The Septuagint

The oldest and most important of all the versions made by Jews is that called "The Septuagint" ("Interpretatio septuaginta virorum" or "seniorum"). It is a monument of the Greek spoken by the large and important Jewish community of Alexandria; not of classic Greek, nor even of the Hellenistic style affected by Alexandrian writers. If the account given by Aristeas be true, some traces of Palestinian influence should be found; but a study of the Egyptian papyri, which are abundant for this particular period, is said by both Mahaffy and Deissmann to show a very close similarity between the language they represent and that of the Septuagint, not to mention the Egyptian words already recognized by both Hody and Eichhorn. These papyri have in a measure reinstated Aristeas (about 200 B.C.) in the opinion of scholars. Upon his "Letter to Philocrates" the tradition as to the origin of the Septuagint rests. It is now believed that even though he may have been mistaken in some points, his facts in general are worthy of credence. According to Aristeas, the Pentateuch was translated at the time of Philadelphus, the second Ptolemy (285–247 B.C.), which translation was encouraged by the king and welcomed by the Jews of Alexandria. Grätz stands alone in assigning it to the reign of Philometor (181–146 B.C.). Whatever share the king may have had in the work, it evidently satisfied a pressing need felt by the Jewish community, among whom a knowledge of Hebrew was rapidly waning before the demands of every-day life.

It is not known when the other books of the Bible were rendered into Greek. The grandson of Ben Sira (132 B.C.), in the prologue to his translation of his grandfather's work, speaks of the "Law, Prophets, and the rest of the books" as being already current in his day. A Greek Chronicles is mentioned by Eupolemus (middle of second century B.C.); Aristeas, the historian, quotes Job; a foot-note to the Greek Esther seems to show that that book was in circulation before the end of the second century B.C.; and the Septuagint Psalter is quoted in I Macc. vii. 17. It is therefore more than probable that the whole of the Bible was translated into Greek before the beginning of the Christian era. The large number of Greek-speaking Jewish communities in Palestine, Syria, Mesopotamia, Asia Minor, and northern Africa must have facilitated its spread in all these regions. The quotations from the Old Testament found in the New are in the main taken from the Septuagint; and even where the citation is indirect the influence of this version is clearly seen. This will also explain in a measure the undoubted influence of the Septuagint upon the Syriac translation called the Peshitta.

Being a composite work, the translation varies in the different books. In the Pentateuch, naturally, it adheres most closely to the original; in Job it varies therefrom most widely. In some books (e.g., Daniel) the influence of the Jewish Midrash is more apparent than in others. Where it is literal it is "intolerable as a literary work" (Swete). The translation, which shows at times a peculiar ignorance of Hebrew usage, was evidently made from a codex which differed widely in places from the text crystallized by the Masorah. Its influence upon the Greek-speaking Jews must have been great. In course of time it came to be the canonical Greek Bible, as Luther's translation became the German, and the Authorized Version the English. It is the version used by the Jewish Hellenistic writers, Demetrius, Eupolemus, Artabanus, Aristeas, Ezekiel, and Aristobulus, as well as in the Book of Wisdom, the translation of Ben Sira, and the Jewish Sibyllines. Hornemann, Siegfried, and Ryle have shown that Philo bases his citations from the Bible on the Septuagint Version, though he has no scruple about modifying them or citing them with much freedom. Josephus follows this translation closely. It became part of the Bible of the Christian Church.

Septuaginta

Γένεσις

Ἔξοδος

Λευϊτικόν

Ἀριθμοί

Δευτερονόμιον

Ἰησοῦς

Κριταί

̒Ροὺθ

Βασιλειῶν αʹ

Βασιλειῶν βʹ

Βασιλειῶν γʹ

Βασιλειῶν δʹ

Παραλειπομένων αʹ

Παραλειπομένων βʹ

Ἔσδρας αʹ

Ἔσδρας βʹ

Ἐσθήρ

Τωβίτ

Ἰουδίθ

Μακκαβαίων αʹ

Μακκαβαίων βʹ

Μακκαβαίων γʹ

Μακκαβαίων δʹ

Ψαλμοί

Ὠδαί

Παροιμίαι

Ἐκκλησιαστής

Ἆσμα

Ψαλμοὶ Σολομῶντος

Σοφία Σαλωμῶνος

Σοφία Σιράχ

Ἰώβ

Ὠσηέ

Ἀμώς

Μιχαίας

Ἰωήλ

Ἀβδιού

Ἰωνᾶς

Ναούμ

Ἀμβακούμ

Σοφονίας

Ἀγγαῖος

Ζαχαρίας

Μαλαχίας

Ἠσαΐας

Ἱερεμίας

Θρῆνοι

Βαρούχ

Ἑπιστολὴ Ἱερεμίου

Ἰεζεκιήλ

Σουσάννα

Δανιήλ

Βὴλ καὶ Δράκων


Septuaginta: Id est Vetus Testamentum graece iuxta LXX interpretes. Edidit Alfred Rahlfs. 2 vols. Stuttgart: Deutsche Bibelgesellschaft, 1979.




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