Romans 10:11 and general principles regarding quotations of the Old Testament in the New

Occasionally, someone will claim that the Bible inaccurately quotes the Old Testament or quotes from verses that are nowhere found in the Old testament. For example, Romans 10:11 says: "For the Scripture says, 'Whoever believes in him will not be disappointed." (NASB version) Most skeptics will happily note that the phrase referenced by Paul (which is put in quotation marks in many Bibles) does not exist in Old Testament. So, where does this phrase come from?

My Study Bible references Isaiah 28:16 as the source of the phrase Paul is referencing. Isaiah 28:16 reads (NASB):

Therefore thus says the Lord GOD,
"Behold, I am laying in Zion a stone, a tested stone,
A costly cornerstone for the foundation, firmly placed.
He who believes in it will not be disturbed."

Now, looking at this as a skeptic might, I don't think it immediately obvious how "will not be disturbed" is the equivalent of "will not be disappointed." According to the Blue Letter Bible, the phrase "will not be disturbed" from Isaiah 28:16 is a single Hebrew word, "chuwsh" which seems literally translated as "to make haste." Romans 10:11, on the other hands, was written in Greek, and the Greek words translated as "will not be disappointed" is "ou kataischuno". "Ou kataischuno", according to the Blue Letter Bible, is most literally translated as "shall not be put to shame." So how do these come together? More importantly, why is it that Paul quotes it differently than the Old Testament Hebrew actually reads.

The problem is partially a result of our desire to put modern rules to ancient texts. Recently, an essay entitled "Principles the New testament Writers used when Quoting the Old" by Timothy Lin, Ph.D., has become available on the Internet. The short (5 page) essay reviews some of the principles for determining how the Old Testament was quoted in the New Testament. Several of the principles noted by Dr. Lin could be appropriate in this context.

For example, Dr. Lin notes that the New Testament writers didn't have quotation marks, and so when we see quotation marks in our Bibles, they are not part of the original text. Dr. Lin also notes that the New Testament writers had the freedom to both quote and allude to the Old Testament. He says:

Some passages in the New Testament are not quotations at all but allusions. When any author finds some literary content which is very familiar to his readers, he can allude to it rather than quote it directly. This was also true with the New Testament writers. There are quite a few allusions in the New Testament. The distinction between an allusion and a quotation is that the former appears always without a formula of introduction, or as indirect discourse after `oti, (translated as "that" in Mark 12:19 but when indicating indirect discourse is usually left untranslated as in Luke 2:33; Acts 3: 23; etc.), or after 'opos plarotha or 'ina plarotha (in order that) as in Matthew 2:23; 4:15-16; 8:17, 23; etc.

Certainly, we see quotation marks in Romans 10:11 because the editors put them there, but they were not in the original autograph or the earliest copies. Still, it does appear that Paul is quoting something since he says "scripture says . . . ." So, what is the explanation?

Dr. Lin explains:

The Holy Spirit did not limit the New Testament writers to quote just from the Old Testament. As aforementioned, God's revelation is for man. Any truth that was familiar to the reader and was also capable of expressing God's revelation, the Holy Spirit would use. For this reason the Holy Spirit inspired Paul to quote a Greek poem in the Acts 17:28, a saying from a now lost comedy in 1 Corinthians 15:33, and two names (Jannes and Jambres) from the Talmud or the Targum of Jonathan in 2 Timothy 3:8. At the time when the New Testament was being written, the Septuagint was the most widely spread translation among the Gentiles. It was natural for the Holy Spirit to use this translation to express God's truth since it was familiar to most readers. No matter how poor the quality of the Septuagint translation, it had at least more value than a Greek poem or Corinthian comedy. If Jude could quote the Apocryphal Book of Enoch to emphasize the certainty of God's judgment (Jude 14-15), other writers certainly could quote from the Septuagint.

The difference in the two versions of Isaiah appears to be the result of Paul using the Septuagint. The Septuagint, the first translation of the Hebrew Old Testament, made into popular Greek before the Christian era, translates ""ou kataischuno" from Isaiah 28:16 as "shall by no means be ashamed." Is this a bad translation? According to Jamison, Faucett and Brown's Commentary Critical and Explanatory on the Whole Bible (1871), such a translation was appropriate because the Septuagint translation communicates "substantially the same idea; he who rests on Him shall not have the shame of disappointment, nor flee in sudden panic (see Isa 30:15; 32:17)." The verses cited by the commentary do support this proposition.

Does this help? The typical skeptic would say it doesn't help because the wording of Isaiah isn't exactly the same as the Romans verse. Paul, it would be argued, directly quotes a scripture that doesn't exist (or, at least, exist in the form quoted). The fact that Paul was apparently quoting from the Septuagint instead of the original Hebrew only proves, in the skeptics' mind, that Paul wasn't inspired because he is quoting from a version of the Old Testament which is often seen as less reliable than the original Hebrew.

I think Dr. Lin's argument is sufficient to respond to this objection. If the most familiar version of the Old Testament to the readers of the Epistle would have been the Septuagint, then there is no reason to suppose that Paul would not have used the Septuagint so that the quotation was familiar to them. Since other books of the New Testament clearly use the Septuagint, and others quote from other completely non-Biblical sources, then why cannot Paul use a different version of the Old Testament which, at heart, means the same thing?

I highly recommend reading "Principles the New testament Writers used when Quoting the Old" by Timothy Lin, Ph.D. It is a concise but excellent overview of the way in which the Old Testament was quoted in the New Testament.


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