Daily Devotions


Day 110

An Interesting Study of How the Scriptures were Cited

Text: Matthew 8 : 14 - 17

There are many fascinating things to study in Matthew’s text concerning the healing ministry of Jesus. Let us ponder the question of how Matthew cited the Scriptures.

1. Two texts available to cite from

Matthew had two possible texts to choose from if he wished to cite from the Scriptures.

a) The Hebrew Text

The original language used in the Old Testament Scriptures was written in Hebrew. This version was popular among the conservative Jews.

b) The Septuagint

There was another text that was in existence. This was a translation of the Hebrew Old Testament into the then lingua franca Greek. About 70 scholars were commissioned to translate the Hebrew Scriptures into Greek. (The usual abbreviation for the Septuagint is LXX).

In time, this became the more popular choice for people because of the influence of Greek culture (commonly called “hellenization”). However it must be noted that there was strong objection from conservative quarters concerning the use of the Septuagint.

2. Checking both texts

A careful check of both texts (Hebrew and Greek) reveals that Matthew cited the Septuagint rather than the Hebrew text.

a) Rendering of the Hebrew text

“Surely he has borne our griefs
And carried our sorrows.”
Isaiah 53:4

b) Rendering of the Septuagint (LXX)

“He Himself took our infirmities
And bore our sicknesses.”
Matthew 8:17

Obviously, the two texts are quite different. The main difference is also quite distinct. The Hebrew version speaks of “griefs and sorrows”. The LXX speaks of “infirmities and sicknesses”.

How do we reconcile the differences? Are these differences contradictory in any way? These are important questions that we need to raise up. We need not fear losing our confidence in the Scriptures. The integrity of the Biblical texts is never in question at all. Let us ponder the following thoughts.


1. Nothing wrong with using the more popular LXX

This is the obvious conclusion. Studying Hebrew academically was a privilege that not everybody was able to enjoy. Jews were scattered all over the world. The center for Hebrew studies was in Israel itself. It was a question of time before someone came up with the idea of having the Hebrew Scriptures translated into Greek, then the most widely used language in world.

2. The focal point of the Hebrew Scriptures

The point of focus of the Hebrew text was “grief and sorrows”. This phrase describes generally the deep concern of the Messiah for His people.

3. The focal point of the LXX

The Greek Old Testament narrowed down its application of “griefs and sorrows” to “infirmities and sicknesses”. This may be understood as a subset of “griefs and sorrows”.

Therefore, the LXX text does not in fact clash with the Hebrew text. Whereas the latter described things in general language, the former described things more specifically.

4. Matthew’s choice of the LXX

a) Familiarity with the LXX

The first reason why Matthew chose the LXX to cite from could well be that he, together with many others, was more familiar with the Greek version. It is wiser to cite texts that people are familiar with than to cite the Hebrew text and then devote much time to explain the text.

b) A sharper fit

Another good reason was that the LXX seemed to fit into the local scene far more sharply than the Hebrew version. The fact was that many sick people came to Jesus. All bore their infirmities with great grief and sorrow.

5. The Integrity of the Scriptures

Matthew presented Jesus as One who upheld the integrity of the Scriptures (Cf. Matthew 5:17-18). It would be unthinkable for him to use the Scriptures in any way that could have undermined his own consistency in writing his Gospel. He maintained that what Jesus did, in healing the many sick people who came to Him was a true fulfillment of the Scriptures.

Isaiah’s prophecy (Cf. Isaiah 53) concerning the Sufferings of the Messiah was breath-taking in its depth of accuracy! Though the Hebrew text did not hint at the performance of miracles, the fact that Jesus healed the sick as He did would argue strongly that the focus was not the healing ministry!

Healing gave Jesus the opportunity to help people understand just how much He was able to empathize with the lot of the sick and suffering. The personal preference of Jesus was to proclaim the Kingdom of heaven, and to lead people into that Kingdom.