”

Papias: Elder of Hierapolis (circa 150 AD) “ Matthew put down the words of the Lord in the Hebrew language and others have translated them, each as best as he could .”

Eusebius: Elder of Caesarea (circa 325 AD) “ Matthew had first preached to the Hebrews and when he was about to go to other nations, he transmitted his Gospel in writing in his native language .”

Ephiphanius: (circa 370 AD) “ The Nazarenes have the Gospel according to Matthew, complete in Hebrew, for this Gospel is kept among them as it was written, in Hebrew .”

Jerome: (circa 382 AD) “ Matthew Levi, formerly a tax collector became an emissary and an evangelist, composed a Gospel of Messiah in Judea in the Hebrew language and letters for the benefit of the Jews who believed. Who translated the Gospel into Greek is not sufficiently ascertained. Furthermore, the Hebrew writings are preserved to this day in the library at Caesarea, which Pamphilus diligently collected. I was allowed to use this copy in the Syrian city of Borea to copy it .” We read that both Jerome and Ephiphanius translated the Scriptures from the Hebrew into Latin.

The Septuagint was Not the bible of Jesus or the Apostles! Though many New Testament quotations are taken from it, Jesus never quoted from it or the Apocrypha, and it was rejected at that time by the Jews. What we have is the New Testament Greek written afterwards using the Septuagint.

The reason there are direct citations of the Old Testament found in the New Testament that match the Septuagint, but that do not match the Hebrew Bible is because the New Testament is a Greek  conglomeration of letters (New Testament book) that went out mostly to the Gentiles. It was used to spread the story of Jesus and the gospel to the Gentiles that ‘only spoke Greek.’ Therefore, it became beneficial for the sake of evangelism and for their copying purposes to include the Greek translation of the Old Testament with the New Testament which quotes it. It becomes far easier to copy the same language than to translate it for the New Testament that was being made in the first century.

3d history of Israel and the bible translations



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