The Servant Songs of Isaiah in the MT and the LXX: A Comparison of Their Portrayals of God
This comparison of the portrayals of God in the Masoretic and Septuagint texts of the Servant Songs of Isaiah includes a discussion of the delimitation of the four songs, of text-critical issues, and of problems in translation. After the implied speakers and audiences are identified, those verses in which God is the speaker or referent are analyzed vis-à-vis their portrayal of God. The portrayals conveyed by the two forms of each song are then compared and finally patterns in differences between the Hebrew and Greek texts are identified. Although these Masoretic and Septuagint texts yield similar portrayals of God, differences emerge. The LXX texts contain fewer anthropomorphisms/anthropopathismsand depict God as more supportive of his Servant/Son than do the corresponding Masoretic texts. For example, in Isaiah 53, the MT depicts God as "crush[ing]" the Servant, whereas in the LXX the Servant's/Son's suffering is merely permitted by God, who quickly comes to his Servant's/Son's aid. The MT and the LXX texts address the problems of theodicy differently. The LXX focuses on the suffering as a divine discipline leading to wisdom while the MT gives equal weight to other explanations. For example, the Third Servant Song in the MT, unlike in the LXX, could lead the reader or listener to construe the Servant's suffering as a test of the Servant's faithfulness. While both the MT and LXX text of Isaiah 53 assert that the Servant's suffering benefits others (identified only as "we" and "the many"), the MT, unlike the LXX, does so in terms of cultic imagery. The MT, unlike the LXX text, refers to the Servant's justification of "the many." In general, the portrayal of God in the Septuagint text would appear more congenial to those Jews (and potential non-Jewish "God-fearers") influenced by Greekphilosophy. It is impossible, however, to know how the LXX translator's Vorlage compared to the MT of the Servant Songs or--to the degree that the Vorlage was the same--which of the differences in meaning were intended and not the result of errors/ambiguities in translation.
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