As with many of you, the 'Islam question' has inspired me to a new reading of Pope Benedict's Regensberg lecture. Today I would like to draw two sentences to your attention. "Today we know that the Greek translation of the Old Testament produced in Alexandria - the Septuagint - is more than a simple (and in that sense really less than satisfactory) translation of the Hebrew text: it is an independent textual witness and a distinct and important step in the history of revelation, one which brought about this encounter [between 'biblical faith' and 'the best of Greek thought'] in a way that was decisive for the birth and spread of Christianity. A profound encounter is taking place here, an encounter between genuine enlightenment and religion."
'Modern Biblical Scholarship' has, in Western academic circles, seen one of its tasks as being to practise 'Textual Criticism'. This phrase does not mean what most people assume; what it does mean is comparing the different manuscripts (and other evidences) of a ancient text so as to analyse the differences between them and to reconstruct what the 'original' text said. So the Greek Old Testament, the Septuagint, was commonly viewed as just one source of evidence for reconstructing the original Hebrew text (which, until such discoveries as the 'Dead Sea Scrolls', had medieval Jewish manuscripts as its earliest witnesses ... manuscripts which we shall call the MT). The LXX (= the Septuagint) was found lacking because it seemed to be an inaccurate rendering of the Hebrew. This was never very fair, and recent discoveries suggest that that the Hebrew manuscripts from which the LXX was translated have every claim to be given no less consideration than the MT. Furthermore, a very interesting Methodist scholar called Margaret Barker has plausibly argued that, where LXX and MT differ, this can sometimes be the result of the MT text having altered original readings which were seen by Rabbinic Judaism as too favourable to Christianity. Another Furthermore: a number of textual critics (such as an American called Epp) now doubt whether the concept of an 'original text' actually is a viable idea when we are dealing with ancient manuscripts both sacred and secular. I happen to share that view, and will return to it later.
To be continued.