In a previous article, we considered many reasons why the Old Testament is preserved more accurately in the Septuagint than in the Masoretic Text.
Today, we consider yet another example.
When the apostle Paul read the Psalms, did he read the Septuagint, or the Masoretic Text? Did he read the Psalms in Greek, or in Hebrew? To answer this question, consider the way St. Paul quotes from Psalms in the book of Romans.
Here is Psalm 14:3, according to the Masoretic Text:
They are all gone aside, they are all together become filthy: there is none that doeth good, no, not one.
(Psalm 14:3 – KJV)
Here is Psalm 14:3, according to the Septuagint:
They are all gone out of the way, they are together become good for nothing, there is none that does good, no not one. Their throat is an open sepulchre; with their tongues they have used deceit; the poison of asps is under their lips: whose mouth is full of cursing and bitterness; their feet are swift to shed blood: destruction and misery are in their ways; and the way of peace they have not known: there is no fear of God before their eyes.
(Psalm 14:3 – LXX)
Now consider the third chapter of Romans, where the apostle Paul quotes directly from Psalm 14:
They are all gone out of the way, they are together become unprofitable; there is none that doeth good, no, not one. Their throat is an open sepulchre; with their tongues they have used deceit; the poison of asps is under their lips: Whose mouth is full of cursing and bitterness: Their feet are swift to shed blood: Destruction and misery are in their ways: And the way of peace have they not known: There is no fear of God before their eyes. (Romans 3:12-18)
Which version of the Psalms do you think Paul was using, the Masoretic Text, or the Septuagint?
If Paul had been relying upon the Masoretic Text, he would have had to cobble together fragments from six separate passages: Psalm 14:1-3, Psalm 5:9, Psalm 140:3, Psalm 10:7, Isaiah 59:7-9, and Psalm 36:1. It would be quite a coincidence if Paul–using the Masoretic Text alone–would have brought these six separate quotations together, in exactly the same order as they appear in one single passage in the Septuagint.
Of course, if Paul was relying on the Septuagint, then all he had to do was quote from Psalm 14 and his job was done. Simple.
The most sensible explanation is that Paul was quoting from the Septuagint in the third chapter of Romans. He was relying on the Greek version of the Old Testament, not the Hebrew.
The oldest existing copy of the Masoretic Text only dates back to the 10th century. The Septuagint, on the other hand, was translated over 1000 years earlier than that. During New Testament times, Jesus and the Apostles quoted from this Greek translation frequently, and with full authority.
Here is a sample of the differences between the Masoretic Text and the Septuagint.
While many Protestant bibles rely heavily on the Masoretic Text, the Orthodox Church has continued to use the Septuagint for the past 2000 years. The Orthodox Study Bible is an English copy of the Scriptures, and its Old Testament is translated from the Septuagint. It is very good, and comes highly recommended!