Saturday, November 08, 2014

Justin Martyr and the Isaian Text

Justin was evidently born in Flavia Neapolis to pagan Greek parents. He wrote in Greek and no doubt understood the language very well. As Quasten observes:

"The most important of the Greek apologists of early Christian literature is Justin the Martyr" (Johannes Quasten, Patrology: The Beginnings of Patristic Literature, 1:196).

As far as analyzing words goes, Justin gives plenty of analysis in his writings. This can easily be seen by consulting the Greek text of Justin's Dialogue with Trypho, if you can locate one. An excellent study in this regard is Oskar Skarsaune's The Proof from Prophecy - A Study in Justin Martyr's Proof-Text Tradition: Text-Type, Provenance, Theological Profile (Leiden: Brill, 1987).

Skarsaune compares a number of texts from Justin's writings with the LXX. Admittedly, at times it appears that the Martyr is quoting the LXX from memory; at other times, it seems that he is relying on a testimonial source of some kind. But there are numerous places in Justin's works where there is no doubt that he is quoting from the LXX itself.

"Turning to Dial. 87.2, we find Is 11:1-3 quoted in a pretty good LXX text. The only significant variants are in vs. 1, where Justin's text is somewhat smoother in its parallelism than the LXX" (Skarsaune, 52).

Καὶ ἐξελεύσεται ῥάβδος ἐκ τῆς ῥίζης Ιεσσαι, καὶ ἄνθος ἐκ τῆς ῥίζης ἀναβήσεται. (Isaiah 11:1, LXX)

Καὶ ἐξελεύσεται ῥάβδος ἐκ τῆς ῥίζης Ιεσσαι καὶ ἄνθος ἀναβήσεται ἐκ τῆς ῥίζης Ιεσσαι (Dial 87.2)

I also recommend Moises Silva and Karen H. Jobes' Invitation to the Septuagint(Grand Rapids: Baker Academic, 2000).


Duncan said...

This gets us just about back into the end of the first cent. CE.

Justyn lives about 100 to 165?

I am afraid that sites like

Are in error since the legend of the 72 only refers to the Torah.

The DSS gives us the torah & jeremiah.

So the real question is how can anyone state that the whole OT was translated BCE? Where's the real evidence, in this case of Isaiah?

What is the oldest manuscript witness of justyn martyr?

The study you refer too. See page 446 Appendix 1 (16) the unexplained.

I think there are more questions than answers here.

Edgar Foster said...


Justin evidently died ca. 165 CE. It's apparent that both he and Trypho were well aware of Isaiah's text or even different versions of it. Furthermore, what about verses from Isaiah that are quoted in the Christian-Greek Scriptures? These books must have attained some type of canonical status in order to be quoted in 1st century Christian works.

Furthermore, Michael D. Coogan, of whom I've been highly critical in many respects for his less than conservative interpretations of the OT, points out that the Prophets had earned canonical status by the second century BCE (including Isaiah). Even if the canonization process took longer, many (if not most) of these OT books were composed BCE. See Coogan, The Old Testament, pages 5-6.

For Justin's MS, we have one from 1364. It's the MS that scholars rely upon for authentic Justinian sayings.

What problem do you surmise from p. 446 of Skarsaune? Justin seems to be relying on the LXX or the early testimonia. I'm not sure how the page you reference overthrows that point.

Edgar Foster said...


I would also recommend that you consult Dialogue with Trypho, below I quote Dial. 81:

[Justin] "But I am far from putting reliance in your teachers, who refuse to admit that the interpretation made by the seventy elders who were with Ptolemy[king] of the Egyptians is a correct one; and they attempt to frame another. And I wish you to observe, that they have altogether taken away many Scriptures from the translations effected by those seventy elders who were with Ptolemy, and by which this very man who was crucified is proved to have been set forth expressly as God, and man, and as being crucified, and as dying; but since I am aware that this is denied by all of your nation, I do not address myself to these points, but I proceed to carry on my discussions by means of those passages which are still admitted by you. For you assent to those which I have brought before your attention, except that you contradict the statement, 'Behold, the virgin shall conceive,' and say it ought to be read, 'Behold, the young woman shall conceive.' And I promised to prove that the prophecy referred, not, as you were taught, to Hezekiah, but to this Christ of mine: and now I shall go to the proof."

Here Trypho remarked, "We ask you first of all to tell us some of the Scriptures which you allege have been completely cancelled."

Duncan said...


We are not discussing the canonisation of Isaiah. Evidence of Isaiah in koine (LXX style) is the issue.

These other works, are they expected to be free of interpolation and editing when works of Josephus are not.

Once dismissed but starting to be taken quite seriously.

What I was referring to in the appendix is that, yes, the manuscript quotes LXX of Isaiah but in that instance he seems unaware that this is the book he is quoting.

Edgar Foster said...


Isaiah in Greek (call it LXX or Koine) had to be translated BCE since it was already recognized by Jews as authoritative min the 1st cent CE. For instance, consider how Isa 7:14 (Greek) was used by early Christians (including Justin) to demonstrate the virgin birth of Christ. Other quotes from the LXX (OG) appear in the GNT.

Coogan supplies evidence that the Prophets had already been translated into Greek in BCE. See above.

Also please reference

This page shows that the Prophets were undoubtedly translated 2nd cent BCE.

As for Justin, he seems to clearly attribute the verses to Isaiah, even though he may be using the testimonia or he could be quoting from memory. Nevertheless, he seems aware that the source is ultimately Isaiah.

When you say "these other works," are you referring to the Patristic writings?

Duncan said...


I know that some are quoted by earlier works but that only verifies existence, not veracity.

Duncan said...

Interesting point about the term virgin - Thought you might find this interesting in relation to the Greek influencing our understanding of biblical terms.

Duncan said...


The link you provided was very informative. Thank you.

But the problem is, it still does not really address my issue - existence VS veracity.

I am looking for further information but please see:-

"Language of the Septuagint

The Greek of the Septuagint shows many Semiticisms, or idioms and phrases based on Semitic dialects, and the grammatical phenomenon known as attraction is common there. Some parts of it have been described as "Hebrew in Greek words". However, other sections show an ignorance of Hebrew idiom, so that the literal translation provided makes little sense. The translation in the Pentateuch is very close to the Hebrew, while some other books, such as the book of Daniel, are very un-Hebrew-like. Ecclesiastes is more Semitic, while Isaiah is more Greek. This is cited as near-certain evidence that the translation was in fact made by several different redactors."

So I suppose the real questions are, What is the earliest extant fragment of LXX Isaiah now available & how extensive is it?

Duncan said...

I have come across this paper which may give me more insight into the issues but it will take me a while to read and comprehend.

I have read in the conclusion first:-

"With all the digital tools available, one can perform searches that were impossible even a decade ago. There-fore, a whole area of research is still awaiting further exploration."

Perhaps more of the answers I am looking for will soon follow.

Edgar Foster said...


there have been numerous scholarly studies done on Isaiah LXX/OG. While you'll not find unanimous consent, there are good arguments made for a BCE Isaiah LXX. See

I also cannot remember if you told me about Randall Heskett's dissertation "Messianism Within the Book of Isaiah as a Whole," but it contains a wealth of sources that discuss this issue.

I still can't help but wonder why the early NT writers would have quoted Isaiah (LXX/OG) if it did not already have canonical or some kind of authoritative status.

Arie van der Kooij assigns a reception date of ca. middle 2nd century BCE for Isaiah (LXX/OG). See the link referenced above.

Duncan said...

Thanks again for the links Edgar,

I have been trying to track down a book I read some time ago on the OT quotes in the gospel of john. I am fairly sure that it stated that the quotes come from 3 sources. LXX, Greek non LXX & Hebrew. If I find it again I will post reference.

Also the quotes in Matthew do not seem to follow LXX.

I do not find the reason that some use very satisfying. That it is all from different versions of LXX.

Edgar Foster said...


I also appreciate what you've posted on this subject. I have 2 more links for tonight that deal with Isa 7:14 (LXX). That's all I have time for today:

Duncan said...


Thanks again, that was quite a study, fairly comprehensive but perhaps a little too focused and reductionist.

"In the face of our considerations here and taking into
account that the ST of Is.7:14 was translated from a Hebrew
text older than the MT, we would like to suggest
that the term parthenos, in this passage, does maintain
its intrinsic sense of strict virginity, and that its translation
may have been made according to a Hebrew term that
was equivalent to it, probably the term bethulah."

I can agree with what the Greek term implies CE, but then we get into a flight of fantasy in conclusion and in other places regarding a Hebrew manuscript tradition we do not have. Have ANY witnesses in Hebrew or Aramaic been found that use bethulah? even later textual variants.

This is equivalent to my claim that a large proportion of the NT was written in Semitic languages but I have no direct physical evidence of this & so we go with what we do have.

Now I am not arguing against a translation of virgin - almah may well allow for it. It does have its merits but the issues with 7:14 are more extensive than that.

lord (MT) YHWH (DSS)

and she called/and you called (MT) and he called (DSS)

with us is[emanu] god[EL (mighty)] (MT) emanu-el[name] (DSS)

I have not looked at the second study as yet as this is pre-DSS scholarship but thanks for posting it.

Duncan said...


I have perused the "Writing and Reading the Scroll of Isaiah: v. 2: Studies at an Interpretive Tradition Vol.2" and a few thing concern me in it regarding DSS -

pg 498, using Codex Severi as any kind of argument is problematic.

pg 481 the lack of knowledge on the range of DSS fragments of Isaiah.

pg 504 a wealth of speculations.

Pg 501 the division of the scroll.

pg 502 speculation as to the motivation for corrections.

pg 506 The tables of comparisons are highly questionable as I have already demonstrated to you.

In reality I think that this book jumped the gun & some of the books referenced are too near to the actual dates of discovery of their subject to be sufficiently focused and need to be critically scrutinized as to speculative bias (Similar to problems encountered with the early works on Tell Mardikh - on which scholarship seems to have gone conspicuously quiet for a very long time. This might become the academic scandal par excellence of the 21st century - a nod to vermez. See that's about it! ).

What was available to read was interesting but I would certainly not spend $400 on the two volumes it's just not up to date enough on DSS but I would like to have had more of the LXX related articles to read.

Edgar Foster said...


I also would not purchase a volume or two with a price tag of $400.00, but I thought the work might be helpful in terms of your question about when Isaiah LXX was translated. Most works I've read date the prophetic book in tranbslation to the 2nd cent. BCE. That was the main reason I sourced that work. You might also be interested in this link:

It contains the NETS translation of Isaiah and comments by scholar Moises Silva along with recommendations for further reading.

Edgar Foster said...


p. 498 was written by Tov. What he says there is an empirical fact that can either be verified or refuted. But I don't see why it's all that conbtroversial.

p. 504 is Tov again, which was not the chapter I referenced anyway. While Tov might not be immune to speculations, we've got to respect his considered opinion on the Hebrew/Greek Bible. I interpret the statements on p. 504 as suggestions and nothing more. Besides, I don't see how this information affects the crucial issue, which is the date for when Isaiah (OG/LXX) was rendered.