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Wednesday, June 13, 2012

About the Jewish Bible, Confusions about the Septuagint, and Why Jews have NO Old Testament

The Jewish Bible is correctly referred to as the Tanakh. Because there is a much larger world population who use the Latin term, Bible, to refer to the texts of the Christian religion, when most Jews see the word Bible alone, from someone who is not Jewish, and without the designation "Jewish Bible" or "Hebrew Bible" we realize that the odds are very great to near certain that it is referring to the scriptures of Christianity.  Most non Jewish speakers may think they're talking about the Jewish Bible when they are talking about their "Old Testament", but in fact, they are not speaking about the Jewish Bible.  I own books published by Jewish publishers in English that use the word Bible and of course, in those instances refer to the Tanakh, the Jewish Holy Scriptures (not the Christian adaptation/alteration named the Old Testament). To confuse matters more, and with their full intent to do so, seen some Christians call a Hebrew translation of their Old and New Testament a "Jewish Bible" and a "Hebrew Bible".   Rather than confusion or misunderstanding, the publishers of those texts are completely deceptive.  Still, it is often misunderstood in claim that Jews do not use the term "Bible".  As the following examples show, English speaking Jews, indeed use that term.

"Bible Tales For Very Young Children" by Lenore Cohen, published by the UAHC

"A Child's Bible" by Seymour Rossel , published by Behrman House

I have texts written by Orthodox, Conservative and Reform Jews that refer to our Tanakh as the Bible. Look at the title of this web site of the Torah http://bible.ort.org/books/torahd5.asp

And this one http://www.chabad.org/library/bible_cdo/aid/63255/jewish/The-Bible-with-Rashi.htm  This second link is to a genuine Jewish Bible that’s titled “The Complete Jewish Bible” ( rather than a very deceptive Christian Bible that uses Yiddish terms and Hebrew terms peppered through a new English translation trying to make Christianity look more Jewishy)

  Many English speaking Jews like me grew up calling the Tanakh simply “ The Bible”. English speaking Jews know what texts we refer to when we’re using that term with other English speaking Jews, the original Bible, the Tanakh.

Tanakh, is an acronym for the three sections of the Scriptures, the Torah (Pentateuch, first five books of Moses, Torah meaning teaching/law) the Neviim (Prophets) and Ketuviim (Writings or scriptures) I grew up using both terms in equal measure and interchangeably. As a child, even in discussion with Orthodox relatives, we often used the word Bible to discuss the Tanakh, and because we knew what texts we were talking about, in that context we knew it had nothing to do with the Christian Bible's "Old" or New Testament.  There isn’t any need to qualify or differentiate our Holy Scriptures from a replacement theology when Jews are reading and discussing our own Bible.

I also grew up knowing that when I heard a non-Jew say "The Bible" they were almost certainly referring to the *Christian Bible* and clearly NOT referring to the Holy Scriptures of Judaism, the Tanakh.

Tertullian, (155CE to 220CE) early in the third century CE named the Christian amended version of the Tanakh the "Old Testament" *specifically* to designate it as having been superceded and done away with in contrast to their "New", despite the assertion within its texts well over a dozen times from Genesis forward that it is an eternal testament (covenant).

There is no "Old Testament" to Judaism and while that term is offensive to adherents of Judaism, most Jews know that not many Christians appear to recognize or be aware of how or why that term and their adaptation is offensive. The Jewish people have the eternal testament (testament means covenant) of Torah. We have the Tanakh, the unaltered Jewish Bible. Another ancient name for the Tanakh is Mikra, meaning reading, because the scriptures were read aloud each week to the congregation.

While Christian theologians of past generations apparently had no problem recognizing and acknowledging that the Tanakh and their Old and New Testaments were from different texts translations with regard to what comprised the "Septuagint", it appears that in recent years, and only since I've been on the internet, have I seen people trying to obfuscate the fact that the Torah portion ALONE was the ORIGINAL Septuagint. The often repeated false claim is to refer to their entire Greek translation of their Christian Old Testament and claim it is a direct translation of Greek texts that Jews used!

The Christian Bible's Old Testament (it’s adaptation of Tanakh, never used by Jewish communities) reveals that in many places there are significant translation differences rendering the meanings of the passages quite different. Not only are the books rearranged so that the books are not in the order of Torah, Prophets and Writings, but Kings, Ezra and Nehemiah are divided. The Protestant Old Testament contains roughly the same books; the (Catholic, Latin)Vulgate has additional texts added to the canon that were originally written in Greek. The Greek Septuagint (meaning 70) originally referred to the Torah portion only, and in fact, that is the only portion that was claimed to be translated by 72 Jewish scribes. The rest of Tanakh was translated from the Hebrew to the Greek over the course of about 300 years and scholars cannot tell who or when exactly any of them were translated. Yet the common name of Septuagint is now generally applied to the whole Greek translation by Christians.

By the beginning of the first century CE, there were many *different Greek versions* of each text of Tanakh that appeared, some of them with less accurate Hebrew to Greek, and during this time, many other additional texts appeared being originally written IN Greek such as the books of the Maccabees. By the time of the beginnings of Christianity, some of these texts of Tanakh had become so changed through the Hellenization (introduction of Greek philosophic concepts through language translation) that they were no longer adherent to Torah precept. Their purpose had been to redefine and negate Judaism through assimilation of Greek beliefs.

The Hebrew Bible canon had been more or less "closed" since the time of Ezra/ Nehemiah around 423 BCE. Jewish scribes still penned what was going on in Jewish life in Judea and scholars and sages wrote and discussed how to apply Torah to their lives.

Some Jewish scholars indicate that if the Books of Maccabees (included in the Catholic Vulgate as a text of their Old Testament) had originally been written in Hebrew rather than Greek they may have been more readily accepted by Jews as Jewish texts.  Jews recognize those texts as a history of the miracle of the victory of the small band of rebels to defeat the largest world military power of the day. Another reason the Books of Maccabees did not take on a more prominent role as Jewish texts was that they focused more upon the military victory than upon the role that steadfast faith in God and God’s deliverance played in their fight for religious freedom to maintain faith in God exclusively.

However, since the Tanakh was long before already formed and closed, there has never been Jewish scholarly question that they could have become a part of the Jewish Bible.

****The Greek Septuagint called the Old Testament is not a Jewish document, but rather a Christian one. The original Septuagint, created 2,200 years ago by 72 Jewish translators, was a Greek translation of the Five Books of Moses alone. It therefore did not contain prophetic Books of the Bible such as Isaiah. The Septuagint as we have it today, which includes the Prophets and Writings as well, is a product of the church, not the Jewish people. In fact, the Septuagint remains the official Old Testament of the Greek Orthodox Church, and the manuscripts that consist of our Septuagint today date to the third century C.E. The fact that additional books known as the Apocrypha, which are uniquely sacred to the Roman Catholic and Orthodox Church, are found in the Septuagint should raise a red flag to those inquiring into the Jewishness of the Septuagint.

The fact that the original Septuagint translated by Jewish scribes more than 22 centuries ago was only of the Pentateuch and not of prophetic books of the Bible such as Isaiah is confirmed by countless sources including the ancient Letter of Aristeas, which is the earliest attestation to the existence of the Septuagint. The Talmud also states this explicitly in Tractate Megillah (9a), and Josephus as well affirms that the Septuagint was a translation only of the Law of Moses in his preface to Antiquities of the Jews. Moreover, Jerome, a church father and Bible translator who could hardly be construed as friendly to Judaism, affirms Josephus' statement regarding the authorship of the Septuagint in his preface to The Book of Hebrew Questions.

In fact, Dr. F.F. Bruce, the preeminent professor of Biblical exegesis, keenly points out that, strictly speaking, the Septuagint deals only with the Pentateuch and not the whole Old Testament. Bruce writes, "The Jews might have gone on at a later time to authorize a standard text of the rest of the Septuagint, but . . . lost interest in the Septuagint altogether. With but few exceptions, every manuscript of the Septuagint which has come down to our day was copied and preserved in Christian, not Jewish, circles."*****

Important note: this asterisked portion is copy pasted from a writing authored by Rabbi Tovia Singer. Please note he also quotes a 20th Century Christian theologian who was considered one of the world's foremost experts on Bible history by Christians.

The accuracy of the words in the Hebrew Bible that is still used today were confirmed with the findings of the Dead Sea Scrolls. The Dead Sea Scrolls contained at least fragments of each book and many complete scrolls of texts of the Tanakh (except the book of Esther the last book to be included in the canon) that match very well with the Tanakhs Jews use today. There were also many additional texts other than from the Holy Scriptures of Judaism discovered there. 

Because the texts of the Dead Sea scrolls are dated to cover a long period of time and also include texts that are rather heretical as well as holy, and many of the holy texts contain errors that would have rendered a scroll trayf (unfit) and only fit to be buried in a genizah, there are a number of Jewish scholars who have long recognized that rather than a place where a sect hurriedly hid their holy books before being attacked by Romans, it was a traditional place of burial for books containing the holy name of God in Hebrew.  These books were either 1) too worn for regular use or 2) had mistakes or errors or 3) were heretical and had idolatry within them to make them offensive for Jewish use, but because of the name of God within them, books that they could not dispose of in any other manner

The majority of the Dead Sea scroll Biblical texts were written in the Hebrew Language (approximately 90-95%) with Assyrian Block script. From this majority there are a few cases in which the scribes used Paleo-Hebrew (see for example 4QPaleoExodus).

Modern Hebrew is different from the ancient Paleo Hebrew, but the Hebrew of 2000 years ago is closer to modern Hebrew than the English of the 1700’s is to the English we speak today. In 70CE the Romans destroyed the Second Temple and expelled the Jews. The Romans did not expel the early Christians who refused to ally themselves with the Jews who revolted against Rome after a massacre of Jews by the Roman Governor that took place at the Temple. Twenty years later, there was a school established by the earliest rabbis and by scribes at Yavneh in 90 CE.  These earliest Rabbis rejected use of any of the Hellenized translations and books that the Greeks and Romans had attached *to* the Tanakh by apostates and Roman citizens who spread Romanized and Hellenized versions of scripture. The school established there was not some kind of convention to establish the canon, they were trying to preserve Tanakh intact and these sages also began to write down what had then been only "oral" Torah.

Currently, *some* Christian apologist scholars claim that this was when the Jewish Bible's canon was formed in response to Christianity in error ignoring that *their very own early church fathers' writings refer to the Jewish Holy Scriptures as a formed work already at the time of the writing of their New Testament*!  Most of the book of Daniel and portions of Ezra and a single sentence in Jeremiah are in Aramaic, a related language to Hebrew using Hebrew letters. All else in the Jewish Bible was written in Hebrew.

These earliest rabbis were concerned that without the centrality of the Temple and with the dispersion of Jews from Jerusalem, the Hellenist apologists and Romans would be successful to corrupt the Tanakh by altering it through mistranslation into Greek and adding pagan precepts. Religion and rule were inseparable and in order for the Jews to be a part of the Roman Empire they insisted upon assimilating concepts to undermine and negate the Jews as an eternal covenant nation. There is no doubt that all the texts admitted into the Prophets and Writings were already a part of the Tanakh long before the time of Jesus. Some of the texts that Judaism never considered as a part of Jewish scripture were early apologetic attempts to tie in Christian dogma to the Tanakh. Others that were condemned show that assimilation of religion was already long under way to eliminate the Jews as a people before the Roman conquest with pre-Christian attempts to Hellenize Judaism when Greece occupied the holy land.  

Both the Greek and Roman conquerors tried to assimilate the Jewish people out of existence through such methods. These texts known as Pseudepigrapha were largely written between 200 BCE and 100 CE and included great amounts of Greek philosophy.  

The Apocrypha (Greek, "hidden books") are Jewish books not considered part of the Holy Scriptures of Judaism.

Pseudepigrapha (Greek, "falsely attributed") was given to Jewish writings, which were attributed to authors who did not actually write them. Many people confuse the two terms and which books belong in each category. Neither Apocrypha or Pseudepigrapha have ever been a part of the Tanakh, or Holy Scriptures to Judaism. Those terms are important to understand when studying these and many related ancient texts.

Referring back to the noted Christian scholar, he also had this to say bout the Apocrypha, that have never been considered holy texts in Judaism, but that some Christians still try to use to make often quite absurd claims about Jewish belief:

""The books which they decided to acknowledge as canonical were already generally accepted, although questions had been raised about them. Those which they refused to admit had never been included. They did not expel from the canon any book which had previously been admitted. 'The Council of Jamnia was the confirming of public opinion, not the forming of it.'" (F. F. Bruce, The Books and Parchments [Old Tappan, NJ.: Fleming H. Revell, 1963], p. 98])

Here he is referring to a purported "Council of Jamnia" that Christians often portray as a parallel to their "Council of Nicea" that *established* the canon of the Christian texts.  What the "Council of Jamnia" was in reality, was a Jewish community of exiled scholars, sages, and teacher from Jerusalem and Judea who were permitted to have a school in Yavneh to teach the Torah.

This was not a place where Jews gathered to establish the canon.  The sages there simply did not permit the texts that had been written by Hellenized apostate Jews for the purpose of attempting to syncretize their Greek beliefs into Judaism and assimilating them, nor would they permit the Romanized versions that were then appearing as well.  They weren't Jewish holy texts and never had been considered texts holy in Judaism. 

This whole idea of a "Council of Jamnia" has even fooled some modern Jews, including me when I very first learned about it from a couple of comparative religion books, completely non Jewish .

Though I already knew that the canon had long been established before that time, when I first read about it, I didn't give it a second thought that it could have been a * meeting*  convened for the purpose of weeding out texts from the Tanakh that had been imposed by apostates and those wanting to assimilate Jews, UNTIL I started to investigate a little on my own to discover that even respected Christian theologians had for a very long time, known better, too. 

It was a school permitted of the exiled Jews who survived the Roman genocide of the Jews from Jerusalem, it wasn't a convention or “council” resembling the Council of Nicea in any way.  The Council of Nicea was an ecumenical meeting ordered by the Roman emperor Constantine of bishops of the church to form a consensus regarding Christian dogma once and for all among the competing sects. 

The school at Yavneh did not establish the Tanakh, that bit of business happened well over 500 years earlier, It was the Christian Bible, with its replacement theology doctrine and redefined and re-translated and rearranged versions of the Jewish texts that did not appear until after 90 CE and did not appear in anything resembling its current form until their Council of Nicea in 325 CE.