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There are no theological changes to the Hebrew Old Testament

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Voting Style: Open with Elo Restrictions Point System: 7 Point
Started: 10/20/2014 Category: Religion
Updated: 2 years ago Status: Post Voting Period
Viewed: 1,799 times Debate No: 63579
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Happy to debate a good friend of mine. I hope the voters constructively give their RFD on the most effective argument rather than on bias.

In this debate,i will argue that the Hebrew Old Testament has essentially no errors that would affect biblical theology. I will argue for the Septuagint's superiority to the Masoretic text and at the same time, i will argue that the Masoretic text has attempted to remove messianic references to a divine Messiah in the Hebrew Tanakh. It is not enough to say that because one body many scripts as many errors then we can conclude that the Old Testament has changed. I will explain later why this is so.Here is a list of theological views that i hold at least:

God created the universe through Jesus Christ
The Trinity of God (I won't delve into all of the nature of God, but your welcome to challenge some attributes)
the divinity of Christ as God well as his Messiahship prophesied
His atonement for all of mankind,death, and resurrection
Eternal salvation for those who believe and repent of their sins

The debate will be structured as follows:
Round 1 - Acceptance
Round 2 - I explain the preservation of the O.T and the superiority of the LXX
Round3 - I will go in depth of the evidence for the corruption of the MT
Round 4 - Rebuttals
Round 5 - Rebuttals

Brief introduction on Textual criticism (more on Wiki):

Textual criticism seeks to re-construct the originals based on the existing manuscripts. Using several different fields, Textual critics tend to correct scribal errors to find the original message. Elimination of unlikely changes are made as critics compare all variant manuscripts. Internal and external evidence must be weighed. Inferences based on the changes made are also drawn on the manuscripts.

External evidence - Manuscripts are judged based on dates and relationship to other sources. Majority usually rule although sometimes the earliest manuscripts can also be a determining factor.

Internal evidence - The text itself is also a factor in determining the original reading.

Now in textual criticism, there is really no one single manuscript which makes up the O.T, there are thousands, however it essentially has a "self-correcting" system by which scholars can remove minor scribal errors.

I will be using the following manuscripts to verify my claims. I may briefly mention others, but I will mostly use these:

Introduction to the Masoretic text: A Jewish sect known as the Masoretes living in7th-10th centuries C.E copied an authoritive body of manuscripts known as the Masoretic text. It contains marginal anddiacritical markings. The oldest manuscripts date to the 9th century C.E. The Masoretes were a group of highly profesional Torah scholars living in the7th-11th centuries in Jerusalem, Babylonia, and Tiberias. Their schools were highly known for their accuracy and controlling errors in their copying techniques. The Masoretes had their own traditions of pronouncing Hebrew.

The Dead Sea Scrolls:

The Dead Sea Scrolls are the earliest known surviving manuscripts of the Hebrew Scriptures. They were written in PaleoHebrewHebrew, Aramaic, Greek, and Nabataean on parchment. They are dated to408 B.C.E-318 C.E.

The Septuagint:

The Septuagint is one of the oldest Greek translations of the Hebrew Scriptures of the Alexandrian type text in Koine Greek existing in various manuscripts. It was used by Jews living in Egypt when Greek was prevalent and was considered to be authoritive along with the Masroetic text. It was probably translated in the middle of the third century BC. Some sections show traces of Hebrew and Aramaic.


Glad to accept. This is an interesting topic. I'll let my cheerful combatant explain his opening arguments.
Debate Round No. 1


Historical criteria for reliability:

There is a certain criteria for establishing reliability in the historical method. We must look at the following (1) :

Strong evidence for the originality of a source
The closer a source is to an event, the more reliable it is
Eye-witness testimony is more reliable than hearsay
Determining if a source is heavily biased or not
If it can be reasoned that the source has no motive for bias then it's reliable

These things safeguard against corruptions made.

Preservation of the Hebrew Old Testament :

There exists two methods of transmission.

1) Oral transmission - Evidence exists verifying the accuracy of oral transmission.

"The Elders would serve as mnemonic pegs to each other. They will be speaking individually uninterrupted in a circle one after another. When each Elder spoke they were conscious that other Elders would serve as ‘peer reviewer’ [and so] they did not delve into subject matter that would be questionable. They did joke with each other and they told stories, some true and some a bit exaggerated but in the end the result was a collective memory. This is the part which is exciting because when each Elder arrived they brought with them a piece of the knowledge puzzle. They had to reach back to the teachings of their parents, grandparents and even great-grandparents. These teachings were shared in the circle and these constituted a reconnaissance of collective memory and knowledge. In the end the Elders left with a knowledge that was built by the collectivity." (2)

There is another study done to verify the accuracy of oral transmission and a way of preventing any change in an oral tradition (3).

2) Written transmission - Scribes were highly skilled professionals in literacy. The Masoretes had a strict set of techniques to prevent careless mistakes from occurring.

1. They could only use clean animal skins to write on and even bind manuscripts
2. Each column of writing could have no more than 60 lines and no less than 48 lines
3. The ink must be black and of a special recipe
4. Each word must be repeated aloud while writing
5. They must wipe the pen and wash their entire bodies before writing the holy name of God each time they wrote it
6. A review was to held in 30 days and if there was at least 3 pages needing corrections, the entire manuscript had to be re-done
7. The letters, words, and paragraphs had to be counted. The document would be invalid if 2 letters touched each other. The middle paragraph, letter, and word must correspond to the original document.
8. The documents could only be stored in sacred places such as synagogues
9. Since no document containing God's Word could be destroyed, they were placed in a Genizah

Parchment was quite durable (4). Since they used strict copying techniques, we can conclude that the materials used and their methods are reliable.

Errors made in the Hebrew Old Testament :

As any other book, I will admit that there are a few minor errors in the Scriptures. However, these do not affect any of the most general message (5). Here are the errors made.

1) Confusion of similar sounding letters

2) Dittography and haplography - Repeating and omitting text. The eyes tend to skip forward or back as a series of words start with a similar string of letters and ends with it.

3) Word substitutions - When scribes accidentally replaced words with synonyms.

4) Transposition of words - Scribes would reintentionally order the string of words especially if the sense or phrase remained the same.

5) Assimilation of marginalia - Sometimes notes made their ways into manuscripts.

6) Faulty hearing

7) Differences in sequence

Intentional changes to correct the text.

1) Harmonization - wording of particular phrases altered to suit the language of the scribe's society.

2) Conflation - A scribe would use his copy in more than 1 manuscript. Sometimes wording differed from each other and merged into one.

3) Grammatical adjustments - Grammar was sometimes corrected.

4) Permutation errors - When words were not written carefully as copyist is hurrying. Copyist reads text as representing different word combinations and writes it down. When an unusual change is found, error rises from Permutation.

5) Doctrinal alterations - Msot of the doctrinal changes arise from the Masoretic text in which i will show how it's unreliable despite the Masoretic text preserving the original Hebrew.

Superiority in the LXX over the Masoretic text :

Experts now agree that the Dead Sea Scrolls agrees more with the Septuagint over the Masoretic text.

"Most Scholars saw the LXX as inferior to the Hebrew Bible called the Masoretic Text (MT). With the discovery of the Dead Sea Scrolls, this all changed. Ancient Hebrew scrolls were found that follow the LXX, not the Masoretic Text. The DSS showed that the LXX had an underlying Hebrew Text that was different from the MT.

Now Scholars think the LXX has important readings that are superior to the MT. The LXX is now very important in textual criticism of the Hebrew Bible. Let's look at some of the key differences between the LXX and the MT where the LXX seems to be superior." (6)

"It is now apparent that these differing ancient text forms of the ot deserve far greater care and attention than they received in the past. The lxx, for example, is now seen not just as a poor, tendentious translation of the Hebrew, but rather as a witness to a different pre-Christian Hebrew text form. Moreover, there appear to have been three local text types in pre-Christian times: a form of the Pentateuch known in Babylon, close to the mt; a form known in Palestine, close to the Samaritan Pentateuch; and a form of ot books known in Egypt, related to the lxx. Eventually (probably between a.d. 70 and 132 in Palestine), a process of standardization apparently set in, preferring one form of text, a set spelling, and even a definitive shape of writing." (quoted on Bible "Dead Sea Scrolls from Qumran")

"...According to Frank Moore Cross (another DSS scholar) there are at least 3 'families' of texts at Qumran : the MT 'family', the 'Egyptian' family, and a 'Palestinian' family . The 'Egyptian' version which, among other things, has a different version of Jeremiah, became the basis for the LXX. The 'Palestinian ' became the basis for the Samaritan version. The MT variety was the ancestor of what we use today--although even within these 'families' there was sometimes variation. We do not know which version was being used by, say, the Sadducees of the Temple sect, or even which the Essenes themselves used. The Jewish community at Alexandria evidently used the Egyptian 'family' or the LXX." - Randolph Parrish

"The 'biblical' library of Qumran represents a fluid stage of the biblical text. Those documents show no influence of the rabbinic recension of the canon, the direct ancestor of the traditional Hebrew Bible. The scrolls help to place both the Pharisaic text and the canon in the era of Hillel, roughly the time of Jesus. In their selection of canonical books, the rabbis excluded those attributed to prophets or Patriarchs before Moses (e.g., the Enoch literature, works written in the name of Abraham and other Patriarchs). They traced the succession of prophets from Moses to figures of the Persian period. Late works were excluded, with the exception of Daniel, which, the rabbis presumably, attributed to the Persian period."

- Frank Moore Cross, Jr., "Dead Sea Scrolls: Overview"

"The Dead Sea Scrolls (DSS) like the magnificent Isaiah scroll closely follow the Masoretic Text (MT), but there are a few exceptions. For example, Psalm 145 is an alphabetical psalm. Each verse begins with the next letter in the alphabet, but "N" is missing in the MT. In the DSS it is there, so somehow a scribe left this verse out. Another important difference is in I Samuel 11 where the MT is shortened. The longer reading in the DSS explains what happens in this chapter.

Three of the most important Biblical texts from Qumran are: (1) The Isaiah Scroll from Cave 1 which has two different text types, with about 1,375 differences from the MT. (2) The Habakkuk Commentary from Cave 1 which uses the pesher method of interpretation, and the name Yahweh is written in paleo-Hebrew. (3) The Psalm scroll from Cave 11 contains 41 canonical psalms and 7 apocryphal psalms mixed in among them. The order of the psalms differs largely from the MT (Wurthwein 1979, 32)."

Next round, i will explain more in depth the evidence for the corruption of the M.T regarding messianic references in which Jesus Christ fulfilled.

I now allow my opponent to present his opening argument.

Thank you.



2. Stephen J. Augustine, “Oral Histories and Oral Traditions,â€" in Aboriginal Oral Traditions: Theory, Practice, Ethics, ed. Renée Hulan and Renate Eigenbrod (Halifax: Fernwood Publishing, 2008), 2â€"3.







The vast majority of differences between the Masoretic (M), Dead Sea Scrolls (DSS), and Septuagint (LXX) texts are grammatical, or otherwise unimportant. However, there are examples in which there are theological implications. Take Deut 32:43. In the Masoretic version this reads "Rejoice, O nations, with his people, for he will avenge the blood of his servants; he will take vengeance on his enemies and make atonement for his land and people." However, in the LXX, there is the additional line "and let all the sons of God worship him." This is also missing in the DSS.

I would, however, like to hear my opponent elaborate on some of his points before I proceed to outline a counter-argument.
Debate Round No. 2


The Masoretic text has undergone major alterations from the Hebrew originals. Many messianic references are edited to make Jesus not a candidate for the Jewish Messiah in select places:

To begin, the Masoretes substituted the name of God replacing YHWH with Adonai (Lord). In the Dead Sea Scrolls, the Tetragrammaton appears in Paleo-Hebrew (1).

The Tetragrammaton is even found in the LXX:

The Masoretes's vowel point system greatly increased the pronounciation of Hebrew. Adam Clarke wrote:

"The Masorets were the most extensive Jewish commentators which that nation could ever boast. The system of punctuation, probably invented by them, is a continual gloss on the Law and the Prophets; their vowel points, and prosaic and metrical accents, &c., give every word to which they are affixed a peculiar kind of meaning, which in their simple state, multitudes of them can by no means bear. The vowel points alone add whole conjugations to the language. This system is one of the most artificial, particular, and extensive comments ever written on the Word of God; for there is not one word in the Bible that is not the subject of a particular gloss through its influence.”

However another scholar concluded they were not originally part of the Scriptures.

"As a Hebrew scholar, he concluded that the vowel points and accents were not an original part of Hebrew, but were inserted by the Masorete Jews of Tiberias, not earlier then the 5th Century AD, and that the primitive Hebrew characters are Aramaic and were substituted for the more ancient at the time of the captivity. . . The various readings in the Old Testament Text and the differences between the ancient versions and the Masoretic Text convinced him that the integrity of the Hebrew text as held by Protestants, was untenable.”

The most ancient Hebrew script would probably be the Paleo-Hebrew.

If Moses or any other ancient author saw the regular block Hebrew, they would not be able to understand it. The Masoretes follow their traditions in pronouncing Hebrew words.

Justin Martyr concluded that the Jews were now beginning to diverge from using the Septuagint to using the Masoretic text:

“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 [Septuagint] 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” (~150 A.D., Justin Martyr, Dialogue with Trypho the Jew, Chapter LXXI)

I will now provide evidence for the LXX's superiority to the Hebrew Masoretic text.

Psalm 22:16:

Psalm 22:16:
"For dogs encompass me;
a company of evildoers encircles me;
they have pierced my hands and feet" "

The Masoretic text however attempts to change this into "like a lion my hands and my feet."

The Targum read "they bite like a lion my hands and my feet." However the DSS and LXX are in agreement as they read "They have pierced my hands and feet." The earliest manuscripts also agree with this reading. The reading "Like a lion.." makes no grammatical sense in Hebrew (2).

Psalm 40:6 (NIV):

"Sacrifice and offering you did not desire, but my ears you have pierced; burnt offerings and sin offerings you did not require."

Some read "a body you have prepared for me.."

Adam Clarke's commentary says this:

Dr. Kennicott has a very ingenious conjecture here: he supposes that the Septuagint and apostle express the meaning of the words as they stood in the copy from which the Greek translation was made; and that the present Hebrew text is corrupted in the word אזנים oznayim, ears, which has been written through carelessness for אז גוה az gevah, Then a Body. The first syllable אז, Then, is the same in both; and the latter נים, which joined to אז, makes אזנים oznayim, might have been easily mistaken for גוה gevah, Body; נ nun, being very like ג gimel; י yod, like ו vau; and ה he, like final ם mem; especially if the line on which the letters were written in the MS. happened to be blacker than ordinary, which has often been a cause of mistake, it might have been easily taken for the under stroke of the mem, and thus give rise to a corrupt reading: add to this the root כרה carah, signifies as well to prepare as to open, bore, etc. On this supposition the ancient copy, translated by the Septuagint, and followed by the apostle, must have read the text thus: אז גוה כרית לי az gevah caritha li, σωμα δε κατηρτισω μοι, then a body thou hast prepared me: thus the Hebrew text, the version of the Septuagint, and the apostle, will agree in what is known to be an indisputable fact in Christianity, namely, that Christ was incarnated for the sin of the world." (3)

He also says the Ethiopic and Arabic agree.

Isaiah 7:14:

The Masoretic text and other Hebrew manuscripts read Ha-Almah or young lady while the LXX reads Parthenos or a biological virgin. In ancient cultures, both readings are consistent (4).

Isaiah 53:

The Great Isaiah scroll was compared to the Masoretic version and the following differences were observed.

"Of the 166 words in Isaiah 53, there are only 17 letters in question. Ten of these letters are simply a matter of spelling, which does not affect the sense. Four more letters are minor stylistic changes, such as conjunctions. The three remaining letters comprise the word LIGHT, which is added in verse 11 and which does not affect the meaning greatly. Furthermore, this word is supported by the Septuagint (LXX). Thus, in one chapter of 166 words, there is only one word (three letters) in question after a thousand years of transmission - and this word does not significantly change the meaning of the passage." (Norman Geisler & William Nix, "A General Introduction to the Bible", Moody Press, Page 263)

The Masoretic text attempts to remove reference to a single individual:

"There is a solitary exception to this in v.8, where the Masoretic text says of the servant, בְּמֹתָ֑יו – “his deaths” in the plural. This would seem to speak of a compound servant, on one hand, or a poetic intensiveness on the other. But once we leave the 10th-century Masoretic text and look at other textual witnesses, the problem disappears. Our earliest witness (reflecting a translation of the Hebrew in the 3rd century BCE) is the Septuagint (LXX), which says τοQ66; θαν^0;του – “his death.” Singular, not plural. The Great Isaiah Scroll of the Dead Sea Scrolls says בומתו – “his high places” – a scribal error with an extra vav, which if removed, becomes “his death.” Targum Jonathan has בְמֹותָא – “in the death.” Singular. The Latin Vulgate, a 4th-century CE witness to the Hebrew text, agrees with the LXX with pro morte sua – “for his death.” Singular. Based on these multiple sources, the original text which Isaiah wrote is most probably “his death” – a singular death for a singular (not compound servant." (5)

V. 11 says "Out of the suffering of his soul he will see light and find satisfaction. And through his knowledge his servant, the righteous one, will make many righteous, and he will bear their iniquities."

The DSS and LXX agree that the reading includes the word "light." You can read more and compare and contrast with other O.T manuscripts (6).


It's clear that the Masoretic text attempted to remove references to a divine Messiah. Psalm 22 was altered to remove the reading of piercing as Christ was pierced. Isaiah 53 was also edited so that the suffering servant could not be interpreted as a single individual atoning for the sins of Israel. The Septuagint is more reliable than the Masoretic since the Dead Sea Scrolls support it's reading. It's been established that the major doctrinal alterations by the Masoretes have been corrected by the earliest manuscripts existing centuries before Christ, thus we have great confidence that the originals have not been corrupted to the point where we cannot discern between correct and incorrect readings.

Thank you Next round will be rebuttals and i will clarify my points.









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Debate Round No. 3


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Debate Round No. 4


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Debate Round No. 5
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