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Bible Encyclopedias

Cyclopedia of Biblical, Theological and Ecclesiastical Literature

Greek Versions of the Holy Scriptures.

These, of course, except the modern Greek version of the N.T., are confined to the Old Testament, including the Apocrypha (q.v.).

I. The SEPTUAGIANT. This is the most important of all the ancient versions, whether is the Greek or any other language. (See SEPTUAGINT).

II. AQUILA. It is a remarkable fact that in the 2d century after Christ there were three versions executed of the Old-Testament Scriptures into Greek. The first of these was made by Aquila ( עֲקַילִס or אֲקַילִס, Ἀκυλάς ), a native of Sinope, in Pontus, who had.become a proselyte to Judaism. The Jerusalem Talmud (see Bartolocci, Bibliotheca Rabbin. 4:281) describes him as a disciple of Rabbi Akiba; and this would place him in some part of the reign of the emperor Hadrian (A.D. 117-138). It is supposed that the object of his version was to aid the Jews in their controversies with the Christians; and that, as the latter were in the habit of employing the Sept., they wished to have a version of their own on which they could rely. It is very probable that the Jews in many Greek-speaking countries were not sufficiently acquainted with Hebrew to refer for themselves to the original, and thus they wished to have such a Greek translation as they might use with confidence in their discussions. Such controversies were (it must be remembered) a new thing. Prior to the preaching of the Gospel, there were none besides the Jews who used thee Jewish Scriptures as a means of learning God's revealed truth, except those who either partially or wholly became proselytes to Judaism. But now the Jews saw to their grief that their Scriptures were made the instruments for teaching the principles of a religion which they regarded as nothing less than an apostasy from Moses. This, then, is a probable account of the origin of this version. Extreme literality and an occasional polemical-bias appear to be its chief characteristics. The idiom of the Greek language is very often violated in order to produce what was intended should be a very literal version; and thus not only sense, but grammar even, was disregarded a sufficient instance of this is found in the rendering of the Heb. particle אֵת by σύν, as in Genesis 1:1, σὺν τὸν οὐρανὸν καὶ σὺν τὴν γῆν, "quod Greaca et Latina lingua omnino non recipit," as Jerome says. Another instance is furnished by Genesis 5:5, καὶ ἔζησενἈδὰμ τριάκοντα ἔτος καὶ ἐννακόσια ἔτος . It is sufficiently attested that thin version was formed for controversial purposes; a proof of which may be found in the rendering of particular passages, such as Isaiah 7:14, where עִלְמָה, in the Sept., παρθένος , is by Aquila translated; such renderings might be regarded perhaps rather as modes of avoiding an argument than as direct falsification.

There certainly was room for a version which should express the Hebrew more accurately than was done by the Sept.; but if this had been thoroughly carried out it would have been found that in many important points of doctrine such, for instance, as in the divinity of the Messiah and the rejection of Israel, the true rendering of the Hebrew text would have been in, far closer conformity with the teaching of the New Test. than was the Sept. itself. It is probable, therefore, that one polemical object was to make the citations in the New Test. from the Old appear to be inconclusive, by producing other renderings (often probably more literally exact) differing; from the Sept., or even contradicting it. Thus Christianity might seem to the Jewish mind to rest on a false basis. But a really critical examiner would have found that in many points of important doctrine, the New Testament definitely rejects the reading of the Sept. (when utterly unsuited to the matter in hand), and adopts the reading of the Hebrew. The very circumstance that Aquila's version was adopted and valued by the Jews would tend to create a prejudice against it among the fathers, independently of all perversion of Messianic passages. Irenseus, the earliest writer who mentions Aquila, pronounces an unfavorable opinion respecting his translation (Adv. Haeres. 3:24, page 253, ed. Grabe). So also Euseblus (Ad Psalms 90:4) and Philastrius. Jerome speaks of him in various parts of his writings, sometimes disparagingly, and again in terms of commendation: the former in allusion to his doctrinal prepossessions, the latter in reference to his knowledge of the Hebrew language and exceeding carefulness in rendering. That this version was employed for centuries by the Jews themselves is proved indirectly by the 146th Novella of Justinian. It is mentioned (Jerome, in Ezekiel 3) that Aquila put forth a second edition (i.e., revision) of his version, in which the Hebrew was yet more servilely followed, but it is not known if this extended to the whole or only to three books, namely, Jeremiah, Ezekiel, and Daniel, of which there are fragments.

Aquila often appears to have so closely sought to follow the etymology of the Hebrew words that not only does his version produce no definite idea, but it does not even suggest any meaning at all. If we possessed it perfect it would have been of great value as to the criticism of the Hebrew text, though often it would be of no service as to its real understanding. (See Furst, Bibliotheca Judaica, 1:29.) (See AQUILA).

III. THEODOTION. The second version, of which we have information as executed in the 2d century, is that of Theodotion. He is stated to have been an Ephesian, and a Jewish proselyte; and he seems to be most generally described as an Ebionite (Irenaeus, Adv. Haer. 3:24): if this is correct, his work was probably intended for those semi-Christians who may have desired to use a version of their own instead of employing the Sept. with the Christians, or that of Aquila with the Jews. But it may be doubted if the name of translation can be rightly applied to the work of Theodotion: it is rather a revision of the Sept. with the Hebrew text, so as to bring some of the copies then in use into more conformity with the original. This he was able to do (with the aid probably of some instructors), so as to eliminate portions which had been introduced into the Sept. without really being an integral part of the version, and also so as to bring much into accordance with the Hebrew in other respects. But his own knowledge of Hebrew was evidently very limited; and thus words and parts of sentences were left untranslated, the Hebrew being merely written with Greek letters.

Theodotion, as well as Aquila, was quoted by Irenaeus, and against both there is the common charge laid of corrupting texts which relate to the Messiah: some polemical intention in such passages can hardly be doubted. The statement of Epiphanius that he made his translation in the reign of Commodus accords well with its having been quoted by Irenaeus; but it cannot be correct if it is one of the translations referred to by Justin Martyr as giving interpretations contrary to the Christian doctrine of the New Testament. It appears from Jerome (in Jeremiah 29:17) that there were two editions of Theodotion's version. There can be no doubt that this version was much used by Christians: probably many changes in the text. of the Sept. were adopted from Theodotion: this may have begun before the Biblical labors of Origen brought the various versions into one conspectus. The translation of the book of Daniel by Theodotion was substituted for that of the Sept. in ecclesiastical use as early at least as the first part of the 3d century. Hence Daniel, as rendered or revised by Theodotion, has so long taken the place of the true Sept. that the latter version of this book was supposed not to be extant, and it has only been found in one MS. In most editions of the Sept. Theodotion's version of Daniel is still substituted for that which really belongs to that translation. By the Jews, Theodotion's version seems never to have been much esteemed. For literature, see Fü rst, Bibliotheca Judaica, 3:420 sq. (See THEODOTION).

IV. SYMMACHUS is stated by Eusebius (Hist. Eccles. 6:17; Demonstr. Evang. 7:1) and Jerome (Prcef. in Ezram) to have been an Ebionite; so, too, in the Syrian accounts given by Assemani (Bibl. Orient. 2:278; 3:1, 17); Epiphanius, however, and others style him a Samaritan. There may have been Ebionites from among the Samaritans who constituted a kind of separate sect, and these may have desired a version of their own; or it may be that, as a Samaritan, he made this version for some of that people who employed Greek, and who had learned to receive more than the Pentateuch. But perhaps to such motives was added (if, indeed, this were not the only cause of the version) a desire for a Greek translation not so unintelligibly bald as that of Aquila, and not displaying such a want of Hebrew learning as that of Theodotion. It is probable that if this translation of Symmachus had appeared prior to the time of Irenseus, it would have been mentioned by him; and this agrees with what Epiphanius' says, namely, that he lived under the emperor Severus.

The style of the work is good, and the diction perspicuous, pure, and elegant (Thieme, Depuritate Synmachi, Lips. 1755; Hody, De Bibl. text. original.). It is of less benefit in criticism than that of Aquila, but of greater advantage in interpretation. It would seem from Jerome that there was a second edition of it (Comment. in Jeremiah 32; in Nahum 3). For literature, see First, Bibl. Jud. 3:399 sq. (See SYMMACHUS).

V. The FIFTH, SIXTH, AND SEVENTH VERSIONS. Besides the translations of Aquila, Symmachus, and Theodotion, the great critical work of Origen comprised as to portions of the Old Test. three other versions, placed for comparison with the Sept., which, from their being anonymous, are only known as the fifth, sixth, and seventh, designations taken from the places which they respectively occupied in Origen's columnar arrangement. Ancient writers seem not to have been uniform in the notation which they applied to these versions, and thus what is cited from one by its number of reference is quoted by others under a different numeral.

These three partial translations were discovered by Origen in the course of his travels in connection with his great work of Biblical criticism. Eusebius says that two of these versions (but without designating precisely which) were found, the one at Jericho, and the other at Nicopolis, on the gulf of Actium. Epiphanius says that what he terms the fifth was found at Jericho, and the sixth at Nicopolis, while Jerome speaks of the fifth as having been found at the latter place.

The contents of the fifth version appear to have been the Pentateuch, Psalms, Canticles, and the minor prophets: it seems also to have been referred to in the Syro-Hexaplar text of the second book of Kings: it may be doubted if in all these books it was complete, or at least if so much were adopted by Origen. The existing fragments prove that the translator used the Hebrew original; but it is also certain that he was aided by the work of former translators.

The sixth version seems to have been just the same in its contents as the fifth (except 2 Kings), and thus the two may have been confused: this translator also seems to have had the other versions before him. Jerome calls the authors of the fifth and sixth "Judaicos translatores," probably meaning Jewish Christians, for the translator of this must have been a Christian when he executed his Work, or else the hand of a Christian reviser must have meddled with it before it was employed by Origen, which seems, from the small interval of time, to be hardly probable. For in Habakkuk 3:15 the translation runs, ὲξῆλθες τοῦ σῶσαι τὸν λαόν σου διὰ Ι᾿ησοῦ τοῦ χριστοῦ σου .

Of the seventh version very few fragments remain. It seems to have contained the Psalms and minor prophets, and the translator was probably a Jew. From the references given by Origen, or by those who copied from his columnar arrangement and its results (or who added to such extracts), it has been thought that other Greek versions were spoken of. Of these, ῾Εβραῖος probably refers to the Hebrew text, or to something drawn from it; Σύρος, to the Old Syriac version; τὸ Σαμαρειτικόν, probably a reference to the Samaritan text, or some Samaritan gloas; ῾Ελληνικὸς ῞Αλλος, ἀνεπίγραφος, some unspecified version or versions.

The existing fragments of these varied versions are mostly to be found in the editions of the relies of Origen's Hexapla, by Montfaucon sand by Bardht. (See Epiphanius, De Ponderibus et Mensuris, cap. 17; Eusebius, Hist. Eccles. 6:16; Jerome, Comment in Tit. cap. 3; Apolog. contra Rufin. 2:34; Hody, page 590, sq.) (See ORIGEN).

VI. The GRAECO-VENETA VERSION. A MS. of the 10th century, in the library of St. Mark at Venice, contains a peculiar version of the Pentateuch, Proverbs, Ecclesiastes, Canticles, Ruth, Lamentations, and Daniel. All of these books, except the Pentateuch, were published by Villoison at Strasburg in 1784; the Pentateuch was edited by Ammon at Erlangen in 1790-91. The version itself is thought to be four or five hundred years older than the one MS. in which it has been transmitted; this, however, is so thoroughly a matter of opinion, that there seems no absolute reason for determining that this one MS. may not be the original, as well as the only one in existence. In any case, the MS. cannot be considered earlier than the 14th century, or the version earlier than the 9th. It is written in one very narrow column on each page; the leaves follow each other in the Hebrew order, so that the book begins at what we should call the end. An examination of the MS. suggested the opinion that it may have been written on the broad inner margin of a Hebrew MS., and that for some reason the Hebrew portion had been cut away, leaving thus a Greek MS. probably unique as to its form and arrangement. As to the translation itself, it is on any supposition too recent to be of importance in criticism. It may be said briefly that the "translation was made from the" Hebrew, although the present punctuation and accentuation is often not followed, and the translator was no doubt acquainted with some other Greek versions. The language of the translation is a most strange mixture of astonishing and cacophonous barbarism with attempts at Attic elegance and refinement. The Doric, which is employed to answer to the Chaldee portions of Daniel, seems to be an indication of remarkable affectation. The author was probably a Christian of Byzantine, but of Jewish extraction. (See Eichhorn, Allg. Bibl. 3:371; 5:743: 7:193; Dabler, Veras. Gaec. Argent. 1786.) (See VENETO-GREEK).

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Bibliography Information
McClintock, John. Strong, James. Entry for 'Greek Versions of the Holy Scriptures.'. Cyclopedia of Biblical, Theological and Ecclesiastical Literature. https://www.studylight.org/encyclopedias/eng/tce/g/greek-versions-of-the-holy-scriptures.html. Harper & Brothers. New York. 1870.

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