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The Quotation in Matt.xv.9; Mark vii.7.

The Expository Times 11 (1899) 330-331


H.B. Swete (The Gospel according to St. Mark, 1898, p. 119), remarks on the words μάτην δε δὲ σέβονταί με κ.τ.λ. ‘A Midrashic interpretation of the Heb. (יִרְאָתָם אוֹתִי מִצְוַת מִצְוַת אֲנָשִׁים מְלֻמָּדָה).’

It is strange to read this statement from the pen of the editor of the Septuagint. For there is nothing ‘Midrashic’ in this quotation, and the chief word, on which all depends, is left out by Swete, scil. וַתְּהִי before יִרְאָתָם I, which was read by the Septuagint as and translated by μάτην, just as in Is 41,29 וָתֹהוּ נִסְכֵּיהֶם, καὶ μάτηνοἱ πλανῶντες (read πλάσσοντεσ) ὑμας, or 40,17 וָתֹהוּ נֶחְשְׁבוּ־לוֹ θησαν αὐτῷ. I should not dare to publish this explanation (וַתְּהִי = μάτην = וְתֹהוּ), which was pointed out more than 250 years ago by Hugo Grotius, if it were not unknown to all modern commentaries, as far as I see. Holtzmann states expressly, ‘In the Original a word is missing for μάτην’; even Zahn (Einleitung, ii. p.37) calls the words ‘a very free rendering’ because he overlooked the origin of this μάτην. Resch alone, who (Paralleltexte, ii.p.170, 1894) also had written μάτην is missing in the Hebrew original, now (Die Logia Jesu, 1898. p.51) recognizes that the Septuagint ותהו for ותהי. I call attention to it, because it gives opportunity to correct an error in the Concordance of Hatch-Redpack s.v. μάτην. For the Hebrew equivalent of this word in Is 41,29 is there given as אָוֶן, instead of תֹּהוּ. And then this quotation has its importance for the question of the Gospels. For there are three possibilities: either Jesus Himself read still ותֹהוּ in His Hebrew scroll of Isaiah; but this is not likely, as there is no trace of this reading in the Targum or with Aquila; or He Himself used the Septuagint and quoted from this version - which, if proved, would be of the highest interest; or, our evangelists, and even the oldest of them, on whom we are depending for the transmission of His words, changed them according to the Greek Bible in their hands.

Maulbronn. Eb. Nestle.

Swete's note:

I am glad that my oversight has given Dr. Nestle occasion to call the attention of New Testament students to this interesting example of the frequent confusion between ו and י. It has been pointed out in more than one recent work on the Old Testament, e.g. by Delitzsch, ad loc., and by Driver, Notes to the Hebrew Text of Samuel, p.lxvi, and ought not to have escaped notice.

Aquila, as usual, agrees with M.T. (καὶ ἐγένετο τοῦ φοβεῖσθαι αὐτουςκ.τ.λ. Which of the two readings was used by our Lord must remain for the present, as Dr. Nestle sees, an open question.