Return
Comparing Two Ancient Versions of the Book of Jeremiah

Copyright 2010
Gary E. Schnittjer

The shorter version of the book of Jeremiah is preserved in the Septuagint (LXX) and 4QJerbd and the longer in the Masoretic Text (MT from which the English Bible is translated), 2QJer, and 4QJerac (click here for an illustration concerning the Dead Sea Scrolls). The MT version of Jeremiah is about one seventh longer than the LXX. The LXX version is likely translated from an earlier edition of the book of Jeremiah in Hebrew. In this view the MT version is a later revised and expanded edition of the book of Jeremiah.[1] The Qumran materials demonstrate that both the LXX and MT versions of Jeremiah were in circulation in the second temple era.[2] The fact that the MT version is not the “most original” raises significant issues concerning traditional thinking on canon and inspiration with respect to the book of Jeremiah (and a different but analogous situation in 1, 2 Sam).[3]  The students should be patient and not apply the circumstances in the ancient versions of Jeremiah (and to a lesser extent Sam, Kgs, Ezek) to the entire canon. Rather, the better path forward to deal with the book of Jeremiah according to the evidence of its unique situation, and resist applying the details unique to this book to the entire Hebrew Bible. Straightforward interpretation of the evidence, even with its complications, is the most useful path to confidence in the testimony of the scriptures.

When the two versions of Jeremiah are compared there are many single verse passages and individual word or phrase additions contained in the MT which are not in the LXX (see translation of LXX Jer). Also there are several longer plusses in the MT (see below).

Septuagint (MT references in brackets)Masoretic Text
(A) Jeremiah’s call (1 [1])
(B) Sermons, oracles, and narratives against Judah and Jerusalem (2-24 [2-24])
(C) After preaching since the days of Josiah, a word from the Lord concerning the judgment of Judah from the north (25:1-13 [25:1-13])
(D) Oracles Against the Nations (Moab in final position) (25:14-31:44 [46:1-51:64])
(1) The cup (32:1-15 [25:15-29]; Babylon not in LXX summary)
(2) Poetic judgment of the nations (32:16-24 [25:30-38])
(E) Jeremiah on trial (33 [26]; Jer 7 LXX not marked as parallel)
(F) Cycle of material against the prophets (34-35 [27-28])
(G) A letter to the exilic community in Babylon (36 [29])
(H) Book of consolation (37-38 [30-31])
(I) Narratives of restoration (39-41 [32-33])
(1) Jeremiah’s purchase of land at Anathoth (39:1-15 [32:1-15])
(2) Jeremiah’s prayer (39:16-25 [32:16-25])
(3) Yahweh’s reply to Jeremiah (39:26-44 [32:26-44])
(4) Jerusalem and Judah restored (40 [33])
(J) Message to Zedekiah (41:1-7 [34:1-7])
(K) Treachery against the slaves (41:8-22 [34:8-22])
(L) Incident with the Rechabites and a sermon (42 [35])
(M) The scroll—everyone’s rejection (43 [36])
(N) Jeremiah during the siege of Jerusalem (44-45 [37-38])
(O) The fall of Jerusalem (46:1-3 [39:1-13])
(P) Jeremiah’s experiences after the fall of the city (46:14-51:35 [39:14-45:5])
(1) Jeremiah’s release––first account (46:14 [39:14])
(2) Words of Ebed-Melech (46:15-18 [39:15-18])
(3) Jeremiah’s release––second account (47:1-6 [40:1-6])
(4) Gedeliah’s governorship and assassination (47:7-48:18 [40:7-41:18])
(5) Jeremiah consulted (49:1-6 [42:1-6])
(6) Sermon against flight to Egypt (49:7-22 [42:7-22])
(7) Response to sermon and retreat to Egypt (50:1-7 [43:1-7])
(8) Incident in Egypt (50:8-13 [43:8-13])
(9) Denunciation against community sin Egypt (51:1-30 [44:1-30])
(10) Baruch’s lament and consolation (51:31-35 [45:1-5])
(Q) Epilogue—Jerusalem’s Fall (52 [52])
(A) Jeremiah’s call (1)
(B) Sermons, oracles, and narratives against Judah and Jerusalem (2-24; long plusses 10:6-8. 10; 11:7-817:1-5a)
(C) Retrospective on preaching since days of Josiah, and preview of God’s servant Nebuchadnezzar (25:1-14)
(D.1) The cup—Sheshak [Babylon] will drink last (25:15-29)
(D.2) Poetic judgment of the nations (25:30-38)
(E) Jeremiah on trial (26; Jer 7 MT plus marks as parallel)
(F) Cycle of material against the prophets (27-28)
(G) A letter to the exilic community in Babylon (29; long plus 29:16-20)
(H) Book of consolation (30-31)
(I) Narratives of restoration (32-33)
(1) Jeremiah’s purchase of land at Anathoth (32:1-15)
(2) Jeremiah’s prayer (32:16-25)
(3) Yahweh’s reply to Jeremiah (32:26-44)
(4) Jerusalem and Judah restored (33:1-13)
(5) Dynasty of David and Levitical priests (long plus 33:14-26)
(J) Message to Zedekiah (34:1-7)
(K) Treachery against the slaves (34:8-22)
(L) Incident with the Rechabites and a sermon (35:1-19)
(M) The scroll—Jehoiakim’s solo rejection (via plusses) (36:1-32)
(N) Jeremiah during the siege of Jerusalem (37:1-38:28)
(O) The fall of Jerusalem (39:1-10; long plus 39:4-13)
(P) Jeremiah’s experiences after the fall of the city (39:11-45:5)
(1) Jeremiah’s release––first account (39:11-14)
(2) Words of Ebed-Melech (39:15-18)
(3) Jeremiah’s release––second account (40:1-6)
(4) Gedeliah’s governorship and assassination (40:7-41:18)
(5) Jeremiah consulted (42:1-6)
(6) Sermon against flight to Egypt (42:7-22)
(7) Response to sermon and retreat to Egypt (43:1-7)
(8) Incident in Egypt (43:8-13)
(9) Denunciation against community sin Egypt (44:1-30)
(10) Baruch’s lament and consolation (45:1-5)
(D) Oracles Against the Nations (Babylon in final position) (46:1-51:64; long plus 51:44b-48)
(Q) Epilogue—Jerusalem’s Fall (52:1-34; long plus 52:27b-30)


Also see working bibliography.



[1] My provisional research based upon comparative study of about a dozen chapters through different parts of the book.
[2] Some of the DSS fragments of 1, 2 Sam correspond to the MT and others the LXX version of the book. Carroll discusses two text traditions of Jeremiah among Qumran fragments, see Commentary, 51. Also se brief, yet helpful, remarks in Knoppers, 1 Chronicles 1-9, 1: 54-55. See esp. the works of Tov, McKane, and Min in bibliography. 
[3] See J. Daniel Hays, “Jeremiah, the Septuagint, the Dead Sea Scrolls, and Inerrancy: Just What Exactly Do We Mean by the ‘Original Autographs’?” 133-49, in Vincent Bacote, et al, eds. Evangelicals and Scripture: Tradition, Authority, and Hermeneutics (InterVarsity, 2004).

Return

Copyright 2010
Gary E. Schnittjer