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Old Testament:
Dead Sea Scrolls

The Dead Sea Scrolls (DSS) like the magnificent Isaiah scroll closely follow the Masoretic Text (MT), but there are a few exceptions. For example, Psalm 145 is an alphabetical psalm. Each verse begins with the next letter in the alphabet, but "N" is missing in the MT. In the DSS it is there, so somehow a scribe left this verse out. Another important difference is in I Samuel 11 where the MT is shortened. The longer reading in the DSS explains what happens in this chapter.

Three of the most important Biblical texts from Qumran are: (1) The Isaiah Scroll from Cave 1 which has two different text types, with about 1,375 differences from the MT. (2) The Habakkuk Commentary from Cave 1 which uses the pesher method of interpretation, and the name Yahweh is written in paleo-Hebrew. (3) The Psalm scroll from Cave 11 contains 41 canonical psalms and 7 apocryphal psalms mixed in among them. The order of the psalms differs largely from the MT (Wurthwein 1979, 32).

Most Scholars saw the LXX as inferior to the Hebrew Bible called the Masoretic Text (MT). With the discovery of the Dead Sea Scrolls, this all changed. Ancient Hebrew scrolls were found that follow the LXX, not the Masoretic Text. The DSS showed that the LXX had an underlying Hebrew Text that was different from the MT.

Now Scholars think the LXX has important readings that are superior to the MT. The LXX is now very important in textual criticism of the Hebrew Bible. Let's look at some of the key differences between the LXX and the MT where the LXX seems to be superior.


Genesis 1:9

4QGenk  has added "and dry land appeared" indicating that the longer reading of the LXX is from an ancient Hebrew text that the MT lost by haplography. The LXX addition says, "and the waters below heaven gathered into their gathering place and dry land appeared" (See Charlesworth, 2000, p.200).

Genesis 5

The chronology in Genesis chapter five is also very different than the MT. (Finegan 1998, 195; Larsson 1983, 401-409). Larsson believes that the translators of the LXX tried to harmonize the Biblical chronology with the Egyptian chronology of Manetho by adding 100 years to the patriarchs ages to push back the time of the flood before the first Egyptian dynasty because there is no record of a great flood. Early Christian chronologists emphasized the perfect agreement of Manetho with the LXX (Larsson, 403-4). It is interesting to see how they understood Genesis by the way they translated the text.


A. Rofe research suggested that the addition after Joshua 24:33 reflects an earlier and more original development were Joshua and Judges were combined together. The end of Joshua is followed by Judges 3 with the first two chapters of Judges added later. Rofe also saw the cities of refuge in Joshua 20:4-6 as later additions which are not found in the LXX. The MT later adds the quote form Deuteronomy. Joshua in the LXX is 4-5% shorter than the MT of Joshua (Joshua 6, 12, 20). These minuses should be seen as additions by the MT. The 4QJosha also differs from the MT.

There is also a major change in the sequence of events in the LXX of Joshua. The building of the altar at Shechem in Joshua 8:30-35 (MT) is moved to chapter 9:3 in the LXX.

There are some additions in the LXX that reflect Hebraistic diction that can be easily  retroverted back into Hebrew.

Tov concludes "the MT and LXX do not reflect textual differences, but rather two different editions of the book....the edition of the MT expanded the shorter one reflected in the LXX (The Greek and Hebrew Bible, 1999, p. 395). 


The first two and a half chapters of Judges were later added, and Joshua was separated from Judges. There are two major texts, A and B for the Song of Deborah. There is a complicated textual history here. There are transpositions and remote doublets. For more details see The Greek and Hebrew Bible by E. Tov, 1999, pp. 527-534.


The Dead Sea Scroll 4QSama is very close to the readings of the LXX, and Josephus against the MT. See The Qumran Text of Samuel and Josephus by E.Ch. Ulrich, 1978. Josephus' text is based on the Greek rather than the Hebrew text of the Old Testament.

There is a very literal translation in the LXX of the Hebrew section of 2 Samuel 10-1Kings 2:11 which is called kaige-Th. Other sections are not that literal. There are 124 times where 4QSama equals the LXX, and does not equal the MT in the non-kaige-Th section, but only 20 times in the kaige-Th section. It seems that the kaige-Th section contains a revised Greek text.

One key section that the LXX (and 4QSama) is different from the MT is in I Samuel 16-18. The LXX says that Goliath is only 4 cubits tall while the MT says 6 cubits tall. It seems that the MT is the juxtaposition of two separate accounts of these events (Tov, 1999, 354).


The Lucianic (L) text of Esther is found in manuscripts 19, 93,108, 319, and part of 392. The Lucian Text is a seen as a revision of the Old Greek text (OG).  Some scholars call the Lucian text A and the LXX text B. Here in the Lucian text, it looks like the book of Esther has been rewritten. The Lucian text of Esther is very different from the MT. It has omissions, additions, and content changes. The LXX also has large deviations from the MT. The L reflects midrash exegesis of Esther similar to the Targums.

Tov states, "To summarize, L is a translation which is based on the LXX but corrects it towards a Hebrew (or Aramaic) text which differs from the MT" (p. 548). For the details see The Greek and Hebrew Bible by E. Tov, 1999, pp.535-548.

Cline believes the original form of Esther ended at 8:17. Jobes believes the L is based on a Hebrew original that was much shorter than the MT, but very similar to that text where the two overlap (Ibid, 548).


While there are differences between the LXX and the MT, not all the differences can be blamed on the translators. There are major differences that seem to be from a different Hebrew Vorlage. For example, there are major differences in the transposition of verses and whole groups of verses. In Chapters 15 and 16 there are the a number of verses rearranged. The same is true in chapters 17 and 20. The LXX is shorter than the MT in a number of places (9:1-2, 18:23-24, 20:14-19).

Differences in Sequence of Proverbs

Masoretic Text Septuagint Text
I. 1:1-9:18,  Solomon I-III 1:1-24:1-22
II. 10:1-22:16, Solomon VI, A 30:1-14 Agur
III. 22:17-24:22, the wise IV 24:23-34 also the wise
IV 24:23-34, also the wise VI, B 30:15-33 Agur
V 25-29, men of Hezekiah VII 31:1-9 Lemuel
VI 30, words of Agur V 25-29 men of Hezekiah
VII 31:1-9 Lemuel VIII 31:10-31 Acrostic
VIII 31:10-31 Acrostic   

The LXX of Proverbs preserves a different editorial stage than the one found in the MT.


Jeremiah is one seventh shorter in the LXX than in the MT. This is the most dramatic difference between the LXX and MT. The LXX of Jeremiah probably reflects an earlier edition of the Book of Jeremiah. Not only is the LXX shorter, but the arrangement of verses is different.

The Dead Sea Scrolls 4QJerb,d are very similar to the LXX with the shorter text, and the different arrangement of verses.

In chapters 27-29 of the MT of Jeremiah the king of Babylon is spelled Nebuchadnezzar while in the rest of the book it is in its original form Nebuchadrezzar. The LXX only has Nebuchadrezzar.

It should be noted that pseudopigraphal writings, and revisions were a common practice in ancient times. Their view of inspiration was also very different.

The MT editor added headings to prophecies, repeated sections, added new verses and sections, new details, new arrangements, and clarification of unclear passages. This most likely done after the exile.

In the LXX  Jeremiah chapters 46-51 of the MT follow 25:13 of the LXX. These oracles against the nations are also put in a different order.


There are many differences between the LXX and MT of Ezekiel. The LXX of Ezekiel is about 4-5% shorter than the MT. One example is Ezekiel 7:3-9. The LXX of Ezekiel seems to reflect a shorter Hebrew text. The MT being a later expanded edition. The MT adds parallel words and phrases, exegetical phrases, harmonization, and new material. 

Ezekiel 36 is longer in the MT. P. Chester Beatty 967 of the LXX lacks verses 23-38. This implies that the Old Greek reflects an early stage of development of the Book of Ezekiel.

Websites about the Dead Sea Scrolls:

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