Isaiah 59:21, "As for me, this is my covenant with them, saith the LORD; My spirit that is upon thee, and my words which I have put in thy mouth, shall not depart out of thy mouth, nor out of the mouth of thy seed, nor out of the mouth of thy seed's seed, saith the LORD, from henceforth and for ever."
Matthew 5:18, "For verily I say unto you, Till heaven and earth pass, one jot or one tittle shall in no wise pass from the law, till all be fulfilled."
Matthew 24:35, "Heaven and earth shall pass away, but my words shall not pass away."
Matthew 4:4, "But he answered and said, It is written, Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that proceedeth out of the mouth of God."
Psalm 12:6-7, "The words of the LORD are pure words: as silver tried in a furnace of earth, purified seven times. Thou shalt keep them, O LORD, thou shalt preserve them from this generation for ever."
These aren't all, but they are a sampling of what people have seen and then depended on as a basis for a belief in the perfect preservation of Scripture. It has seemed plain to your average Christian that this is what God has said.
You have those who have read about textual variants and textual criticism and superior or older manuscripts, and their faith is shaken in these promises of God. They've had to react to men preaching these verses to them. They didn't approach their view of preservation beginning with exegesis, so now they are scrambling for an explanation for what they believe from Scripture. The best they can come up with, besides revising the meaning of verses like those above or just attacking the already developed and historic doctrine of preservation, is "The LXX Argument" or "The Septuagint Argument."
Here's how the argument goes. Many of the quotations of the Old Testament in the New Testament do not match up with the Hebrew of the Old Testament. They match up more word for word and in more places, however, with the ancient Greek translation of the Old Testament, the LXX (the Septuagint). So Jesus and the Apostles must have been relying upon the Septuagint, an inaccurate or corrupt translation, as an adequate version of the Bible to use. In so doing, they validated or justified an inaccurate or corrupt text as permissible.
One of their favorite Old Testament quotations is the one in Luke 4:14-21:
14 And Jesus returned in the power of the Spirit into Galilee: and there went out a fame of him through all the region round about. 15 And he taught in their synagogues, being glorified of all. 16 And he came to Nazareth, where he had been brought up: and, as his custom was, he went into the synagogue on the sabbath day, and stood up for to read. 17 And there was delivered unto him the book of the prophet Esaias. And when he had opened the book, he found the place where it was written, 18 The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he hath anointed me to preach the gospel to the poor; he hath sent me to heal the brokenhearted, to preach deliverance to the captives, and recovering of sight to the blind, to set at liberty them that are bruised, 19 To preach the acceptable year of the Lord. 20 And he closed the book, and he gave it again to the minister, and sat down. And the eyes of all them that were in the synagogue were fastened on him. 21 And he began to say unto them, This day is this scripture fulfilled in your ears.
They often testify that the reading of Jesus here is much closer to the LXX than it is the Hebrew Masoretic text. And they also make a point that Luke says "it was written" and that Jesus "stood up for to read." They conclude that Jesus was using and endorsing the Septuagint, based on this passage. And if He was, He was also showing that some differences in wording of the text of the Bible are insignificant as long as the same message is found in the various readings.
Alright, so what about this argument, the LXX argument. Is it correct? Is there anything wrong with it?
First, we interpret the possible implications from a passage in light of plain statements, explicit teachings, that are made elsewhere. This is a corollary to "interpret Scripture with Scripture." It is to interpret the obscure in light of the plain. Wouldn't a doctrine that God would allow Scripture to change or be lost or be altered be a doctrine that we would find somewhere else in the Bible, if that is what is to be implied from Luke 4:14-21? That would seem to be an important doctrine, the one about the Words of God being amended or modified. But that idea flies in the face of the preservation passages already written.
What we see happening in Luke 4 and other places like it, we should interpret based upon the plain teaching found elsewhere. This is how you come to true doctrine. The Bible will not deny itself or contradict itself (2 Tim 2:13). God will not contradict a teaching about perfect preservation, especially when there are zero passages that tell us that God would allow or that it would be permissible for the Words of Scripture to change. Whatever implications might be made about the preservation of Scripture from Luke 4:14-21 should be made in light of the plain statements that the Bible already makes on the subject.
Second, nowhere does the Bible say that Jesus or the apostles are quoting from a translation. We read nothing about a translation anywhere in Scripture. That teaching must be put into the text in order to get it out. One would think that a translation would be mentioned if one of the apostles were depending on it. Not one time in the gospels or the epistles does a writer ever allude to the Septuagint. It isn't in there.
Third, there is tremendous Scriptural evidence that Jesus and the Apostles were using the Hebrew text. Even in the passage in question, we should consider what kind of scroll would be used in a Jewish synagogue. It would not have been a Greek one. By saying, "It is written," Jesus would not have been referring to a translation. "It was written" (v. 17) is perfect passive, so it is a past action with ongoing results. What Moses had written was still written to that day, which is why Luke would have used that word.
When Jesus refers to Scripture, He refers to the three fold division of the law (Luke 24:27, 44). which was not the case with the Septuagint. The Apostle Paul does the same in Acts 26:22. The Hebrew text had the three fold division. Also we should see exactly how Jesus uses the Hebrew text of the Old Testament in Luke 11:51, moving from the first book, Genesis, with the example of Abel, to the last book, 2 Chronicles, with the example of Zacharias. If you were looking for the last book of the Old Testament in the Septuagint, you would look in Malachi for Zacharias. He isn't in there. 2 Chronicles is the last book of the Hebrew Old Testament.
Jews knew Hebrew. They didn't need a Greek translation at that time. Pilate included Hebrew as one of the languages in the signage he placed over Jesus on the cross (John 19:20). In Acts 21:40, Paul spoke to the Jews in Jerusalem in "the Hebrew tongue." Jesus talked to Paul in the Hebrew tongue in Paul's conversion on the road to Damascus (Acts 26:14). The Torah was the basis for teaching in the Jewish synagogue in that day (Acts 15:21). We should assume that Jesus and the Apostles spoke to the Jews in Hebrew. We don't have a basis to believe otherwise. We have a strong exegetical basis to believe that they did.
Fourth, the words from Jesus in Luke 4:14-21 do not fit the Septuagint word-for-word either. The words there allude to more than just Isaiah 61, but also to Isaiah 58:6. The actual words Luke penned obviously were not the exact equivalent of any text, Hebrew or Greek. You have definite problems with wording if you think that Jesus was quoting from the Septuagint. The words aren't the same in the Greek of Luke 4 and Isaiah 61.
Fifth, Luke 4:16 does say that Jesus stood up to read. He did read. However, as we move along, it doesn't say that he read the words that begin in verse 18. It was normal for the synagogue rabbi to read and comment, to read and targum. It is the equivalent of my saying, "In John 3:16 we have written that if we believe in Jesus we'll have everlasting life, but if we don't believe in Him, we'll perish." I'm teaching the truth of the verse and using some of its words to do so.
When the Greek words of an Old Testament reference used in the New Testament by the Lord or by an Apostle are the same or similar to the Septuagint, but not the traditional Hebrew text of the Old Testament, what is happening?
This is a question to be answered. Even in the consideration of the question, however, one should understand that we are talking now about an extra scriptural argument with the LXX argument. Above we have scriptural arguments. They should stand as a basis for the position we take, since the Bible is our authority for faith and practice as Christians. If we use an extra scriptural argument to take a position, we are depending on human reasoning for our position, not faith. That isn't acceptable for a Christian and it doesn't please God.
One who depends on the Septuagint argument should also consider this. He is using a translation as a basis for determining what is the Old Testament text. Isn't this a Ruckman argument? Don't those who support a critical or eclectic text position have a problem with using a translation to amend or correct an original language text?
To answer the question, first, we have a plausible explanation for why the Septuagint may match up with Greek quotations from the Old Testament in the New Testament. Septuagint experts have posited this as a reason and John Owen gave it as one in his Biblical Theology in the 17th century. This is a position presented in Invitation to the Septuagint by Karen H. Jobes and Moises Silva, a standard work on the Septuagint. Owen wrote this view (p. 544): "Christian users and copiers of the Septuagint would naturally adapt their quotations to those given in the New Testament." What we use today, called the Septuagint, was amended out of respect of Christ to match the words of Christ in those locations in the Greek New Testament. This is a historical explanation for a historical argument that allows the actual exegetical arguments to stand. It is an argument that harmonizes with Scripture.
Second, the words that we read of Jesus and the Apostles do not match the Old Testament text exactly because they were not exact quotations. They were referring directly to the text of the Old Testament, but they were in the nature of targuming. In Luke 4, Jesus referred to what "was written," when He opened the scroll. However, He didn't quote it word for word. He was doing what Jewish teachers did, that is, comment on the text on the fly, using His own words. Thomas Strouse writes about what Jesus did in His targum:
Christ’s expanded and inspired interpretation of Isa. 61:1-2a not only becomes part of the canonical Scripture, but is also an object lesson in bibliological interpretation, enhancing one’s understanding of the Lord’s eschatology. Dispensationally, He divided up Isaiah’s prophecy of the coming of the Lord into the first coming and the second coming (cf. Lk. 4:21). The Lord Jesus Christ fulfilled the prophecy of Isa. 61:1-2a with His first advent, and will fulfill Isa. 61:2b with His second advent in connection with the conclusion of “the day of vengeance” (Isa. 61:2b; cf. 34:8; 35:4; 63:4). Christ’s employment of targuming OT Hebrew texts gave further complementation to the interpretation of these texts and additional contribution to the whole of Christian theology.
We should take our positions about the text of Scripture from Scripture itself. Jesus wouldn't have used or quoted from a terribly corrupt text of Scripture. He would not have endorsed it. It was the position of Jesus that God would preserve His Words for every generation (Matt 24:35). Jesus Himself testifies at the very end of the New Testament as to the perfection and the settled nature of the text, which we read in Revelation 22:18-19:
For I testify unto every man that heareth the words of the prophecy of this book, If any man shall add unto these things, God shall add unto him the plagues that are written in this book: And if any man shall take away from the words of the book of this prophecy, God shall take away his part out of the book of life, and out of the holy city, and from the things which are written in this book.