AskDefine | Define Septuagint

Dictionary Definition

Septuagint n : the oldest Greek version of the Old Testament; said to have been translated from the Hebrew by Jewish scholars at the request of Ptolemy II

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Proper noun

  1. An ancient translation of the Hebrew Bible into Greek, undertaken by Jews resident in Alexandria for the benefit of Jews who had forgotten their Hebrew (well before the birth of Jesus); abbreviated as LXX ("the seventy", for the reputed 70 scholars who did the work). The LXX is the untranslated standard version of the Old Testament for the Greek Orthodox Church, but not for the Western Church, which since Jerome, has adhered to the Masoretic text. In the original Greek New Testament, when Jesus quotes the Old Testament, he is made to quote the LXX, which tends to disagree with the Masoretic text.


Extensive Definition

The Septuagint (), or simply "LXX", is the Koine Greek version of the Hebrew Bible, translated in stages between the 3rd and 1st centuries BC in Alexandria. The Septuagint also includes some books not found in the Hebrew Bible.
It is the oldest of several ancient translations of the Hebrew Bible into Greek, lingua franca of the eastern Mediterranean since Alexander the Great (356-323 BC). The word septuaginta means "seventy" in Latin and derives from a tradition that seventy (or seventy-two) Jewish scholars translated the Pentateuch (Torah) from Hebrew into Greek for Ptolemy II Philadelphus, 285–246 BC.
Many Protestant Bibles follow the Jewish canon and exclude the additional books. Roman Catholics, however, include some of these books in their canon while Eastern Orthodox Churches use all the books of the Septuagint. Anglican lectionaries also use all of the books except Psalm 151, and the full King James Bible in its Authorized Version includes these additional books in a separate section labeled Apocrypha.
The Septuagint was held with great respect in ancient times; Philo and Josephus ascribed divine inspiration to its authors. Of significance for all Christians and for Bible scholars, the LXX is quoted by the Christian New Testament and by the Apostolic Fathers. While Jews have not used the LXX in worship or religious study since the second century AD, recent scholarship has brought renewed interest in it in Judaic Studies. Some of the Dead Sea scrolls attest to Hebrew texts other than those on which the Masoretic Text was based; in many cases, these newly found texts accord with the LXX version. The oldest surviving codices of LXX (Codex Vaticanus and Codex Sinaiticus) date to the fourth century AD. The quality and style of the different translators also varied considerably from book to book, from the literal to paraphrasing to interpretative. According to one assessment "the Pentateuch is reasonably well translated, but the rest of the books, especially the poetical books, are often very poorly done and even contain sheer absurdities".
As the work of translation progressed gradually, and new books were added to the collection, the compass of the Greek Bible came to be somewhat indefinite. The Pentateuch always maintained its pre-eminence as the basis of the canon; but the prophetic collection changed its aspect by having various hagiographa incorporated into it. Some of the newer works, those called anagignoskomena in Greek, are not included in the Hebrew canon. Among these books are Maccabees and the Wisdom of Ben Sira. Also, the Septuagint version of some works, like Daniel and Esther, are longer than those in the Masoretic Text. Some of the later books (Wisdom of Solomon, 2 Maccabees, and others) apparently were composed in Greek.
The authority of the larger group of writings, out of which the ketuvim were selected, had not yet been determined, although some sort of selective process must have been employed because the Septuagint did not include other well-known Jewish documents such as Enoch or Jubilees or other writings that are now part of the Pseudepigrapha. It is not known what principles were used to determine the contents of the Septuagint beyond the Law and the Prophets.

Naming and designation

The Septuagint derives its name from Latin septuaginta interpretum versio, (Greek: η μετάφραση των εβδομήκοντα) "translation of the seventy interpreters" (hence the abbreviation LXX). The Latin title refers to a legendary account in the pseudepigraphic Letter of Aristeas of how seventy-two Jewish scholars were asked by the Greek King of Egypt Ptolemy II Philadelphus in the 3rd century BC to translate the Torah for inclusion in the Library of Alexandria. A later version of that legend narrated by Philo of Alexandria states that although the translators were kept in separate chambers, they all produced identical versions of the text in seventy-two days. Although this story may be improbable, it underlines the fact that some ancient Jews wished to present the translation as authoritative.
Around AD 235, Origen, a Christian scholar in Alexandria, completed the Hexapla, a comprehensive comparison of the ancient versions and Hebrew text side-by-side in six columns, with diacritical markings (a.k.a. "editor's marks", "critical signs" or "Aristarchian signs"). Much of this work was lost, but several compilations of the fragments are available. In the first column was the contemporary Hebrew, in the second a Greek transliteration of it, then the newer Greek versions each in their own columns. Origen also kept a column for the Old Greek (the Septuagint) and next to it was a critical apparatus combining readings from all the Greek versions with diacritical marks indicating to which version each line(Gr. στἰχος) belonged. Perhaps the voluminous Hexapla was never copied in its entirety, but Origen's combined text ("the fifth column") was copied frequently, eventually without the editing marks, and the older uncombined text of the LXX was neglected. Thus this combined text became the first major Christian recension of the LXX, often called the Hexaplar recension. In the century following Origen, two other major recensions were identified by Jerome, who attributed these to Lucian and Hesychius.
These issues notwithstanding, the text of the LXX is in general close to that of the Masoretic. For example, Genesis 4:1-6 is identical in both the LXX and the Masoretic Text. Likewise, Genesis 4:8 to the end of the chapter is the same. There is only one noticeable difference in that chapter, at 4:7, to wit:
Genesis 4:7, LXX (NETS) Genesis 4:7, Masoretic (NRSV)
If you offer correctly but do not divide correctly, have you not sinned? Be still; his recourse is to you, and you will rule over him. If you do well, will you not be accepted? And if you do not do well, sin is lurking at the door; its desire is for you, but you must master it.
This instance illustrates the complexity of assessing differences between the LXX and the Masoretic Text. Despite the striking divergence of meaning here between the two, nearly identical consonantal Hebrew source texts can be reconstructed. The readily apparent semantic differences result from alternative strategies for interpreting the difficult verse and relate to differences in vowelization and punctuation of the consonantal text.
The differences between the LXX and the MT thus fall into four categories.
  1. 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 " 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 Breton "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.
  2. Differences in interpretation stemming from the same Hebrew text. A good example is Genesis 4.7 shown above.
  3. 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.
  4. Transmission changes in Hebrew or Greek (Diverging revisionary/recensional changes and copyist errors)

Use of the Septuagint

Jewish use

By the 3rd century BC, Jewry was situated primarily within the Hellenistic world. Outside of Judea, many Jews may have needed synagogue readings or texts for religious study to be interpreted into Greek, producing a need for the LXX. Alexandria held the greatest diaspora Jewish community of the age and was also a great center of Greek letters. Alexandria is thus likely the site of LXX authorship, a notion supported by the legend of Ptolemy and the 72 scholars. The Septuagint enjoyed widespread use in the Hellenistic Jewish diaspora and even in Jerusalem, which had become a rather cosmopolitan (and therefore Greek-speaking) town. Both Philo and Josephus show a reliance on the Septuagint in their citations of Jewish scripture.
Starting approximately in the 2nd century, several factors led most Jews to abandon the LXX. Christians naturally used the LXX since it was the only Greek version available to the earliest Christians; and since Christians, as a group, had rapidly become overwhelmingly gentile and, therefore, unfamiliar with Hebrew. The association of the LXX with a rival religion may have rendered it suspect in the eyes of the newer generation of Jews and Jewish scholars.
What was perhaps most significant for the LXX, as distinct from other Greek versions, was that the LXX began to lose Jewish sanction after differences between it and contemporary Hebrew scriptures were discovered. Even Greek-speaking Jews — such as those remaining in Palestine — tended less to the LXX, preferring other Jewish versions in Greek, such as that of Aquila, which seemed to be more concordant with contemporary Hebrew texts.
When Jerome undertook the revision of the Old Latin translations of the Septuagint, he checked the Septuagint against the Hebrew that was then available. He came to believe that the Hebrew text better testified to Christ than the Septuagint. He broke with church tradition and translated most of the Old Testament of his Vulgate from Hebrew rather than Greek. His choice was severely criticized by Augustine, his contemporary; a flood of still less moderate criticism came from those who regarded Jerome as a forger. But with the passage of time, acceptance of Jerome's version gradually increased until it displaced the Old Latin translations of the Septuagint. This confirms the scholarly consensus that the LXX represents a separate Hebrew-text tradition from that which was later standardized as the Masoretic text.

Language of the Septuagint

Some sections of the Septuagint may show Semiticisms, or idioms and phrases based on Semitic languages like Hebrew and Aramaic. One must, however, evaluate such evidence with caution since it is extremely unlikely that all ancient Hebrew sounds had precise Greek equivalents.

Books of the Septuagint

See also Table of books below.
All the books of western canons of the Old Testament are found in the Septuagint, although the order does not always coincide with the Western ordering of the books. The Septuagint order for the Old Testament is evident in the earliest Christian Bibles (5th century).
  • 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 most important edition is the Roman or Sixtine, which reproduces the Codex Vaticanus" almost exclusively. It was published under the direction of Cardinal Caraffa, with the help of various savants, in 1586, 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 Holmes and Pearsons (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.
  • Grabe's edition was published at Oxford, from 1707 to 1720, and reproduced, but imperfectly, the "Codex Alexandrinus" of London. For partial editions, see Vigouroux, "Dict. de la Bible", 1643 sqq.
  • Alfred Rahlfs, a longtime Septuagint researcher at Göttingen, began a pocket 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 2006 and not yet complete. 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.
  • The 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.

Translations of the Septuagint

The Septuagint has been translated a few times into English, the first one (though excluding the Apocrypha) being that of Charles Thomson in 1808 (his translation was later Revised And Enlarged by C.A. Muses in 1954). The translation of Sir Lancelot C. L. Brenton, published in 1851, is a longtime standard. For most of the time since its publication it has been the only one readily available, and has been in print continually since. It is based primarily upon the Codex Vaticanus and contains the Greek and English texts in parallel columns. There also is a revision of the Brenton Septuagint available through Stauros Ministries, called The Apostles' Bible. The latest revision was released in January 2008.
A recent interlinear translation (2007) is The Apostolic Bible Polyglot, which includes the Greek books of the Hebrew canon along with the Greek New Testament, all numerically coded to the AB-Strong numbering system, and set in monotonic orthography. Included in the printed edition is The Lexical Concordance of The Apostolic Bible and The English-Greek Index. Online is The comprehensive Concordance of The Apostolic Bible, The Analytical Lexicon and a grammar.
A new translation into English has recently been completed for use as the Old Testament portion of the Orthodox Study Bible. This version was released in early 2008, along with extensive commentary from an Eastern Orthodox perspective.
The International Organization for Septuagint and Cognate Studies (IOSCS) has produced A New English Translation of the Septuagint and the Other Greek Translations Traditionally Included Under that Title (NETS), an academic translation based on standard critical editions of the Greek texts. It was published by Oxford Press in October of 2007.
The Eastern Greek/ Orthodox Bible (EOB OT) is an extensive revision and correction of Brenton’s translation which was primarily based on Codex Vaticanus. Its language and syntax has been modernized and simplified. It also includes extensive introductory material and footnotes featuring significant inter-LXX and LXX/MT variants.

Defining Septuagint

Although the integrity of the Septuagint as a text distinct from the Masoretic is upheld by Dead Sea scroll evidence, the LXX does show signs of age in that textual variants are attested. There is at least one highly unreliable nearly complete text of the LXX, Codex Alexandrinus. Nearly complete texts of the Septuagint are also found in the Codex Vaticanus and Codex Sinaiticus, which do not perfectly coincide. But the LXX is a particularly excellent text when compared to other ancient works with textual variants. To reject the existence of a Septuagint merely on the basis of variation due to editorial recension and typographical error is unjustified.
The title "Septuagint" is of course not to be confused with the seven or more other Greek versions of the Old Testament, most of which do not survive except as fragments. These other Greek versions were once in side-by-side columns of Origen's Hexapla, now almost wholly lost. Of these the most important are "the three:" those by Aquila, Symmachus, and Theodotion, which are identified by particular Semiticisms and placement of Hebrew and Aramaic characters within their Greek texts.
One of two Old Greek texts of the Book of Daniel has been recently rediscovered and work is ongoing in reconstructing the original form of the Septuagint as a whole.}}||I Reigns||I Samuel |- |style="text-indent:1em"|||II Reigns||II Samuel |- |style="text-indent:1em"|||III Reigns||I Kings |- |style="text-indent:1em"|||IV Reigns||II Kings |- |style="text-indent:1em"|||Things Omitted I||I Chronicles |- |style="text-indent:1em"|||Things Omitted II||II Chronicles |- |style="text-indent:1em"|||I Esdras||1 Esdras; |- |style="text-indent:1em"|||II Esdras||Ezra-Nehemiah |- |style="text-indent:1em"|||Esther ||Esther with additions |- |style="text-indent:1em"|||Ioudith||Judith |- |style="text-indent:1em"|||Tobit||Tobit or Tobias |- |style="text-indent:1em"|||I Maccabees||1 Maccabees |- |style="text-indent:1em"|||II Maccabees||2 Maccabees |- |style="text-indent:1em"|||III Maccabees||3 Maccabees |- !colspan=3|Wisdom |- |style="text-indent:1em"|||Psalms||Psalms |- |style="text-indent:2em"|||Psalm 151||Psalm 151 |- |style="text-indent:1em"|||Prayer of Manasseh||Prayer of Manasseh |- |style="text-indent:1em"|||Iōb||Job |- |style="text-indent:1em"|||Proverbs||Proverbs |- |style="text-indent:1em"|||Ecclesiastes||Ecclesiastes |- |style="text-indent:1em"|||Song of Songs||Song of Solomon |- |style="text-indent:1em"|||Wisdom of Solomon ||Wisdom |- |style="text-indent:1em"|||Wisdom of Jesus the son of Seirach||Sirach or Ecclesiasticus |- !colspan=3|Prophets |- !style="text-indent:1em"|||The Twelve||Minor Prophets |-style="text-indent:2em" |||I. Osëe||Hosea |-style="text-indent:2em" |||II. Ämōs||Amos |-style="text-indent:2em" |||III. Michaias||Micah |-style="text-indent:2em" |||IV. Ioel ||Joel |-style="text-indent:2em" | ||V. Obdias||Obadiah |-style="text-indent:2em" |||VI. Ionas||Jonah |-style="text-indent:2em" |||VII. Naoum||Nahum |-style="text-indent:2em" |||VIII. Ambakum||Habakkuk |-style="text-indent:2em" |||IX. Sophonias||Zephaniah |-style="text-indent:2em" |||X. Ängaios||Haggai |-style="text-indent:2em" |||XI. Zacharias||Zachariah |-style="text-indent:2em" |||XII. Messenger||Malachi |- |style="text-indent:1em"|||Hesaias||Isaiah |- |style="text-indent:1em"|||Hieremias||Jeremiah |- |style="text-indent:1em"|||Baruch ||Baruch |- |style="text-indent:1em"|||Lamentations||Lamentations |- |style="text-indent:1em"|||Epistle of Jeremiah||Letter of Jeremiah; |- |style="text-indent:1em"|||Iezekiêl||Ezekiel |- |style="text-indent:1em"|||Daniêl ||Daniel with additions |- !colspan=3|Appendix |- |style="text-indent:1em"|||IV Maccabees||4 Maccabees |- |}


See also

Texts and translations

The LXX and the NT

Septuagint in Arabic: السبعونية
Septuagint in Czech: Septuaginta
Septuagint in Danish: Septuaginta
Septuagint in German: Septuaginta
Septuagint in Estonian: Septuaginta
Septuagint in Modern Greek (1453-): Μετάφραση των Εβδομήκοντα
Septuagint in Spanish: Septuaginta
Septuagint in Esperanto: Septuaginto
Septuagint in French: Septante
Septuagint in Korean: 70인역
Septuagint in Indonesian: Septuaginta
Septuagint in Interlingua (International Auxiliary Language Association): Septuaginta
Septuagint in Italian: Septuaginta
Septuagint in Hebrew: תרגום השבעים
Septuagint in Javanese: Septuaginta
Septuagint in Kazakh: Септуагинта
Septuagint in Latin: Septuaginta
Septuagint in Hungarian: Septuaginta
Septuagint in Malayalam: സെപ്ത്വജിന്റ്
Septuagint in Dutch: Septuagint
Septuagint in Japanese: 七十人訳聖書
Septuagint in Norwegian: Septuaginta
Septuagint in Norwegian Nynorsk: Septuaginta
Septuagint in Polish: Septuaginta
Septuagint in Portuguese: Septuaginta
Septuagint in Romanian: Septuaginta
Septuagint in Russian: Септуагинта
Septuagint in Serbian: Септуагинта
Septuagint in Scots: Septuagint
Septuagint in Simple English: Septuagint
Septuagint in Slovak: Septuaginta
Septuagint in Slovenian: Septuaginta
Septuagint in Finnish: Septuaginta
Septuagint in Swedish: Septuaginta
Septuagint in Ukrainian: Септуаґінта
Septuagint in Chinese: 七十士譯本
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