The Paroikos Bible Blog exists as a resource to those interested in Biblical studies and Koine Greek. It is hoped that this blog will simultaneously provide food-for-thought to the reader while pointing him or her in the direction of valuable resources, both in print and on the internet, that will further help his or her studies in the Word.

Aug 27, 2016

"Why did Peter correct the Septuagint?" My first LXX-related article (Bulletin for Biblical Research vol. 26.2)

I have always been fascinated by the New Testament use of the Old Testament, especially when it comes to the two different text-types underlying the Apostolic authors' citation. That's right: the inspired authors had, in a sense, two different Bibles to draw from: the Hebrew MT (or proto-MT), and the Greek Septuagint. Quite often (some would say the majority of times), they drew from the translation most familiar to their audience of Diaspora Jews and God-fearing Gentiles: the Greek Septuagint.
Excursus: once again, for the doubters--we have manuscripts of the Old Testament in Greek that pre-date the incarnation, and a side-by-side comparison of many texts of the NT with the Hebrew force the assumption that they were citing something else. Paraphrase won't cut it, because there is actually different material in the Apostles' citations that does not exist in the Hebrew but does exist in Greek OT manuscripts. I'm not trying to be snarky here, and forgive me if this is a bit too harsh, but the Greek Old Testament existed before the Apostles and denying this is the theological equivalent of suggesting that the US never landed on the moon.
The role of the Septuagint within New Testament theology is currently a hot-button (and fascinating) issue, and the reader should be aware of W. Edward Glenny's fantastic new article in the on-line journal Themelios vol. 41.2 (August 2016). The article is entitled "The Septuagint and Biblical Theology" and may be read here. This article is an essential introductory resource for those interested in this discussion.
Recently I had an article published by Bulletin for Biblical Research vol. 26.2 (2016) entitled "Why Did Peter Change the Septuagint? A Reexamination of the Significance of the Use of Titheimi in 1 Peter 2:6." First Peter 2:6 is one of the most fascinating instances of NT use of the OT since Peter's citation does not match either the LXX or the MT. In fact, my article is not the first to focus specifically on this verse; while my article stems from a paper I gave in 2009, in 2010 Dietrich-Alex Koch published a fascinating study (going a different direction than I did) in Zeitschrift fur Neuentestament Wissenschaft vol. 101; Koch and I are alike in that we both argue 1 Peter utilized the LXX text but altered it. Whereas Koch argues that 1 Peter 2:6 altered it to correct some awkward syntax of the LXX (and thus make the text clearer), I argue that 1 Peter changed it for lexical reasons: the Greek enballw was a sub-par lexical choice to describe the Messiah being "set" as  Cornerstone, and Titheimi was much superior for theological and discourse reasons. In fact Peter ends up creating a chiasm in verses 6-8:
***A. The Set One [titheimi] is
 *****B. honor to
 ********C. The believer
********C' To the unbeliever/disobedient one [textual variant here]
******B' dishonor
***A.' To those who are "set" [titheimi] for the purpose of disobedience.
This article will hold a soft spot in my heart since it's my first article since becoming a full-time professor at Baptist College of Ministry (fifth overall). Also, for some reason, BBR is my "lucky" journal in the sense that I have yet to have an article rejected by them (though this latest one had to go to a tie-breaker peer-reviewer, and involved some significant revision). For BBR I'm "2-for-2," for JETS I'm "1-3," and I have a couple other journals that I"m "1-for-1." I struggle, however, submitting journals to Tyndale Bulletin and Trinity Journal--collectively "0-for-5" for those two journals! (and Tyndale, especially, is probably the cream of the crop for Evangelical journals).
Finally, for those interested in further study of NT use of the OT in 1 Peter, pride of place will probably always belong to Dr. Karen Jobes and her work, especially her Baker Exegetical Commentary on 1 Peter and her essay "The Septuagint Textual Tradition in 1 Peter" in Septuagint Research: Issues and Challenges in the Study of the Greek Jewish Scripture (SBL, 2006). Also, in addition to Koch's article in ZNW, one very good article that I cited favorably is Jocelyn Williams, "A Case Study in Intertextuality: The Place of Isaiah in the 'Stone' Sayings in 1 Peter 2," Reformed Theological Review 66 (2007). Williams, like me, sees Peter as deliberately modifying the LXX for theological reasons in 1 Pet 2:6, and I build off of her work somewhat in my own article. Finally, as mentioned at the beginning, Glenny's brand-new Themelios article is a must-read for anybody interested in the topic.


  1. I'm going to look all this up and follow up....but it seems like so much fuss....couldn't it just be that Peter just phrased it a little differently as a synopsis? For example all four Gospels are slightly different, but no one is lying...they are just phrasing things in different order or differently based on their viewpoint...Obviously I bow to your learning on the subject as opposed to my kindergarten questions...I love the Bible but don't have your knowledge of these things....but could you please expand on your opinion that it couldn't be paraphrase?

    1. There's a point at which it's just too different to be a paraphrase. If I said "The Rangers are going to win the Word Series" and you paraphrased me as saying "The Rangers are going to demolish their opponents in the World Series," that's not too far off and might count as a paraphrase. However, if you had me saying, "The Rangers will sweep the World Series," that's too different to be a quote, you'd be quoting somebody else (or quoting me inaccurately). In Scripture NT use of the OT, the problem is that sometimes there's too much material being added or omitted (sometimes very unique material that did not exist in the Hebrew) for this to be a case of paraphrase. The apostles would really have to have been playing fast and loose with the text if that were paraphrase (and I have much more of an issue with that than I do that the apostles were simply quoting directly from a Greek translation in front of them). Romans 15:12 is a classic example. The Hebrew says the Gentiles will "seek" but Paul says the Gentiles will "trust." These are totally different words, so a paraphrase is out. But the LXX actually says "trust" (and, once again, we have ancient manuscripts of Isaiah in Greek. so they clearly existed). If Paul's quotation does not match the Hebrew, in fact is radically different at a certain point, but does match ancient LXX manuscripts, then the logical conclusion is that he's quoting the Greek.

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  3. So we actually did land on the moon? :) Sure about that? Hahah. Thankful for you, Paul. Keep up the hard work.

    1. Well, now that you mention it . . . :)
      Btw, praying for your dissertation defense. Looking forward to reading it in monograph form (though it will be above my head!)