Tag Archives: Dead Sea Scrolls

Hannah’s Three Bulls and the LXX

Here is an example of a change that has happened in Bible translations since the Dead Sea Scrolls were discovered in the year 1947. I will first quote the ASV, American Standard Version, which was made in 1901.

1 Samuel 1:24,25
24 And when she had weaned him, she took him up with her, with three bullocks, and one ephah of meal, and a bottle of wine, and brought him unto the house of Jehovah in Shiloh: and the child was young.
25 And they slew the bullock, and brought the child to Eli.

Wait, what? She took 3 bullocks, and they slew “the” bullock?

Well, the Dead Sea Scrolls had Hebrew text of 1 Samuel that agreed with the Septuagint, the Greek translation of the Old Testament, which read, she took a “3-year-old bullock” rather than three bullocks.

So then the Revised Standard Version read:
And when she had weaned him, she took him up with her, along with a three-year-old bull, an ephah of flour, and a skin of wine; and she brought him to the house of the Lord at Shiloh; and the child was young.

The Hebrew scrolls found in 1947 at Khirbet Qumran pre-date the Hebrew manuscripts that were used at the time, called the Masoretic Text. The Masoretic text had been standardized by the Masoretes. That is, they had agreed on final readings where there had been variants in the text, and then eliminated and destroyed any manuscripts that did not agree with their final edition. (This is called a recension.)

But all this time, we have had the Septuagint, also known as the LXX for short, which was translated from the Hebrew into Greek a couple hundred years before Christ. That means that those translators had access to Hebrew manuscripts that predated the recension done by the Masoretes. All this time, the Septuagint has read that she went ἐν μόσχῳ τριετίζοντι “with a three-year-old bull.” This is why you should not despise the Septuagint when its reading differs from the Hebrew text. Nor should you despise a translation for choosing a reading of the Septuagint over what the Hebrew Masoretic Text says.