Tuesday, August 7, 2012

A Body You Prepared For Me — Heb. 10:5

Bible Gems #96
Question: If Hebrews 10:5 is quoting Psalm 40:6, why does the NT quote sound so much different than the OT original?

Where Psalm 40:6 reads “mine ears thou hast opened” (KJV), or “my ears you have pierced” (NIV), Hebrews 10:5 reads: “a body you prepared for me.”  The New Testament quote appears widely different from the Old Testament source.

Here's why:

The apostles and the early church used the Septuagint, rather than the original Hebrew, as their primary version of the Bible. The Septuagint (commonly known as the LXX) is a Greek translation of the Hebrew OT made by Greek and Hebrew speaking Jewish translators in Egypt around 285 - 246 BC. Since Greek was the common language of the NT world, it made sense to use the Greek translation of the Scriptures.

In most ancient manuscripts of the Hebrew Bible, Psalm 40:6 reads (in English): “ears you have dug for me.”  The LXX translates this into Greek as “a body you prepared for me.” Most likely, the translators of the LXX were attempting to make a vague Hebrew figure of speech (‘digging out ears’) more understandable to a Greek speaking audience by making the ‘digging out of the ears’ a reference to God forming the human body, even as He first molded Adam out of the dust of the earth.

The writer of the book of Hebrews used the LXX as his Bible version. On the surface, the difference in his translation compared to the Hebrew seems significant. But the LXX was simply trying to make the sense of the Hebrew text clear to non-Hebrew speaking people. The Hebrew language is very colorful, much like the American Indian languages are very picturesque. Rather than presenting a word-for-word translation from Hebrew to Greek, the translators sought to accurately convey the meaning of the phrase.
So the meaning of the original Hebrew was captured by the LXX, and then carried faithfully over into English by both the KJV and the NIV, both capturing the LXX translation of the Hebrew translation of Psalm 40:6.

Once again, God demonstrates how He preserves His Word across time, cultures and languages.
         Ps. 119:89 Your word, O LORD, is eternal; it stands firm in the heavens.

1 comment:

  1. Nice post.Bibles wether translated in different languages never fails to address a good values to its readers.We have learned to earn, grow, and live a fulfilled and happy life in the Spirit.I think interpreting our lives would mean on how we live our christian life more than any translation company could ever offer.