Partner with as God uses us to make a difference for those displaced by Russia's war on Ukraine.
Click to donate today!

Bible Dictionaries

Hastings' Dictionary of the Bible

Greek Versions of Ot

Additional Links


I. The Septuagint (LXX [Note: Septuagint.] ). 1. The Septuagint, or Version of the Seventy, has special characteristics which differentiate it strongly from all other versions of the Scriptures. Not only are its relations to the original Hebrew of the OT more difficult and obscure than those of any other version to its original, but, as the Greek OT of the Christian community from its earliest days, it has a special historical importance which no other version can claim, and only the Vulgate can approach. Its history, moreover, is very obscure, and its criticism bristles with difficulties, for the removal of which much work is still needed. The present article can aim only at stating the principal questions which arise in relation to it, and the provisional conclusions at which the leading students of the subject have arrived.

2. There is no doubt that the LXX [Note: Septuagint.] originated in Alexandria, in the time of the Macedonian dynasty in Egypt. Greeks had been sporadically present in Egypt even before the conquest of the country by Alexander, and under the Ptolemys they increased and multiplied greatly. Hundreds of documents discovered in Egypt within the last few years testify to the presence of Greeks and the wide-spread knowledge of the Greek language from the days of Ptolemy Soter onwards. Among them, especially in Alexandria, were many Jews, to whom Greek became the language of daily life, while the knowledge of Aramaic, and still more of literary Hebrew, decayed among them. It was among such surroundings that the LXX [Note: Septuagint.] came into existence. The principal authority on the subject of its origin is the Letter of Aristeas (edited by H. St. J. Thackeray in Swete’s Introduction to the OT in Greek [1900], and by P. Wendland in the Teubner series [1900]). This document, which purports to be written by a Greek official of high rank in the court of Ptolemy ii. (Philadelphus, b.c. 285 247), describes how the king, at the suggestion of his librarian, Demetrius of Phalerum, resolved to obtain a Greek translation of the laws of the Jews for the library of Alexandria; how, at the instigation of Aristeas, he released the Jewish captives in his kingdom, to the number of some 100,000, paying the (absurdly small) sum of 20 drachmas apiece for them to their masters; how he then sent presents to Eleazar, the high priest at Jerusalem, and begged him to send six elders out of each tribe to translate the Law; how the 72 elders were sent, and magnificently entertained by Ptolemy, and were then set down to their work in the island of Pharos; and how in 72 days they completed the task assigned to them. The story is repeated by Josephus ( Ant. XII. ii.) from Aristeas in a condensed form. In later times it received various accretions, increasing the miraculous character of the work; but these additions have no authority.

3. That the Letter of Aristeas is substantially right in assigning the original translation of the Law to the time of one of the early Ptolemys there is no reason to doubt; but the story has the air of having been considerably written up, and it is impossible to say precisely where history stops and fiction begins. Demetrius of Phalerum was librarian to Ptolemy i., but was in disgrace under his successor, and died about 283; hence he can hardly have been the prime mover in the affair. But if not, the writer of the Letter cannot have been the person of rank in Ptolemy’s court that he represents himself to be, and the credit of the document is severely shaken. It cannot be depended on for accuracy in details, and it is necessary to turn to the internal evidence for further information. It will be observed that Aristeas speaks only of ‘the Law,’ i.e. the Pentateuch; and there is no reason to doubt that this was the first part of the OT to be translated, and that the other books followed at different times and from the hands of different translators. A lower limit for the completion of the work, or of the main part of it, is given in the prologue to Sirach (written probably in b.c. 132), where the writer speaks of ‘the law itself and the prophets and the rest of the books’ ( sc . the Hagiographa) as having been already translated. It may therefore be taken as fairly certain that the LXX [Note: Septuagint.] as a whole was produced between b.c. 285 and 150.

4. Its character cannot be described in a word. It is written in Greek, which in vocabulary and accidence is substantially that koinç dialektos , or Hellenistic Greek, which was in common use throughout the empire of Alexander, and of which our knowledge, in its non-literary form, has been greatly extended by the recent discoveries of Greek papyri in Egypt. In its syntax, however, it is strongly tinged with Hebraisms, which give it a distinct character of its own. The general tendency of the LXX [Note: Septuagint.] translators was to be very literal, and they have repeatedly followed Hebrew usage (notably in the use of pronouns, prepositions, and participial constructions) to an extent which runs entirely counter to the genius of the Greek language. [For examples, and for the grammar of the LXX [Note: Septuagint.] generally, see the Introduction to Selections from the Septuagint , by F. C. Conybeare and St. George Stock (1905).] The quality of the translation differs in different books. It is at its best in the Pentateuch, which was probably both the first and the most deliberately prepared portion of the translation. It is at its worst in the Prophets, which presented the greatest difficulties in the way of interpretation. Neither the Greek nor the Hebrew scholarship of the translators was of a high order, and they not infrequently wrote down words which convey no rational meaning whatever. Something has been done of late to distinguish the work of different translators. [See the articles of H. St. J. Thackeray in JThSt [Note: ThSt Journal of Theological Studies.] iv. 245, 398, 578, viii. 262, the results of which are here summarized.] It has been shown that Jer. is probably the work of two translators, who respectively translated chs. 1 28 and 29 51 (in the Greek order of the chapters), the latter, who was an inferior scholar, being responsible also for Baruch. Ezek. likewise shows traces of two translators, one taking chs. 1 27 and 40 48, the other 28 39. The Minor Prophets form a single group, which has considerable affinities with the first translators of both Jer. and Ezekiel. Isaiah stands markedly apart from all these, exhibiting a more classical style, but less fidelity to the Hebrew. 1Kings (= 1Samam.) similarly stands apart from 2 4 Kings, the latter having features in common with Judges.

5. Some other features of the LXX [Note: Septuagint.] must be mentioned which show that each book, or group of books, requires separate study. In Judges the two principal MSS (Codd. A and B, see below, § 10) differ so extensively as to show that they represent different recensions. In some books (notably the latter chapters of Exodus 3:1-22 K 4 11, Proverbs 24:1-34; Proverbs 25:1-28; Proverbs 26:1-28; Proverbs 27:1-27; Proverbs 28:1-28; Proverbs 29:1-27 , Jeremiah 25:1-38; Jeremiah 26:1-24; Jeremiah 27:1-22; Jeremiah 28:1-17; Jeremiah 29:1-32; Jeremiah 30:1-24; Jeremiah 31:1-40; Jeremiah 32:1-44; Jeremiah 33:1-26; Jeremiah 34:1-22; Jeremiah 35:1-19; Jeremiah 36:1-32; Jeremiah 37:1-21; Jeremiah 38:1-28; Jeremiah 39:1-18; Jeremiah 40:1-16; Jeremiah 41:1-18; Jeremiah 42:1-22; Jeremiah 43:1-13; Jeremiah 44:1-30; Jeremiah 45:1-5; Jeremiah 46:1-28; Jeremiah 47:1-7; Jeremiah 48:1-47; Jeremiah 49:1-39; Jeremiah 50:1-46; Jeremiah 51:1-64 ) the order of the LXX [Note: Septuagint.] differs completely from that of the Hebrew, testifying to an arrangement of the text quite different from that of the Massoretes. Elsewhere the differences are not in arrangement but in contents. This is especially the case in the latter chapters of Jos. [Note: Josephus.] , 1Kings (= 1Samam.) 17 18, where the LXX [Note: Septuagint.] omits (or the Heb. adds) several verses; 3 K 8 and 12, where the LXX [Note: Septuagint.] incorporates material from some fresh source; Psa 151:1-7 , which is added in the LXX [Note: Septuagint.]; Job, the original LXX [Note: Septuagint.] text of which was much shorter than that of the Massoretic Hebrew; Esther, where the Greek has large additions, which now appear separately in our Apocrypha, but which are an integral part of the LXX [Note: Septuagint.]; Jer., where small omissions and additions are frequent; and Daniel, where the LXX [Note: Septuagint.] includes the episodes of Susanna, Bel and the Dragon, and the Song of the Three Children, which have now been relegated (in obedience to Jerome’s example) to the Apocrypha.

6. The mention of the Apocrypha suggests the largest and most striking difference between the LXX [Note: Septuagint.] and the Hebrew OT, namely, in the books included in their respective canons; for the Apocrypha, as it stands to-day in our Bibles, consists (with the exception of 2 Esdras and the Prayer of Manasseh) of books which form an integral part of the LXX [Note: Septuagint.] canon, but were excluded from the Hebrew canon when that was finally determined about the end of the 1st century [see Canon Of OT]. Nor did these books stand apart from the others in the LXX [Note: Septuagint.] as a separate group. The historical books (1 Esdras, Tob., Judith, and sometimes Mac.) have their place with Chron., Ezr., Neh.; the poetical books (Wisd., Sir.) stand beside Prov., Eccles., and Cant.; and Baruch is attached to Jeremiah. The whole arrangement of the OT books differs, indeed, from the stereotyped order of the Massoretic Hebrew. The latter has its three fixed divisions (i) the Law, i.e. the Pentateuch; (ii) the Prophets, consisting of the Former Prophets (Jos. [Note: Josephus.] , Judges 1:1-36; Judges 2:1-23; Judges 3:1-31; Judges 4:1-24 Kings) and the Latter Prophets (Isaiah, Jeremiah, Ezekiel, and the Minor Prophets); (iii) the Hagiographa, including Chron., Ps., Job, Prov., Ruth, Cant., Eccles., Lam., Esth., Dan., Ezr., Nehemiah. But the LXX [Note: Septuagint.] attaches Ruth to Judges, Chron. and Ezr.-Neh. to Kings, Baruch and Lam. to Jer., and Dan. to the three Greater Prophets. Its principle of arrangement is, in fact, different. In place of divisions which substantially represent three different stages of canonization, it classifies the books in groups according to the character of their subject-matter Law, History, Poetry, and Prophecy. The details of the order of the books differ in different MSS and authoritative lists, but substantially the principle is as here stated; and the divergence has had considerable historical importance. In spite of the dissent of several of the leading Fathers, such as Origen and Athanasius, the LXX [Note: Septuagint.] canon was generally accepted by the early Christian Church. Through the medium of the Old Latin Version it passed into the West, and in spite of Jerome’s adoption of the Hebrew canon in his Vulgate, the impugned books made their way back into all Latin Bibles, and have remained there from that day to this. [For an explanation of the curious misapprehension whereby 1 Esdras (on which see § 17 ) was excepted from this favourable reception in the Latin printed Bibles and relegated to an appendix, see an article by Sir H. Howorth in JThSt [Note: ThSt Journal of Theological Studies.] vii. 343 (1906).] In the Reformed Churches their fate has been different; for the German and English translators followed Jerome in adopting the Hebrew canon, and relegated the remaining books to the limbo of the Apocrypha. The authority attaching to the LXX [Note: Septuagint.] and Massoretic canons respectively is a matter of controversy which cannot be settled offhand; but the fact of their divergence is certain and historically important.

7. If the LXX [Note: Septuagint.] had come down to us in the state in which it was at the time when its canon was complete (say in the 1st cent. b.c.), it would still have presented to the critic problems more than enough, by reason of its differences from the Hebrew in contents and arrangement, and the doubt attaching to its fidelity as a translation; but these difficulties are multiplied tenfold by the modifications which it underwent between this time and the date to which our earliest MSS belong (4th cent. a.d.). It has been shown above that the LXX [Note: Septuagint.] was the Bible of the Greek-speaking world at the time when Christianity spread over it. It was in that form that the Gentile Christians received the OT; and they were under no temptation to desert it for the Hebrew Bible (which was the property of their enemies, the Jews), even if they had been able to read it. The LXX [Note: Septuagint.] consequently became the Bible of the early Christian Church, to which the books of the NT were added in course of time. But the more the Christians were attached to the LXX [Note: Septuagint.] , the less willing became the Jews to admit its authority; and from the time of the activity of the Rabbinical school of Jamnia, about the end of the 1st cent., to which period the fixing of the Massoretic canon and text may be assigned with fair certainty, they definitely repudiated it. This repudiation did not, however, do away with the need which non-Palestinian Jews felt for a Greek OT; and the result was the production, in the course of the 2nd cent., of no less than three new translations. These translations, which are known under the names of Aquila, Theodotion, and Symmachus, are described below (§§ 15 18 ); here it is sufficient to say that they were all translated from the Massoretic OT, and represent it with different degrees of fidelity, from the pedantic verbal imitation of Aquila to the literary freedom of Symmachus. By the beginning of the 3rd cent. there were, therefore, four Greek versions of the OT in the field, besides portions of others which will be mentioned below.

8. Such was the state of things when Origen (a.d. 185 253), the greatest scholar produced by the early Church, entered the field of textual criticism. His labours therein had the most far-reaching effect on the fortunes of the LXX [Note: Septuagint.] , and are the cause of a large part of our difficulties in respect of its text to-day. Struck by the discrepancies between the LXX [Note: Septuagint.] and the Heb., he conceived the idea of a vast work which should set the facts plainly before the student. This was the Hexapla , or sixfold version of the OT, in which six versions were set forth in six parallel columns. The six versions were as follows (1) the Hebrew text; (2) the same transliterated in Greek characters; (3) the version of Aquila, which of all the versions was the nearest to the Hebrew; (4) the version of Symmachus; (5) his own edition of the LXX [Note: Septuagint.]; (6) the version of Theodotion. In the case of the Psalms, no less than three additional Greek versions were included, of which very little is known; they are called simply Quinta, Sexta , and Septima . Elsewhere also there is occasional evidence of an additional version having been included; but these are unimportant. A separate copy of the four main Greek versions was also made, and was known as the Tetrapla. The principal extant fragment of a MS of the Hexapla (a 10th cent. palimpsest at Milan, containing about 11 Psalms) omits the Hebrew column, but makes up the total of six by a column containing various isolated readings. The only other fragment is a 7th cent. leaf discovered at Cairo in a genizah (or receptacle for damaged and disused synagogue MSS), and now at Cambridge. It contains Psalms 22:15-18; Psalms 22:20-28 , and has been edited by Dr. C. Taylor ( Cairo Genizah Palimpsests , 1900).

Origen’s Hebrew text was substantially identical with the Massoretic; and Aq. [Note: q. Aquila.] , Symm., and Theod., as has been stated above, were translations from it; but the LXX [Note: Septuagint.] , in view of its wide and frequent discrepancies, received special treatment. Passages present in the LXX [Note: Septuagint.] , but wanting in the Heb., were marked with an obelus ( or ); Passages Wanting In The LXX [Note: Septuagint.] , But Present In The Heb., Were Supplied From Aq. [Note: Q. Aquila.] Or Theod., And Marked With An Asterisk (*); The Close Of The Passage To Which The Signs Applied Being Marked By A Metobelus (: Or %. Or ×). In Cases Of Divergences In Arrangement, The Order Of The Heb. Was Followed (Except In Prov.), And The Text Of The LXX [Note: Septuagint.] Was Considerably Corrected So As To Bring It Into Better Conformity With The Heb. The Establishment Of Such A Conformity Was In Fact Origen’s Main Object, Though His Conscience As A Scholar And His Reverence For The LXX [Note: Septuagint.] Did Not Allow Him Altogether To Cast Out Passages Which Occurred In It, Even Though They Had No Sanction In The Hebrew Text As He Knew It.

9. The great MSS of the Hexapla and Tetrapla were preserved for a long time in the library established by Origen’s disciple, Pamphilus, at Cæsarea, and references are made to them in the scholia and subscriptions of some of the extant MSS of the LXX [Note: Septuagint.] (notably א and Q). So long as they were in existence, with their apparatus of critical signs, the work of Origen in confusing the Gr. and Heb. texts of the OT could always be undone, and the original texts of the LXX [Note: Septuagint.] substantially restored. But MSS so huge could not easily be copied, and the natural tendency was to excerpt the LXX [Note: Septuagint.] column by itself, as representing a Greek text improved by restoration to more authentic form. Such an edition, containing Origen’s fifth column, with its apparatus of critical signs, was produced early in the 4th cent. by Pamphilus, the founder of the library at Cæsarea, and his disciple Eusebius; and almost simultaneously two fresh editions of the LXX [Note: Septuagint.] were published in the two principal provinces of Greek Christianity, by Hesychius at Alexandria, and by Lucian at Antioch. It is from these three editions that the majority of the extant MSS of the LXX [Note: Septuagint.] have descended; but the intricacies of the descent are indescribably great. In the case of Hexaplaric MSS, the inevitable tendency of scribes was to omit, more or less completely, the critical signs which distinguished the true LXX [Note: Septuagint.] text from the passages imported from Aq. [Note: q. Aquila.] or Theod.; the versions of Aq. [Note: q. Aquila.] , Theod., and Symm. have disappeared, and exist now only in fragments, so that we cannot distinguish all such interpolations with certainty; Hexaplaric, Hesychian, and Lucianic MSS acted and reacted on one another, so that it is very difficult to identify MSS as containing one or other of these editions; and although some MSS can be assigned to one or other of them with fair confidence, the majority contain mixed and undetermined texts. The task of the textual critic who would get behind all this confusion of versions and recensions is consequently very hard, and the problem has as yet by no means been completely solved.

10. The materials for its solution are, as in the NT, threefold Manuscripts, Versions, Patristic Quotations; and these must be briefly described. The earliest MSS are fragments on papyrus, some of which go back to the 3rd century. About 16 in all are at present known, the most important being (i) Oxyrhynchus Pap. 656 (early 3rd cent.), containing parts of Genesis 14:1-24; Genesis 15:1-21; Genesis 16:1-16; Genesis 17:1-27; Genesis 18:1-33; Genesis 19:1-38; Genesis 20:1-18; Genesis 21:1-34; Genesis 22:1-24; Genesis 23:1-20; Genesis 24:1-67; Genesis 25:1-34; Genesis 26:1-35; Genesis 27:1-46 , where most of the great vellum MSS are defective; (ii) Brit. Mus. Pap. 37 (7th cent.), sometimes known as U, containing the greater part of Psalms 10:1-18; Psalms 11:1-7; Psalms 12:1-8; Psalms 13:1-6; Psalms 14:1-7; Psalms 15:1-5; Psalms 16:1-11; Psalms 17:1-15; Psalms 18:1-50; Psalms 19:1-14; Psalms 20:1-9; Psalms 21:1-13; Psalms 22:1-31; Psalms 23:1-6; Psalms 24:1-10; Psalms 25:1-22; Psalms 26:1-12; Psalms 27:1-14; Psalms 28:1-9; Psalms 29:1-11; Psalms 30:1-12; Psalms 31:1-24; Psalms 32:1-11; Psalms 33:1-22; Psalms 34:1-22 [it is by a mere misunderstanding that Heinrici, followed by Rahlfs, quotes the authority of Wilcken for assigning this MS to the 4th cent.; Wilcken’s opinion related to another Psalter-fragment in the British Museum (Pap. 230)]; (iii) a Leipzig papyrus (4th cent.), containing Psalms 30:1-12; Psalms 31:1-24; Psalms 32:1-11; Psalms 33:1-22; Psalms 34:1-22; Psalms 35:1-28; Psalms 36:1-12; Psalms 37:1-40; Psalms 38:1-22; Psalms 39:1-13; Psalms 40:1-17; Psalms 41:1-13; Psalms 42:1-11; Psalms 43:1-5; Psalms 44:1-26; Psalms 45:1-17; Psalms 46:1-11; Psalms 47:1-9; Psalms 48:1-14; Psalms 49:1-20; Psalms 50:1-23; Psalms 51:1-19; Psalms 52:1-9; Psalms 53:1-6; Psalms 54:1-7; Psalms 55:1-23 , the first five being considerably mutilated; (iv) a papyrus at Heidelberg (7th cent.), containing Zechariah 4:6 Malachi 4:5 . A papyrus at Berlin, containing about two-thirds of Gen., and said to be of the 4th or 5th cent., is not yet published.

The principal vellum uncial MSS, which are of course the main foundation of our textual knowledge, are as follows. See also Text of NT.

א or S. Codex Sinaiticus , 4th cent., 43 leaves at Leipzig, 156 (besides the whole NT) at St. Petersburg, containing fragments of Geo. and Num., 1 Chronicles 9:27 to 1 Chronicles 19:17 , 2E Esther 9:9 to end, Esth., Tob., Jdt 1:1-16 and 4 Mac., Is., Jer., Lamentations 1:1 to Lamentations 2:20 , Joel, Obad., Jon., Nah. Mal., and the poetical books. Its text is of a very mixed character. It has a strong element in common with B, and yet is often independent of it. In Tob. it has a quite different text from that of A and B, and is perhaps nearer to the original Heb. Its origin is probably composite, so that it is not possible to assign it to any one school. Its most important correctors are Can and C b , both of the 7th cent., the former of whom states, in a note appended to Esth., that he collated the MS with a very early copy, which itself had been corrected by the hand of Pamphilus.

A. Codex Alexandrinus , 5th cent., in the British Museum; complete except in Psalms 49:19 to Psalms 79:10 and smaller lacunæ, chiefly in Genesis 3:1-24 and 4 Mac. are included. The Psalter is liturgical, and is preceded by the Epistle of Athanasius on the Psalter, and the Hypotheseis of Eusebius; the Canticles are appended to it. The text is written by at least two scribes; the principal corrections are by the original scribes and a reviser of not much later date. It is almost certainly of Egyptian origin, and has sometimes been supposed to represent the edition of Hesychius, but this is by no means certain yet. In Judges it has a text wholly different from that of B, and in general the two MSS represent different types of text; the quotations from the LXX [Note: Septuagint.] in the NT tend to support A rather than B.

B. Codex Vaticanus , 4th cent., in the Vatican; complete, except for the loss of Genesis 1:1 to Genesis 46:28 , 2Ki 2:5-7; 2 Kings 2:10-13 , Psalms 105:27 to Psalms 137:6 , and the omission of 1 4 Maccabees. Its character appears to differ in different books, but in general Hort’s description seems sound, that it is closely akin to the text which Origen had before him when he set about his Hexapla. It is thus of Egyptian origin, and is very frequently in accord with the Bohairic version. Recently Rahlfs has argued that in Ps. it represents the edition of Hesychius, but his proof is very incomplete; for since he admits that Hesychius must have made but few alterations in the pre-Origenian Psalter, and that the text of B is not quite identical with that which he takes as the standard of Hesychius (namely, the quotations in Cyril of Alexandria), his hypothesis does not seem to cover the phenomena so well as Hort’s. The true character of B, however, still requires investigation, and each of the principal groups of books must be examined separately.

C. Codex Ephræmi rescriptus , 5th cent., at Paris; 64 leaves palimpsest, containing parts of the poetical books.

D. The Cotton Genesis 5:1-32 th cent., in the British Museum; an illustrated copy of Gen., almost wholly destroyed by fire in 1731, but partially known from collations made previously.

G. Codex Sarravianus , 5th cent., 130 leaves at Leyden, 22 at Paris, and one at St. Petersburg; contains portions of the Octateuch in a Hexaplar text, with Origen’s apparatus (incompletely reproduced, however) of asterisks and obeli.

L. The Vienna Genesis 6:1-22 th cent., in silver letters on purple vellum, with illustrations; contains Gen. incomplete.

N-V. Codex Basiliano-Venetus , 8th or 9th cent., partly in the Vatican and partly at Venice; contains portions of the OT, from Leviticus 13:59 Mac. Of importance chiefly as having been used (in conjunction with B) for the standard edition of the LXX [Note: Septuagint.] printed at Rome in 1587.

Q. Codex Marchalianus , 6th cent., in the Vatican; contains the Prophets, complete. Written in Egypt; its text is believed to be Hesychian, and it contains a large number of Hexaplaric signs and readings from the Hexapla in its margins, which are of great importance.

R. Codex Veronensis , 6th cent., at Verona; contains Psalter, in Greek and Latin, with Canticles.

T. Zürich Psalter , 7th cent., written in silver letters, with gold initials, on purple vellum; the Canticles are included. R and T represent the Western text of the Psalms, as the Leipzigand London papyrus Psalters do the Upper Egyptian text, and B the Lower Egyptian.

A MS of Deut. and Jos. [Note: Josephus.] , of the 6th cent., found in Egypt and now at the University of Michigan, is to be published shortly.

The other uncial MSS are fragmentary and of lesser importance. Of minuscule MSS over 300 are known, and some of them are of considerable importance in establishing the texts of the various recensions of the LXX [Note: Septuagint.] . Most of them are known mainly from the collations of Holmes and Parsons, which are often imperfect; the Cambridge Septuagint, now in progress, will give more exact information with regard to selected representatives of them.

11. The Versions of the LXX [Note: Septuagint.] do not occupy so prominent a position in its textual criticism as is the case in the NT, but still are of considerable importance for identifying the various local texts. The following are the most important

(a) The Bohairic version of Lower Egypt, the latest of the Coptic versions, and the only one which is complete. The analysis of its character is still imperfect. It is natural to look to it for the Hesychian text, but it is doubtful how far this can be assumed, and in the case of the Minor Prophets it has been denied by Deissmann as the result of his examination of the Heidelberg papyrus. In the Psalms it agrees closely with B, in the Major Prophets rather with AQ. [Note: Q. Aquila.]

(b) The Sahidic version of Upper Egypt; Job and Ps. are extant complete, and there are considerable fragments of other books. In Ps. the text agrees substantially with that of the papyrus Psalters, and is said to be pre-Origenian, but considerably corrupted. In Job also it is pre-Origenian, and its text is shorter by one-sixth than the received text; scholars still differ as to which is the truer representation of the original book. The fragments of the other books need fuller examination. A MS of Prov. in a third Coptic dialect (Middle Egyptian) has quite recently been discovered, and is now in Berlin; but no details as to its character have been published.

(c) The Syriac versions. The Old Syriac, so important for the NT, is not known to have existed for the OT. The Peshitta appears to have been made from the Hebrew, but to have been subsequently affected by the influence of the LXX [Note: Septuagint.] , and consequently is not wholly trustworthy for either. The most important Syriac version of the OT is the translation made from the LXX [Note: Septuagint.] column of the Hexapla by Paul of Tella in a.d. 616 617, in which Origen’s critical signs were carefully preserved; an 8th cent. MS at Milan contains the Prophets and the poetical books, while Ex. and Ruth are extant complete in other MSS, with parts of Gen., Numb., Josh., Judges 3:1-31; Judges 4:1-24 Kings. The other historical books were edited in the 16th cent. from a MS which has since disappeared. This is one of the most important sources of our knowledge of Origen’s work.

(d) The Latin versions. These were two in number, the Old Latin and the Vulgate . On the origin of the OL, see Text of the NT. The greater part of the Heptateuch ( Genesis 16:9 Judges 20:31 , but with mutilations) is extant in a MS at Lyons of the 5th 6th cent. The non-Massoretic books (our Apocr. [Note: Apocrypha, Apocryphal.] ), except Judith and Tob., were not translated by Jerome, and consequently were incorporated in the Vulg. [Note: Vulgate.] from the OL; Ruth survives in one MS, the Psalms in two, and Esther in several; and considerable fragments of most of the other books are extant in palimpsests and other incomplete MSS. In addition we have the quotations of Cyprian and other early Latin Fathers. The importance of the OL lies in the fact that its origin goes back to the 2nd cent., and it is consequently pre-Hexaplar. Also, since its affinities are rather with Antioch than with Alexandria, it preserves readings from a type of text prevalent in Syria, that, namely, on which Lucian subsequently based his edition. This type of text may not be superior to the Alexandrian, but at least it deserves consideration. On the OL, see Kennedy in Hastings’ DB [Note: Dictionary of the Bible.] , and Burkitt’s The Old Latin and the Itala (1896). On the Vulgate, see art. s.v . Since it was, in the main, a re-translation from the Hebrew, it does not (except in the Psalter) come into consideration in connexion with the LXX [Note: Septuagint.] .

The remaining versions Ethiopic, Armenian, Georgian, Arabic, Gothic, Slavonic are of minor importance, and need not be described here.

12. The evidence of the Fathers has been less fully used for the LXX [Note: Septuagint.] than for the NT, but its importance in distinguishing and localizing types of text is increasingly recognized.

Origen is of particular importance for his express statements on textual matters, though his declared acceptance of the Hebrew as the standard of truth has to be remembered in weighing his evidence. Much the same may be said of Jerome . Fathers who had no interest in textual criticism are often more valuable as witnesses to the type of text in use in their age and country. Thus Cyril of Alexandria gives us an Egyptian text, which may probably be that of Hesychius. Theodoret and Chrysostom , who belong to Antioch, represent the Syrian text, i.e. the edition of Lucian. Cyprian is a principal witness for the African Old Latin. The Apostolic Fathers, notably Clement of Rome and Barnabas , carry us farther back, and contribute some evidence towards a decision between the rival texts represented by A and B, their tendency on the whole being in favour of the former; and the same is the case with Irenæus, Justin , and Clement of Alexandria , though their results are by no means uniform. This field of inquiry is not worked out yet.

13. With these materials the critic has to approach the problem of the restoration of the text of the LXX [Note: Septuagint.] . Ideally, what is desirable is that it should be possible to point out the three main editions, those of Origen, Lucian, and Hesychius, and thence to go back to the text which lies behind them all, that of the pre-Origenian LXX [Note: Septuagint.] . Some progress has been made in this direction. Some MSS are generally recognized as being predominantly Lucianic; some readings are certainly known to be Hexaplar; but we are still far from an agreement on all points. Especially is this the case with the edition of Hesychius. Some scholars have identified it (notably in the Prophets) with the text of A, which, however, seems certainly to have been modified by the influence of Origen. More recently the tendency has been to find it in B; but here it is still open to question whether B is not mainly both pre-Hesychian and pre-Origenian. It would be unjustifiable to pretend at present that certainty has been arrived at on these points. And with regard to the great bulk of MSS, it is clear that their texts are of a mixed character. In the Psalms it would appear that the edition of Lucian was, in the main, adopted at Constantinople, and so became the common text of the Church; but in regard to the other books, the common text, which appears in the bulk of the later MSS, cannot be identified with any of the three primary editions. The influence of the Hebrew, especially after the example of Origen, was constantly a disturbing factor; and it is certain that criticism has still much to do before it can give us even an approximately sound text of the LXX [Note: Septuagint.] .

14. And when that is done, the question of the relation of the LXX [Note: Septuagint.] to the Hebrew still remains. No other version differs so widely from its presumed original as the LXX [Note: Septuagint.] does from the Massoretic Hebrew; but it is by no means easy to say how far this is due to the mistakes and liberties of the translators, and how far to the fact that the text before them differed from the Massoretic. That the latter was the case to some not inconsiderable extent is certain. Readings in which the LXX [Note: Septuagint.] is supported against the Massoretic by the Samaritan version must almost certainly represent a divergent Hebrew original; but unfortunately the Samaritan exists only for the Pentateuch, in which the variants are least. Elsewhere we have generally to depend on internal evidence; and the more the LXX [Note: Septuagint.] is studied in detail, the less willing, as a rule, is the student to maintain its authority against the Hebrew, and the less certain that its variants really represent differences in the original text. The palpable mistakes made by the translators, the inadequacy of their knowledge of Hebrew, the freedom with which some of them treated their original, all these go far to explain a large margin of divergence; and to these must be added divergences arising, not from a different Hebrew text, but from supplying different vowel points to a text which originally had none. All these factors have to be taken into account before we can safely say that the Hebrew which lay before the LXX [Note: Septuagint.] translators must have been different from the Massoretic text; and each passage must be judged on its own merits. An instructive lesson may be learnt from the recent discovery of the original Hebrew of Sirach, which has revealed a quite unsuspected amount of blundering, and even wilful alteration, on the part of the Greek translator. The testimony of the LXX [Note: Septuagint.] must therefore be received with extreme caution; and although there is no reason to doubt that it contains much good grain, yet it is also certain that much skill and labour have still to be exercised in order to separate the grain from the chaff. In passing, it may be said that there appears to be no sound basis for the charge, often brought by early Christian writers, that the Jews made large alterations in the Heb. text for doctrinal and controversial reasons.

II. Aquila (Aq.) . 15. Of the rival Greek versions which, as mentioned in § 7, came into being in the 2nd cent., the first was that of Aquila, a Gentile of Sinope, in Pontus, who was converted first to Christianity and then to Judaism. He is said to have been a pupil of Rabbi Akiba, and to have flourished in the reign of Hadrian (a.d. 117 138). His translation of the OT was made in the interests of Jewish orthodoxy. The text which subsequently received the name of Massoretic had practically been fixed by the Jewish scholars at the end of the 1st cent., and Aquila followed it with slavish fidelity. All thought for the genius and usage of the Greek language was thrown aside, and the Greek was forced to follow the idiosyncrasies of the Hebrew in defiance of sense and grammar. Aq. [Note: q. Aquila.] would consequently be an excellent witness to the Hebrew text of the 2nd cent., if only it existed intact; but we possess only small fragments of it. These consist for the most part (until recently, wholly) of fragments of Origen’s third column preserved in the margins of Hexaplar MSS (such as Q); but they have been supplemented by modern discoveries. The Milan palimpsest of the Hexapla (see § 8) contains the text of Aq. [Note: q. Aquila.] for 11 Psalms; but though discovered by Mercati in 1896, only a small specimen of it has yet been published. The Cambridge fragment published by Dr. Taylor gives the text of Psalms 22:20-28 . In 1897 Mr. F. C. Burkitt discovered three palimpsest leaves of a MS of Aq. [Note: q. Aquila.] (5th 6th cent.) among a large quantity of tattered MSS brought, like the last-mentioned fragment, from Cairo; and these, which contain 3 Kings 20:7 17 and 4 Kings 23:11 27, were published in 1897. Further fragments, from the same source and of the same date, published by Dr. C. Taylor (1900), contain Psalms 90:17 to Psalms 92:10; Psalms 96:7 to Psalms 97:12; Psalms 98:2; Psalms 102:16 to Psalms 103:18; and in 1900 Messrs. Grenfell and Hunt published Genesis 1:1-8 in the versions of the LXX [Note: Septuagint.] and Aq. [Note: q. Aquila.] from a papyrus of the 4th cent. in the collection of Lord Amherst. These discoveries confirm our previous knowledge of the characteristics of Aq. [Note: q. Aquila.]; and it is noteworthy that in the Cambridge MSS of Aq. [Note: q. Aquila.] the Divine Tetragrammaton is written in the old Hebrew characters.

III. Theodotion (Theod.) . 16. The origin of this version must be ascribed to a desire (similar to that which actuated Origen) on the part of the Christians to have a Greek version of the OT which should correspond better than the LXX [Note: Septuagint.] with the current Hebrew text, and yet not be so closely identified with their Jewish opponents and so disregardful of the genius of the Greek language as Aquila. Theodotion, though sometimes described as a Jewish proselyte, appears rather to have been an Ebionitic Christian, who lived at Ephesus about the middle of the 2nd cent.; and his version found favour with the Christians, much as Aq. [Note: q. Aquila.] did with the Jews. This version follows in the main the authorized Hebrew, but is much more free than Aq. [Note: q. Aquila.] , and agrees more with the LXX [Note: Septuagint.] . Hence when Origen, in the execution of his plan for bringing the LXX [Note: Septuagint.] into accord with the Hebrew, had to supply omissions in the LXX [Note: Septuagint.] , he had recourse to Theod. for the purpose. Further, the LXX [Note: Septuagint.] version of Dan. being regarded as unsatisfactory, the version of Theod. was taken into use instead, and so effectually that the LXX [Note: Septuagint.] of this book has survived in but one single MS. It is probable, however, that Theod. was not wholly original in this book, for there are strong traces of Theodotionic readings in the NT (Hebrews and Apocalypse), Hermas, Clement, and Justin; whence it seems necessary to conclude that Theod. based his version on one which had been previously in existence side by side with the LXX [Note: Septuagint.] .

17. Besides this complete book and the extracts from the Hexapla and the Milan palimpsest (the Theodotion column in the Cambridge MS is lost), there is some reason to believe that still more of Theod. has survived than was formerly supposed. It is well known that the book which appears in our Apocrypha as 1 Esdras, and in the Greek Bible as Ἔσδρας Α ʹ, is simply a different recension of the canonical book of Ezra (with parts of 2 Chron. and Nehemiah), which in the Greek Bible appears (with Neh.) as Ἔσδρας Î’ ʹ. Ἔσδρας Î’ ʹ faithfully represents the Massoretic Hebrew; ‘ Ἔσδρας Α ʹ is freely paraphrastic, and contains some additional matter ( 1E Esther 3:1 to 1E Esther 5:6 ). Josephus, who knew the LXX [Note: Septuagint.] , but not, of course, Theod., plainly follows ‘ Ἐσδ . Α ʼ; and it has been argued by Whiston (in 1722) and Sir H. Howorth ( Soc. Bibl. Arch ., May 1901 Nov. 1902) that ‘ Ἐσδ . Α ’ is the original LXX [Note: Septuagint.] version, and ‘ Ἐσδ . Î’ ’ the version of Theod., which, as in Dan., has ousted its predecessor from general use. The theory is not at all improbable (and there is some evidence that in the Hexapla, where Theod. of course had its own column, the text in the LXX [Note: Septuagint.] column was ‘ Ἐσδ . Α ’), but it still needs confirmation by a linguistic comparison between ‘ Ἐσδ . Α ’ and Theodotion’s Dan., which it is hoped will shortly be made. Sir H. Howorth further suggests that the version of Chron. which now appears in the LXX [Note: Septuagint.] is really that of Theod., the original LXX [Note: Septuagint.] having in this case completely disappeared. Chron. is certainly closely connected with ‘ Ἐσδ . Î’ ’, and the suggestion deserves full examination; but in the absence of an alternative version, or of any reference to one, it will be more difficult to establish.

IV. Symmachus (Symm.) . 18. Of Symm. there is less to say. Like Theodotion, he has been called an Ebionite, and, like both Theodotion and Aquila, he has been said to be a proselyte to Judaism; the former statement is probably true. His work was known to Origen by about a.d. 228, and was probably produced quite at the end of the 2nd century. From the literary point of view, it was the best of all the Greek versions of the OT. It was based, like Aq. [Note: q. Aquila.] and Theod., on the Massoretic Hebrew, but it aimed at rendering it into idiomatic Greek. Consequently, it neither had the reputation which Aq. [Note: q. Aquila.] acquired among the Jews, nor was it so well fitted as Theod. to make good the defects, real or supposed, of the LXX [Note: Septuagint.] among the Christians; and its historical importance is therefore less than that of its rivals. The extant materials for its study are practically the same as in the case of Aq. [Note: q. Aquila.] , namely, the two fragments of MSS of the Hexapla [the Cambridge fragment contains the Symm. column for Psalms 22:15-18; Psalms 22:20-24; the precise extent of the Milan MS is not known], and the copious extracts from the Hexapla in the margins of certain MSS and the quotations of the Fathers.

Literature. By far the best work on the LXX [Note: Septuagint.] in any language is Dr. H. B. Swete’s Introd. to the OT in Greek (1900), which includes full references to all the literature of the subject before that date. See also Nestle’s article in Hastings’ DB [Note: Dictionary of the Bible.] , and his Septuagintastudien (1886 1907). A popular account with a description of all the uncial MSS is given in Kenyon’s Our Bible and the Ancient MSS , pp. 48 92 (1895; revised ed., 1898). The most important recent works are Rahlfs’ Septuaginta-Studien (I., 1904, on the text of Kings; ii., 1907, on Ps.), and R. L. Ottley’s Book of Isaiah according to the Septuagint (2 vols., 1904 6). The remains of the Hexapla are collected in F. Field’s Origenis Hexaplorum quæ supersunt (Oxford, 1875). Ceriani’s study of the Codex Marchalianus and Deissmann’s of the Heidelberg Prophets-papyrus make important contributions to the classification of the MSS. An English translation of the LXX [Note: Septuagint.] was printed by C. Thomson at Philadelphia (1808), and has recently been reprinted by S. F. Pells; another by Sir L. Brenton was published in 1844.

Editions . The LXX [Note: Septuagint.] was first printed in the Complutensian Polyglot (1514 17, published 1521), but first published by Aldus (1519). The standard edition is that issued at Rome by Pope Sixtus v. in 1587. This, by excellent fortune, was based mainly on the Codex Vaticanus (B), with the help of the Venice MS (V), and others. Hence the TR [Note: Textus Receptus.] of the Greek OT, unlike that of the NT, has always rested on the authority of good MSS, though these were not very critically employed. An edition based on the Codex Alexandrinus (A) was published at Oxford by Grabe in 1707 20. The textual criticism of the LXX [Note: Septuagint.] rests upon the great edition of R. Holmes and J. Parsons (Oxford, 1798 1827), who printed the Sixtine text with an apparatus drawn from 20 uncial and 277 minuscule MSS, besides versions. Unfortunately several of the collations made by their assistants were not up to modern standards of accuracy. Tischendorf published a revised text, with various readings from a few of the leading uncials (1850; 7th ed., 1887); but the foundation of recent textual study of the LXX [Note: Septuagint.] was laid by the Cambridge manual edition in 3 vols. by Swete (1887 94; revised, 1895 99). In this the text is printed from B, when available, otherwise from A or א , and the textual apparatus gives all the variants in the principal uncial MSS. A larger edition giving the same text, but with the addition of the evidence of all the uncials, a considerable number of carefully selected and representative minuscules, and the principal versions and patristic quotations, is being prepared by A. E. Brooke and N. Maclean, and Genesis has already appeared (1906).

F. G. Kenyon.

Copyright Statement
These files are public domain.
Text Courtesy of Used by Permission.

Bibliography Information
Hastings, James. Entry for 'Greek Versions of Ot'. Hastings' Dictionary of the Bible. 1909.

Search for…
Enter query in the box below:
Choose a letter to browse:
Prev Entry