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The Septuagint (from the Latin septuaginta, "seventy") is a translation of the Hebrew Bible and some related texts into Koine Greek. As the primary Greek translation of the Old Testament, it is also called the Greek Old Testament. This translation is quoted a number of times in the New Testament, particularly in Pauline epistles, and also by the Apostolic Fathers and later Greek Church Fathers.
The title (Greek: Ἡ μετάφρασις τῶν Ἑβδομήκοντα, lit. "The Translation of the Seventy") and its Roman numeral LXX refer to the legendary seventy Jewish scholars who solely translated the Five Books of Moses into Koine Greek as early as the 3rd century BCE. Separated from the Hebrew canon of the Jewish Bible in Rabbinic Judaism, translations of the Torah into Koine Greek by early Jewish Rabbis have survived as rare fragments only.
The traditional story is that Ptolemy II sponsored the translation of the Torah (Pentateuch, Five Books of Moses). Subsequently, the Greek translation was in circulation among the Alexandrian Jews who were fluent in Koine Greek but not in Hebrew, the former being the lingua franca of Alexandria, Egypt and the Eastern Mediterranean at the time.
- See also Table of books below.
Different Hebrew sources for the MT and the LXX. Evidence of this can be found throughout the Old Testament. Most obvious are major differences in Jeremiah and Job, where the LXX is much shorter and chapters appear in different order than in the MT, and Esther where almost one third of the verses in the LXX text have no parallel in the MT. A more subtle example may be found in Isaiah 36.11; the meaning ultimately remains the same, but the choice of words evidences a different text. The MT reads "...al tedaber yehudit be-'ozne ha`am al ha-homa" [speak not the Judean language in the ears of (or—which can be heard by) the people on the wall]. The same verse in the LXX reads according to the translation of Brenton "and speak not to us in the Jewish tongue: and wherefore speakest thou in the ears of the men on the wall." The MT reads "people" where the LXX reads "men". This difference is very minor and does not affect the meaning of the verse. Scholars at one time had used discrepancies such as this to claim that the LXX was a poor translation of the Hebrew original. With the discovery of the Dead Sea Scrolls, variant Hebrew texts of the Bible were found. In fact this verse is found in Qumran (1QIsaa) where the Hebrew word "haanashim" (the men) is found in place of "haam" (the people). This discovery, and others like it, showed that even seemingly minor differences of translation could be the result of variant Hebrew source texts.
Differences in interpretation stemming from the same Hebrew text. A good example is Genesis 4.7, shown above.
Differences as a result of idiomatic translation issues (i.e. a Hebrew idiom may not easily translate into Greek, thus some difference is intentionally or unintentionally imparted). For example, in Psalm 47:10 the MT reads "The shields of the earth belong to God". The LXX reads "To God are the mighty ones of the earth." The metaphor "shields" would not have made much sense to a Greek speaker; thus the words "mighty ones" are substituted in order to retain the original meaning.
Transmission changes in Hebrew or Greek (Diverging revisionary/recensional changes and copyist errors)
- Proto-Masoretic: This consists of a stable text and numerous and distinctive agreements with the Masoretic Text. About 60% of the Biblical scrolls fall into this category (e.g. 1QIsa-b)
- Pre-Septuagint: These are the manuscripts which have distinctive affinities with the Greek Bible. These number only about 5% of the Biblical scrolls, for example, 4QDeut-q, 4QSam-a, and 4QJer-b, 4QJer-d. In addition to these manuscripts, several others share distinctive individual readings with the Septuagint, although they do not fall in this category.
- The Qumran "Living Bible": These are the manuscripts which, according to Tov, were copied in accordance with the "Qumran practice" (i.e. with distinctive long orthography and morphology, frequent errors and corrections, and a free approach to the text. Such scrolls comprise about 20% of the Biblical corpus, including the Great Isaiah Scroll (1QIsa-a):
- Pre-Samaritan: These are DSS manuscripts which reflect the textual form found in the Samaritan Pentateuch, although the Samaritan Bible itself is later and contains information not found in these earlier scrolls, (e.g. God's holy mountain at Shechem rather than Jerusalem). The Qumran witnesses—which are characterized by orthographic corrections and harmonizations with parallel texts elsewhere in the Pentateuch—comprise about 5% of the Biblical scrolls. (e.g. 4QpaleoExod-m)
- Non-Aligned: This is a category which shows no consistent alignment with any of the other four text-types. These number approximately 10% of the Biblical scrolls, and include 4QDeut-b, 4QDeut-c, 4QDeut-h, 4QIsa-c, and 4QDan-a.
- 1 Shout for joy, O nations, with his people
- 2 For he will avenge the blood of his servants
- 3 And will render vengeance to his adversaries
- 4 And will purge his land, his people.
- 1 Shout for joy, O heavens, with him
- 2 And worship him, all you divine ones
- 3 For he will avenge the blood of his sons
- 4 And he will render vengeance to his adversaries
- 5 And he will recompense the ones hating him
- 6 And he purges the land of his people.
- 1 Shout for joy, O heavens, with him
- 2 And let all the sons of God worship him
- 3 Shout for joy, O nations, with his people
- 4 And let all the angels of God be strong in him
- 5 Because he avenges the blood of his sons
- 6 And he will avenge and recompense justice to his enemies
- 7 And he will recompense the ones hating
- 8 And the Lord will cleanse the land of his people.
- The editio princeps is the Complutensian Polyglot. It was based on manuscripts that are now lost, but seems to transmit quite early readings.
- The Aldine edition (begun by Aldus Manutius) appeared at Venice in 1518. The text is closer to Codex Vaticanus than the Complutensian. The editor says he collated ancient manuscripts but does not specify them. It has been reprinted several times.
- The Roman or Sixtine Septuagint, which uses Codex Vaticanus as the base texts and various other later manuscripts for the lacunae in the uncial manuscript. It was published in 1587 under the direction of Cardinal Antonio Carafa, with the help of a group of Roman scholars (Cardinal Gugliemo Sirleto, Antonio Agelli and Petrus Morinus), by the authority of Sixtus V, to assist the revisers who were preparing the Latin Vulgate edition ordered by the Council of Trent. It has become the textus receptus of the Greek Old Testament and has had many new editions, such as that of Robert Holmes and James Parsons (Oxford, 1798–1827), the seven editions of Constantin von Tischendorf, which appeared at Leipzig between 1850 and 1887, the last two, published after the death of the author and revised by Nestle, the four editions of Henry Barclay Swete (Cambridge, 1887–95, 1901, 1909), etc. A detailed description of this edition has been made by H. B. Swete in his An Introduction to the Old Testament in Greek (1900), pp. 174–182.
- Grabe's edition was published at Oxford, from 1707 to 1720, and reproduced, but imperfectly, the Codex Alexandrinus of London. For partial editions, see Fulcran Vigouroux, Dictionnaire de la Bible, 1643 sqq.
Alfred Rahlfs, a longtime Septuagint researcher at Göttingen, began a manual edition of the Septuagint in 1917 or 1918. The completed Septuaginta was published in 1935. It relies mainly on Vaticanus, Sinaiticus, and Alexandrinus, and presents a critical apparatus with variants from these and several other sources.
- The Göttingen Septuagint (Vetus Testamentum Graecum: Auctoritate Academiae Scientiarum Gottingensis editum) is a major critical version, comprising multiple volumes published from 1931 to 2009 and not yet complete (the largest missing parts are the history books Joshua through Chronicles except Ruth, and the Solomonic books Proverbs through Song of Songs). Its two critical apparatuses present variant Septuagint readings and variants from other Greek versions.
- In 2006, a revision of Alfred Rahlfs's Septuaginta was published by the German Bible Society. This editio altera includes over a thousand changes to the text and apparatus.
Apostolic Bible Polyglot contains a Septuagint text derived mainly from the agreement of any two of the Complutensian Polyglot, the Sixtine, and the Aldine texts.
- Timothy Michael Law, When God Spoke Greek, Oxford University Press, 2013.
- Eberhard Bons and Jan Joosten, eds. Septuagint Vocabulary: Pre-History, Usage, Reception (Society of Biblical Literature; 2011) 211 pages; studies of the language used
- Kantor, Mattis, The Jewish time line encyclopedia: A yearby-year history from Creation to the present, Jason Aronson Inc., London, 1992
Alfred Rahlfs, Verzeichnis der griechischen Handschriften des Alten Testaments, für das Septuaginta-Unternehmen, Göttingen 1914.
- Makrakis, Apostolos, Proofs of the Authenticity of the Septuagint, trans. by D. Cummings, Chicago, Ill.: Hellenic Christian Educational Society, 1947. N.B.: Published and printed with its own pagination, whether as issued separately or as included together with 2 other works of A. Makrakis in a single volume published by the same film in 1950, wherein the translator's name is identified on the common t.p. to that volume.
- W. Emery Barnes, On the Influence of Septuagint on the Peshitta, JTS 1901, pp. 186–197.
- Andreas Juckel, Septuaginta and Peshitta Jacob of Edessa quoting the Old Testament in Ms BL Add 17134 JOURNAL OF SYRIAC STUDIES
- Martin Hengel, The Septuagint As Christian Scripture, Continuum International Publishing Group, 2004.
- Rajak, Tessa, Translation and survival: the Greek Bible of the ancient Jewish Diaspora (Oxford; New York: Oxford University Press, 2009).
- Bart D. Ehrman. The New Testament: A Historical Introduction to the Early Christian Writings; 608 pages, Oxford University Press (July, 2011);
- Hyam Maccoby. The Mythmaker: Paul and the Invention of Christianity; 238 pages, Barnes & Noble Books (1998);
- The Old Testament, by Nicholas King, in four volumes. Kevin Mayhew Publishers. Analytical Translation of The Old Testament (Septuagint), by Gary F. Zeolla, 4 volumes with fifth and final volume on the Apocryphal/Deuterocanonical Books to be published in 2015 by LuLu Publishers. A complete work with literal word for word translation.
Septuagint/Old Greek Texts and Translations LXX finder, listing dozens of editions, both print and digital, in various languages and formats. A good place to start.
Elpenor's Bilingual (Greek / English) Septuagint Old Testament Greek text (full polytonic unicode version) and English translation side by side. Greek text as used by the Orthodox Churches.
Titus Text Collection: Vetus Testamentum graece iuxta LXX interpretes (advanced research tool)
- Septuagint published by the Church of Greece
- Plain text of the whole LXX
Bible Resource Pages – contains Septuagint texts (with diacritics) side-by-side with English translations
The Septuagint in Greek as an MS Word document (requires Vusillus Old Face (Archived index at the Wayback Machine.). Introduction and book abbreviations in Latin.)
- The New English Translation of the Septuagint (NETS), electronic edition
- EOB: Eastern / Greek Orthodox Bible: includes comprehensive introductory materials dealing with Septuagintal issues and an Old Testament which is an extensive revision of the Brenton with footnotes.
The Holy Orthodox Bible translated by Peter A. Papoutsis from the Septuagint (LXX) and the Official Greek New Testament text of the Ecumenical Patriarch.
LXX2012: Septuagint in American English 2012 – The Septuagint with Apocrypha, translated from Greek to English by Sir Lancelot C. L. Brenton and published in 1885, with some language updates by Michael Paul Johnson in 2012 (American English)
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