Wednesday, December 10, 2014

Justin Martyr and the Septuagint (OG/LXX)

"If therefore, I shall show that this prophecy of Isaiah refers to our Christ, and not to Hezekiah, as you say, shall I not in this matter, too, compel you not to believe your teachers, who venture to assert that the explanation which your seventy elders that were with Ptolemy the king of the Egyptians gave, is untrue in certain respects?" (Dialogue with Trypho LXVIII)

"I [Justin] continued, to contend against you about the reading which you so interpret, saying it is written, 'Till the things laid up for Him come;' though the Seventy have not so explained it, but thus, 'Till He comes for whom this is laid up.' But since what follows indicates that the reference is to Christ (for it is,'and He shall be the expectation of nations'), I do not proceed to have a mere verbal controversy with you, as I have not attempted to establish proof about Christ from the passages of Scripture which are not admitted by you which I quoted from the words of Jeremiah the prophet, and Esdras, and David; but from those which are even now admitted by you, which had your teachers comprehended, be well assured they would have deleted them, as they did those about the death of Isaiah, whom you sawed asunder with a wooden saw" (Dial. CXX).

"But in the version of the Seventy it is written, 'Behold, ye die like men, and fall like one of the princes,' in order to manifest the disobedience of men,-I mean of Adam and Eve,-and the fall of one of the princes, i.e., of him who was called the serpent,
who fell with a great overthrow, because he deceived Eve" (Dial. CXXIV).

Also, in Dial. LXXIII, Justin quotes Ps. 96:10 [95:10 LXX] as it evidently appeared in some copies of the LXX concerning the Lord reigning from a tree (Ειπατε εν τοις εθνεσι, ὁ Κυριος εβασιλευσε απο του ξυλου). He apparently had to get this reading from some version of the LXX although he may be the only Greek writer to quote the psalm in this way (a number of Latin writers cite the psalm as the Martyr does).

Robert Kraft offers these insights:

We have already noted (above, p. 209) that Justin thought Jews had excised the words [apo tou xylou] from Ps.95/96.10. Numerous preserved MSS and versions (especially "western" and south Egyptian) also support this reading, which Justin viewed as Pre-Christian, prophetic and original\31). It is not, however, found in the extant Hebrew text or in the well attested northern Egyptian Greek text. Its origin remains a mystery. If it is a Christian addition, it predates Justin (and probably Barnabas, as well -- see Barn. 8.5) and thus developed in the first century of Christian existence.



Duncan said...


This is all about perceptions and less obvious reasons why something may be altered.

What was implied by ruling from wood to many?

Non of this exists in a vacuum. Trade being the catalyst of cross cultural exchange is still very underestimated.

"Neapolis was entirely pagan at this time.[4] Justin Martyr who was born in the city c. 100 CE, came into contact with Platonism, but not with Christians there.[4]"

Duncan said...

Not forgetting Psalms 96:12. So a misquotation is also possible.

Edgar Foster said...


a misquotation is possible. We're not even sure what Justin's source for this reading is, although he's certainly not the only pre-Nicene to write the words--but the only Greek write to record them. Here is an observation from Clarke's Commentary:

"It appears that this reading did exist anciently in the Septuagint, or at least in some ancient copies of that work, for the reading has been quoted by Tertullian, Lactantius, Arnobius, Augustine, Cassiodorus, Pope Leo, Gregory of Tours, and others. The reading is still extant in the ancient Roman Psalter, Dominus regnavit a ligno, and in some others. In an ancient MS. copy of the Psalter before me, while the text exhibits the commonly received reading, the margin has the following gloss: Regnavit a ligno crucis, 'The Lord reigns by the wood of the cross.' My old Scotico - Latin Psalter has not a ligno in the text, but seems to refer to it in the paraphrase: For Criste regned efter the dede on the crosse."

Here is another quote taken from a Bibliotheca Sacra article:

"We find Justin Martyr in his Dialogue with Trypho the Jew register-ing the accusation that Trypho's people had tampered with
the sacred text in order to remove proof texts favorable to the Christians. One of the most famous of these passages is Psalm 96:10, which according to Justin Martyr properly read, Tell ye among the nations that the Lord hath reigned from the wood (cross). Of this alleged original there is no trace. The last three words must be put down as a Christian in-vention" ("THE IMPORTANCE OF THE SEPTUAGINT FOR BIBLICAL STUDIES (Part I)," by EVERETT F. HARRISON, TH.D., PH.D.

Duncan said...


Existence of the variant does not equate to the enterpretation later suggested. "Ruling from wood" is not "ruling by the cross". This is a stretch of interpretation especially when taking verse 12 into account.

Edgar Foster said...


I agree with you and, to be clear, I am not suggesting that Justin's quote represents the original reading. I simply find the insertion to be interesting from a textual or historical-critical perspective. Harrison (quoted above) calls the reading, a Christian invention.

Sean Killackey said...

It has been a while since I read Dialogue with Trypho, but I do remember him saying that Psalm 1:3 which says, "the righteous will be like a tree planted by streams of water, the foliage of which does not wither, one that gives its fruit in its own season" some how applies to Christ, because it says "tree" and Jesus died on a "tree!" He definitely had some far out there points, included of course are his attempts to compare pagan myths to Jesus, which I doubt any pagan would have found convincing.

Also, on a unrelated matter, can you explain to me what Augustine means in his first book (Chapter 7) of "On the Trinity" when he says, "The Son of God, then, is equal to God the Father in nature, but less in "fashion."" He obviously implies a difference between the two. I only understand the two natures of Christ in a limited way, so if you could also point me to some resources to learn more I would appreciate that. Thanks for your time and have a good day.

Edgar Foster said...


to put it simply, Augustine believes that the Son is equal to the Fatherinsofar as the Son is God; but the Son is less than the Father insofar as the Son is human. Augustine is drawing on Paul's language is Philippians 2:6-8, where the Vulgate uses in similitudinem hominum factus to speak about Christ being in the "fashion" of a man. So Augustine simply means that Christ with regard to his human nature is less than God the Father.

Edmund J. Fortman's "The Triune God" is an excellent resource. See

Thomas Marsh has also written a book on "The Triune God." See

Another good link is

You're welcome and I hope you have a good evening.

Sean Killackey said...

Hi Edgar,
Thanks for the quick reply and the list for further reading. I'll check those out later. Have a good day.