The Septuagint And Modern Bible Versions Part 1
Preface by Dr. James W. Bruggeman
In the English language there are literally dozens of Bible translations and Bible versions now available on the market. In the early 1990s, I spent hundreds of hours over the course of several years researching the issue of Bible versions. I then set forth the fruits of my study in a 20-part lecture series entitled Which Bible? Which Version? It is still available from us in a CD album format at a very inexpensive price.
Towards the end of that study, I spent a couple of hours discussing the Septuagint , the apocrypha, and the pseudepigraphal writings.
A few years ago, someone who was obviously familiar with my work submitted their own manuscript to me dealing with the topic of the LXX, and then a more general discussion of Bible versions. When I received it, I set it aside, intending to read it soon. But as often happens when one receives so many interesting things to read , it got covered with other things. I recently rediscovered it in a stack of stuff. I took it home, read it, and was impressed enough with the research, that I decided to share it with the world on the web. It is a relatively long work, and thus I will serialize it here in this space over a period of weeks.
Disclaimer reminder: There are only two types of material on this website with which we, Stone Kingdom Ministries, agree 100 percent: the Word of God, the Holy Bible and our own writings.
That said, we are in substantial agreement with this work.
End of part 1
Enter: The Dead Sea Scrolls
For centuries, scholars believed these differences between the manuscripts supported the idea that the translators of the Septuagint were more familiar with Greek than with Hebrewwhich would make sense for non-Palestinian Jews living under Roman rule.
In other words: the Septuagint was just a poor translation.
Many scholars still support this argument, but the discovery of the Dead Sea Scrolls threw a wrinkle in the debate. The Dead Sea Scrolls contained more than 200 biblical books, including a nearly complete manuscript of the Hebrew Bible that was more than 1,000 years older than the oldest copy of the Masoretic Text, and 500 years older than the oldest copy of the Septuagint. Inside the caves, there were also a smattering of Hebrew scrolls that supported the Septuagints translation.
How The Septuagint Influenced Christian Thought
Nonetheless, the Septuagint had a strong impact on Christian thought. When Hebrew writers used the common Greek language to translate the Scriptures, a natural consequence was that Greek forms of thought and expression began to deeply influence the Jewish community. Some terms and ideas that were limited in the Hebrew language expanded through the cultured and rich Greek vocabulary. The four Gospels were originally written in Greek and the messages of Jesus were first spread throughout a Greek-speaking community. Thus, the early Christian church was significantly impacted by the language of the Septuagint.
Today, only 20 papyrus texts of the original Septuagint exist. The Dead Sea Scrolls, discovered in 1947, contained portions of Old Testament books. When those documents were compared to the Septuagint, the variances were found to be minor, such as dropped letters or words or grammatical errors.
In modern Bible translations, such as the New International Version and the English Standard Version, scholars primarily used Hebrew texts, turning to the Septuagint only in the case of difficult or obscure passages.
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List Of Septuagint Manuscripts
There are currently over 2000 classified manuscripts of the Septuagint.
The first list of Septuagint manuscripts was presented by Holmes and Parsons. Their edition ends with a full list of manuscripts known to them set out in the Annexes. It enumerates 311 codes , of which the codes are designated by their siglum I-XIII, 23, 27, 39, 43, 156, 188, 190, 258, 262.:122
The codes marked with Roman numerals signify given letters from A to Z.:122123
The list of Septuagint manuscripts according to the classification of Alfred Rahlfs – a list of all known Septuagint manuscripts proposed by Alfred Rahlfs based on census of Holmes and Parsons.
Do We Still Have The Septuagint
This division has continued in the Western church in most modern Bible translations, except that in Protestant versions the Apocrypha are either omitted or grouped separately. The text of the Septuagint is contained in a few early, but not necessarily reliable, manuscripts.
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Language Of The Septuagint
Some sections of the Septuagint may show Semiticisms, or idioms and phrases based on Semitic languages like Hebrew and Aramaic. Other books, such as LXX Daniel and Proverbs, show Greek influence more strongly. The book of Daniel that is found in almost all Greek Bibles, however, is not from the LXX, but rather from Theodotion’s translation, which more closely resembles the Masoretic “Daniel.”
The LXX is also useful for elucidating pre-Masoretic Hebrew: Many proper nouns are spelled out with Greek vowels in the LXX, while contemporary Hebrew texts lacked vowel pointing. While the “sh” sibilant was by convention spelled with a sigma , ancient Greek texts are useful for pronouncing names and titles of books.
The Septuagints Importance In Bible Study
From this brief overview, you can see the importance of the LXX for Bible Study. The Septuagint, for the most part, is used for doing original language word studies. It is very helpful in determining the meaning of a word or in what sense it is being used. The LXX is beneficial in studying both the Hebrew OT and the Greek NT.
I know you cant wait to dig in! Many resources are available to help with your endeavors. Here are a few recommendations.
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Q: How Does The Greek Old Testament Help Us Study The Canon And Text Of The Old Testament
A: In terms of canon, the Apocryphafor example, 12 Maccabees, Judith, Tobitare considered deuterocanonical by the Roman Catholic and Orthodox Churches largely because of their association with the growing collection of Greek translations of canonical books. Most Jews, however, did not acknowledge them as scriptural and instead pointed to the normativity of the Hebrew booksa perspective ultimately adopted by the Protestant church during the Reformation. In terms of textual criticism, the Greek Old Testament is valuable for helping restore the authentic text of the Hebrew Bible. While the best complete Hebrew manuscript is from the Middle Ages, the Greek Old Testament provides evidence that is up to a millennium earlier to help make corrections where erroneous readings have entered the Hebrew tradition.
Relationship Between The Septuagint And The Masoretic Text
The sources of the many differences between the Septuagint and the Masoretic Text have long been discussed by scholars. The most widely accepted view today is that the Septuagint provides a reasonably accurate record of an early Semitic textual variant, now lost, that differed from precursors of the Masoretic Text. Ancient scholars, however, did not suspect this. Early Christiansâwho were largely unfamiliar with Hebrew texts, and were thus only made aware of the differences through the newer Greek versionsâtended to dismiss the differences as a product of uninspired translation of the Hebrew in these new versions. Following the Renaissance, a common opinion among some humanists was that the LXX translators bungled the translation from the Hebrew and that the LXX became more corrupt with time. The discovery of many fragments in the Dead Sea Scrolls that agree with the Septuagint rather than the Masoretic Text proved that many of the variants in Greek were also present in early Semitic manuscripts.
These issues notwithstanding, the text of the LXX is in general close to that of the Masoretic. For example, Genesis 4:1â6 is identical in both the LXX and the Masoretic Text. Likewise, Genesis 4:8 to the end of the chapter is the same. There is only one noticeable difference in that chapter, at 4:7:
The differences between the LXX and the MT thus fall into four categories.
4. Transmission changes in Hebrew or Greek
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The Septuagint Helps Us Better Understand Jewish Theology
The Septuagint also sheds light on the theology and worship practices of the Jewish people in the Second Temple period .
For example, in the Septuagint version of the Pentateuch, the Hebrew word for altar is rendered by thysiasterion when referring to the Jewish altar but by bomos when speaking of pagan altars. This shows that the translators may have had a theology motivethey wanted to distinguish between Jewish and non-Jewish practices.
Scholars disagree on the extent to which theological interpretations occur in the Septuagint, especially where the Greek translation diverges significantly from the Hebrew Bible. Some have argued that the translators primary purpose was to translate the Scriptures and make it accessible and intelligible for his audience, similar, perhaps, to how a modern-day Bible translator might approach his or her task.
Others have maintained that the translators job was more theological or exegetically motivated, to reinterpret and actualize the Scriptures for his immediate community and with reference to contemporary circumstances and events.
An example that illustrates this debate is the Greek translation of the Servant Song in Isaiah 53:10, which is noticeably different from the MT:
MT: Yet it was YHWHs will to crush him, to cause him to suffer.
LXX: And the Lord desires to cleanse him from his blow.
Perhaps you can see why Septuagint scholars love digging into this translation!
Did King James Change The Bible
In 1604, Englands King James I authorized a new translation of the Bible aimed at settling some thorny religious differences in his kingdomand solidifying his own power. But in seeking to prove his own supremacy, King James ended up democratizing the Bible instead. King James I of England, 1621.
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The Septuagint: What It Is And Why It Matters
A Thorough, Accessible Introduction to the Greek Translation of the Old Testament
Scholars and laypeople alike have stumbled over Bible footnotes about the Septuagint, the Greek translation of the Old Testament. Many wonder, What is it? Why do some verses differ from the Hebrew text? Is it important to Scripture?
In this introduction to the Septuagint, Gregory R. Lanier and William A. Ross clarify its origin, transmission, and language. By studying its significance for both the Old and New Testaments, believers can understand the Septuagints place in Judeo-Christian history as well as in the church today.
It is good to have Lanier and Ross as reliable guides to the tricky but fascinating domain of the Greek Old Testament. Their short introduction is a rare achievement: introducing the complexities behind the term Septuagint in a simple way without compromising accuracy. An excellent book.
Pastors and seminary students regularly ask me about the Septuagint and its significance for a modern, English-speaking Christian. The Septuagint: What It Is and Why It Matters is my new number-one recommended resource for these inquiries. The book is informed by a scholarly knowledge of the subject, yet it remains accessible and a pleasure to read.
The Septuagint is unfamiliar and intimidating to most Bible students. I dont know of a more accessible introduction than this book.
Q: How Does The Greek Old Testament Give Us A Window Into The Ancient Jewish World
A: Every translation is by definition a kind of commentary. So the Greek Old Testament gives us a glimpse into how ancient Jews interpreted Scripture, not only when they adhere closely to the Hebrew but especially when they revise it in such a way that gives telltale insights into their use of language or views of contemporary events, social context, and even theology.
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What Is The Septuagint
Seulgi Byun is chair of the biblical and religious studies and philosophy department at Grove City College where he teaches Hebrew and the Old Testament. He previously taught at Oak Hill College. Seulgi has contributed to the NIV Proclamation Bible and the . He is currently working on a book called Trusting the Old Testament .
Gentlemen, have you a Septuagint? If not, sell all you have, and buy a Septuagint. ~ Ferdinand Hitzig
Did Jesus Read The Apocrypha
Some say. These books were kept in Catholic Bibles because it is believed that the Bible which Jesus read was a Bible that included the books of the Apocrypha, the deuterocanonical books. It is known that the most popular Bible at the time of Jesus was the Greek Septuagint version which includes these extra books.
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The Septuagint Helps Us Better Understand The New Testament
A Greek scholar once remarked, A single hour lovingly devoted to the text of the Septuagint will further our exegetical knowledge of the Pauline Epistles more than a whole day spent over a commentary. The hyperbole notwithstanding, few would dispute the broader point: the Septuagint is an invaluable resource for Christians interested in the New Testament .
There are some obvious ways in which the Septuagint has influenced the New Testament. For example, the title for Jesus in the NT, Christ , is the Greek translation of the Hebrew word maschiach, Anointed One, in the Septuagint. Words we are all familiar with, such as glory , Lord , and gospel , derive special meaning from the LXX.
One of the most important areas of study relating to the Septuagint is the use of the OT in the NT. The reason for this is that most of the direct citations of the OT in the NT match the Septuagint, not the Hebrew Bible . There are approximately 300 OT passages that are directly quoted or strongly alluded to in the NT.
In most of these cases, the NT writers did not cite the OT text word-for-word but paraphrased the OT texts using Jewish exegetical techniques. However, in cases where the OT is cited word-for-word, the NT writers quote the Septuagint over the MT approximately 75 percent of the time .
An interesting case in point is the citation of Isa 7.14, the famous words of the prophet Isaiah to Ahaz, in Matt 1.23:
Hebrew: Behold, the young woman shall conceive.
First Translation Of The Bible The Septuagint Was In Greek
The Bible is the biggest-selling and most read book in human history originally written in Hebrew and Aramaic, the first translation of the Bible into another language, called the Septuagint, was in Greek.
The translation of the Old Testament into Koine Greek in the third century BC took place within a historical context that was important for the development of the Tanakh, or Hebrew Bible, and the growth of Judaism and Christianity.
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Where Is The Apocrypha In The Bible
Brentons edition of the Septuagint includes all of the Apocrypha found in the King James Bible with the exception of 2 Esdras, which was not in the Septuagint and is no longer extant in Greek. He places them in a separate section at the end of his Old Testament, following English tradition.
The Story Of The Septuagint Bible And The Name Behind It
- M.A., Linguistics, University of Minnesota
- B.A., Latin, University of Minnesota
The Septuagint Bible arose in the 3rd century B.C., when the Hebrew Bible, or Old Testament, was translated into Greek. The name Septuagint derives from the Latin word which means 70. The Greek translation of the Hebrew Bible is called Septuagint because 70 or 72 Jewish scholars reportedly took part in the translation process.
The scholars worked in Alexandria during the reign of Ptolemy II Philadelphus , according to the Letter of Aristeas to his brother Philocrates. They assembled to translate the Hebrew Old Testament into the Greek language because Koine Greek began to supplant Hebrew as the language most commonly spoken by the Jewish people during the Hellenistic Period.
Aristeas determined that 72 scholars took part in the Hebrew-to-Greek Bible translation by calculating six elders for each of the 12 tribes of Israel. Adding to the legend and symbolism of the number is the idea that the translation was created in 72 days, according to The Biblical Archaeologist article, “Why Study the Septuagint?” written by Melvin K. H. Peters in 1986.
Roetzel discusses a latter-day embellishment to the Septuagint legend, which today probably qualifies as a miracle: Not only did 72 scholars working independently make separate translations in 70 days, but these translations agreed in every detail.
The Septuagint is also known as: LXX.
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Why The Septuagint Matters Today
The Greek Septuagint introduced Gentiles to Judaism and the Old Testament. One probable instance is the Magi, who read the prophecies and used them to visit the infant Messiah, Jesus Christ.
However, a deeper principle can be inferred from Jesus’ and the apostles’ quotations from the Septuagint. Jesus was comfortable using this translation in his spoken citations, as were writers such as Paul, Peter, and James.
The Septuagint was the first translation of the Bible into a commonly used language, implying that careful modern translations are equally legitimate. It is not necessary for Christians to learn Greek or Hebrew to access the Word of God.
We can be confident that our Bibles, descendants of this first translation, are accurate renderings of the original writings inspired by the Holy Spirit. In the words of Paul:
All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness, so that the man of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work.