It is not our intention to reach a final conclusion on the various debates surrounding the Septuagint, as it is not our area of expertise. Our main goal is to analyze the arguments Peter Ruckman uses in declaring there never was a Septuagint before the time of Christ, in order to demonstrate whether they are worthy of serious consideration.
Ruckman brings up the topic of the Septuagint often in his writings, and in 1996 he published a book dedicated to the matter by the title The Mythological Septuagint. This article started off as a review of said book, although we confess to have strayed some from the original purpose of a book review, but have stayed on topic.
Why is there a controversy surrounding the Septuagint, and why does it matter so much to Ruckman? The issue seems to be that the recognition of the Septuagint before the time of Christ—making it far more likely that Christ quoted from it—makes it more difficult to defend the text underlying the Authorized Version. Robert Sargent, in his book Landmarks of English Bible: Manuscript Evidence, elaborates on the difficulties posed by the Septuagint:
- Since the Apocrypha are part of the LXX, and since Christ and the apostles more often used and quoted from the LXX (so it is claimed), there is an implied endorsement of the Apocrypha.
- Since Christ and the apostles often quoted from the LXX Version (so it is claimed), this accounts for the differences in wording when the New Testament quotes from the Old.
- Since the Jews modified their Hebrew Text to spite the Christians (who were using the LXX), the Hebrew Masoretic Text represents a recension from the “original Hebrew.” Therefore our Authorized Version Old Testament cannot be entirely accurate.
- Since the earliest existing manuscript of the Masoretic text is dated at 895 A.D., while the earliest existing manuscript of the LXX is dated at 350 A.D., we have in the LXX a document much closer to the “original Hebrew” text. … The LXX Version is held in high esteem by the textual critics, who in reality use it to attack the underlying text of the Authorized Version. (p. 138)
Author Kirk DiVietro also chimes in on the repercussions of certain views regarding the LXX, in an obvious attempt to bias his readers towards his position:
You may ask, “Why in the world are you going down this road? What does it mean to me?” It means much to you. The very authority of your Bible is at stake. The Septuagint is not always a literal translation. It often utilizes the “dynamic equivalence” theory of translation. Sometimes it slips off into fanciful, non-literal, inaccurate renderings of the Hebrew. If we accept the allegation that the LXX was accepted by Jesus and the writers of Scripture as the authoritative Word of God, then we must dissolve this [Dean Burgon] society, and join the modern Bible of the week club. If Jesus and the writers of Scripture believed it to be Scripture, then we much consider Peter Ruckman’s secondary inspiration and the translation corrects the original theory. If Jesus and the writers of Scripture accepted it as authoritative Scripture then the plenary, verbal inspiration of Scripture is irrelevant. If Jesus and the writers of Scripture accepted it as authoritative Scripture then the doctrine of preservation is a sham. (DiVietro, Kirk. Did Jesus and the Apostles Quote from the Septuagint (LXX)? Collingswood, NJ: The Bible for Today. 1996, pp. 6-7)
Ruckman himself gives some reasons for his rejection of the LXX in the following concise statement:
God, the Holy Spirit, would not use this text [the LXX] if it were the only one available in the world, for it consistently blasphemes the truth, teaches pagan practices, commends heresy to the reader, and flatly denies the remaining body of Revelation. (Ruckman, Peter. The Book of Proverbs. 1972, 1980 reprint, p. 240)
Some in their attempts to uphold the KJV seem to find it easier to reject conclusions most others have reached about the LXX, rather than to have to answer inevitable questions brought on in the process of defending the KJV if certain acknowledgements are made about the LXX. Although we at ruckmanism.org use and favor the KJV, and we are not inclined to want obstacles placed in the path of its defense, we believe in intellectual honesty, not rewriting history and attempting to remain fair and consistent, even if that makes it more challenging to defend the KJV in some instances, being misunderstood by others, or rejecting some views or teachings of others who also wish to defend the KJV. By this we do not mean that every KJV defender who rejects a BC era LXX is intellectually dishonest, follows Ruckman’s tactics, or is attempting to rewrite history. Some may simply be repeating what they’ve heard and read, and have no intention of being misleading or may not realize a possible double standard in their position.
Why is there even the notion that Jesus might have quoted from the Septuagint? The following chart, when compared closely, using an example passage, reveals why so many have concluded that Jesus must have quoted the LXX:
KJV New Testament
Brenton’s Septuagint translation
KJV (Masoretic Text)
|Luke 4:18-19 The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he hath anointed me to preach the gospel to the poor; he hath sent me to heal the brokenhearted, to preach deliverance to the captives, and recovering of sight to the blind, to set at liberty them that are bruised, To preach the acceptable year of the Lord.||Isaiah 61:1 -2 The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he has anointed me; he has sent me to preach glad tidings to the poor, to heal the broken in heart, to proclaim liberty to the captives, and recovery of sight to the blind; to declare the acceptable year of the Lord, and the day of recompence; to comfort all that mourn;||Isaiah 61:1 -2 The Spirit of the Lord GOD is upon me; because the LORD hath anointed me to preach good tidings unto the meek; he hath sent me to bind up the brokenhearted, to proclaim liberty to the captives, and the opening of the prison to them that are bound; To proclaim the acceptable year of the LORD, and the day of vengeance of our God; to comfort all that mourn;|
Similar charts with dozens of passages could also be done involving other NT writers quoting the OT. Shouldn’t the above chart settle everything? Sometimes in theology, as in life, things aren’t always the way they seem.
In his early writings, Ruckman does not make any bold denials about the LXX not existing before the time of Christ. However, this all changed by 1970 when he published his book The Christian’s Handbook of Manuscript Evidence. In this book he laid out the arguments that would define his position going forward.
There are five main arguments Ruckman uses in his attempts to prove his views. He uses other arguments as well, but less often and less forcefully. These are the main ones:
- There are no extant Old Testament Greek Bibles or manuscript fragments written before 150 AD that Jesus or any apostle quoted in the New Testament.
- Some major historical documents used to prove a pre-Christian LXX are not credible.
- The LXX back-translated the Old Testament into Greek to match the New Testament.
- LXX scholars have been dishonest.
- The LXX is discredited because of the inclusion of the Apocrypha as inspired Scripture.
There are no extant Old Testament Greek Bibles or manuscript fragments written before 150 AD that Jesus or any apostle quoted in the New Testament.
Ruckman harps on this over and over in his writings on the LXX, being his biggest argument. He continually injects this into his discussions, and in one case bringing it up three times on one page! Notice the following example:
The B.C. Septuagint is a universal legend, steadfastly preserved in every generation, without one scrap of evidence showing up in 2,000 years. Five hundred “Christian schools” on three continents have never produced ONE Greek manuscript containing ONE verse of a Greek Old Testament that any New Testament writer every quoted. (The Christians Handbook of Biblical Scholarship. 1999, p. x)
If you notice the first sentence carefully, he speaks in general terms that there is not “one scrap of evidence” for a BC Septuagint. There actually is (more on that later). However, when he tries to back up the claim in the follow-up sentence, he switches from a broad generalization to the narrow cases in which the NT quotes the OT, which rules out as much as 99% of the potential OT evidence!
Since Ruckman knows some manuscript fragments of the Old Testament in Greek have been located dated before the time of Christ, he is careful to demand evidence that does not fall within the range of what has been found. Notice:
There was not to be found ONE manuscript or ONE Old Testament Greek “Bible,” not ONE Greek fragment or ONE piece of a Greek fragment written before A.D. 150, that ANY apostle quoted, or that Jesus Christ quoted. Not ONE. (p. ix)
Ruckman writes these statements very carefully. There are fragments of the Old Testament written in Greek before 150 AD (such as Rylands 458, dated to the second century BC). However, among these few fragments there are no Old Testament passages that Jesus or the apostles quoted in the New Testament, therefore Ruckman is technically correct. It should be pointed out that Ruckman is conveniently highly selective with his demands of evidence, when it is considered how little of the Old Testament as a percentage is quoted in the NT, and the unlikely survival of manuscripts over 2,000 years old. Statistics on this vary, because what could potentially count as a quotation can be highly subjective, due to an extensive range varying between distant allusions to definite quotations. On p. 128 of The Mythological Septuagint, Ruckman accepts a count of “263 direct quotations from the Old Testament, found in the New Testament” only as a starting point, as Ruckman conveniently whittles these down to only 88 as “exact quotations.” To bring this into perspective, if it could be assumed that each one of these 88 exact quotations take up an average of two verses each, it would still constitute less than 1% of the 23,145 verses of the Old Testament! To Ruckman’s credit, it is not entirely wrong to make the observation that he makes, since part of the dispute about the LXX is whether or not Jesus Christ and others quote from it in the New Testament. It is noteworthy—however—that Ruckman makes this one of his corner-piece arguments that he goes back to again and again, demanding manuscript evidence over 2,000 years old that could only be available in less than 1% of the Old Testament!
Even if they survive wars, natural disasters, and other disturbances, it is nearly impossible for any manuscript to survive beyond 1,500 years due to decay. A few have, in dry climates under special circumstances such as the Dead Sea scrolls. We have noticed that Ruckman avoids discussing the issue of manuscript decay in the context of his demands, as the facts surrounding this reality do not square well with his stipulation. His demand is simply unreasonable. This is akin to a skeptic smugly demanding to be shown portions of the original manuscripts as a condition to believing the Bible. If such a skeptic can be regarded as unreasonable with such an insistence, (because nearly 2,000 have passed since the last portion of the Scriptures was written) so can Ruckman.
Ruckman’s Old Latin double standard
Incredulous as it may seem, Ruckman believes in Old Latin manuscripts of the New Testament that he dates as early as 120 A.D. with a text that closely reflects the KJV, even though none of the Latin manuscripts from that period are extant. The oldest extant Old Latin New Testament manuscripts are dated around 400 AD. The similarities regarding these Old Latin manuscripts that did not survive are strikingly similar to the LXX situation. Ruckman not only believes the Old Latin manuscripts existed about 300 years before their surviving predecessors, he makes specific claims about their textual content. The LXX, without the unreasonable evidence he demands is declared a myth, a fairytale and a fraud, yet the pre-400 AD Old Latin is allowed to be genuine (which we don’t deny) and with a text more in line with the KJV than the subsequent Latin manuscripts that are extant!
We are not all that familiar with the evidence behind the arguments, but our understanding is that Ruckman disputes the later dates that modern scholars attribute to the original Old Latin manuscripts. However, the greatest similarity to the LXX issue is that the original Old Latin manuscripts are not extant, so their exact textual content is unknown. What is remarkable is everything Ruckman claims to know about the text of the Old Latin. Notice what he affirms, admits, then speculates about the Old Latin in his book The Christian’s Handbook of Biblical Scholarship of 1999:
No codex of the entire Old Latin Bible (A.D. 130-200) is extant… (p. 129)
The “Traditional Text” in Latin from A.D. 120 to 240 was the Old Latin of the Waldenses that matched the Syrian Greek Receptus of Antioch. (p. 119)
…Old Latin Bibles…would certainly have excluded the Apocrypha and would have lined up with the Byzantine Greek New Testament texts of the Syrian church. (p. 133)
If you ever find one thing wrong with Old Latin manuscripts (such as some that contain the Apocrypha or some that match the Alexandrian readings of the Sahidic and Bohairic or some that go against the Syrian readings of the Receptus Greek), you are dealing with post-Septuagint manuscripts that came from Origen’s work. (p. 115)
In such matters, the believer has to obtain a little help once or twice from where he should have been getting his help all the time: FAITH. We have faith to believe that the passage as preserved from the Old Latin and the Old Syriac until now is correct… (p. 321)
We wish everything Ruckman states about the Old Latin manuscripts were true, because it would aid in defending the age of the text underlying the KJV. But when his claims are not properly documented and he makes appeals to fideism, we have cause to be suspicious.
The double standard Ruckman exhibits compared to the Old Latin in rejecting the evidence of even the mere existence of the LXX in the BC era is astounding. He is aware of this inconsistency, but he brushes it off as follows:
The traditional text in Latin, from A.D. 130-240 was the Old Latin of the Waldenses (A.D. 157) which matched the Syrian Greek Text (Byzantine Textus Receptus) of Antioch. The fact that no extant copy of the Old Latin Bible from A.D. 240 is available should never “bug” anyone as careless as Hort-White-Nestle-Aland and Co. After all, these treacherous, tricky, two-faced sophists all believe that there was a complete Greek Old Testament in circulation more than 150 years before the birth of Christ. They don’t have one copy of such a Greek LXX (Septuagint) written before A.D. 190. They go “by faith” backwards from “extant” texts to a period 330 years before their extant texts. (Ruckman, Peter. The Scholarship Only Controversy. 1996, pp. 234-235)
How Ruckman excuses this inconsistency in the paragraph we just quoted is absurd, because he doesn’t allow for believing in a BC LXX without an original copy from that era as proof, so his analogy actually works against him! Scholars allow for Old Latin manuscripts in a period before the extant ones, just not quite as far back as 120-130 AD in current research. Bruce Metzger, a noted authority on early versions of the New Testament, describes the scant information available as follows:
The exact date of the first Latin version of the Bible, or indeed of any part of the Bible, is uncertain. It is a remarkable fact that the Latin churches do not seem to have retained any memory of this great event in their history. Latin patristic writers report no legend or tradition bearing on the subject, and so we are reduced to building up a theory from scattered and sometimes ambiguous indications. (Metzger, Bruce. The Early Versions of the New Testament. Oxford: Clarendon Press. 1977, p. 286)
To many scholars it appears probable that no later than the beginning of the third century, if not indeed during the second part of the second century, Christians at Rome are likely to have produced a Latin version of the New Testament Scriptures. (Ibid., pp. 287–288)
Some major historical documents used to prove a pre-Christian LXX are not credible.
The fact that there are two major documents (Letter of Aristeas and Philo’s writings about the LXX) in the historical record that contain unbelievable statements about the LXX is convenient for Ruckman, because ridiculing them the way he does makes it sound like the BC Septuagint position is based entirely on fraudulent records. Ruckman’s adherents no doubt feel like he is looking out for them when he makes assertions such as these between pages 124-125:
The belief in a pre-Christian LXX is the most extreme and radical demonstration of Christian deceit and scholarly FRAUD to be found in the annals of church history. (p. 125)
The documented evidence, which we have and upon which this monstrous, irrational superstitious lie stands, is one questionable line by Aristobulus, one Disneyworld account forged by someone around 90 B.C. or later (Aristeas), one lost Jewish philosopher’s opinion (Philo of Alexandria), and one renegade, apostate Jew, who lined up with Titus (A.D. 70) while he was engaged in destroying Jerusalem (Josephus, Antiquities, etc.). That is the total evidence for the lie. … The only other possible piece of evidence … was an unidentified grandson of one unidentified, Jewish philosopher in Africa (Jesus Ben Sirach) who wrote obscure, ambiguous statements that could be referring to three different things at the same time. (p. 124)
Ruckman does not provide much of the context and known details about the writings of the grandson of Ben Sirach, likely because it would not suit his purpose. This grandson had written the prologue to the translation of the apocryphal book Ecclesiasticus from Hebrew into Greek, around the middle of the second century BC (Jobes, Karen & Silva, Moises. Invitation to the Septuagint. 2nd ed., Grand Rapids: Baker Books, 2015, p. 20). In the KJV the relevant words are as follows in modern spelling:
For the same things uttered in Hebrew, and translated into another tongue, have not the same force in them; and not only these things, but the Law itself, and the Prophets, and the rest of the Books, have no small difference, when they are spoken in their own language.
Since the translation of the author had been done from Hebrew to Greek, the translation of “the Law itself, and the Prophets, and the rest of the Books” being referred to stand to reason to be a likely reference to the Septuagint. If so, it is a witness to the entire Old Testament translated to Greek in the middle of the second century BC.
The date of the Letter of Aristeas is in dispute, in part because legendary contents (which would otherwise provide solid evidence of a third century BC timeframe) are treated with skepticism for obvious reasons. It was known to Philo (c. 20 BC – c. 50 AD), so that enhances the likelihood of the letter originating in the BC era.
That someone would write a lengthy letter that is complete fiction to explain the origin of a translation that did not even yet exist, but would exist hundreds of years later and ironically be confused with the one referred to in the letter, is a bit much to believe. For this reason, the letter is generally thought to refer somewhat to true events, but its usefulness to historians is unfortunately tarnished by its embellishments.
We agree that some of the major historical documents used to prove a pre-Christian LXX are not credible in their entirety. However, Ruckman wants these documents containing embellishments completely excluded from evidence. In recreating history, sometimes evidence one has to work with is less than ideal, but it can be true of other areas as well. This can be illustrated by criminal cases in which evidence (such as weapons or documents) are destroyed (comparable to LXX manuscripts from a BC era not surviving). It does not mean all is lost and a crime therefore has to go unpunished. Those scenarios do not necessarily prevent convictions in a court of law when witnesses to the crime and those involved are available in the absence of primary physical evidence. In some cases, few witnesses are available, and as a result some who have to testify may have some credibility issues. When there are multiple witnesses and alternative evidence (in contrast to the unavailable primary evidence) the conclusion does not have to hinge solely on one or two unreliable witnesses, but rather on the preponderance of the evidence.
That Aristeas and Philo embellished their stories of the initiation of the LXX in some major details is not in dispute, as no scholar for hundreds of years takes everything they wrote as the honest truth.
The LXX back-translated the Old Testament into Greek to match the New Testament
Ruckman in certain words asserts that those responsible for the LXX simply back-translated the Old Testament as necessary in order for the New Testament to match the Old Testament. Ruckman does not present this as his personal theory, but rather as an established fact even though he presents no proof. Observe:
The authors of the “Septuagint” simply converted Old Testament passages from Hebrew to Greek so that they would match the Greek New Testament writers. (The Christian’s Handbook of Biblical Scholarship, 1999, p. 116)
The following is his amateurish characterization of this from his vivid imagination:
The reader should observe that, again (see 46:20), the LXX scribe is writing many years after the New Testament canon has been completed. He has Hebrews on the table before him. He reads “rhabdos” (Greek: “staff,” Heb 11:21). Hastily, the deluded egotist runs back to Genesis 47:31 and cries, “Ah, hah! Another mistake! Plainly the ignorant Hebrews who lacked the accredited scholarship of our great university have mistaken ‘Matteh’ for ‘Mittah,’ and they should have put ‘staff.’” So the deluded egotist perverts the word of the living God and changes the text to make it match “Hebrews”! His great-great great-great-great (etc.) grandchildren come along … and cry: “You see! The early Christians, like the one who wrote Hebrews, used the Septuagint instead of the Massoretic [sic] Text!! Hurrah for us Greek faculty! Ain’t us Greeks something? Phi Beta Phi, rah, rah, rah, to H— with the king James, sis boom bah!”
But the judgment seat of Christ will iron out a lot of things. “Be not deceived; God is not mocked.” (Ruckman, Peter. The Book of Genesis. The Bible Believer’s Commentary Series. Pensacola, FL: Bible Baptist Bookstore, 1969 (1980 reprint), p. 794)
Every so-called Old Testament “Septuagint” reading that matches a New Testament reading is simply a verse removed from the New Testament in A.D. 330–350 and forced back into the Old Testament.
Those facts are not surmises. They are not allegations. They were not “implied” or “suggested” by something or other … The facts I gave are not based on heresay. [sic] They are not based on spurious passages from anonymous or unidentified philosophers. They are not based on what any competent authority thinks or theorizes. … those facts (No. 4) are substantial, vicious scientific objective realities. The sissies and pansies in the hot house incubators cannot tolerate reality. No Christian scholar, of any profession, living or dead, could produce any evidence that would contravene what I just wrote… (p. 143)
Ruckman says that his view is not based on surmises and what he teaches is supposed to be so clear and evident that it is not even based on something implied or suggested. How come no scholar agrees with him? Why did no pro-KJV writer before Ruckman agree with him? Where are the quotations from historical records that plainly state what Ruckman is so adamant about? The main fact he provides is the tired argument that no OT verse has been produced before 140 AD that any NT writer quoted. That is a true observation, but it is not proof of anything, because it is almost impossible for manuscripts to survive that long.
We have little to say in reaction to these baseless allegations. Ruckman does not make a serious effort to prove what he affirms. He does not cite any proof from the writings of those he holds responsible for back-translating, nor provide witnesses from history, nor does he quote from scholars who agree with his conspiracy theory. This view should simply fall under the weight of its own absurdity.
LXX scholars have been dishonest.
Because of some historical gaps in our knowledge of the history of the LXX (since much has been lost to history), some witnesses of the period who embellished their writings, the scarcity of extant manuscript evidence of the earliest periods, and the inconsistency of definition of terms by Septuagint scholars and others, there is some inevitable confusion as to manuscript dating and what writings truly constitute the LXX. Ruckman exploits this to the extreme, accusing “the whole LXX pack” of being “a hexed lot of liars,” (p. 134) and tries to portray himself as the one emerging from the fog to be the shining light that does away with all the confusion and scholarly deceit. He even reminds his readers in the preface of his special qualifications consisting of “twenty-two years of formal education and five earned degrees, plus fifty years on the ‘front line’ of pastoring and evangelism…” (p. xvi) and towards the end of the book he points out that he sometimes signs his name followed by “B.A., M.A., Ph.D., B.D., and Th. M.” (p. 159)
Ruckman is so obsessed with labeling those who disagree with him on details of the history of the LXX as liars that he utilized the term lie in all its derivative forms 116 times in the book. (The number could have been higher if other similar terms such as “deceiver,” “insidious,” and “dishonest” would have been included in the count). He is very flippant in declaring others to be liars. In the following quote he tries to implicate 14 authors in a lie:
Every “Septuagint” reading I gave you from Isaiah 53 and 61 was written more than 240 years after Luke wrote Luke 4:18-19 and Acts 8:32.
That is how you know Origen and Custer, Kutilek and Swete, Colwell and Kenyon, Bruce and Herklotts, Augustine and Philo, Aristobulus and Josephus, Bruce and Bratton lied. “Piece a’ cake.” (p. 134)
With so many having to be implicated in lies with no corroborating evidence, it makes Ruckman’s version of events all the more improbable.
Unless an actual conspiracy of sorts takes place among them, scholars who deal with areas of mostly objective historical data have an incentive to be careful and truthful with historical facts and data. If a new scholar comes along and provides irrefutable evidence of sloppiness or dishonesty in his field of study, he not only would embarrass and expose the other scholars, but could easily capitalize on that to emerge as a trusted scholar and create a path to advance to the top of his field. Deception or significant bias in the scholarly community is not unheard of (especially among highly subjective issues), but accusations of deception should not be based on superficial observations, subjective matters, or mere impressions.
The science of dating manuscripts (called paleographic dating) is not as subjective as fossils—for example—because every element involved such as the ink, language, letter shapes, size, spelling, grammar, and writing materials all carry clues that help researchers to establish date ranges with reasonable accuracy. But nonetheless, there is some subjectivity in dating ancient manuscripts, and sometimes respected scholars disagree, but unless it’s on the basis of extraordinary grounds, these disagreements do not constitute deception.
Ruckman may not even realize that he’s been all over the place himself over the years in dating the LXX and in specifying which Greek Old Testament manuscripts are to be designated as LXX. Observe:
…the Septuagint (220 B.C.? or A.D.!)…
(Ruckman, Peter. The Book of Matthew. 1970, 1978. p. 20)
The “LXX” which never existed until 100 years after the Death and Resurrection of Jesus Christ. (Ruckman, Peter. The Christian’s Handbook of Manuscript Evidence. 1970, p. 38)
The post-Christian LXX, written 300 years after the resurrection…
(Ruckman, Peter. The Book of Minor Prophets. Vol. I Pensacola: Bible Baptist Bookstore, 1978,1984 reprint, p. 174)
The LXX was written 100 years after the completion of the New Testament, exactly as we have stated in seventeen publications.
(Ruckman, Peter. The Book of Minor Prophets. Vol. I Pensacola: Bible Baptist Bookstore, 1978, 1984 reprint, p. 271)
When others with whom he disagrees provide similar confusing and contradictory information, he is quick to label them as liars, oblivious to his own inconsistencies.
Although 99% of the time Ruckman comes across as supremely confident, even cocky, and irrefutable in his views on the LXX, a careful analysis of his writings betray occasional admissions of uncertainty or potential points of contradiction:
There may have been, from time to time, (200-4 B.C.) various individuals who attempted to translate various portions of the Old Testament into Greek before the birth of Christ. (p. 123)
What led him to this admission is likely the very same evidence which he mocks incessantly throughout his writings on the LXX! Notice the telling phrase “there may have been.” Since he has acknowledged in the same book that BC manuscript fragments of the Old Testament in Greek do indeed exist, the uncertainty he expressed is inexcusable. We believe this is proof that Ruckman cannot be trusted to treat inconvenient facts fairly and objectively. The following is his admission of the existence of BC era fragments containing Greek translation of the Old Testament:
Ryland Papyrus 458 and Fouad 266 are the only “B.C.” fragments found in 2,400 years of babbling about a B.C. LXX which “the apostles quoted”: none of them quoted Rylands 458 or Fouad 266. (p. 55)
The LXX is discredited because of the inclusion of the Apocrypha as inspired Scripture
But Excelsior! Bravissimo! Arriba! It would prove more than THAT! It would prove that the real “oracles of God” (Rom. 3:2) were given to the Greeks, as well as the Jews; for it would force the King of the Jews to officially place His approval on an African Greek text containing the Apocrypha, which, of course, He never quoted one time in thirty-three and one-half years. (pp. 60-61)
Christ and the New Testament writers never quoted from the Apocryphal books, and the Apocrypha was never considered part of the canonical Jewish scripture. Since the LXX came to be associated with the Apocrypha and in its earliest history with displaced Jews, Ruckman uses this to dispute the existence of the LXX before the time of Christ.
In the BC era, the size limitation of scrolls in use could not possibly contain many books of the Old Testament, let alone apocryphal books, all in one volume. The codex, barely invented around the first century AD, made it possible to bind many more books together in a single volume, unlike the physical limitation of scrolls.
On one hand, if Jesus quoted the LXX as is commonly believed, then it would seem to make it all the more unlikely that it would contain the Apocrypha at that time. However, if early LXX versions somehow did include apocryphal books in spite of the scrolls limitations, or if separate apocryphal scrolls were considered part of the LXX collection, it would not mean they were intended to be treated as canonical, as in the case of their inclusion in English (as well as other languages) Protestant Bibles through the 1611 edition of the Authorized Version.
Among the known facts are that the LXX was frequently revised, so to affirm that “the LXX contained the Apocrypha,” as if it did in every edition, including the extant ones in the era of scrolls that limited content, reveals a lack of understanding at best.
Since Ruckman is continually emphasizing that a Septuagint didn’t exist at the time of Christ because of a lack of manuscript evidence, then he has no grounds to affirm that if it did exist it would indeed have contained the Apocrypha! He cannot have it both ways. In other words, if there isn’t even enough manuscript evidence to confirm the LXX even existed at the time of Christ as he argues, then by his rules and logic there cannot be enough evidence to confirm it would have contained the Apocrypha! Nevertheless, he persists in making declarations such as the following:
All of the “Septuagint” quotations that Peter and Luke and Jesus Christ were supposed to have quoted (see pp. 126–127) came from an LXX that CONTAINED APOCRYPHAL BOOKS. (p. 144)
Since there are large and influential religious denominations (such as the Roman Catholic Church and the Eastern and Russian Orthodox Church) that accept the Apocrypha as canonical, writers and researchers in sympathy with such denominations are likely to be biased in their views of how the apocryphal books were perceived, used and eventually incorporated into Bibles during the early periods. Some seem to want to associate apocryphal books with the LXX as far back as possible in attempts to attribute canonical status to them. These biased authors may have something to do with the confusion over the technical definition of what constitutes the LXX, as some seem to consider any old Greek fragment of an Apocryphal book to be an LXX fragment.
The fact that there were several editions available in the second century alone demonstrates a pattern of the LXX being frequently revised. With this in mind as well as other facts that we pointed out, how can others be so certain that if Jesus quoted the LXX, it had to be an edition that somehow included the Apocrypha?
Considering that Ruckman blames just about anything negative about the LXX on Origen, his views on what books are canonical would be relevant. Origen (185-254), who is not known for being ultra-conservative in his theological beliefs, held to a Jewish canon of Scripture. Ruckman is aware that Origen and several other relevant men of the period behind the LXX did not consider the apocryphal books to be canonical:
After saying that the Old Testament canon had twenty-two books in it, Origen cited Apocryphal books all his life and recommended them (see p. 61) as part of the Biblical Canon. (p. 82)
Bratton says that even Origen “definitely excluded the Apocrypha from the canon.” (Bratton is a little naive. Origen quotes Apocryphal books as Scripture and never criticized any other “scholar” who did the same thing.) (pp. 29-30)
It is said that Aquila and Symmachus (A.D. 140–180) did not count the Apocryphal books as canonical. (p. 30)
In certain terms, throughout the book Ruckman has essentially admitted that Aquila, Symmachus and Origin did not count apocryphal books as canonical, although he contends that Origen’s practice did not always match his position. Even though Ruckman recognizes that several key individuals have provided their views on canonicity, he persists in treating the apocryphal books that ended up in some editions of the LXX as if they were viewed as part of the inspired canon of Scripture:
Then what are Bel and the Dragon, Tobit, and Judith doing parading around as part of an inspired Old Testament canon that the “early Christians” adopted as “their Bible?” (p. 31)
We do not advocate quoting from an apocryphal book in any way that could be understood as attributing to it the authority of Scripture, but if a church father quotes the Apocrypha (especially having declared it non-canonical) it would not necessarily be much different than a modern theologian quoting a church history book!
Ruckman is apparently unable or unwilling to prove when the apocryphal books slipped into the Septuagint, even though it is vital to one of his main arguments as to why Jesus could not have quoted from the LXX:
How the Apocryphal books got into the mythological Septuagint is a moot question. The FACT is they are there: they are there NOW. (p. 61) …There are no Septuagints “extant” (notwithstanding four hundred direct statements that there ARE) which were written before A.D. 330-600. When they show up, they contain Apocryphal books. (p. 70)
Here Ruckman admits that he can’t consult any Septuagints written before the 330-600 AD period, even though he has previous claimed earlier editions contained the Apocrypha. Nonetheless, even though he condemns others bitterly for believing in the mere existence of a translation without a whole extant manuscript of the period to back it up, he exempts himself from his own rules regarding manuscript evidence in declaring there were apocryphal books in early LXX versions! We are aware of apocryphal additions to the book of Daniel attributed to Theodotian’s column of the Hexapla.
The Geneva Bible of 1560 contains a brief explanation of what the thinking was behind the inclusion of the Apocrypha despite their acknowledged non-canonical status:
…as bokes proceding from godlie men, were receiued to be red for the aduancement and furtherance of the knowledge of the historie, and for the instruction of godlie maners:
In an attempt to give his view some credibility, Ruckman brings up the case of “professor Kahle.” The professor is Paul Kahle, author of The Cairo Geniza and editor of the Biblia Hebraica. What he says of Kahle is very simple:
Professor Kahle (1875-1964) said that there never was any such thing as a Pre-Christian “LXX! (Manuscript Evidence, 1970, p. 41)
Did Kahle actually say this? A reading of the source in the corresponding footnote reveals that Kahle’s supposed views are actually the accusation of a writer who disagreed with Kahle’s view! (Reumann, John. The Romance of Bible Scripts and Scholars. 1965, p. 16) How can Ruckman be so sure of Kahle’s views? Ruckman does not even quote Kahle directly a single time in all his material we read on the LXX. If Kahle truly believed like Ruckman on some major point, it would be expected for Ruckman to quote Kahle directly, extensively and repeatedly in bold, upper-case letters. But instead of quoting Kahle himself, Ruckman quotes from a third party who disagrees with Kahle and appears to depict Kahle unfairly. Ruckman continues, portraying Kahle as sharing his views:
Kahle, as myself, never believed for a minute that any pre-Christian Greek Old Testament existed in 250 B.C. Why should he? When you’ve had 2,000 years to find one verse that an Apostle quoted from a B.C. Greek manuscript and can’t find it, why not admit that you’re a deceived nut and quit lying like a Persian rug? (The Christian’s Handbook of Biblical Scholarship, 1999, p. 112)
Ruckman relied on a third party for Kahle’s views because the way the professor was portrayed by an author who disagreed with Kahle’s views was convenient to Ruckman. Reliance on a third party is not necessary when Kahle published his own views in his book The Cairo Geniza (Oxford University Press, 1947).
Kahle did have views on the purpose of the Letter of Aristeas that differs from the rest of the scholarly community. Herein we believe lies the foundation of what lead others to misunderstand or mischaracterize his views. The closest Kahle seems to come to Ruckman’s view of denying a BC Septuagint that we could find in Kahle’s writings is the following paragraph:
The Greek Old Testament was the Bible of the Christian church from the beginning. Its importance can hardly be over-estimated. … The Christians had taken over from the Jews different forms of the Greek Bible and used these during the first and second centuries. But as evidence of the Scriptures the Church needed more and more a ‘canonical’ text. So one of the different forms of the Bible became the standard text of the Church, and this standard text was called ‘Septuagint’, a name derived from the legend contained in the letter of Aristeas. But whilst the letter—and all Jewish authors—restricted that name to a certain revised version of the Tora, it was extended by the Christians to the whole Greek Bible, and all the authority attributed by the letter to a special form of the Greek Tora was conferred by the Christians on that special form of the whole Greek Bible which had become the standard text in the church. This extension of the term ‘Septuagint’ took place in the second Christian century. … It is of great interest to see to what degree the Christian authors made use of the letter of Aristeas in order to enhance the authority of their Greek Bible… The letter helped greatly to prove the ‘canonicity’ of the Greek Bible which had become the standard text of the church. (Cairo Geniza, p. 158)
If the preceding paragraph was all one read of Kahle, one could perhaps assume he did not believe a Greek translation of the Old Testament existed before Christian times. The following are relevant excerpts from Kahle’s same book that involve dates or timeframes:
Aquila was the author of the new Greek translation of the Bible which became necessary in the second century A.D. in connexion with the Jewish reorganization which took place after the capture of Jerusalem and the destruction of the Temple. The old Greek translation, the Septuagint, could not be used any more by the Jews, because it was not in accordance with the text of the Tora newly fixed according to old MSS… (Cairo Geniza, p. 117)
But whether the letter [of Aristeas] was written about 130 or 100 B.C., we can be quite sure that the translation with which it deals was finished at about the time when the letter was written. (Cairo Geniza, p. 135)
I believe that the problems connected with the origin of the Septuagint can really be solved in the light of the facts concerning the Palestinian Targum of the Pentateuch. As we have seen, the Jews in Palestine had been accustomed to translate their Tora–and other books of their Bible–into Aramaic, the language spoken in their land, since the time of Ezra. So we need not be surprised to find that the Jews in Egypt translated their Hebrew Tora into Greek, the language spoken there. The translation of a long text into a foreign language was therefore not an absolute novelty for these Jews; they only followed a practice used by their brethren in Palestine for a long time. The translation may have been made as soon as it became necessary, in 300 B.C. or earlier. The Jews in Egypt needed a Greek Tora perhaps more than their brethren needed an Aramaic Tora in Palestine, as Hebrew was less understood in Egypt than in Palestine. (Cairo Geniza, p. 137)
It is a fact that, except the fragments of a few verses of Deuteronomy on papyrus assigned to the second or first centuries B.C., not a single line, neither of the ‘Septuagint’ nor of any other part of the Greek Bible, written by a Jew, is so far known to be preserved. (Cairo Geniza, p. 139)
In these versions, carefully collected by Origen, we have to see different forms of the Greek Bible used by Greek-speaking Jews in pre-Christian times and in the first Christian century. They were later replaced by new Greek translations made in agreement with the authoritative Hebrew text. The more this text became predominant among the Jews, the more older forms of the Greek Bible became obsolete, they were put into Genizas that they might do no harm, that they might disappear in the course of time. (Cairo Geniza, p. 165)
In the above excerpts, Kahle refers to the Septuagint and the need for a Greek translation of the Bible in a context before Christian times. When Kahle’s views in his own words are considered, even in a condensed form as just quoted, it differs considerably from Ruckman’s view.
LXX beliefs of pro-KJV writers before Ruckman
Did writers advocating for the KJV deny a BC Septuagint before Ruckman? As documented in http://www.ruckmanism.org/firstinfluence we have examined a large assortment of writings of literature in defense of the KJV before the Ruckman era. None were found to deny the Septuagint existed before Christ (to be fair, many were brief writings or concentrated on the New Testament text, therefore they simply did not mention the LXX). In fact, we found several cases of the exact opposite.
Elton A. Jones in 1960 quoted a statement affirming the LXX had been commenced by Jews in Alexandria about the middle of the third century B.C., without expressing disagreement. (Which Bible? p. 16)
In 1975, David Otis Fuller was the editor of Counterfeit or Genuine? In the chapter “The Preservation of the Scriptures” by Donald L. Brake (but noted as condensed by David O. Fuller) there is a brief mention of the Septuagint on p. 196. It opined that the Septuagint cannot be as important as the Masoretic text, but it does refer to the “antiquity of its witness to the Hebrew text” (in a footnote) without ascribing a date for the Septuagint.
We do not know much about the KJV views of Robert Dick Wilson, but we are including his LXX views as a respected Old Testament scholar because he was promoted and some of his writings included in David Otis Fuller’s 1970 pro-KJV book Which Bible? In his writings the timeframe he ascribes to the LXX can be noted as well as his warning that the differences between the LXX and the Hebrew Masoretic Text are often grossly exaggerated:
…before 280 B. C. (when the Septuagint translation was made)…
(Wilson, Robert Dick. A Scientific Investigation of the Old Testament. Philadelphia: The Sunday School Times Company. 1926, p. 21)
The differences between the Hebrew Massoritic text and the Greek Septuagint are often grossly exaggerated. The vast majority of them arise merely from a difference of pointing of the same consonantal text. The real variants arose from errors of sight such as those between r and d, k and b, y and w, or from errors of sound such as between gutturals, labials, palatals, sibilants, and dentals, or from different interpretations of abbreviations. There is a goodly number of transpositions, some dittographies, many additions or omissions, sometimes of significant consonants, but almost all in unimportant words and phrases. Most of the additions seem to have been for elucidation of the original. In the case of Jeremiah we have in the Greek a recension which excludes many recurrent phrases. It may be compared with the Babylonian and Aramaic recension of the Behistun inscription as contrasted with the Persian and Susian. While substantially the same, they vary in many particulars.–For the Old Testament citations and allusions of Ben-Sira, see my article on “The Hebrew of Ecclesiasticus” in the Pres. and Ref. Review for 1900–For the Book of Jubilees, see the collection of variants by R. H. Charles in the Apocrypha and Pseudepigrapha of the Old Testament, II 5, 6. Prof. Charles has gathered only 25 variants, 8 of single consonants, 1 of transposition of words, 9 of omission of a word and 1 of a phrase, 2 cases of change of gender, 1 of number, and 3 inexplicable corruptions. The result of his investigation is a wonderful corroboration of the substantial correctness of our present Hebrew text. (Wilson, Robert Dick. A Scientific Investigation of the Old Testament. Philadelphia: The Sunday School Times Company. 1926, pp. 71-72)
John Burgon, although concentrating his defense on the Greek text more so than on the KJV, had a high view of the LXX according to his biographer:
Burgon was always urging upon his disciples the study of the Septuagint, on which he set the highest possible value, as every one must do who considers the undoubted fact that our Blessed Lord and His Apostles almost always cited the Old Testament in that Greek Translation of it, thereby giving it the sanction of their authority… (Goulburn, Edward Meyrick. William Burgon: Late Dean of Chichester. Vol. II London: John Murry. 1892, p. 167)
Post-Ruckman LXX views among KJV proponents
By using the term “Post-Ruckman” we do not mean after his death, but rather after 1970, when his landmark book The Christian’s Handbook of Manuscript Evidence was published with his unusual views about the Septuagint. It has been our observation that from the 1990’s to now the majority of pro-KJV writers who bring up the topic of the LXX seriously question or outright deny that it existed before the New Testament was written. In spite of many of them using arguments that are similar to Ruckman’s, some do not reveal where they obtained their ideas regarding denying a BC Septuagint. In some cases—such as Sam Gipp, it is obvious—as he is a graduate of Ruckman’s school. In Jack Moorman’s 1985 book Forever Settled, he dedicates several pages to Ruckman’s LXX views without any critical analysis of them. Moorman did however end the topic indicating that the matter was unsettled. We may examine more books in the near future and expand this section further.
A look at the Bibliography of Ruckman’s 197-page book The Mythological Septuagint reveals how superficial his research really is. To deal expertly with a topic, one would expect the most scholarly books on the topic to show up in the Bibliography, regardless of potential disagreements with their authors. Instead, his Bibliography includes such books as History of Infant Baptism, Modern Studies in Philosophy: Augustine, and no less than 17 books by Ruckman himself! Although we are not familiar with every single book, not one seems to be entirely or mostly devoted to the topic of the Septuagint. There were nine books on the Dead Sea Scrolls, but Ruckman himself complains that:
All of the books written about the Dead Sea Scrolls have the same information in them, and all bear the same stamp. They all sport ten pages of historical backgrounds which amount to little or nothing, and then they sport forty-seven to fifty pages talking about sectarian scrolls that have nothing to do with either Testament … Membership in the community, initiation rites, water purification, the common meal, and rambling instructions on asceticism, etc.). (p. 146)
To Ruckman’s credit, he does mention books dedicated to the LXX in the text and footnotes.
Not atypical for Ruckman, his book on the LXX is loaded with insults and over-the-top sarcasm. An example of how extreme it gets is found on p. 68:
When you hear of any incredible goofball saying “the writer of Hebrews is quoting the Septuagint in Hebrews 12:5 (or 10:5),” you are dealing with a demented PSYCHO who would put a “serial killer” out of business when it came to mental sickness.
Racism and incoherent rants
It seems Ruckman can’t write on any topic without injecting racism and incoherent rants at some point. His book on the Septuagint is no exception:
Since the mythological LXX was supposed to have originated in Africa, and since the oldest fragments of a small piece of less than one-fiftieth of one book (Deuteronomy) came from Africa (Ryland’s, No. 458), and since א and B are called “The great EGYPTIAN manuscripts” (Kurt Aland and Erwin Nestle; 1996), let us go down into the Dark Continent that brought us leprosy, AIDS, (“GRID,” actually), Gonorrhea, Syphilis, Elephantiasis, and Ebola (see Exod. 15:26), and find the roots of the mythological LXX. In doing this, we should never forget the “LXX” is kin to SeX, FoX, HeX, SiX, EXXon, Malcom X, FaX, LynX, SphinX, StyX, MarX, X-mas, HoaX, JinX, PoX, PaX, and “X marks the SPOT” (see The Mark of the Beast. Ruckman [Pensacola: Bible Baptist Bookstore, 1959]). (p. 102-103)
We don’t have all the answers about the LXX, but we believe it has been demonstrated that Ruckman’s arguments are inconsistent, sometimes unreasonable, unfair, and arbitrary. It seems he decided his conclusion in advance, and lined up his arguments accordingly. That he doesn’t want to be bothered with potential facts can be demonstrated in the following quote which is very revealing about his mentality in approaching this issue:
But if a thousand pieces of papyrus were recovered with the Old Testament Greek written before 100 B.C., on them nothing could bolster the sagging testimony of the LXX, for the real proof that it is a fraud can be found in the Vatican and Sinaitic manuscripts already discovered. (Manuscript Evidence, 1997, p. 57)
Based on the examples provided, Authorized Version proponents and 1611 translators themselves before Ruckman’s era had no problems standing for the Masoretic Text while acknowledging a BC Septuagint and in some cases accepting that Jesus apparently quoted from the LXX.