Does Hebrews 10:5 Misquote Psalm 40:6?

I learned a long time ago that the cross-reference in the margins of the average Bible was a helpful guide to understanding how the New Testament (NT) and the Old Testament (OT) relate to one another. Somewhere around 2009 I also made the realization that some of the OT references listed in the NT were not quoted well or that some seem to be practicing some very poor exegesis. A friend that I met through church, who had already graduated from Bible college, mentioned that she was rather disappointed with the way that the NT authors used the OT passages completely out of context. At that time in my life I was not familiar with this particular issue so I poured myself into checking as many references as I could. For months I read and searched all the ways that the NT used the OT passages.

What I discovered was that quite often the NT either paraphrased the OT passage or that the NT simply misquoted the OT passage. Many of the misquotes that I found to seemed benign because they are not as much of a misquote as a re-working of the text. The misquote being discussed in this article is the rework type. The OT text quoted in Hebrews 10 clearly does not match what is in Psalm 40, but is it a serious problem? Also, what does this mean about the doctrine of inerrancy? Those questions will be answered in this article.

Below is an explanation of this type of error, found in the NT, as well as the reason why so many of these errors exist.

Text of Hebrews 10 against Psalm 40

Hebrews 10:5-7 King James Version (KJV)

……. Sacrifice and offering thou wouldest not, but a body hast thou prepared me:
In burnt offerings and sacrifices for sin thou hast had no pleasure.
Then said I, Lo, I come (in the volume of the book it is written of me,) to do thy will, O God.

Psalm 40:6-8 King James Version (KJV)

Sacrifice and offering thou didst not desire; mine ears hast thou opened: burnt offering and sin offering hast thou not required.
Then said I, Lo, I come: in the volume of the book it is written of me,
I delight to do thy will, O my God: yea, thy law is within my heart.


The “Misquote”

The disagreement between Hebrews 10:5 and Psalm 40:6 is mostly concerning the proposed action that God had performed.

but a body hast thou prepared me (Hebrews)

mine ears hast thou opened (Psalm 40)

Did God prepare a body or did He open ears? Which one is correct?

Technically, they are both correct, but Psalm 40 in the original Hebrew is more correct. The passage is different in the book of Hebrews because the author of Hebrews quoted from the Septuagint (LXX), which was the Greek version of the OT, widely used in the first century. He did not quote from the Masoretic Hebrew text which is the basis for most modern OT texts. The LXX was the standard for first century Jews because the Greek language was the main language of the people at that time. Additionally, many of the converts of Paul spoke only Greek, so quoting the OT in Aramaic or Hebrew would have been a problem since his audience could not read it. Of course some early Christians could still speak and read Aramaic, but everyday life and interactions with others were done in Greek. It’s been suggested by others that the poorest Jews in Judea may have lacked the ability to really speak Greek. The barrier between Gentiles primarily speaking Greek and poor/rural Jews only speaking Aramaic presented real problems in the early Church. Perhaps, Paul’s calling to the Gentiles would best explain why he chose to reference the OT in Greek, rather than Aramaic or Hebrew.

The dependency of some people on the Greek OT raises an issue for the modern reader, which is that the LXX mistranslated or purposefully changed  some of the Hebrew texts. It’s pretty fair to say that the LXX was carefree in it’s translation of the Hebrew. Moreover, there was no official single copy of the LXX. Many Greek manuscripts existed in the first century and they were not in universal agreement with each other or the Hebrew texts. So one cannot know for sure if some passages in the LXX were translated correctly, just from an unknown Hebrew manuscript. Just a few examples of the changes in the LXX are that the book of Job was dramatically re-ordered in the LXX and the book of Ester is quite a bit longer in the Greek than in the Hebrew manuscripts. These changes in the text are easily located because in modern times there exists a wide access to the texts, where as ancient texts were often transmitted orally.

The problems with the LXX would be irrelevant had the NT authors not used it as an authoritative copy of the OT. Paul almost always quotes from the LXX over the Hebrew. Clearly it was good enough for Paul. But did Paul know that it differed from the Hebrew? My guess is that he did know, but the idea of inerrancy concerning the OT scriptures was not as defined as our modern theology of inerrancy. The Jewish people very much had a canon that was “living” and changing. One community considered books like Esdras and Maccabees to be inspired and canonical, where as others would not. What the Essenes thought of as inspired and what the Pharisees thought of as inspired were often two different things. The idea of inerrancy was typically only given to the law and then later in the 3rd century to the prophets. It was not immediately important to declare the historical or wisdom literature to without error. Moreover, the Jewish faith was not closed to new revelation. God’s revelation to His people did not die with the prophets of our current version of the OT.

That being said, the text found in the LXX for Psalm 40:6 is not necessarily a misquote as much as it is a re-working of the passage. It appears that the translator of the Greek text took liberalities to insert a little play on words or a rhyme of sorts….. some have even call it a pun (myself not included). For those who are confident in their Greek abilities, I highly suggest that they read the article “The Function of Paronomasia in Hebrews 10:5–7“, by Karen H. Jobes. Karen is one of the most premier scholars on the LXX and was the Professor of New Testament Greek and Greek Exegesis, Emerita, at Wheaton College from 2005 to 2015. Most seminary professors reference her works on the Greek OT, no matter which seminary they teach at. She is a renown expert in her field.

Since most English speakers do not read Greek, I will give a gloss of the article below.

Jobes argues that the translator of Psalm 40 in the LXX employed a rhetorical device call a paronomasia. A paronomasia in English is just a play on words, which was heavily used in writings of first century Greek because the texts were often heard by a reader, not read by individuals. Much like the letters of Paul were read aloud to the churches, Greek texts in the form of plays, poems, and even history would create phonetic phrases and passages that were easy to remember. A good example of why this was helpful can be seen in learning a new language. When I was in high school German class it was not uncommon to learn a song or a poem in German. This is because we learn things that rhyme easier than things that do not. A rhyme reduces the number of word options that fit into the given location because whatever the word is, it has to continue on the same rhythmic trend. This is why most languages also have an alphabet song. Even learned adults sometimes recite the ABCs mentally or aloud by using the song they learned in grade school or kindergarten.

For the Greek speakers reading this article, here is the LXX version of Psalm 40 as presented in Hebrews 10, which contains the rhythmic version created by the LXX author.

5b Θυσίαν καὶ προσφορὰν οὐκ ἠθέλησας
Σῶμα δὲ κατηρτίσω μοι
6 Ὁλοκαυτώματα καὶ περὶ
ἁμαρτίας Οὐκ εὐδόκησας
7 Τότε εἶπον
Ἰδοὺ ἥκω
Ἐν κεφαλίδι βιβλίου γέγραπται περὶ ἐμοῦ
Τοῦ ποιῆσαι ὁ Θεός τὸ θέλημά σου

5b: θυ- σί- αν- καὶ- πρὸσ- φο- ρὰν- οὐκ- ἠ- θέ- λη- σας
5c: σω̂- μα- δὲ- κα- τηρ- τί- σω- μου
6:  ὁ- λο- καυ- τώ- μα- τα- καὶ- πε- ρίἁ-
μαρ- τί- ασ- οὐκ- εὐ- δό- κη- σας
7a: τότε εἰ̂πον·
7b: ἰδοὺ ἣκω,
7c: ἐν- κε- φα- λί- δι- βιβ- λί- ου- γέ- γραπ- ται- πε- ρὶ- ἐ- μου̂
του̂- ποι- η̂- σαι- ὁ- θε- ὸσ- τὸ- θέ- λη- μά- σου

Oddly enough, when reading the quotation in Greek, it is slightly reminiscent of the song from Cinderella, “Bibbidi-bobbidi-boo”. The Cinderella connections is a bit tongue-in-cheek, but demonstrates the power of a mnemonic device.

Sala-gadoola-menchicka-boo-la bibbidi-bobbidi-boo
Put ’em together and what have you got?

When transliterated directly into English the Greek text would sound like the following paragraph. However, I did make one adjustment from Jobe’s version which I will highlight and explain afterwards.

Thy-si-an kia pros-pho-ran ouk e-the-le-sas
so-ma de ka-ter-ti-so mou
Ha-lo-kau-to-mat-ta kai pe-ri ha-mar-ti-as
Ouk ey-do-ke-sas
To-te eipon
idou hekou
en ke-pha-li-di bib-li-ou ge-grap-tai pe-ri em-ou
Tou poi-e-sai ho The-os to the-le-ma-sou

The rhyme is made up of endings that sounds like “sas” (σας) or “ou” (ου). I adjusted the part in RED simply because Jobe divided a word in half in order to force her version of the rhyme, however, I believe it works just fine while keeping the word in tact. Jobe also points out that the rhyme also aligns syllables sounding ending in the long “O” sound. This is harder to find than the more obvious σας/ου rhyme.

The power of this rhetorical tool is that it work subconsciously. Without having watched Cinderella in more than a decade, the rhythm immediately brought one its most famous songs right to the top of my mind. I was not looking for an English connection, it just happened. These types of rhetorical tools are used quite a bit in cultures where written works were often spoken aloud.

With all this in mind, one still has to address the fact that the author of this Greek passage still changed the words. Did the meaning change along with the words?

Preparing a body VS opening ears

Before digging into this problem, it should be noted that “preparing a body” is not a great English translation of the Greek words “Σῶμα δὲ κατηρτίσω μοι”. The verb κατηρτίσω does translate into “prepare” or rather “you have prepared”. However, I believe a fuller translation could be found with the understanding that preparing in English and Greek means to “bring something to it’s proper condition or a state of readiness“. The English word “prepare” is a condensed word so we must not forget the full meaning of our own English words. When one prepares for a test, they are bringing themselves into a state of readiness. This should be differentiated from the way we speak of preparing a meal, in which prepare is really used to indicate a process of many things. Nevertheless, the full meaning of κατηρτίσω is not well captured in most English translations.

The use of Σῶμα “a body” also contains an elusive meaning. The English translation says “a body you have prepared for me” but what is hard to deduce is who’s body it is or it’s relation to the word “me”. Here the Dative case in Greek will solve the mystery. The Dative case signifies a giving of something. A better English phrasing of the ending of verse 5 should be “a body you have prepared for (or given) me”. The meaning in the context of the Psalm is that the Lord was not pleased with just sacrifices or offerings but in learning the doing the will of the Lord.

This meaning is similar to what is seen in the phrase “my ears you have opened”. This is a common phrase denoting that the Lord is allowing one to learn His wisdom. How often did we hear Jesus echo this phraseology?

He who has ears to hear, let him hear. (Matthew 11:15)

Both passages suggest that the Lord was preparing one to learn and do the will of God.

Thus, the two passages are not that far apart in Greek. However, these idioms are not exactly clear in English. When read in the original language, and in right context, the misquote is not as much of misquote. However, should biblical translators wield this much free reign over altering the text? Should the Greek translators be aloud to tamper with the scriptures to blatantly?

Transmission of the Jewish scriptures

Despite mythical stories about how the LXX was initially translated perfectly by 70 different Jewish scholars, as recounted by Josephus and Aristeas, the LXX was not without error. However, first century Judaism was not concerned with exact 1:1 translation. Anyone who speaks 2, 3 or even 4 languages, as people did in the first century Mediterranean region, were well aware that no language has an exact 1 to 1 word equivalence.

Nevertheless, modern students of the Bible must address the issue that elsewhere in the LXX major translation errors or changes do exist. Is it possible to have an inerrant Bible if the authors of the NT quotes passages from the OT that are clearly altered and changed? I would suggest that the modern theory of inerrancy has greatly gone astray. The Bible is not perfect in every single word. It bears the obvious marks of the imperfect beings that God used to transmit His message. Moreover, the gospel message survived just fine for 300 years before there was even an official canon of scripture. If God can build His kingdom during those 300 years then He can manage to continue it’s expansion with a Bible that is, by most accounts, 99% accurate to the originals.

Inerrancy was never needed for God to save mankind.

Did the MT change the LXX?

Due to some action in the comments section, I am updating this article to include an explanation about why this article assumes that the LXX translators took liberties translating from the various Hebrew texts rather than later Masoretic Text (MT) scribes changing the text of the LXX. For those unfamiliar with the matter, the MT sort of gained mainstream dominance in the 7th century AD and has remained the dominant Hebrew source used for the OT since then. It is clear, however, that the MT and the LXX contain many differences. Many people rightly assume that the MT scribes changed a number of messianic texts in order to deter Christian apologists. While there are occasions where it appears that the MT was altered at a late date it is important that we take these claims on a case-by-case basis. This is because we have Hebrew manuscripts that predate the MT and were the source material for the MT.

The Hebrew texts recovered from the Dead Sea collection demonstrate roughly a 60% agreement with the MT. [1]Schiffman, L.,  Reclaiming the Dead Sea Scrolls (illustrated ed.). Yale University Press, 2007 Nevertheless, there are large number of Hebrew texts that better align with other traditions, such as the LXX, the Syriac, or the Samaritan. Agreement with the LXX is far less than with the MT, at roughly 5% of variants matching. In other words, the MT is represented the vast majority of instances which bolsters the Jewish claim that the MT is indeed rooted from an ancient source. However, of the 40% of the Hebrew texts not lining up with the MT, famous Catholic scholar Joseph Fitzmyer sees this as an example of the LXX being less a bad translation of the Hebrew and more of a parallel (variant) text in the pre-Christian era.[2]Fitzmyer, Joseph. The Dead Sea Scrolls and the Bible: After Forty Years. p. 302. To be sure, a number of variant OT texts existed in the pre-Christian era. That is why OT criticism is a laborious field.

On the question of whether or not the LXX has altered a Hebrew passage that is part of the proto-MT tradition, the answer is yes. We have a clear example from the DSS in Deuteronomy Deuteronomy 7:15. We have a very ancient Hebrew text that lines up with the MT and it contains scribal corrections that cause it to line up with the LXX after the corrections are accounted for. [3]Menachem Cohen, “The Idea of the Sanctity of the Biblical Text and the Science of Textual Criticism“, 1979 However, Emannual Tov notes that this is the only surviving scribal correction that demonstrates a Hebrew manuscript being edited to match the LXX version. [4]Emmanuel Tov, “The Dead Sea Scrolls: 40 Years of Research”, Brill, 1992, p. 302-308. The reason for such editing in the era leading up to the Christian era is because Judaism was quite fractured. The sect of Judaism that birthed the Christian movement held the LXX, Apocryphal books, and eschatology like Enoch sacred. Others did not. We know from Josephus that the Sadducees did not even hold the prophetic books to be scripture. They only held the law of Moses to that standard. So, it should be no surprise that the early Christians held to a different textual tradition than the Pharisee or even the Samaritans. Although, there are numerous examples of Samaritan Hebrew texts found among the DSS.

So the final question is whether or not Psalm 40 was altered by the LXX scribes or altered by the MT scribes. I would suggest that it was altered by the LXX scribes since this particular passage has a large attestation to the MT. In other words, the MT wording is probably more ancient and widely used. The MT reading is confirmed by the Syriac Peshitta (2nd century CE) and the Latin Manuscripts. It should not be a surprise that the Latin manuscripts align with the MT as Jerome relied heavily on Rabbinic scribes for his work on the Vulgate. Both the Latin and the Syriac were translated from ancient Hebrew manuscripts that would be called proto-Masoric. These proto-MT are the same as the ones found in the DSS. However, among the many Psalms found in the Hebrew DSS manuscripts, Psalm 40 is not among them. This means that we cannot confirm for sure if the MT is closest to the ancient Hebrew or if the LXX is closest to the ancient Hebrew. However, it appears that even in the early Christian church the MT version of Psalm 40 was widely accepted and used alongside the LXX. Since the MT accounts for the vast majority of the Hebrew DSS library it is safe to assume that the version copied by the LXX translators was probably proto-MT.

But none of this is really relevant to the aim of this article. This article is answering a simple question which is whether or not Hebrew misquoted the OT, to which I say he did not. He merely quoted from an alternative version. A version that was widely accepted in the early church.

Featured image of Papyrus 79, one of the older fragments containing Hebrews 10 in Greek, but certainly not the oldest.
Photo citation: K. Treu, Neue neutestamentliche Fragmente der Berliner Papyrussammlung, APF 18 (1966), pp. 37-48.


1 Schiffman, L.,  Reclaiming the Dead Sea Scrolls (illustrated ed.). Yale University Press, 2007
2 Fitzmyer, Joseph. The Dead Sea Scrolls and the Bible: After Forty Years. p. 302.
3 Menachem Cohen, “The Idea of the Sanctity of the Biblical Text and the Science of Textual Criticism“, 1979
4 Emmanuel Tov, “The Dead Sea Scrolls: 40 Years of Research”, Brill, 1992, p. 302-308.

33 thoughts on “Does Hebrews 10:5 Misquote Psalm 40:6?”

  1. Wow! I’m utterly confused…I’m just a nobody, so help me out.
    1. Was the LXX a translation of the Hebrew Bible, that was translated to Greek, by a commissioned group of 70+- Jewish Scholars?
    If not, who did translate the LXX?

    2. If the LXX predates Jesus hundreds of years (BC). How did these Jew/Greek/Egyptian/? translators know to manipulate the Greek, to accommodate for a Testament that would be written hundreds of years later (AD)?

    3. “Therefore, when He comes into the world, He says, ‘Sacrifice and offering thou hast not desired, but a body thou hast prepared for me’” (Heb. 10:5,6).
    In that passage, Paul is quoting from Psalm 40:6. If you look up Psalm 40:6 in your MT Bible you will find that it reads: “Sacrifice and offering Thou hast not desired; mine ears Thou hast opened.”
    How was anyone able to add a BODY prepared over sacrifice and offering to the LXX BC. To match the NT 200 AD?
    4. Did the KJV Bible have the same Jewish Scholars/Translators prepare the NT gospels, as the same Jewish MT Scholars/Translators that were used to translate the Old Testament?

    • Thanks for the comment, I will try to address each point the best I can.

      1. The Septuagint (LXX) was a theoretical translation of the Hebrew Bible but it seems clear from history (see letter of Aristeas) that the original translation of the Hebrew bible, into Greek, was really just the 5 books of Moses. The legendary account of it being done by 70 (some accounts say 72) is not regarded by scholars as being anything more than a legend to grant authority to the Greek edition. Other books of the Hebrew Bible were later added to the collection as they were made available. There really is no official version of the LXX, in any form. The closest you’ll get are the Codex Sinaiticus and Alexandrinus. But those are from the 4/5th century CE. We have many Greek OT texts from the Dead Sea collection and they vary greatly from manuscript to manuscript.

      2. The LXX is actually a blanket name that is used to often refer to all the Greek OT manuscripts, even though that’s a bit of a conflation. The body of early Greek OT manuscripts that we have date anywhere from 300BCE-400CE. So we have manuscripts that predate Jesus and others that post-date Jesus. By an large, the Greek texts found in the Dead Sea demonstrate that a mix of manuscript traditions were being used at the time and some support the Masoretic Tradition and some do not. I do not believe that anyone manipulated any Greek texts to support the translation of the NT, except we do know that some later Greek versions did differ from the older ones and sometimes by the hand of a Christian scribe. One might compare with the Theodotian or Hexapla Greek editions.

      3. I am not sure I understand your question. The NT author was quoting from a portion of the Greek Psalm which differed from the MT. Hence why it’s different. I don’t understand the problem here.

      4. The KJV was finished in 1611 and was just an update of the Bishop’s Bible. It used a small collection of Greek NT texts (and some Latin) prepared by Erasmus and the Masoretic Hebrew OT texts. The gospels were written somewhere near the end of the 1st century CE. There was a team of 50+ translators that worked on the KJV. Like most translations, each scholar was dedicated to a section of the text. They did not all check over each other’s work but there was some cross-pollination of ideas and a list of rules given to the translation team.

      • Sorry on number 3. I should have been more clearer.
        This whole article is “Does Hebrews 10:5 misquote Psalms 40:6?”
        Does Hebrews (Greek) misquote Psalms (Masoretic)?
        Hebrews says (Body) misquote Psalms (Ears)?
        Your irrelevant use of The Dead Sea Scrolls seem to be a play of words as factual. Being The Psalms 40 from Scroll 11Q8 does not contain verse 6.
        LXX says BODY. LXX is Before Christ BC
        MT says EARS. MT is after Christ AD
        Masoretic text was written at around 900AD. That’s 900 years after Christ….900!
        The MT is represented the vast majority of instances which bolsters the Jewish claim that the MT is indeed rooted from an ancient source. However, truth is, 40% of the Hebrew texts are not lining up with the MT. The LXX is aligning with DSS much closer than the MT does.
        3. Simple Question. HOW DID THE AUTHOR (Jew, Greek, Martian, whomever) know to write BODY in BC to align with BODY in AD if the correct word is EAR?

        • 1. I never claimed that this particular verse appears in the DSS. It it did then I would have just listed the reading from the DSS. So, I am not sure what you’re getting at.

          2. The LXX that YOU have access to is not the only textual tradition in Greek. There are no less than four Greek versions of the OT that fall into the category of the LXX family and they do not all agree. Just saying “the LXX is older than the MT” is a foolish statement that ignores the entire body of evidence that exists for MT/proto-MT and the Hebrew vorlage that was the basis for the LXX. I highly suggest picking up a copy of Emmanuel Tov’s book, “Textual Criticism of the Hebrew Bible.” It’s a good starting point for this very messy topic.

          3. The MT and the proto-MT has been around for a long time. Well before what we would considered a completed MT tradition. We have quotations as well from rabbinic sources, liturgical documents, and we can compare the translation of Jerome and other early translations such as the Syriac to determine what was in the MT prior to the completed text of the Masoretic tradition.

          4. I have no idea what 40% you’re referring to. According to scholar Nahum Sarna (and others) the DSS texts align with the following traditions thusly:
          * 60% – Proto-MT
          * 20% – Unique to Qumran
          * 10 % – Non-aligned
          * 5% – LXX
          * 5% – Proto-SP

          5. The translators of the LXX either had a different Hebrew manuscript than we have extant or they modified the text in translation, which happened many times. In this case, I have argued that it seems more likely that the LXX altered the text in order to make a rhyming play-on-words in the Greek language. It would not have worked in the Hebrew. In fact, the whole passage was re-worded to have a particular Greek poetic meter that would not have worked in the Hebrew.

    • 4. You totally ducked question #4….. Jewish MT Scholars or Not? You know they are forbidden to read Hebrews much less translate for King James. No spin moves please.

      • I didn’t duck anything. I answered with a full paragraph. It seems as though you’re just not good at reading. The question that you just asked here is not in the original comment.

        The translation team for the KJV is an irrelevant side topic. I care zero percent what the KJV says. That being said, I have already stated that the translators worked on sections of the text. Specifically, the team working on the Psalms were referred to as the First Cambridge Company. The group that did the NT Epistles was the Second Westminster Company. None of these two companies shared any members.

        As mentioned earlier the translation work of the individual teams was made available to the other teams but they did not have every scholar translating the entire Bible. That would be silly. Where points of disagreement existed, they debated among themselves and arrived at consensus opinions.

        Again, this is an irrelevant side topic as we have thousands of manuscripts today that they did not have in 1611 and a superior knowledge of the biblical languages. If you bring a 16th century Lexicon to Bible college or Seminary, they will direct you to an updated volume from the last 100 years or so.

  2. Appreciate your honesty. It is a significant problem that few people are aware of. For me, there were a range of issues that led to my eventual deconversion, but when I encountered this, I was shocked at how blatant NT authors abused the OT.

    This then leads to the fair conclusion that Jews are justified to reject the Christian message. And when I was hanging onto my Christian faith, this realisation hit home: why be a Christian if the people you are meant to witness to are actually justified in rejecting that message by using the same scripture (OT) a Christian is meant to hold as authoritative.

    A good analogy is Mormonism – they have distorted the NT, so why be a Mormon. In a similar way, Christian authors have distorted the OT, so why be a Christian.

    Appreciate the opportunity to comment on your blog!

    • You are definitely not alone. This is one reason why the early church fought so hard to keep the Apocryphal books in the canon. They lent more support for Christianity than the OT texts. Honestly, without them, I do not see a bridge between the OT and the theology of the NT. Even still, the apocryphal books take great liberties with the OT. It is quite clear that even in the exilic period many parts of the OT were not understood because the ancient reader was just as uneducated as the modern.

    • There is no such thing as “deconversion”. You were never converted. If the words in the book is your authority, and you find that the words are different in another book, so now you conclude that the original words no longer apply, then you simply were never converted.

      Conversion happens in the spirit and soul. Conversion is a second birth. If you are borne a second time as surely as you are borne the first, then you have experienced what Yeshua said in John 3: 3-7

      You can’t undo your first birth, nor can you avoid the first death. You can be born a second time, if you continue to “overcome to the end” the second death does not apply. Think about asking the Father to open your eyes to this second birth!

      • Nonsense. Just because people deconverting makes you insecure about your own faith, don’t use your insecurity to slander others and pretend like you know their heart and mind.

  3. I feel there is a bigger issue within this passage outside of the differences between the LXX and MT. The author of the book to the Hebrews is attempting to show scriptural support for removing the law and sacrificial system (Heb 10:9 “He abolishes the first in order to establish the second”) and (Heb 8:13 “In speaking of a new covenant, he has made the first one obsolete, and what is obsolete and growing old will soon disappear”) and he does this elsewhere when speaking about the replacement of the Levitical priesthood (Heb 7:18 “There is, on the one hand, the abrogation of an earlier commandment because it was weak and ineffectual”).

    The issue I can see is that when looking at either the LXX and MT passages, the removal of the sacrificial/law was not the intention of the original Psalms author or any other OT author for that matter. For example, in Psalm 40:8 “I delight to do your will, O my God; your law is within my heart.” The author ultimately intends to show that it is obedience to the law which is more important than sacrifices. This is in opposition to what is written in Heb 10:9 that sacrifices/law are to be replaced, especially when in Hebrews 10:7 he omits the part about “your law is within my heart” because it is in conflict with the point the Hebrews author is making. LXX and MT both have this ending, but it was erased as it didn’t fit in with his point.

    Psalm 51:17-19 (MT) or Psalm 50:17-19 (LXX) supports this by saying that animals sacrifices will be accepted as long as the sacrifice is done with a true heart. This is in opposition to the author of Hebrews conclusions for making an unwarranted case that the law/sacrificial should be replaced.

    Paul in Romans 10:8 when quoting Deuteronomy 30:14 (MT and LXX) does something similar by taking it completely out of context and significantly, removes the important part about obeying or doing the word (which in context, is all about the law not being too difficult to obey in Deuteronomy 30).

    Conveniently, this part goes against what Paul is communicating, so he leaves it out and instead rips the original meaning out and builds an unwarranted case that belief in Christ saves, not obedience to the law. The Hebrews author appears to be a good student of Paul by following in his footsteps.

    in other parts of the OT, Jeremiah 33:18 (I’m aware that the LXX hasn’t got this chapter, but this adds to the problems because why did the NT authors use such a weak translation such as the LXX, especially when there is a DSS fragment of this part of Jer 33 chapter which lends creditably to what you are saying – the MT is likely closer to the originals); Ezekiel 40-48; Isaiah 56:7 and Zachariah 14:20-21 are all references of the Messianic era were sacrifices and the Levitical priesthood are required and they will be enforced. This is significant because this is when Jesus is supposed to be reigning and according to Hebrews, the animal sacrifices, Levitical priesthood and law should be gone, but it is not. Sure, a spiritual interpretation of these passages can be proposed to get around the problems, but it does take a lot of strained reasoning to get there without taking the original authors intended meaning out of context.

    Overall, regardless of whether the MT or LXX in Hebrews 10 is more original, the Hebrews author appears to have taken the message that the original authors were trying to convey within the Psalms and throughout the OT out of context.

    I guess some creative license is acceptable and the author of the book of Hebrews has the right to say what he wants. But when he is using OT scripture to support his conclusions, surely he needs to follow the intent of the original author, otherwise the creditably of the claims and ultimately, the conclusions he makes become meaningless. When “double meaning, double fulfilment” counters are offered to this problem, for me, it is an admission that the originally intended meaning has been replaced to suit the new authors goals. By using an ancient text like the OT to lend creditably to their own deas/concepts is nothing new – especially when passages are reinterpreted to suit the agenda of these new ideas, otherwise a new idea without some ancient authority can fall on deaf ears.

    • I agree. There are many instances of the NT author misusing or even abusing the OT text. If the theology was so clearly an extension of the OT then there wouldn’t be any debate about it.

    • These are all interesting and valid questions, but in the interest of time, I just want to point out one thing. The idea of “passages being changed” is not something that only NT authors did. You have to remember that these people were first and foremost Jews – the NT quotations are perfectly consistent with the Jewish midrash of the 1st century. There are many studies on this.

      It’s true, sometimes the NT analysis of passages is confusing, but again, this is not something that was solely done by NT authors. The famous “70 week” Prophecies in Daniel 7 and 9 is actually a reinterpretation of Jeremiah 27 & 29, yet Daniel is still accepted as Jewish canon. There are many more examples of adaption of prophecies in the OT, but since it’s 12am here I don’t have time to do a full survey !

      The main point is the exegetical methods of the NT authors is perfectly consistent with a) the methods of the earlier biblical authors itself and b) jewish midrashic techniques of the first century. Any serious student of the bible must learn how to correctly read and interpret OT writings, as well as the writing methods of Jews in the first century otherwise the exegetical techniques of the NT authors will be seen as a bigger issue than they are.

      Writings in the DSS actually show us how commonplace this technique is. To assume the NT writers were completely divorced from their own Jewish context and magically wrote what they want does not do justice to the textual, epigraphic and archaeological evidence of the first century. After all, the very earliest followers of Jesus were Jewish.

      • So this line of reasoning is fairly common in Seminary and was popular in circles more recently by people who followed the Late Dr. Michael Heiser. I did find this to be comforting some time ago but today I don’t really see it as such. We’re basically suggesting that because some Jews (even authoritative ones) re-interpreted prophecies and OT passages outside of their original context, then it’s OK that the NT authors did the same thing. I do not find this to be a rational position.

        This appears to be rationalizing a text, that at one point was presumed to be one thing but when that thing either failed or no longer seemed to serve the needs of the audience, it was changed to make it more palatable or better align with new facts. While it’s true that the NT authors were not the 1st to do this, I don’t think that is relevant. It shouldn’t need to happen at all.

        • not really. the point is that we see the occurrence of this remoulding and reshaping in the biblical text itself, which points to the larger idea that the biblical interpretation of prophecy is not as simple and as 1:1 as some might suggest, and this is hardly new information.

          you’re right that some of this popularisation came from Heiser, but I do tend to agree with him when he says that biblical prophecy is at times very ambiguous, and we need to respect that – even many interpretations of prophecy today vary greatly in the modern Jewish tradition! you may not agree with the method in itself, but i think for people that call the NT quotation techniques of OT texts as “misappropriating” or “distorting the text” is hyperbolic and ignores past historical interpretation.

          You say you don’t see it as such today, so I’m curious to know what your current view is given you disagree with the contextual-approach method?

  4. I am interested to hear what you have to say on this, being a reader and speaker of Ancient Greek and Hebrew, but you said this, which I would have to say is disingenuous… quote from you:
    “Many Greek manuscripts existed in the first century and they were not in universal agreement with each other or the Hebrew texts. So one cannot know for sure if some passages in the LXX were translated correctly, just from an unknown Hebrew manuscript.”

    Now since we have no first century Greek manuscripts. So how could you say this? This shows a precedent for illogical analysis.

    Secondly, as I kept reading your blog here, I see you made a true statement, in general, that translating from one language to another, does typically lose stuff… for sure, in general. But I am amazed at how many words in Hebrew having multiple definitions, there is a Greek equivalent. And structurally, a lot of similarites to the two languages. Sure Hebrew has only male and female gender for nouns and adjectives, and Greek has them too but also neuter, so that is a difference, but both are inflected languages, which English is not, and so there is a much bigger gap going to English. As you must know, for example, רוח ruach for spirit is also wind, air… like in Greek πνευμα. In the Jewish Talmud, I understand one rabbi speaking of how things are lost in translations from Hebrew, but if a language is used for translation, Greek would be the best he wrote.

    Also, you don’t seem to embrace what Paul taught. In fact, specifically herein, Paul says the following is the COMMAND OF THE LORD. So just as Adam and Eve renegotiated the command of God in their “advanced knowledge” so do so many scholars who, as Paul says, have false knowledge, which puffs up. How can you dismiss the apostle, and the translators of the LXX which so many christians from the 100s and 200s AD, some of which knew those who knew the apostles like Irenaeus and Clement of Alexandria, which attest to the story of the 72 translators sent to Alexandria to translate the Hebrew Bible? The historical record they pointed to, maybe it was the Letter to Aristeas (200 BC), all came out with the same Greek translation from the Hebrew scriptures. This event took place on or about 270 BC. The whole church used the Greek LXX as their OT, up until Jerome (400 AD) made the Latin Vulgate having learned Hebrew and hung out with the Jesus rejecting Jews, ended up believing the LXX was corrupted, whereas Christian apologists in 100s and 200s AD all were pointing out how the Jews changed the scriptures.

    And so since Christ himself is quoting it and the apostles did as well. In the gospel of Luke, after the resurrection, we see Jesus over that 40 day period before he ascended to heaven as Psalm 110 (109 LXX) says to sit at the right hand of his divine Father, he went through the Psalms, the Law, and the Prophets teaching them how they point to him. This is their message, of which “a body you have prepared for me” is a part of.

    Paul warns women are not to exert authority nor to teach in the two passages, first of which is in 1 Corinthians 14:30-33:34 Let your women keep silent in the churches, for they are not permitted to speak; but they are to be submissive, as the law also says. 35 And if they want to learn something, let them ask their own husbands at home; for it is shameful for women to speak in assembly. 36 Or did the word of God come down to you? Or was it you only that it reached? 37 If anyone thinks himself to be a prophet or spiritual, let him acknowledge that the things which I write to you are the commandments of the Lord. 38 But if anyone does not recognize this, let him therefore continue to be ignorant about this.


    1 Timothy 2:11 Let a woman learn in silence with all submission. 12 And I do not permit a woman to teach or to have authority over a man, but to be in silence. 13 For Adam was formed first, then Eve. 14 And Adam was not deceived, but the woman being deceived, fell into transgression.

    Like Adam, you have been beguiled by a woman. God gives grace to the humble, so humble yourself before the Lord so that he will lift you up. James 4, 1 Peter 5 pointing to the LXX Proverbs 3:34.

    • William thanks for the read an inquiry. Here is a detailed response.

      Now since we have no first century Greek manuscripts. So how could you say this? This shows a precedent for illogical analysis.

      I was referring to Greek OT manuscripts, not NT manuscripts.

      In the Jewish Talmud, I understand one rabbi speaking of how things are lost in translations from Hebrew, but if a language is used for translation, Greek would be the best he wrote.

      I cannot say that I disagree here. Greek is incredibly precise. I think the veracity of any Hebrew to Greek translation lies at the hand of the translator, not the Greek language.

      How can you dismiss the apostle, and the translators of the LXX which so many Christians from the 100s and 200s AD, some of which knew those who knew the apostles like Irenaeus and Clement of Alexandria, which attest to the story of the 72 translators sent to Alexandria to translate the Hebrew Bible?

      I think maybe you read too much into my words. There is not doubt that the Christian movement was built upon the LXX. However, the legend concerning Aristeas is not supported by any ancient Jewish sources and appears to be quite embellished. Most of the LXX manuscripts extant demonstrate that the LXX was still in translation in the time of Jesus. This seems clear based on the findings from the Nag Hamadi and the Dead Sea.

      The whole church used the Greek LXX as their OT, up until Jerome (400 AD) made the Latin Vulgate having learned Hebrew and hung out with the Jesus rejecting Jews, ended up believing the LXX was corrupted, whereas Christian apologists in 100s and 200s AD all were pointing out how the Jews changed the scriptures.

      I think this might be an overstatement. The early church fathers were pretty divided in the manuscripts they relied on. The OL (Old Latin) manuscripts are among many of the oldest and widely used even during the first 4 centuries. Jerome did not introduce Latin to the church. He merely got tasked with improving and updating the OL into a more uniform collection. However, it’s true that he disliked the LXX. Church fathers before Jerome used it widely and used the apocrypha widely. I have written in support of this elsewhere. To be clear, the LXX has my full support but I do not believe it’s a perfect translation.

      As to the Jewish community rejecting the LXX to hurt the Christian movement…. this was a common opinion of Justin Martyr and many other church leaders early on. From what we know, it does seem like they have a good point. It’s one of the main reasons the apocrypha was rejected by the Jewish leaders in the first 2 centuries. It supported the Christian movement.

    • Sir,

      Prior to my conversion I was a heathen (I was blind), I was converted on June 6th, 1992, 2:30 in the afternoon sitting on a wall in the prison (and now I see) camp at Maxwell AFB in Montgomery Alabama. For the first 32 years of my life I failed at everything and was institutionalized as much as I roamed the streets. It was my third trip to federal prison, not counting state prison and reformatories and boys homes.

      I was born again on that day. You can simply look at the difference in my two lives (the above date is the pivot point between the two) and see my testimony. I have followed the LORD for 31 years now. Life is not easy, but it is very good. Today, people call me wise, some come with questions, I help many (that would have my kind of help).

      When I asked the LORD about my 32 years of failure, He simply pointed me to Joshua 1:8,9 KJV. He has absolutely kept that promise in my life.

      I have read and studied the Book just about every day since that day in June of ’92’. It is an incredible book, I believe it is congruent. I don’t think I will ever get close to finding all of it’s truths, or seeing all of its beauty. I will find however, enough truth for me, and see enough its beauty for me, until I pass from this earth.

      I know of these people who claim to be “Christians” that are no longer because they become “more enlightened”. Unfortunately, my sister, whom I baptized into Yeshua, is one of them. It is sad. Now she does not believe in Yeshua (or Jesus Christ).

      If you meet someone, how can you not know them anymore? I don’t think it is possible, do you? You may choose not to know them anymore, you may choose to avoid them, but to unknow them, impossible.

      I appreciate you diving into this and your point is well taken, but these folks that are all of sudden more enlightened than they used to be, and for sure, more enlightened than us, are not going to receive anything you say.

      • You have no way of “proving” that you are a Christian any more than anyone who deconverted. Whatever “change” you experienced, I am sure was also experienced by others who fell away. Do not pretend to know the heart and mind of other.

  5. If we’re going to take the position that the Bible is the inspired word of God and that the originally inspired words were inerrant, the logical conclusion would be that, whatever the original Hebrew was, the Greek translation in the NT is what God intended and inspired to be written. If we aren’t going to take that position, then anything becomes possible.

    • I don’t disagree. However, I don’t see a reason to believe that the Bible is inerrant. Not believe it’s convenient but because its demonstrable. Perhaps they were inerrant in the original autographs but we don’t have those to know if that is true.

    • Inerrant is a problematic word. I believe and maintain that the Bible is the inspired and inerrant word of God, but there have been numerous translation errors over time, not all of which were accidental. But I don’t believe translation errors render the Bible “errant”, but rather mistranslated in various places. If God is sovereign then I have to believe that God has allowed some mistranslation errors to occur, while making certain that other verses remain true to the original. Why would God allow His word to be corrupted in some places? To confuse professed believers who are, at heart, unbelievers, while guiding true believers by His spirit to discern truth. This is why Jesus spoke in parables, to confuse unbelievers, and afterward explaining the meaning to his disciples.

  6. This article is so badly reasoned I can only shake my head. The Masoretic Text did not exist until hundreds of years after the New Testament was written. The LXX was translated hundreds of years before the time of Christ. How can you say the LXX translators were sloppy or “loose” with their interpretation? The LXX is about 1000 years closer to the original Hebrew text. It is bad scholarship to assume that any difference between the LXX and the modern Masoretic texts are due to error in the LXX. A more logical conclusion is the Masorites were loose with their scribal work and didn’t want to include something that would support the idea that Jesus was the Messiah. This is not the only example. Compare Isa 42:4 as well.

    • I suppose it all depends on what assumptions you bring to the topic. If you assume that the MT has been significantly altered in the post Christian era which is resulting in the changes seen between the LXX and the MT then sure I can see how you might disagree. However, we know from the Dead Sea scrolls that many Hebrew manuscripts better reflect the MT and others better reflect the LXX. However, from my studies it appears so far that the MT is better represented in the DDS library.

      Nevertheless, my own assumption is that the LXX translators of Psalm 40 were translating from a Hebrew manuscript that was somewhat similar to the MT. This assumption is based on the fact that the MT version in this particular instance is supported by the Latin manuscripts and the Syriac. Therefore, it seems as though the MT of Psalm 40:6 is likely the original or closer than the LXX. If we had a version of psalm 40 in the Great Psalm Scroll from Qumran we could probably make a better decision on which one is older but we do not. Keep in mind that parts of the LXX were rather late. It’s not like a group of scribes sat down and translated the entire OT into Greek all at once. That legend is about the Pentateuch not the entire OT.

      However, none of that is really relevant. The fact of the matter is that the verse has changed forms over time but retained the original concept. Also keep in mind that the goal of this article was to determine if the Book of Hebrew misquoted Hebrew OT. to which I would so no, because they were quoting from the Greek. The author of Hebrews not only quotes the LXX but also mentions things from the Apocrypha. The ancient Ethiopic manuscripts actually combine the MT and LXX versions. As James A Sanders stated about the relationship of the DSS, the LXX, and the MT ……

      “Before the discovery of the Scrolls [Dead Sea] it was difficult to know whether most of these should be seen as translational, Or as reflecting the inner history of the Septuagint text, or all three. Now it is abundantly clear that the second period of text transmission [which is BC], actually that of the earliest texts we have, was one of limited textual pluralism.”

      This topic is not a simple as simply assuming the LXX is always the oldest version and then it was corrupted by Christian-hating Jews who eventually gave us an altered MT. Nothing in OT criticism is ever that easy.

    • I agree with you, but good luck trying to sell that one to devotees of the Masoretic text. There’s no bridging the divide on this one.

  7. Thanks for your explanation of Heb 10:5 Ps 40:6. It helped me out. I see now that Paul wrote the MEANING of the verse, not the text. If your ear is opened, it is expected you obey. I’ve always looked at the verse as “God gave me a body to sacrifice on the cross.” But really, it means, “God gave me a body to obey him with,” which would negate the need for a sin sacrifice. Which in Jesus case, meant the cross. But in our case, it means the living sacrifice of Romans 12.

    • You need not go to Romans for an explanation of Hebrews.

      Hebrews 10:10 KJV
      By the which will we are sanctified through the offering of the body of Jesus Christ once for all.

      • While some might “need not go to Romans” for help on this topic, others might want, or even need, such help. Why would you discourage anyone from letting the Bible interpret the Bible? Some verses help explain other verses, or simply reinforce what’s being said.

    • Not to entirely disagree, but part of Jesus obeying God with the body God prepared for him was going to the cross and “pouring out his soul unto death”. That was a BIG part of Jesus’ obedience, wouldn’t you say? So both translations are “correct”, but they both combine to render the complete thought. I don’t understand why you would think that Jesus’ obedience would negate the need for a sin sacrifice. He had to prove himself perfectly obedient so he could qualify to offer that sacrifice in the first place. Right? Wrong?


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