Friday, December 10, 2010

Proof by Time Travel

A few years ago, I started collecting a form of argument I called "Goofy Proofs": arguments that might "preach well" in the amen corner of a KJV-onlyist church, where you might find it repeated ad nauseam, but so obviously fragile that it falls apart at the slightest touch of critical examination. These are so plain silly, that they don't even rise to the level of logical fallacy.

Every once in a a while, a KJV-onlyist will advance an argument in favour of the KJV that is so obviously anachronistic, it would require time travel technology to work. Clearly the KJV translators, the apostle Paul, or the ancient Jews knew how to build time machines. The KJV-onlyists certainly do, as arguments like these prove, and the cheapskates aren't sharing this wonderful secret with the rest of us.

A common argument amongst KJV-onlyists, especially those in the Peter Ruckman camp, is that there was no such thing as a pre-Christian Septuagint. The Septuagint (or LXX) is the traditional Greek translation of the Hebrew Scriptures that were in use by Greek-speaking Jews at the time of Christ (and subsequently by Christians). The name comes from the tradition that it was translated by 72 Jewish scholars (rounded to 70) at the request of Ptolemy II, who wanted to include it in the Library of Alexandria. It is generally believed today that there was not one single Greek Old Testament, but multiple translation traditions. Nonetheless, the early Christians made heavy use of the Greek Scriptures: the majority of Old Testament citations in the New Testament are taken from the LXX. It's fairly easy to see why the Ruckmanites would want to discredit it: if even Jesus and the Apostles quoted authoritatively from a flawed translation of the Scriptures and considered it the Word of God, it undermines their most basic assumption, that a corrupt translation cannot be considered the Word of God.

In The Bible Answer Book, Samuel C. Gipp writes:

First, let's define what the LXX is supposed to be. An ancient document called "The Letter of Aristeas" revealed a plan to make an OFFICIAL translation of the Hebrew Bible (the Old Testament) in Greek. This translation was to be accepted as the official Bible of the Jews and was to replace the Hebrew Bible. Supposedly this translation work would be performed by 72 Jewish scholars (?), six from each of the twelve tribes of Israel. The supposed location of the work was to be Alexandria, Egypt. The alleged date of translation was supposedly around 250 BC, during the 400 years of silence between the close of the Old Testament in 397 BC and the birth of Christ in approximately 4 BC (due to a four year error in the calendar). . . .

This so called "Letter of Aristeas" is the sole evidence for the existence of this mystical document. There are absolutely NO Greek Old Testament manuscripts existent with a date of 250 BC or anywhere near it. Neither is there any record in Jewish history of such a work being contemplated or performed.

When pressed to produce hard evidence of the existence of such a document, scholars quickly point to Origen's Hexapla written around 200 AD, or approximately 450 years later than the LXX was supposedly penned, and more than 100 years after the New Testament was completed. The second column of Origen's Hexapla contains his own (hardly 72 Jewish scholars) Greek translation of the Old Testament including spurious books such as "Bel and the Dragon", "Judith" and "Tobit" and other apocryphal books accepted as authoritative only by the Roman Catholic Church.1 (emphasis in original)

Basically, what Gipp argues is this: The only evidence for a pre-Christian LXX is a spurious, pseudepigraphal letter describing its origins, and the earliest extant copies of the LXX date from 4-500 years later. Therefore, the Septuagint, instead of being a third-century-BC Greek Jewish translation of the Hebrew Old Testament, is a third-century-AD Greek Christian translation of the Hebrew Old Testament being passed off as a third-century BC Greek translation of the Hebrew Old Testament.

Ha. Busted!

Or, maybe not. Here's the problem: It is believed that the Letter of Aristeas was written by a Hellenized Jew, to defend the superiority of the LXX over other Greek versions, during the second century BC. But if the LXX didn't exist until the third century AD, then why would anyone write a pre-Christian letter describing its origin? Clearly, pseudo-Aristeas had a time machine, which he used to travel to the future and read Origen's Hexapla.

But Gipp has an answer:

There is little doubt amongst scholars today that it was not written by anyone named Aristeas. In fact, some believe its true author is Philo. This would give it an A.D. date. If this were true, then its REAL intention would be to deceive believers into thinking that Origen's second column is a copy of the LXX. A feat that it has apparently accomplished "in spades".

Philo's real feat is being familiar with Origen's works. He was an Alexandrian Jew who died around AD 50. Origen also lived in Alexandria, but 200 years later. Apparently, it was Philo who had the time machine.

"Dr. Samuel C. Gipp, Th.D" (as he styles himself virtually everywhere) is, not surprisingly, a "graduate" of Peter Ruckman's Pensacola Bible Institute. If this kind of sloppy research is typical of PBI alumni, I wouldn't be as hasty to flaunt his academic "credentials."


1 Samuel C. Gipp, The Answer Book (Miamitown, OH: DayStar, 1989), (accessed December 8, 2010).

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