This post is intended to be the beginning of a regular series where I note Septuagintal passages which would be of interest to students of Christian origins; e.g. texts where the New Testament quotes an LXX reading significantly different from the Masoretic reading, or texts where the LXX reading is needed to make sense of a NT text. Other categories we might include are words/phrases in the NT that draw on their distinctive (?) use in the LXX, etc. Perhaps one day these might be compiled into a book that could aid students (and clergy) in coming to appreciate the significance of the LXX and the need to be aware of the Greek Bible of the early church.
Our passage for today is Genesis 5:21-24. The various readings are below:
|NASB (MT)||LXX||LXX Translated|
|21 Enoch lived sixty-five years, and became the father of Methuselah. 22 Then Enoch walked with God three hundred years after he became the father of Methuselah, and he had other sons and daughters. 23 So all the days of Enoch were three hundred and sixty-five years. 24 Enoch walked with God; and he was not, for God took him.||21 Καὶ ἔζησεν Ενωχ ἑκατὸν καὶ ἑξήκοντα πέντε ἔτη καὶ ἐγέννησεν τὸν Μαθουσαλα. 22 εὐηρέστησεν δὲ Ενωχ τῷ θεῷ μετὰ τὸ γεννῆσαι αὐτὸν τὸν Μαθουσαλα διακόσια ἔτη καὶ ἐγέννησεν υἱοὺς καὶ θυγατέρας. 23 καὶ ἐγένοντο πᾶσαι αἱ ἡμέραι Ενωχ τριακόσια ἑξήκοντα πέντε ἔτη. 24 καὶ εὐηρέστησεν Ενωχ τῷ θεῷ καὶ οὐχ ηὑρίσκετο, ὅτι μετέθηκεν αὐτὸν ὁ θεός.||And Enoch lived 165 years and fathered Methusaleh. And Enoch pleased God for 200 years after he fathered Methusalah. And he fathered sons and daughters. 23 And all the days of Enoch were 365 years. 24 And Enoch pleased God, and he was not found, because God transported him.|
Note the following differences:
- The age of Enoch when he begets Methuselah differs (165 vs. 65) as does his length of life afterwards (200 vs. 300), though both have the same total lifespan.
- In v24 LXX says Enoch was not “found” (ηυρισκετο) vs. MT’s “and he was not” וְאֵינֶנּוּ. This seems to be an interpretive translation, and specifies what the MT leaves ambiguous, i.e. Enoch did not die.
- In v24 LXX says God “transported” (μετεθηκεν) Enoch, while MT has “took” (לָקַח). “Took,” of course, could indicate that Enoch died, while “transported” or “transferred” is more specific and, again, leads the reader to think that Enoch continued to live, just in a different place.
- The biggest difference for our purposes is the LXX’s “pleased God” (εὐηρέστησεν τῷ θεῷ) in vv.22,24 vs. MT’s “walked with God” (את־הָאֱלֹהִים וַיִּתְהַלֵּךְ). This may simply be interpretive: if Enoch walked with God, then presumably he was pleasing to God. The hithpael of הלך is translated at several places in the LXX with ευαρεστεω.
Josephus, Sirach, and Pseudo-Philo follow our LXX reading. So too does the author to the Hebrews, whose point about “pleasing” God depends upon the LXX reading (see Heb 11:5-6) and who makes it explicit that Enoch did not “see death” (11:5).
A good summary of the afterlife of Gen 5:21-24 can be found in Morray-Jones and Rowland’s The Mystery of God: Early Jewish Mysticism and the New Testament. The ambiguities of the text led to a variety of interpretations:
- Some traditions interpret “walking before God” as a priestly activity (cf. Jubilees 4:23 has Enoch transferred to Eden where he serves as a scribe-priest (though see 7:38-39!); 1 Enoch 14 depicts Enoch’s entrance into the heavenly temple, but it may be that his heavenly journeys in the Enochic corpus depend upon the reading “Enoch walked with the heavenly beings,” based on the plural elohim in Gen 5. TgPs-Jon has him taken up to the firmament, where he becomes Metatron the heavenly scribe.
- TgOnkelos interprets Enoch’s being “taken” as a reference to his death. This is possibly polemic against the well-attested “Enoch as visionary” reading.
- Some interpretations saw Enoch as a model of repentance. For example, Sirach 44:16 perhaps understands μετεθηκεν as a reference to Enoch’s turning toward God, though elsewhere he speaks of him being “taken up” (ανελημφθη, 49:14).
What are some other LXX passages you think serve as good examples of how important it is that students of early Judaism and Christianity be familiar with the LXX?