Tuesday, August 14, 2007

Did Stephen misquote the Old Testament?

In the last post, I listed several sets of verses that pose alleged discrepancies in the Bible. Of course my post was not to belittle the integrity of the Scriptures but to answer these apparent “differences” while upholding the honor of the Word of God. If you are a firm believer of the inerrant, infallible Word of God, then how do you handle some of these verses that present a difficult challenge? Let’s look at one set.

In three passages, the Old Testament attests to the number of people from the house of Jacob who went down to Egypt. In every passage, it states that there were seventy people who went into Egypt.

Genesis 46:26— “and the sons of Joseph, who were born to him in Egypt were two; all the persons of the house of Jacob, who came to Egypt, were seventy.”
Exodus 1:5—“All the persons who came from the loins of Jacob were seventy in number, but Joseph was already in Egypt.”
Deuteronomy 10:22—“Your fathers went down to Egypt seventy persons in all, and now the LORD your God has made you as numerous as the stars of heaven.”

How are these verses to be understood in light of Stephen’s statement in Acts 7:14 when he stated, “Then Joseph sent word and invited Jacob his father and all his relatives to come to him, seventy-five persons in all.” In Stephens’ speech, he explains that there were 75 people who entered Egypt. Though it appears that there is blatant contradiction within Scripture, there is a possible resolution which will clarify Stephen’s account.

Because the Septuagint was widely read in Jesus’ day, it is probable that Stephen would have been familiar with the reading of the Septuagint text. In the Masoretic text, both Genesis 46:26 and Exodus 1:5 have the number 70, but the Septuagint has 75. It is very possible that Stephen was quoting the Septuagint number including Joseph’s grandsons born to Ephraim and Manasseh in Egypt (1 Chronicles 7:14-20).

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