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D . I . Y. B I B L E S T U DY

The New Testament

michael s . heiser

Misquotes

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the old

Sometimes when a New Testament writer quotes the Old Testament, the two passages do not match precisely. Is the New Testament writer misquoting the Old Testament? Or is there another explanation? Luke records that when Jesus began His ministry, He went to the synagogue in Nazareth on the Sabbath day. When He stood up to read the Scriptures, “The scroll of the prophet Isaiah was given to him” (Luke 4:17 esv). Jesus read the description of a climactic arrival of the anointed one from Isa 61:1–2, excluding the last half of verse two. That omission is understandable, but if you look at Luke 4:18–19 and Isa 61:1–2 side-by-side, several dissimilarities in what Jesus read are readily apparent. Luke 4:18–19 esv 18 The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he has anointed me to proclaim good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim liberty to the captives and recovering of sight to the blind, to set at liberty those who are oppressed, 19 to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor.

Isaiah 61:1–2 esv The Spirit of the Lord God is upon me, because the Lord has anointed me to bring good news to the poor; he has sent me to bind up the brokenhearted, to proclaim liberty to the captives, and the opening of the prison to those who are bound; 2 to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor. 1

important divergences: Red likely stylistic divergences: Green, Blue, Purple, Orange, Pink

In the original Old Testament passage, there is no reference to making the blind see. Conversely, Isaiah speaks of “binding up the brokenhearted,” a phrase absent in Luke. Since Luke is clear that Jesus was reading from a scroll, the divergence is not due to Luke (or Jesus) quoting from memory and messing up the passage! What’s going on here? Most of the time when a divergence occurs between a New Testament quotation and the Old Testament, the answer is the Septuagint, the ancient Greek translation of the Hebrew Bible. It often does not match the Hebrew text from which most Old Testaments were translated. Jesus apparently either read from a Hebrew text that reflected the Septuagint, or Luke fills in the quoted passage with the Septuagint. (And since Luke was not Jewish and spoke Greek, the Septuagint would have been his Bible). Luke 4:18–19 esv

Isaiah 61:1–2 nets Translated from the Greek Translation of the Old Testament, The Septuagint

Isaiah 61:1–2 esv Translated from the Most Commonly Used Hebrew Text

The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he has anointed me to proclaim good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim liberty to the captives and recovering of sight to the blind, to set at liberty those who are oppressed, 19to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor.

The spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he has anointed me; he has sent me to bring good news to the poor, to heal the brokenhearted, to proclaim release to the captives, and recovery of sight to the blind, 2 to summon the acceptable year of the Lord.

The Spirit of the Lord God is upon me, because the Lord has anointed me to bring good news to the poor; he has sent me to bind up the brokenhearted, to proclaim liberty to the captives, and the opening of the prison to those who are bound; 2to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor.

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Jesus (or Luke) gets the “recovery of sight to the blind” line from the Septuagint. The Septuagint also contains a line from the traditional Old Testament that isn’t in Luke’s record! This example shows that it’s worth our time to check cross references, especially in quotations. Do it yourself by comparing New Testament quotations both to translations of the traditional Hebrew text, like the nasb or esv, and an up-to-date English translation of the Septuagint (New English Translation of the Septuagint; Oxford, 2008).1 We often don’t realize that even biblical writers depended on translations that they considered the Word of God. In the same manner, we can consider our own translations the Word of God. 42 |

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This translation is available at http://ccat.sas.upenn.edu/nets/edition

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