In his work, The Hexaemeron, St. Basil the Great says the following:
It must be well understood that when we speak of the voice, of the word, of the command of God, this divine language does not mean to us a sound which escapes from the organs of speech, a collision of air struck by the tongue; it is a simple sign of the will of God, and, if we give it the form of an order, it is only the better to impress the souls whom we instruct. (Hexaemeron II: 7)
St. Gregory of Nyssa, on his part, has this to say:
….human speech finds it impossible to express the reality which transcends all thought and all concept; and he who obstinately tries to express it in words, unconsciously offends God. (Commentary on Ecclesiastes, Homily 7)
And, again, he writes:
Lifted out of himself by the Spirit, (the Prophet David) glimpsed in that blessed ecstasy God’s infinity and incomprehensible beauty. He saw as much as a mere mortal can see, leaving the covering of the flesh, and by thought alone entering into the divine vision of that immaterial and spiritual realm. And though yearning to say something which would do justice to his vision, he can only cry out (in words that all can echo after him): I said in mine ecstasy, every man is a liar (Psalm 115:2). And this I take to mean that anyone who attempts to portray that ineffable Light in language is truly a liar — not because of any abhorrence of the truth, but merely because of the infirmity of his explanation. (From the Homily on Virginity)
What does all this have to do with the Septuagint and the Masoretic texts? Simply this: as feeble attempts to translate God’s language into our man-made languages, both versions fall short. Each one has its own strong points, and its weak points, but neither one can adequately convey the revelation of God’s ineffable grace into our earth-bound languages. As for the differences between the Greek and Hebrew texts —except for the fact that there was some open tampering with the Old Testament texts in the Masoretic— both versions, with certain qualifications, might often simply represent different textual traditions of the Hebrew Old Testament.
Having in mind what the Saints of the Church have said about the limitations of our human languages in dealing with divine revelation (see above), it is no surprise that Orthodox Christians do not get bent out of shape, as Roman Catholic or Protestant textual critics seem to do, about textual differences and variations in the Holy Scriptures.
However, the reason why Orthodox Christians prefer the Septuagint is simply because it represents an ancient, authentic and unbiased text of the Old Testament, translated and embraced by the Jewish people themselves for almost 400 years. Since we hold ourselves to be the New Israel, we feel pretty strongly about upholding this tradition of the God of our Fathers. Amen. So be it.
Edited by ELLOPOS