MY READER IS LIKELY WELL INFORMED REGARDING my desire to honor the Textus Receptus, the Greek New Testament by which both the King James Bible stands upon and the Reformation took flight—though I am not beholden to it. The bad blood pitted against the Codex Sinaiticus and the Codex Vaticanus by those indebted to the TR is indeed a divisive one. There is however another sort of fraternal spat between those divided over the scholarship of the Masoretic Text of the Old Testament, which the King James is also based upon, and the Greek Septuagint, or LXX. The beautifully preserved Dead Sea Scrolls are a contributor of further historical and textual complications—if one wishes to see it in such light. The wealth of scholarly knowledge available to us, often pitted against each other, will not be discussed at any length here. We have however reached a fork in the road. Therefore a pause is in order. This might get messy.
The ancient Hebrew word Mesorah broadly refers to the whole of Jewish tradition, including oral, all of which claims to be unchanged and infallible. The Masoretic text is dated to the 7-10th centuries of the modern era, the earliest of which does not contain the Torah. The scholarly work of the Greek Septuagint however, the earliest of which does include the Torah, is a thousand years its elder, and matches many New Testament quotations, particularly throughout the Pauline Epistles. In fact, the one time we are told that Jesus read Scripture in the synagogue (Luke 4:14-30), a passage from Isaiah, he borrowed from the LXX.
Ah, but there’s more.
Further complications arise whenever Jesus alludes to Scripture in the Gospels. He often does so in a manner which agrees with the Aramaic Targum, not the Greek or Hebrew versions, and when quoting Isaiah 66:24, “where their word does not die, and the fire is no quenched,” he clearly favors the Aramaic, because the word Gehenna does not appear in the Hebrew or Greek.
Backed with the 1947 discovery of the second temple era Dead Sea Scrolls, that and the LXX contain noticeable differences from the Masoretic, both great and small.
Here we arrive at our fork in the road. The Byzantine era Masoretic Text, which informed Reformation thinking and blessed their efforts greatly, takes a clear turn from second temple era Hebrew thinking. According to the King James Bible, Deuteronomy 32:8-9 reads:
8 When the Most High divided to the nations their inheritance, when He separated the sons of Adam, He set the bounds of the people according to the number of the children of Israel.
9 For the Lord’s portion is His people; Jacob is the lot of His inheritance.
By this we are to correctly understand that Israel alone is Yahweh’s portion. The NASB and NIV equally agree with the KJV. The dispute however at hand is the phrase the children of Israel. The number seventy, or “the number of the children of Israel,” seems rather satisfactory, especially considering that seventy members of Jacob’s family went down to Egypt in the days of Joseph. We might therefore read this accordingly; When Yahweh portioned out the nations each their own inheritance, He reserved for Israel an inheritance proportioned to its numbers. And yet the far older Greek Septuagint, which indisputable gave insight into Jesus’ and Paul’s worldview, presents us with an arbitrary departure from the Masoretic Text.
The LXX reads: “according to the number of the angels of God.”
The difference between children and angels are undeniably dogmatic. Which is correct? Perhaps the pagan nations surrounding Israel might be of help to us. My reader need also recognize that what I am about to say is not of Biblical origin. Let us turn then to the flip of the coin—the Ugaritic Pantheon of gods. The Semitic speaking Canaanites to the north of ancient Israel tell of El, their chief god, who fathered a total of 70 sons—otherwise known as the 70 sons of El. His wife Asherah is likely recognized among the Biblical literate as one who adulterates the pure religion of Yahweh, though here she is named Athirat. Together with El their sexual union is said to create the dusk and dawn.
Discovered along the Syrian coast in Ras Shamra in 1929, the Ugaritic texts reveal a complicated story—one in which the children of Abraham would have intimately known and—quite tragically for many—become tragically embroiled in. What is not completely understood is Asherah’s relationship with Baal. According to the Ugaritic texts, the god of the underworld has not only killed off a number of their children, but even usurped El’s throne, thereby taking Asherah as his consort. The evils of Baal run deep into Hebrew thinking, and it should be interesting to note that archeological evidence demonstrates the idolatrous belief on behalf of many Hebrews that Yahweh had likewise taken Asherah as His consort. Kings Jehoshaphat and Hezekiah, among a handful of others, rightfully attempted to eradicate the worship of Asherah in Israel and Judea. And Biblically speaking, the Prophets were dutifully angered when their contemporaries abandoned Yahweh to worship the god of the underworld. Baal may have been a real god, and I have no doubt he even attempted to usurp God’s throne—particularly where winning over the public opinion is concerned—but as truth would have it he certainly was no Yahweh, nor will he ever have comparable standing with him.
Let us not make the mistake of blending false religion with true religion, a damnable error of so many ancient Hebrews. Though the differences are many, the Semitic similarities among the Canaanites and the Hebrews is in similar point of contact—the human tragedy at the Tower of Babel. It is to the Chaldeans in which we must next turn and by doing so recall how the Ugaritic texts present an unmistakable parallel to the Septuagint. But ah-ha, there’s more.
The Dead Sea Scrolls introduce an even clearer picture than what the Septuagint hopes to offer. The nations of the world were divvied up among members of God’s heavenly entourage. Here the Torah reads:
“8 When the Most High gave to the nations their inheritance, when He divided mankind, He fixed the borders of the peoples according to the number of the sons of God.
9 But the Lord’s portion is His people, Jacob His allotted heritage.”
(Deuteronomy 32:8-9, ESV)
Dogmatic differences indeed. If the second temple-era Dead Sea Scrolls are to be believed, then the long neglected worldview of the ancient Hebrew, as embodied by the Divine Council, changes everything. In a little while we shall see why the papyrus scrolls of Qumran presents us with the right interpretation, or rather, the most logical conclusion to make, because elsewhere in Deuteronomy, not even the Masoretic Text can disagree.
The sons of God fall in perfect synchronicity.