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A Concise Study of Isaiah 65:20

The following verse has been problematic for many of God's remnant but it can be easily resolved.


Translated from the Syro-Hexapla literally, the verse reads: "Nor shall be there the one who dies in her youth nor the elder who will not fulfill his days; for a son of one hundred years shall be a child, but the sinner who dies, a son of one hundred years, shall be ac cursed."



The Syro-Hexapla

There is, however, some light on this text from the Syro-Hexapla, which stems from a very early Hebrew source. The Syro-Hexapla is a faithful translation into Syriac by Bishop Paul of Telia in Mesopotamia, A.D. 617-618, of Origen's 5th column in his Hexapla. Bishop Paul also copied with great care Origen's critical symbols and notes. A large part of Bishop Paul's work, containing the prophets and most of the Hagiographa, and written in the 8th century A.D., is now found in the Ambrosian library at Milan, Italy. It was photolithographed by Ceriani in 1874 and a copy is available for scholars in the University of Chicago library.

Origen's original manuscript was used by Bishop Paul in Caesarea, where it had been kept and where Jerome consulted it in connection with his production of the Latin Vulgate. It was probably destroyed by the Saracens in the early seventh century, shortly after Bishop Paul's translation of Origen's 5th column into Syriac. Origen, according to Ira Maurice Price, was the "greatest Biblical scholar of the early centuries." The Ancestry of Our English Bible (Harper and Brothers, New York, 1949), p. 74. Origen found in existence and use in his day, besides the Old Testament in Hebrew, the LXX and the three Greek versions by Aquila, Symmachus, and Theodotian. In his research he complained that every manuscript contained a different text from the others; so he conceived the idea of comparing these and producing therefrom the best possible manuscript or version. In doing this he planned the Hexapla six columns as follows: (1) the Hebrew text; (2) a transliteration of the Hebrew by Greek letters; (3) Aquila's version; (4) Symmachus' version; (5) the LXX as revised by himself; (6) Theodotian's version.

This work took him twenty-eight years. His purpose in his own column was not to restore the original text of the LXX, but to make it correctly and adequately represent the Hebrew original. The 5th column, his revision, was the most important of the six. In his revision, where manuscripts differed, he chose the best translation that he could obtain of the original Hebrew. Where words in the Hebrew were not represented in the LXX he inserted by asterisk such translation as was found in one of the other three versions, preferably from Theodotian. Where a passage was found in the LXX with no equivalent in the Hebrew he marked it by an obelus. Thus he used as a basis for his column the Hebrew of his day, that is, the Hebrew text of the first half of the third century. At the present time our chief source for the text of Origen's 5th column of his Hexapla is the Syro-Hexapla, as the original Origen's Hexapla has long since perished, and only portions have been discovered. This extant copy of the Syro-Hexapla is only about 150 years from its original, and so reduces very materially any possibility of error in copying. Inasmuch as Bishop Paul of Telia in A.D. 617-618 used Origen's original manuscript, which was still extant in Caesarea at that time, it brings us back to a Hebrew source used by Origen some time not later than A.D. 240, as the Hexapla was completed in that year.



Evidently Origen had either an ancient manuscript of the Hebrew or of the LXX, or a copy of an ancient manuscript which had not made this error. This slip in copying would have been very easy in the ancient Hebrew before the use of the square character, as may be observed by the form of the letters in the Isaiah Dead Sea scroll. By a slight carelessness in writing, "shall be" can very easily be mistaken for "shall die." This having been done, the next step would be to omit "who dies" in the last column, as having already been written and to avoid an antithesis. As a result the text was left with a confused thought. The correcting of these as they appear in the Syro-Hexapla makes the verse agree in good sense with the context and clarifies the meaning.



The Syro-Hexapla

There is, however, some light on this text from the Syro-Hexapla, which stems from a very early Hebrew source. The Syro-Hexapla is a faithful translation into Syriac by Bishop Paul of Telia in Mesopotamia, A.D. 617-618 of Origen's 5th column in his Hexapla. Bishop Paul also copied with great care Origen's critical symbols and notes. A large part of Bishop Paul's work, containing the prophets and most of the Hagiographa, and written in the 8th century A.D., is now found in the Ambrosian library at Milan, Italy. It was photolithographed by Ceriani in 1874 and a copy is available for scholars in the University of Chicago library.

Origen's original manuscript was used by Bishop Paul in Caesarea, where it had been kept and where Jerome consulted it in connection with his production of the Latin Vulgate. It was probably destroyed by the Saracens in the early seventh century, shortly after Bishop Paul's translation of Origen's 5th column into Syriac. Origen, according to Ira Maurice Price, was the "greatest Biblical scholar of the early centuries." The Ancestry of Our English Bible (Harper and Brothers, New York, 1949), p. 74. Origen found in existence and use in his day, besides the Old Testament in Hebrew, the LXX and the three Greek versions by Aquila, Symmachus, and Theodotian. In his research he complained that every manuscript contained a different text from the others; so he conceived the idea of comparing these and producing therefrom the best possible manuscript or ver sion. In doing this he planned the Hexapla six columns as follows: (1) the Hebrew text; (2) a transliteration of the Hebrew by Greek letters; (3) Aquila's version; (4) Symmachus' version; (5) the LXX as revised by himself; (6) Theodotian's version.

This work took him twenty-eight years. His purpose in his own column was not to restore the original text of the LXX, but to make it correctly and adequately represent the Hebrew original. The 5th column, his revision, was the most important of the six. In his revision, where manuscripts differed, he chose the best translation that he could obtain of the original He brew. Where words in the Hebrew were not represented in the LXX he inserted by asterisk such translation as was found in one of the other three versions, preferably from Theodotian. Where a passage was found in the LXX with no equivalent in the Hebrew he marked it by an obelus. Thus he used as a basis for his column the Hebrew of his day, that is, the Hebrew text of the first half of the third century. At the present time our chief source for the text of Origen's 5th column of his Hexapla is the Syro-Hexapla, as the original Origen's Hexapla has long since perished, and only portions have been discovered. This extant copy of the Syro-Hexapla is only about 150 years from its original, and so reduces very materially any possibility of error in copying. Inasmuch as Bishop Paul of Telia in A.D. 617-618 used Origen's original manuscript, which was still extant in Caesarea at that time, it brings us back to a Hebrew source used by Origen some time not later than A.D. 240, as the Hexapla was completed in that year.



We would no doubt be safe in setting c. 200 B.C. as a probable date for the translation of Isaiah into the Greek. At any rate it was apt to have been translated from a text of some earlier date than the Isaiah manuscript of the Dead Sea Scrolls. We know, further, that Origen had access to the LXX of his day as well as to some early Hebrew manuscripts. If the Hexaplar reading did not appear in the Hebrew text to which he had access, it must have been the reading of the LXX manuscript or manuscripts available to him, whose source was evidently older than the text of the Dead Sea scroll or from a different family of manuscripts whose origin antedated the scribal error by which this verse became unintelligible. Thus the above Syro-Hexaplar reading, translated directly from Origen's column of his Hexapla, may have a more ancient authority than the reading in the Isaiah scroll, and upon this basis this reading would be worth considering. At least it has some support from ancient manuscripts, and the fact that it agrees in good sense with the context is of great weight in its favor and in favor of these conclusions.


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