Lectionary Calendar
Saturday, May 18th, 2024
Eve of Pentacost
For 10¢ a day you can enjoy StudyLight.org ads
free while helping to build churches and support pastors in Uganda.
Click here to learn more!

Bible Encyclopedias

Cyclopedia of Biblical, Theological and Ecclesiastical Literature

Search for…
Resource Toolbox
Additional Links

is the common title of the earliest and most important version of the Old Testament, namely, into Greek, and is generally held to have derived its title (seventy) from the traditionary number of its translators (see below), rather than (as Eichhorn thought) from the authority of the Alexandrian Sanhedrim as consisting of seventy members. In the following account we shall endeavor to sift the truth out of the traditions on this subject. (See GREEK VERSIONS).

I. Origin of the Version. This is as great a riddle as the sources of the Nile. The causes which produced the translation, the number and names of the translators, the times at which different portions were translated, are all uncertain.

1. Ancient Testimony on the Subject.

(1.) The oldest writer who makes mention of the Septuagint is Aristobulus, an author referred to by Eusebius (Proepar. Evangel. 13, 12) and Clement of Alexandria (Stromata, 5, 595). According to Eusebius, he was a Jew, who united the Aristotelian with the Jewish philosophy, and composed a commentary on the law of Moses, dedicated to Ptolemy Philometor. He is also mentioned in 2 Maccabees 1, 10. Both Clement and Eusebius make him contemporary with Philometor (2d century B.C.). for the passages in their writings, in which they speak of him under Philadelphus must either have been corrupted by ignorant transcribers or have been so written by mistake (Valckenaer, § 10, 11; Dä hne, p. 81 sq.). His words relative to the Septuagint are these:

"It is manifest that Plato has followed our law, and studied diligently all its particulars; for before Demetrius Phalereus a translation had been made by others of the history of the Hebrews' going forth out of Egypt, and of all that happened to them, and of the conquest of the land, and of the exposition of the whole law. Hence it is manifest that the aforesaid philosopher borrowed many things, for he was very learned, as was Pythagoras, who also transferred many of our doctrines into his system. But the entire translation of our whole law ( δὲ ὅλη ἑρμήνεια τῶν διὰ τοῦ νόμου πάντων ) was made in the time of the king named Philadelphus, a man of greater zeal, under the direction of Demetrius Phalereus."

The entire passage has occasioned much conjecture and discussion. It is given by Valckenaer (Diatribe, etc.), Thiersch (De Versione Alexandrina), and Frankel (Vorstudien, etc.). It appears that the words of Aristobulus do not speak of any prior Greek translation, as Hody supposes, or indeed of any translation whatever. They rather refer to some brief extracts relative to Jewish history, which had been made from the Pentateuch into a language commonly understood by the Jews in Egypt, before the time of Demetrius. The entire law was first rendered into Greek under Philadelphus. Hody, and after him Eichhorn, conjectured that the fragments of Aristobulus preserved by Eusebius and Clement were written in the 2d century by another Aristobulus, a Christian, and that Aristobulus, the professed Peripatetic, was a heathen. But the quotation of Cyril of Alexandria (Contra Julianum, lib. 6), to which they appeal, was erroneously made by that father, as may be seen by comparing it with Clement. Richard Simon also denied the authenticity of Aristobulus's remains (Histoire Critique du V.T. p. 189). But Valckenaer has sufficiently established their authenticity.

The testimony of Aristobulus is corroborated by a Latin scholion recently found in a MS. of Plautus at Rome, which has been described and illustrated by Ritschl in a little book entitled Die alexandrinischen Bibliotheken, etc. (Berlin, 1838). From the passage of Aristobulus already quoted, it appears that in the time of Aristobulus, i.e. the beginning of the 2d century B.C., this version was considered to have been made when Demetrius Phalereus lived, or in the reign of Ptolemy Soter. Hody, indeed, has endeavored to show that this account contradicts the voice of certain history, because it places Demetrius in the reign of Philadelphus. But the version may have been begun under Soter and completed under Philadelphus, his successor. In this way may be reconciled the discordant notices of the time when it originated; for it is well known that the Palestinian account, followed by various fathers of the Church, asserts that Ptolemy Soter carried the work into execution, while according to Aristeas, Philo, Josephus, etc., his son Philadelphus was the person. Hody harmonizes the discrepancy by placing the translation of the Pentateuch in the two years during which father and son reigned conjointly (B.C. 286 and 285). The object of Demetrius in advising Soter to have in his library a copy of the Jewish laws in Greek is not stated by Aristobulus, but Aristeas relates that the librarian represented it to the king as a desirable thing that such a book should be deposited in the Alexandrian library. Some think that a literary rather than a religious motive led to the version. So Hä vernick. This, however, may be reasonably doubted. Hody, Sturz, Frankel, and others conjecture that the object was religious or ecclesiastical. Eichhorn refers it to private impulse; while Hug takes the object to have been political. It is not probable, however, that the version was intended for the king's use, or that he wished to obtain from it information respecting the best mode of governing a nation and enacting laws for its economic well-being. The character and language of the version unite to show that an Egyptian king, probably ignorant of Greek, could not have understood the work. Perhaps an ecclesiastical motive prompted the Jews who were originally interested in it, while Demetrius Phalereus and the king may have been actuated by some other design.

It is difficult, if not impossible, to ascertain whether Aristobulus' words imply that all the books of the Old Test. were translated into Greek under Philadelphus, or simply the Pentateuch. Hody contends that νόμος , the term used by Aristobulus, meant at that time the Mosaic books alone, although it was afterwards taken in a wider sense so as to embrace all the Old Test. Valckenaer thinks that all the books were comprehended under it, It is certainly more natural to restrict it to the Pentateuch. The Pentateuch, therefore, was completed under Philadelphus.

(2.) The next historical testimony regarding the Septuagint is the prologue of Jesus the son of Sirach, a document containing the judgment of a Palestinian Jew concerning the version before us. His words are these: "And not only these things, but the law itself, and the prophets, and the rest of the books, have no small difference when they are spoken in their own language." Frankel has endeavored to throw suspicion on this passage, as if it were unauthentic, but his reasons are extremely slender (p. 21, note w). It appears from it that the law, the prophets, and the other books had been translated into Greek in the time of the son of Sirach, i.e. that of Ptolemy Physcon, B.C. 130.

(3.) The account given by Aristeas comes next before us (see Rosenmü ller, Handb. d. Lit. d. bibl. Kritik u. Exeg. 2, 413 sq.). This writer pretends to be a Gentile, and a favorite at the court of Ptolemy Philadelphus, king of Egypt. In a letter addressed to his brother Philocrates, he relates that Philadelphus, when forming a library at great expense, was advised by Demetrius Phalereus to apply to the Jewish high priest Eleazer for a copy of the book containing the Jewish laws. Having previously purchased the freedom of more than a hundred thousand captive Jews in Egypt, the king sent Aristeas and Aidreas to Jerusalem with a letter requesting of Eleazer seventy-two persons as interpreters, six out of each tribe. They were dispatched accordingly with a magnificent copy of the law, and were received and entertained by the king for several days with great respect and liberality. Demetrius led them to an island, probably Pharos, where they lodged together. The translation was finished in seventy-two days, having been written down by Demetrius piece by piece, as agreed upon after mutual consultation. It was then publicly read by Demetrius to a number of Jews whom he had summoned together. They approved of it, and imprecations were uttered against any one who should presume to alter it. The Jews requested permission to take copies of it for their use, and it was carefully preserved by command of the king. The interpreters were sent home loaded with presents.

The work of Aristeas, which was first published in the original Greek by Simon Schard (Basel, 1561, 8vo), and several times reprinted, was also given by Hody in Greek and Latin, in his book entitled De Bibliorum Textibus Originalibus, Versionibus Groecis, et Latina Vulgata (Oxon. 1705, fol.). The most accurate edition, however, is that by Galland, in the Bibliotheca Vet. Patrum, vol. 2. It was translated into English by Whiston, and published at London in 1727, 8vo. See also Aristeas, Hist. 72 Int. ex Rec. Eld. de Parchum (Francf. 1610; Oxon. 1692).

(4.) In all discussions relative to the name of Septuagint, so universally appropriated to the Greek version of Alexandria, the scholion discovered by Osann and published by Ritschl ought to be considered. The origin of this Latin scholion is curious. The substance of it is stated to have been extracted from Callimachus and Eratosthenes, the Alexandrian librarians, by Tzetzes, and from his Greek note an Italian of the 15th century has formed the Latin scholion in question. The writer has been speaking of the collecting of ancient Greek poems carried on at Alexandria under Ptolemy Philadelphus, and then he thus continues: "Nam rex ille philosophis affertissimus [corr. "differtissimus," Ritschl; "affectissimus," Thiersch] et caeteris omnibus auctoribus claris, disquisitis impensa regiae munificentiae ubique terrarum quantum valuit voluminibus opera Demetrii Phalerei phzxa senum duas bibliothecas fecit, alteram extra regiam alteram autem in regia." The scholion then goes on to speak of books in many languages: "Quae summa diligentia rex ille in suam linguam fecit ab optimis interpretibus converti" (see Thiersch, De Pentateuchi Versione Alexandrina [Erlang. 1841], p. 8, 9). Bernhardy reads instead of "phzxa senum," "et lxx senum," and this correction is agreed to by Thiersch, as it well may be: some correction is manifestly needed, and this appears to be right. This gives us seventy elders associated in the formation of the library. The testimony comes to us from Alexandrian authority; and this, if true (or even if believed to be true), would connect the Septuagint with the library a designation which might most easily be applied to a version of the Scriptures there deposited; and, let the translation be once known by such a name, then nothing would be more probable than that the designation should be applied to the translators. This may be regarded as the first step in the formation of the fables. Let the Septuagint be first known as applying to the associates in the collection of the library, then to the library itself, and then to that particular book in the library which to so many had a far greater value than all its other contents. Whether more than the Pentateuch was thus translated and then deposited in the royal library is a separate question.

2. Confirmation by Later Authorities.

(1.) Of Jewish writers, Josephus (Ant. 12, 2) agrees in the main with Aristeas; but Philo's account (De Vita Mosis, lib. 2) differs in a number of circumstances.

(2.) Among the Greek Church fathers Irenaeus (lib. 3, c. 24) relates that Ptolemy Lagi, wishing to adorn his Alexandrian library with the writings of all nations, requested from the Jews of Jerusalem a Greek version of their Scriptures; that they sent seventy elders well skilled in the Scriptures and in later languages; that the king separated them from one another and bade them all translate the several books. When they came together before Ptolemy and showed their versions, God was glorified, for they all agreed exactly, from beginning to end, in every phrase and word, so that all men may know that the Scriptures are translated by the inspiration of God.

Justin Martyr (Cohort. ad Groecos, p. 34) gives the same account, and adds that he was taken to see the cells in which the interpreters worked.

Epiphanius says that the translators were divided into pairs, in thirty-six cells, each pair being provided with two scribes; and that thirty-six versions agreeing in every point were produced, by the gift of the Holy Spirit (De Pond. et Mens. c. 3-6).

(3.) Among the Latin fathers Augustine adheres to the inspiration of the translators "Non autem secundum LXX interpretes, qui etiam ipsi divino Spiritu interpretati, ob hoc aliter videntur nonnulla dixisse, ut ad spiritualem sensum scrutandum magis admoneretur lectoris intentio" (De Doctr. Christ. 4, 15).

But Jerome boldly throws aside the whole story of the cells and the inspiration "Et nescio quis primus auctor Septuaginta cellulas Alexandriae mendacio suo extruxerit, quibus divisi eadem scriptitarent, cum Aristseus ejusdem Ptolemaei ὑπερασπιστής , et multo post tempore Josephus, nihil tale retulerint: sed in una basilica congregatos, contulisse scribant, non prophetasse. Aliud est enim vatem, aliud esse interpretem. Ibi Spiritus ventura praedicit; hic eruditio et verborum copia ea quae intelligit transfert" (Proef. ad Pent.).

3. Modern Opinions.

(1.) Until the latter half of the 17th century the origin of the Sept. as given by Aristeas was firmly believed; while the numerous additions that had been made to the original story in the progress of centuries were unhesitatingly received as equally genuine. The story was first reckoned improbable by L. Vives (in a note to Augustine's De Civitate Dei); then Scaliger asserted that it was written by a Jew; and Richard Simon was too acute a critic not to perceive the truth of Scaliger's assertion. Hody was the first who demonstrated with great learning, skill, and discrimination that the narrative could not be authentic (De Bibl. Text. Orig. Vers. Groec. et Lat. Vulg. [Oxford, 1705] lib. 4). It is now universally pronounced fabulous.

(2.) But the Pseudo-Aristeas had a basis of fact for his fiction; on three points of his story there is no material difference of opinion and they are confirmed by the study of the version itself: (a.) The version was made at Alexandria. (b.) It was begun in the time of the earlier Ptolemies, about B.C. 280. (c.) The law (i.e. the Pentateuch) alone was translated at first. It is also very possible that there is some truth in the statement that a copy was placed in the royal library. (The emperor Akbar caused the New Test. to be translated into Persian.)

(3.) But by whom was the version made? As Hody justly remarks, "It is of little moment whether it was made at the command of the king or spontaneously by the Jews; but it is a question of great importance whether the Hebrew copy of the law and the interpreters (as Pseudo-Aristeas and his followers relate) were summoned from Jerusalem and sent by the high priest to Alexandria." On this question no testimony can be so conclusive as the evidence of the version itself, which bears upon its face the marks of imperfect knowledge of Hebrew, and exhibits the forms and phrases of the Macedonic Greek prevalent in Alexandria, with a plentiful sprinkling of Egyptian words. The forms ἤλθοσαν παρενεβάλοσαν , betray the fellow-citizens of Lycophron, the Alexandrian poet, who closes his iambic line with κἀπὸ γῆς ἐσχάζοσαν. Hotldy (2, 4) gives several examples of Egyptian renderings of names and coins and measures; among them the hippodrome of Alexandria for the Hebrew Cibrath (Genesis 48:7), and the papyrus of the Nile for the rush of Job (Job 8:11). The reader of the Sept. will readily agree with his conclusion, "Sive regis jussu, sive sponte a Judaeis, a Judaeis Alexandrinus fuisse factam." The question as to the moving cause which gave birth to the version is one which cannot be so decisively answered either by internal evidence or by historical testimony. The balance of probability must be struck between the tradition, so widely and permanently prevalent, of the king's intervention, and the simpler account suggested by the facts of history and the phenomena of the version itself. It is well known that after the Jews returned from the captivity of Babylon, having lost in great measure the familiar knowledge of the ancient Hebrew, the readings from the books of Moses in the synagogues of Palestine were explained to them in the Chaldaic tongue in Targums or paraphrases; and the same was done with the books of the prophets when, at a later time, they also were read in the synagogues. The Jews of Alexandria had probably still less knowledge of Hebrew; their familiar language was Alexandrian Greek. They had settled in Alexandria in large numbers soon after the time of Alexander and under the earlier Ptolemies. They would naturally follow the same practice as their brethren in Palestine; the law first, and afterwards the prophets, would be explained in Greek, and from this practice would arise in time an entire Greek version. All the phenomena of the version seem to confirm this view; the Pentateuch is the best part of the version; the other books are more defective, betraying probably the increasing degeneracy of the Hebrew MSS. and the decay of Hebrew learning with the lapse of time.

(4.) Nevertheless, the opinion that the Pentateuch was translated a considerable time before the prophets is not warranted by the language of Justin, Clement of Alexandria, Tertullian, Epiphanius, and Hilary of Poitiers; although we are aware that Aristeas, Josephus, Philo, the Talmudists, and Jerome mention the law only as having been interpreted by the seventy-two. Hody thinks that the Jews first resorted to the reading of the prophets in their synagogues when Antiochus Epiphanes forbade the use of the law, and therefore that the prophetic portion was not translated till after the commencement of Philometor's reign. It is wholly improbable, however, that Antiochus interdicted the Jews merely from reading the Pentateuch (comp. 1 Maccabees 1:41, etc.; and Josephus, Ant. 12, 5; Frankel, p. 48, 49). The interval between the translating of the law and the prophets, of which many speak, was probably very short. Hody's proof that the book of Joshua was not translated till upwards of twenty years after the death of Ptolemy Lagi, founded upon the word γαισός, is perfectly nugatory, although the time assigned cannot be far from the truth. The epilogue to the book of Esther does not state that this part of the Old Test. was translated under Ptolemy Philometor or that it was dedicated to him. On the contrary it refers to a certain epistle containing apocryphal additions to the canonical book of Esther (Valckenaer, p. 33, 63). It is a fruitless task to attempt to ascertain the precise times at which separate portions of the version were made. All that can be known with any degree of probability is that it was begun under Lagi and finished before the thirty-eighth year of Ptolemy Physcon. It is obvious from internal evidence that there were several translators, but certainly not seventy-two. Hody has endeavored to parcel out their version into small portions, assigning each part to a separate person, and affirming that they were put together in one cento without revision; but his notions of rigid uniformity in the translators are such as exclude perspicuity, freedom, variety, and elegance. There is no ground for believing that the Pentateuch proceeded from more than one interpreter, who was unquestionably the most skilful of all. The entire work was made by five or six individuals at least, and must, consequently, be of unequal value. Comp. Amersfoordt, De Variis Lectio. Holmes. Loc. quorund. Pent. Mos. (Lugd. 1815); Thiersch, De Pent. Vers. Al. Libri III (Erlang. 1841); Frankel, Ueber d. Einfluss d. palest. Exeg. auf d. alex. Hermen. (Leips. 1851); Rosenmü ller, op. cit. p. 435 sq.

(5.) In opposition to the Pseudo-Aristeas, we cannot but maintain that the translators were Alexandrian, not Palestinian, Jews. The internal character of the entire version, particularly of the Pentateuch, sufficiently attests the fact. We find, accordingly, that proper names and terms peculiar to Egypt are rendered in such a manner as must have been unintelligible to a Greek- speaking population other than the Egyptian Jews. That the translators were Egyptians has been proved, to the satisfaction of all, by Hody; although some of his examples are not appropriate or conclusive. Frankel supposes that the version was made not only at different times, but at different places. This is quite arbitrary. There is no reason for believing with him that different books originated after this fashion, the impulse having gone forth from Alexandria and spreading to localities where the Jews had settled, especially Cyrene, Leontopolis, and even Asia Minor.

(6.) The division into verses and chapters is much later than the age of the translators. Our present editions have been printed in conformity with the division into chapters made in the 12th century, though they are not uniform in this particular. Still, however, many MSS. have separations in the text. The Alexandrine Codex is said by Grabe to have 140 divisions, or, as they may be called, chapters, in the book of Numbers alone (Prolegomena, c. 1, § 7).

The titles given to the books, such as Γένεσις , etc., could hardly have been affixed by the translators, since often they do not harmonize with the version of the book itself to which they belong.

II. Textual Basis of the Version.

1. It has been inquired whether the translator of the Pentateuch followed a Hebrew or a Samaritan codex. The Sept. and Samaritan harmonize in more than a thousand places, where they differ from the Hebrew. Hence it has been supposed that the Samaritan edition was the basis of the version. Various considerations have been adduced in favor of this opinion; and the names of De Dieu, Selden, Whiston, Hottinger, Hassencamp, and Eichhorn are enlisted on its behalf. But the irreconcilable enmity subsisting between the Jews and the Samaritans, both in Egypt and Palestine, effectually militates against it. Besides, in the prophets and Hagiographa, the number of variations from the Masoretic text is even greater and more remarkable than those in the Pentateuch; whereas the Samaritan extends no further than the Mosaic books. No solution, therefore, can be satisfactory which will not serve to explain at once the cause or causes both of the differences between the Seventy and the Hebrew in the Pentateuch, and those found in the remaining books. The problem can be fully solved only by such a hypothesis as will throw light on the remarkable form of the Sept. in Jeremiah and Esther, where it deviates most from the Masoretic MSS., presenting such transpositions and interpolations as excite the surprise of the most superficial reader. The above solution of the question must be rejected not only for the reasons assigned, but also for the following.

(1.) It must be taken into account that if the discrepancies of the Samaritan and Jewish copies be estimated numerically, the Sept. will be found to agree far more frequently with the latter than the former.

(2.) In the cases of considerable and marked passages occurring in the Samaritan which are not in the Jewish, the Sept. does not contain them.

(3.) In the passages in which slight variations are found, both in the Samaritan and Sept., from the Jewish text, they often differ among themselves, and the amplification of the Sept. is less than that of the Samaritan.

(4.) Some of the small amplifications in which the Samaritan seems to accord with the Sept. are in such incorrect and non-idiomatic Hebrew that it is suggested that these must be translations, and, if so, probably from the Sept.

(5.) The amplifications of the Sept. and Samaritan often resemble each other greatly in character, as if similar false criticism had been applied to the text in each case. But as, in spite of all similarities such as these, the Pentateuch of the Sept. is more Jewish than Samaritan, we need not adopt the notion of translation from a Samaritan codex, which would involve the subject in greater difficulties, and leave more points to be explained. (On some of the supposed agreements of the Sept. with the Samaritan, see bishop Fitzgerald in Kitto's Journal of Sacred Literature, Oct. 1848, p. 324-332.)

Some suppose that the one was interpolated from the other a conjecture not at all probable. Jahn and Bauer imagine that the Hebrew MS. used by the Egyptian Jews agreed much more closely with the Samaritan in., the text and forms of its letters than the present Masoretic copies. This hypothesis, however, even if it were otherwise correct, would not account for the great harmony existing between the Samaritan and Sept.

Another hypothesis has been put forth by Gesenius (Commentatio de Pent. Samar. Orig. Indole, et Auctor.), viz. that both the Samaritan and Sept. flowed from a common recension (ἔκδοσις ) of the Hebrew Scriptures, one older than either, and different in many places from the recension of the Masoretes now in common use. "This supposition," says Prof. Stuart, by whom it is adopted, "will account for the differences and for the agreements of the Sept. and Samaritan." The following objections have been made to this ingenious and plausible hypothesis.

(a.) It assumes that before the whole of the Old Test. was written there had been a recension or revision of several books. But there is no record or tradition in favor of the idea that inspired me n applied a correcting hand in this manner till the close of the canon. To say that others did so is not in unison with right notions of the inspiration of Scripture, unless it be equally affirmed that they corrupted, under the idea of correcting, the holy books.

(b.) This hypothesis implies that a recension took place at a period comparatively early, before any books had been written except the Pentateuch, Joshua, Judges, and the writings of David and Solomon. If it be improbable that a revised edition was made before the completion of the canon, it is much more improbable that it was undertaken when few books were written.

(c.) It supposes that an older recension was still current after Ezra had revised the whole collection and closed the canon. In making the Sept. version, it is very improbable that the Jews, who were the translators, followed a recension far inferior in their estimation to the copy of the sacred books corrected by Ezra. This objection rests on the assumption that Ezra completed the canon of the Old Test., having been prompted, as well as inspired, to arrange and revise the books of Scripture. Such is the Jewish tradition; and although a majority of the German critics disallow its truth, yet it is held by very able and accomplished men.

Prof. Lee (Prolegomena to Bagster's Polyglot) accounts for the agreement between the Sept. and Samaritan in another way. He conjectures that the early Christians interspersed their copies with Samaritan glosses, which ignorant transcribers afterwards inserted in the text. But he has not shown that Christians in general were acquainted with the Samaritan Pentateuch and its additions to the Hebrew copy; neither has he taken into account the reverence entertained by the early Christians for the sacred books. We cannot, therefore, attribute the least probability to this hypothesis.

Another hypothesis has been mentioned by Frankel, viz. that the Sept. flowed from a Chaldee version, which was used before and after the time of Ezra a version inexact and paraphrastic, which had undergone many alterations and corruptions. This was first proposed by R. Asaria di Rossi, in the midst of other conjectures. Frankel admits that the assumption of such a version is superfluous, except in relation to the Samaritan Pentateuch, where much is gained by it. This Chaldee version circulated in various transcripts here and there; and as the same care was not applied in preserving its integrity as was exercised with respect to the original Hebrew, the copies of it presented considerable differences among themselves. Both the Greek version and the Samaritan Pentateuch were taken from it. Frankel concedes that this hypothesis is not satisfactory with regard to the Sept., because the mistakes found in that version must have frequently originated in misunderstanding the Hebrew text. There is no evidence, however, that any Targum or Chaldee version had been made before Ezra's time, or soon after. Explanations of the lessons publicly read by the Jews were given in Chaldee, not regularly perhaps, or uniformly; but it can scarcely be assumed that a Chaldee version had been made out in writing, and circulated in different copies. Glosses, or short expositions of words and sentences, were furnished by the public readers for the benefit of the people; and it is by no means improbable that several of these traditional comments were incorporated with the version by the Jewish translators, to Whom they were familiar.

In short, no hypothesis yet proposed commends itself to general reception, although the Vorstudien of Frankel have probably opened up the way towards a correct solution. The great source from which the striking peculiarities in the Sept. and the Samaritan flowed appears to us to have been early traditional interpretations current among the Jews, targums, or paraphrases not written, perhaps, but orally circulated. Such glossarial versions, which must have circulated chiefly in Palestine. require to be traced back to an early epoch to the period of the second Temple. They existed, in substance at least, in ancient times, at once indicating and modifying the Jewish mode of interpretation. The Alexandrian mode of interpretation stood in close connection with the Palestinian; for the Jews of Egypt looked upon Jerusalem as their chief city, and the Sanhedrim of Jerusalem as their ecclesiastical rulers. If, therefore, we can ascertain the traditional paraphrases of the one. those of the other must have been substantially the same (see Gieseler's Eccles. Hist., transl. by Cunningham, 1, 30).

Tychsen (Tentamen de Variis Codd. Heb. V.T. MSS. Gener.) thought that the Sept. was made from the Hebrew transcribed into Hebrew-Greek characters. It is almost unnecessary to refer to such a notion. It never obtained general currency, having been examined and refuted by Dathe, Michaelis, and Hassencamp.

2. Evidence as to the Verbal Condition of the Original. Here we naturally inquire as, to two obvious points:

(1.) Was the version made from Hebrew MSS. with the vowel-points now used? A few examples will indicate the answer.




Exodus 6:17, לַבְנַי, Libni.

Λοβενεί .

Exodus 6:19, מִחְלַי, Machli.

Μοολεί .

Exodus 13:20, אֵתָם, Etham.


Deuteronomy 3:10, סִלְכָה, Salchah.

῾Ελχᾶ .

Deuteronomy 34:1, פַּסְגָּה, Pisgah.

Φασγά .





Genesis 1:9, מָקום, place.

συναγωγή (מַקְוֶה ).

Genesis 15:11, וִיֵּשֶׁב אֹתָם

καὶ συνεκὰθισεν αὐτοῖς

and he drove them away.

(וִיֵּשֶׁב אַתָּם ).

Exodus 12:17, אֶתאּהִמִּצּוֹת,

τὴν ἐντολὴν ταύτην

unleavened bread.

אֶתאּהִמַּצְוָה ).

Numbers 16:5, בֹּקֶר, in the



(בָּקִר ).

Deuteronomy 15:18, מַשְׁנֵה , double.

ἐπέτειον , (מַשָּׁנָה ).

Isaiah 9:8, דָּבָר, a word.

θάνατον ( דֶּבֶר ).

Examples of these two kinds are innumerable. Plainly the Greek translators had not Hebrew MSS. pointed as at present. In many cases (e.g. Exodus 2:25; Nahum 3:8) the Sept. has possibly preserved the true pronunciation and sense where the Masoretic pointing has gone wrong.

(2.) Were the Hebrew words divided from one another, and were the final letters וֹ,, ן, ם,,ִ in use when the Sept. was made? Take a few out of many examples:




(1) Deuteronomy 26:5, אֹבֵדאֲרִמַּי,

Συρίαν ἀπέβαλεν

a perishing Syrian.

(ארם יאֹבד ).

(2) 2 Kings 2:14, אִ Šאּהוּאַ ,


he also.

[it joins the two words in one].

(3) 2 Kings 22:20, לָכֵן

οὐχ οὕτως


(לאֹאּכֵן )

(4) 1 Chronicles 17:10, וָאִגַּד לְךָ,

καὶ αὐξήσω δε

and I told thee.

(וִאֲגִדֶּלְךָ ),


(5) Hosea 6:5, יֵצֵא וּמַשְׁפָּטֶיךָ אוֹר

καὶ τὸ κρίμα μον ὡς φῶς ἐξελεύ σεταί

and thy judgments

The Sept. reads:

[are as] the light [that] goeth forth

וּמִשְׁפָטִי כָאוֹר


(6) Zechariah 11:7, עֲנַיֵּי הִצּאֹןלָכֵן

εἰς τὴν Χανανῖτιν

even you, O poor of the flock.

[it joins the first two words].


Here we find three cases (2, 4, 6) where the Sept. reads as one word what makes two in the present Hebrew text; one case (3) where one Hebrew word is made into two by the Sept.; two cases (1, 5) where the Sept. transfers a letter from the end of one word to the beginning of the next. By inspection of the Hebrew in these cases it will be easily seen that the Hebrew MSS. must have been written without intervals between the words, and that the present final forms were not then in use. In three of the above examples (4, 5, 6), the Sept. has perhaps preserved the true division and sense. In the study of these minute particulars, which enable us to examine closely the work of the translators, great help is afforded by Cappelli Critica Sacra, and by the Vorstudien of Frankel, who has most diligently anatomized the text of the Sept. His projected work on the whole of the version has not been completed, but he has published a part of it in his treatise Ueber den Einfluss der palä stinischen Exegese auf die alexandrinische Hermeneutik, in which he reviews minutely the Sept. version of the Pentateuch.

III. Ecclesiastical Authority and Influence. The Sept. does not appear to have obtained general authority among the Jews so long as Hebrew was understood at Alexandria. It is remarkable that Aristobulus quotes the original, even where it departs from the text of the Sept. The version was indeed spread abroad in Egypt, Northern. Africa, and Asia Minor. It seems to have been so highly esteemed by the Jews as to be publicly read in some of their synagogues. From the 146th Novella of Justinian, it would seem that some Jews wished the public interpreter, who read the lessons out of the law and the prophets in Hebrew, to give his explanations of them in Greek, while others desired to have them in Chaldee. The reader, therefore, employed this translation as, explanatory of the sections recited in the original, yet, although they highly esteemed the Greek, they did not regard it as equal to the Hebrew. Even the Talmudists make honorable mention of its origin. It is true that the Talmud also speaks of it as an abomination to the Jews in Palestine; but this refers to the 2d century and the time following, not to the period immediately after the appearance of Christ. When controversies arose between Christians and Jews, and the former appealed with irresistible force of argument to this version, the latter denied that it agreed with the Hebrew original. Thus by degrees it became odious to the Jews as much execrated as it had before been commended. They had recourse to the translation of Aquila, who is supposed to have undertaken a new work from the Hebrew, with the express object of supplanting the Sept. and favoring the sentiments of his brethren,

Among the Christians the ancient text, called κοινή , was current before the time of Origen. We find it quoted by the early Christian fathers in Greek by Clemens Romanus, Justin Martyr, Irenaeus; in Latin versions by Tertullian and Cyprian. We find it questioned as inaccurate by the Jews (Just. Martyr, Apol.), and provoking them to obtain a better version (hence the versions of Aquila, etc.). We find it quoted by Josephus and Philo; and thus we are brought to the time of the apostles and evangelists, whose writings are full of citations and references, and imbued with the phraseology of the Sept. From all this we are justified in the following conclusions on this head:

1. This version was highly esteemed by the Hellenistic Jews before the coming of Christ. An annual festival was held at Alexandria in remembrance of the completion of the work (Philo, De Vita Mosis, lib. 2). The manner in which it is quoted by the writers of the New Test. proves that it had long been in general use. Wherever, by the conquests of Alexander or by colonization, the Greek language prevailed; wherever Jews were settled, and the attention of the neighboring Gentiles was drawn to their wondrous history and law, there was found the Sept., which thus became, by Divine Providence, the means of spreading widely the knowledge of the One True God and his promises of a Savior to come throughout the nations; it was indeed ostium gentibus ad Christum. To the wide dispersion of this version we may ascribe, in great measure, that general persuasion which prevailed over the whole East (percrebuerat Oriente toto) of the near approach of the Redeemer, and which led the magi to recognize the star that proclaimed the birth of the King of the Jews.

2. Not less wide was the influence of the Sept. in the spread of the Gospel. Many of those Jews who were assembled at Jerusalem on the day of Pentecost, from Asia Minor, from Africa, from Crete and Rome, used the Greek language; the testimonies to Christ from the law and the prophets came to them in the words of the Sept.; St. Stephen probably quoted from it in his address to the Jews; the Ethiopian eunuch was reading the Sept. version of Isaiah in his chariot (ὡς πρόβατον ἐπὶ σφαγὴν ἤχθη ); they who were scattered abroad went forth into many lands, speaking of Christ in Greek, and pointing to the things written of him in the Greek version of Moses and the prophets; from Antioch and Alexandria in the East to Rome and Massilia in the West, the voice of the Gospel sounded forth in Greek; Clemens of Rome, Ignatius at Antioch, Justin Martyr in Palestine, Irenaeus at Lyons, and many more, taught and wrote in the words of the Greek Scriptures; and a still wider range was given to the Sept. by the Latin version (or versions) made from it for the use of the Latin churches in Italy and Africa; and in later times by the numerous other versions into the tongues of Egypt, Ethiopia, Armenia, Arabia, and Georgia. For a long period the Sept. was the Old Test. of the far larger part of the Christian Church (see the Hulsean Prize Essay, by W.R. Churton, On the Influence of the Sept. on the Progress of Christianity [Camb. 1861J; and an art. in the Zeitschr. f. wissensch. Theol. 1862, vol. 3).

A number of other versions have been founded on the Sept.

1. Various early Latin translations, the chief of which was the Vetus Itala;

2. The Coptic and Sahidic, belonging to the James, 2 d centuries;

3. The Ethiopic, belonging to the 4th century;

4. The Armenian, of the 5th century;

5. The Georgian, of the 6th century;

6. Various Syriac versions, of the 6th and 8th centuries;

7. Some Arabic versions, (See ARABIC VERSIONS);

8. The Slavonic, belonging to the 9th century.

IV. Liturgical Origin of Portions of the Version. This is a subject for inquiry which has received but little attention; not so much, probably, as its importance deserves. It was noticed by Tregelles many years ago that the headings of certa

Bibliography Information
McClintock, John. Strong, James. Entry for 'Septuagint'. Cyclopedia of Biblical, Theological and Ecclesiastical Literature. https://www.studylight.org/​encyclopedias/​eng/​tce/​s/septuagint.html. Harper & Brothers. New York. 1870.
Ads FreeProfile