Scholarly Myths Perpetuated On Rejecting the Masoretic Text of the Old Testament
Dr. Thomas M. Strouse
Dean, Emmanuel Baptist Theological Seminary, Newington, Connecticut
[Because of space limitations, Dr. Strouse's work will be presented in sections over the next several editions of the DBS News. Footnotes will be placed at the end of each section. He discusses a total of 5 myths.]
Paul warned Timothy about promoting fables (i.e., myths [muthoi]) in the Ephesian church. He stated "Neither give heed to fables and endless genealogies, which minister questions rather than godly edifying which is in faith: so do." (I Tim. 1:4). Biblical critics have rejected the Hebrew Masoretic text of the OT and perpetuated historical myths about the language and text of the OT. Several fallacious corollaries stem from these diabolical myths.
The popular expression of the mythical views of the language and text of the OT follows these fallacious assumptions: 1) The language God gave Adam in the garden is unknown. No one knows what the divinely given "mother tongue" was. 2) The Hebrew language, in consonantal form only, evolved from the Canaanite language around 1200 BC.1 3) Through Alexander the Great Greek culture and language permeated the Mediterranean Basin resulting in the wide spread usage of the Greek OT (LXX). Christ and the early Christians used the LXX for evangelistic purposes.2 4) The LXX flour- ished between 200 BC and AD 100 in the Near East. After this period the Hebrew language came back in vogue among the Jews.3 5) Somewhere between AD 600-1000, the Masoretic scribes invented a vowel pointing system for the consonantal Hebrew text,4 resulting in the inaccurately transliter- ated name, Jehovah, among other infelicities.5 6) The Reformers used the inferior Masoretic text for their translations of the OT. 7) Critical Biblical scholarship (19th century) realized the MT was inferior and began to correct it with the Greek OT translation (LXX), the Dead Sea Scrolls (DSS), and other ancient authorities. Critical scholars are still tweaking the Hebrew text in order to give some assurance to Christians of what God has said in the OT.6 8) Christians should thank God for textual critics who have restored the OT and NT texts to such an advanced degree of certainty and authority. 9) Furthermore, since Christ and the Apostles used the loose and poor LXX as their translation, Christians then have the precedence to use a similar quality of translation today, especially as found in the modern translations.
These historical myths and supporting corollaries diametrically oppose the reception of the Masoretic text as the Hebrew text behind the Authorized Version. The perpetuation of these deceptive propositions seriously weakens confidence in the Authorized Version. Yet if these are truly myths then why do Bible scholars of all stripes, including fundamentalists, perpetuate them? The writer's purpose for this brief essay is to expose the non-biblical nature of these scholarly lies and repudiate them with Scripture. Several of the aforementioned fallacious and presumptuous corollaries will be scrutinized with Scripture and Biblically repudiated: 1) The original language of Adam in the Garden and the mother tongue until the Tower of Babel is unknown. 2) Biblical Hebrew evolved out of the Canaanite language as a consonantal text only. 3) Christ and the Apostles used the LXX to evangelize the Gentiles. 4) The Masoretic scribes invented vowel points for the inspired consonantal Hebrew text. 5) Christians should thank textual critics for restoring the original texts of Scripture that God chose not to preserve.
Myth Number 1:
The Original Language the Lord gave to Adam is unknown
The Lord God created Adam and gave him a working vocabulary and capability for language. This divinely originated language was perfectly suited for Adam to think concepts and enunciate words for clear expression and communication. The first recorded human words were Adam's response to God's creation of Eve. Adam said, "This is now bone of my bones, and flesh of my flesh: she shall be called Woman, because she was taken out of Man" (Gen. 2:23). Adam's first recorded statement has a significant element in it called the paronomasia or word pun. He punned on the name "man" (ish) with the word, woman, (ishshah) which means "from the man." Gill argues that this pun is not found in other ancient versions:
"This paronomasia does not appear in the Syriac version, nor in the Chaldee paraphrases of Onkelos and Jonathan. The Syriac uses Gabra for a man, but never Gabretha for a woman, not even in places where men and women are spoken of together...The Syriac or Chaldee language will not admit such an allusion as is in the text. Just a Gabra is used for a man, and Gabretha for a woman, so Itta, and Ittetha, and Intetha or Antetha, are used for a woman, but never Itt for a man...this seems to prove that the language Adam spoke to his wife must have been the Hebrew language, and consequently is the primitive one."7
Hebrew students recognize that there are numerous other puns in the Hebrew language, many of which are not translatable in any language, even the English of the KJV, in Gen. 1-11.8 Gen. 11:1 is pivotal because Moses states "And the whole earth was of one language, and of one speech." Prior to the tower of Babel there was one mother tongue created by God.9 Jehovah divided this original language into many to disunite man's rebellion (Gen. 11:6-9). Zephaniah the prophet pre- dicted for the Millennial reign of Christ there would be the restoration of the original tongue, stating "For then will I turn to the people a pure language, that they may all call upon the name of the LORD, to serve him with one consent. (Zeph. 3:9). What would this language be for the people to call upon Jehovah, the God of Shem (Gen. 9:26)? Would it be Akkadian, German, or English? It would be the language of the Shemites or the Jews, who trace their lineage back to Shem (cf. Gen. 10:21-31; 11:10-32). In fact, the Scripture calls Abram "the Hebrew" (eber) because he was a descendent of Eber, in whose generation the mother tongue (Hebrew) was last universally spoken before the tower of Babel (cf. Gen. 14:13;10:21).10
Whatever the mother tongue of humanity was, it should have many descendants in the present languages and therefore traceable for modern linguists. Modern linguists, holding to the evolution of language, dismiss the possibility that Hebrew could have been Adam's language. They would rather hold that language evolved from a series of grunts into highly sophisticated languages, including the lately developed Hebrew. Not only is this approach unbiblical but it is refuted by languages which trace their roots back to Hebrew. In a significant and enlightening new work, Isaac Mozeson demonstrates beyond any "coincidence" that over 22,000 English words trace their roots back to Hebrew. He states,
"Don't worry if you've never read anything on language, or if you've never heard a Hebrew word. You will soon know that you've never heard a word that wasn't Hebrew...Hebrew vocabulary has as much affinity with English as it has with Arabic. More English words can be clearly linked to Biblical Hebrew than to Latin, Greek, or French. Most known English words or roots are treated in this book...The last group of Westerners to take up the lost paradise of Hebrew included 17th century Englishmen like John Milton and his Puritan counterparts in colonial America...The curriculum of Harvard was full of Hebrew, and an early graduate theses at Harvard concerned Hebrew as the Mother tongue. Noah Webster's etymologies (discredited for 200 years now) were full of English words traced to "Shemitic" sources. Most significant of all, if a vote in the Continental Congress had gone the other way, America, and much of today's world, would now be speaking Hebrew."11
Darwin's book The Origin of Species: The Preservation of Favored Races in the Struggle for Life (1859) dethroned from its rightful reign the position that the Hebrew language was the original language God gave Adam in the Garden of Eden. This very title bespeaks of the impact evolution would have on all academic disciplines, including not only sociology but also linguistics. Bible commen- tators prior to this publication embraced the views of a recent creation of the universe and of Hebrew as the original tongue. Davis affirms the history of this latter point in the following:
"That all men were of one language and dialect should not be surprising since they were fundamentally united in the sons of Noah. Research in the area of comparative grammar has demonstrated that known languages are related and could have descended from one language. Of course it is unknown whether that language resembles any modern language, but until nineteenth century the theory that the original language was Hebrew was practically unquestioned."12
The Scripture demands that the original language of Adam was Hebrew. That this is the case is based on the puns Moses used in Gen. 1-11 that have not been duplicated in ancient versions. Furthermore, Zephaniah's prophecy concerning the restoration of the original language to praise Jehovah, and the designation of Abram the Hebrew requires the aforementioned premise that Hebrew was the mother tongue. Extra-biblical arguments such as linguistic studies tying English with Hebrew and the contrived schemes of evolutionists powerfully corroborate the truth that Adam spoke Hebrew.
Footnotes For This Section
1Christo H. J. Van der Merwe, Jackie A. Naude and Jan H. Kroeze, A Biblical Reference Grammar (Sheffield, England:Sheffield Academic Press, 2002), pp. 15-17.
2Merrill F. Unger, Archaeology and the New Testament (Grand Rapids: Zondervan Publ. House, 1979), pp. 38-39.
3David Ewert, From Ancient Tablets to Modern Translations (Grand rapids: Zondervan Publ. House, 1983), pp 105-107
4Kyle M. Yates, The Essentials of Biblical Hebrew (NY: Harper and Row, Publ. 1938), p.1.
5Francis Brown, S. R. Driver and Charles A. Briggs, The New Brown-Driver-Briggs-Gesenius Hebrew and English Lexicon (Peabody, MA: Hendrickson Publishers, 1979), p. 218.
6Gary D. Pratico and Miles V. Van Pelt, Basics of Biblical Hebrew Grammar (Grand Rapids: Zondervan Publ. House, 2001), p. 409.
7John Gill, A Dissertation Concerning the Antiquity of the Hebrew Language, Letters, Vowel Points, and Accents (London: G. Keith, 1767), p.11.
8John H. Sailhamer, Genesis, The Expositor's Bible Commentary, Vol. 2 (Grand Rapids: Zondervan Publ. House, 1990), p. 106.
9If this God-given mother tongue were Hebrew, those who are anti-Semitic might oppose this interpretation and create other linguistic alternatives. This anti-Semitism is pronounced in the Hebrew lexicons edited by rationalistic German linquists, who promote the evolution of the Hebrew language in the Akkadian-Canaanite-Hebrew lineage.
10Asshur was the father of the Assyrians who spoke Assyrian (Num. 24:23-24).
11Isaac E. Mozeson, The Word: The Dictionary that Reveals the Hebrew Source of English (NY: SPI Books, 2000), pp. 1-2
12John J. Davis, Paradise to Prison: Studies in
Genesis (Grand Rapids: Baker Book House, 1975), p. 144.