Luke 4:18 and the LXX (part 1)

Perhaps no passage in Scripture presents such a problem to the KJV Only view¹, as Luke 4:16-22.  In this first post, we will offer a brief explanation of the text, an examination of the quotation in verses 18-19, and a some historical support for our position.  In future posts, we will draw out the implications from the text which impact the version debate, and provide some answers to common KJV Only counter-arguments.

Explanation of the Text

Luke 4:16 explains Christ stood to read the text in the synagogue.  This was the common practice.  Jesus will read and then expound the text.  Vs. 17 explains he will read from the scroll of Isaiah, and he opens the scroll and proceeds to read.

Bibles that provide Jesus’ words in red, do a disservice to our text.  An ESV Bible I have sitting here, has vs. 18-19 in red.  But if we examine vs. 17 more closely, we’ll see that Luke is not telling us what Jesus “said” but what was written in the book that was in Jesus’ hand.

Luke says (using the KJV text here), “when he had opened the book, he found the place where it was written”.  Then follows vs. 18-19.  Luke does not say Jesus said those words.  From vs. 20, it is clear that he had read them, as he rolls the scroll back up and sits down (to begin his teaching, as the custom prescribed).  So clearly Jesus read from that passage of Scripture.  But Luke gives us what the scroll said.  He tells us what was written (or what “stood written”, to better reflect the perfect tense of the Greek words here).

Luke as the inspired author of Scripture is making a statement concerning what was written on the scroll in the Nazareth synagogue.  Now we’ll look more closely at what Luke tells us was written there.

Examination of the Quotation

Using the KJV English as a comparison, the chart below shows where the quote in Luke 4:18-19 departs from the Hebrew Original as translated by the KJV in Isaiah 61:1-2. (You may want to click on the image to enlarge it.)

You’ll notice that some of the differences are quite minor (“to”/”unto”, “poor”/”meek”, “preach deliverance”/”proclaim liberty”).  Others are more significant: “Lord GOD” (Adonai Jehovah) becomes “Lord”, “LORD” (Jehovah) becomes “he”, “bruised” becomes “bound”.  And even more problematic, an entire phrase is found in Luke that is not in Isaiah 61: “recovering of sight to the blind”.  A similar phrase is found in Isaiah 42:7, but it doesn’t match up exactly.  It was common for readers in the prophets to skip around a bit, and read portions of verses from the nearby chapters.  Even allowing for this, it does not appear that the exact wording Luke records in Luke 4 is found in the King James Version in Isaiah (and we would assume in the Hebrew Masoretic Text behind the KJV).

Now this all gets very interesting once we compare the Greek of Luke 4 with the Greek of the Septuagint Old Testament (LXX) in Isaiah 61.

Here we see the differences are much less.  The first two involve alternate spellings of the same word.  In the NA27 and the Majority Text Greek, the spelling of the LXX is followed.  The third instance of a difference, followed by the TR and MT,² and in English it amounts to “the broken of heart” vs. “the broken of hearts” (or as often translated, “brokenhearted”).  The fourth instance is similar to the English example in the KJV, “preach” vs. “declare”.

Most interesting to note here, is that the phrase above which the KJV/Hebrew does not have in Isaiah 61, “the recovering of sight to the blind” is found in the Greek LXX and matches the wording exactly in all the versions of the Greek NT (TR, MT & NA27).  There is a missing phrase found in Luke and not in Isaiah LXX, however.  “To set at liberty them that are bruised” is not in the LXX.  However an almost exact form of this phrase is found in Is. 58:6.  That form matches more perfectly than the missing English phrase does from Is. 42 (see above).  So again, if we consider the common practice of reading from nearby chapters, then we have a much clearer story of where the quotation came from that Luke says was written in the scroll at the Nazareth synagogue. Continue reading