Charles Buck Theological Dictionary
A Bible disposed in six columns, containing the text and divers versions thereof, compiled and published by Origen, with a view of securing the sacred text from future corruptions, and to correct those that had been already introduced. Eusebius relates, that Origen, after his return from Rome under Caracalla, applied himself to learn Hebrew, and began to collect the several versions that had been made of the sacred writings, and of these to compose his Tetrapla and Hexapla; others, however, will not allow him to have begun till the time of Alexander, after he had retired into Palestine, about the year 231. To conceive what this Hexapla was, it must be observed, that, besides the translation of the sacred writings, called the Septuagint, made under Ptolemy Philadelphus, above 280 years before Christ, the Scripture had been since translated into Greek by other interpreters. The first of those versions, or (reckoning the Septuagint) the second, was that of Aquilla, a proselyte Jew, the first edition of which he published in the 12th year of the emperor Adrian, or about the year of Christ 128; the third was that of Symmachus, published, as is commonly supposed, under Marcus Aurelius, but, as some say, under Septinius Severus, about the year 200; the fourth was that of Theodotion, prior to that of Symmachus, under Commodus, or about the year 175.
These Greek versions, says Dr. Kennicott, were made by the Jews from their corrupted copies of the Hebrew, and were designed to stand in the place of the Seventy, against which they were prejudiced, because it seemed to favour the Christians. The fifth was found at Jericho, in the reign of Caracalla, about the year 217: and the sixth was discovered at Nicopolis, in the reign of Alexander Severus, about the year 228; lastly, Origen himself recovered part of a seventh, containing only the Psalms. Now, Origen, who had held frequent disputations with the Jews in Egypt and Palestine, observing that they always objected to those passages of Scripture quoted against them, appealed to the Hebrew text, the better to vindicate those passages, and confound the Jews, by showing that the Seventy had given the sense of the Hebrew; or rather to show, by a number of different versions, what the real sense of the Hebrew was, undertook to reduce all these several versions into a body, along with the Hebrew text, so as they might be easily confronted, and afford a mutual light to each other.
He made the Hebrew text his standard: and allowing that corruptions might have happened, and that the old Hebrew copies might and did read differently, he contented himself with marking such words or sentences as were not in his Hebrew text, nor the latter Greek versions, and adding such words or sentences as were omitted in the Seventy, prefixing an asterisk to the additions, and an obelisk to the others. In order to this, he made choice of eight columns; in the first he made the Hebrew text, in Hebrew characters; in the second, the same text in Greek characters; the rest were filled with the several versions above-mentioned; all the columns answering verse for verse, and phrase for phrase; and in the Psalms there was a ninth column for the seventh version. This work Origen called Hexapla, q. d. sextuple, or work of six columns, as only regarding the first six Greek versions. St. Epiphanius, taking in likewise the two columns of the text, calls the work Octapla, as consisting of eight columns. This celebrated work, which Montfaucon imagines consisted of sixty large volumes, perished long ago; probably with the library at Cxsarea, where it was preserved in the year 653; though several of the ancient writers have preserved us pieces thereof, particularly St. Chrysostom on the Psalms, Phileponus in his Hexameron, &c. Some modern writers have earnestly endeavoured to collect fragments of the Hexapla, particularly Flaminius, Nobilius, Drusius, and F. Montfaucon, in two folio volumes printed at Paris in 1713.
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Buck, Charles. Entry for 'Hexapla'. Charles Buck Theological Dictionary. https://www.studylight.org/dictionaries/eng/cbd/h/hexapla.html. 1802.