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Cyclopedia of Biblical, Theological and Ecclesiastical Literature

Theodotion

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is the name of one of the Greek translators of the Old Test. after the time of the Septuagint (q.v.). According to Epiphanius (De Pond. et Mens. c. 17, 19), he was a native of Sinope, in Pontus, and for a time sided with the Marcionites, but left them afterwards and became a Jew. Irenaeus, however, calls him Ephesitus, i.e. a native of Ephesus; while Jerome and Eusebius call him an Ebionite, or semi-Christian. Bleak thinks it most probable that Theodotion was a Judaizing heretic, a semi-Christian and Ebionite, according to Jerome's prevailing description of him. His reasons for thinking it probable that he professed to belong to the Christian Church are these two at. "We find no trace of the Jews ever making use of his translation, and still less of its having been held in esteem by them: much more was this the case in the Christian Church, which accepted his translation of Daniel for ecclesiastical use. b. He has translated a clause in Isaiah 25:8, Κατεπόθη ὁθάνατος εἰς νῖκος, precisely as in 1 Corinthians 15:54, but thoroughly deviating from the Sept... This concurrence is probably not purely accidental, but is to be explained by Theodotion having appropriated to himself the Pauline translation of the passage; and this, again, makes it extremely probable that he was a Christian at the time of making the translation."

As to the time when this translation was made, ace cording to Epiphanius it was published under the emperor Commodus (A.D. 180-182), which, as Keil remarks, "is not impossible, and can perfectly well be reconciled with the mention of him by Ireensus; yet it is by no means certain. In any case, his translation is not so ancient as that of Aquila, but more ancient than that of Symmachus" (q.v.).

As to the character of the translation, if we receive the testimony of those who had the version in their hands, it approached the Sept. very nearly in sense and phraseology. The mode of translation adopted by Theodotion holds an intermediate place between the scrupulous literality of Aquila and the free interpretation of Symmachus. The translator appears, indeed, to have made the Alexandrian version the basis of his own, and to have abided by it as long as it represents the Hebrew faithfully; departing from it and freely translating for himself only where it inadequately expresses the sense of the original. His object was rather to supply the defects of that version than to give a new and independent one; hence the additions found only in the former reappear in his work. From the remaining fragments, it may be inferred that his knowledge of Hebrew was not great. He has retained Hebrew words not very difficult or obscure, expressing them in Greek letters from ignorance of their meaning: "Praetor alia minus docti interpretis signa quse erudito lectori exploranda remittimus, persaepe illa verba Hebraica, quorum interpretatio non'ita difficilis erat ut vertendi molestiam declinaret, Graecis literis expressit" (Monfaucon, Prceliminaria, VII, 3, 129, ed. Bahrdt). Thus, Isaiah 3:24, "פתיגיל =φθιλίλ; Isaiah 19:15, אגמון =ἀγμών; Isaiah 43:20, תני =θεννίν; Joel 2:17, האולם =οὐλαμ; Job 8:11, אחו =ἀχύ . But Jahn (Einleitung, 1, 178 sq.) conjectures that they were used among the Ebionites, and therefore retained by him a supposition as improbable as that of Owen, that they were left so for particular reasons, such as the honor of the Jewish nation (Inquiry into the Present State of the Sept. Version, p. 108).

Among Christians the version of Theodotion was held in higher estimation than that of Aquila and Symmachus; and Origen, in his Hexapla, supplied the omissions of the Sept. chiefly from it. At a later period his version of the book of Daniel was universally adopted in the Greek Bible among Christians, instead of the Alexandrian version. According to Bleek, this change occurred some time between the age of Origen and that of Jerome. The latter says, in his Praef. 3 Daniel. "Dauielem juxta LXX interpretes Domini Salvatoris ecclesiae non legunt, utentes Theodotionis editione, et cur hoc acciderit nescio. Sive enim quia sermo Chaldaicus est, et quibusdam proprietatibus a nostro eloquio discrepat, noluertunt Septuaginta interpretes easdem lingume lineas in translatione servare; sive sub nomine eorum a nescio quo non satis Chaldaicam linguam sciente editus est liber, sive aliud quid causse exstiterit ignorans; hoc unum affirmare possum, quod multum a veritate discordet, et recto judicio repudiatus sit." Delitzsch (De Habacuci Prophetce Vita atque Etate Conzmentatio Historico-isagogica [Grimae, 1844], p. 28) says, "Quapropter ego (donec proferantur argumenta contrarii) versionem Daliielis Theodotionianam ab ecclesia non prius adoptatam esse censeo, quam ab origene tanquam castigata Alexandrinse editio in Hexapla recepta et ab Eusebio et Pamphilio, cum ex his textum septuagintaviralem ederent, septuagintavirali substituta est." Credner thinks that the Christians were so long under the pressure of contradictions, assaults, and mockeries, from Jews and heathens combined, that finally (though, to be sure, not in general before the end of the 3rd century) they gave up their Greek translation of the Sept., and set that of Theodotion in its place. From a passage by Jerome on Jeremiah 29:17, "Theodotion interpretatus est sudrinas; secunda pessima; Symmachus novissimas," it has been conjectured that there also existed a second edition of Theodotion's version; but Hody (De Bibliorum Textibus, p. 584) thinks that the text of Jerome here is corrupt, and that after sudrinas we should insert Aquilae prina editio.

Besides the literature given in Fü rst, Bibl. Jud. 3, 420 sq., see also Davidson, Biblical Criticism, 1, 217 sq.; Keil, Introduction to the Old Test. 2, 232 sq.; Geiger, Nachgelassene Schriften (Berlin, 1877), 4:87; Kaulen, Einleitung in die heil. Schrift (Freiburg, 1876), p. 78; Delitzsch, op. cif., p. 28 sq.; Ginsburg, Commentary on Ecclesiastes (Lond. 1861), p. 497 sq. (See GREEK VERSIONS). (B.P.)

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Bibliography Information
McClintock, John. Strong, James. Entry for 'Theodotion'. Cyclopedia of Biblical, Theological and Ecclesiastical Literature. https://www.studylight.org/encyclopedias/eng/tce/t/theodotion.html. Harper & Brothers. New York. 1870.

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