Saturday, February 08, 2014

Septuagint Day

By a happy coincidence, I both finished a brief piece on the Septuagint today and then discovered it is "Septuagint Day."  Here are some loose thoughts on the Septuagint:
  • The Septuagint, technically, refers to the early Greek translation of the Pentateuch into Greek. However, people often use the word loosely to refer to the whole OT in Greek at the time of Christ.
  • The Letter of Aristeas tells a lovely legend of its translation in Egypt for the library of Alexandria... of course no one thinks it really happened that way.
  • The legend grew, however. Augustine had the translators all translating it independently and miraculously coming up with the same translation. Justin Martyr had them translating the whole OT instead of just the Law.
  • In reality, the LXX (Septuagint), now referring to the whole OT, was translated here and there over a couple hundred years. It may indeed have started in Alexandria around 250BC.
  • The text of such translations was not standardized. In some cases, we have more than one textual tradition (e.g., Daniel).
  • The LXX is in some cases the earliest witness to the text of the OT. The Dead Sea Scrolls (DSS) of course have helped immensely and in some cases confirmed readings of the LXX over the Masoretic text. The Masoretic text dates from the 900s AD and was the basis of the Hebrew Bible behind the KJV and really the old NIV. Versions since the 90s have increasingly engaged the OT text of the DSS more and more.
  • A taste of the difference is Deuteronomy 32:8-9 in the NRSV. I consider this wording overwhelmingly more likely than the wording of the NIV here. Both the DSS and the LXX more or less support the NRSV reading.
  • The LXX was the OT of the NT authors. In several cases, NT authors made points from the Greek text that wouldn't have been clear or possible from the Hebrew (e.g., compare Heb. 10:5 with the Hebrew version of Psalm 40:6). 
  • The LXX included translations of books now treated by Protestants as Apocrypha. Since the LXX was the Bible of the NT authors and the Christians of the first centuries, a stronger case can be made that these books were part of the Bible of the earliest Christians than not.
  • For the Greek Orthodox Church, the text of the LXX remains the Old Testament for them, not the text of the Hebrew Bible.

1 comment:

Pastor Bob said...

Very interesting