Septuagint, part 3

The International Standard Bible Encyclopedia (1915)

VI. Reconstruction of Septuagint Text; Versions, Manuscripts and Printed Editions

The task of restoring the original text is beset with difficulties. The materials (MSS, VSS, patristic citations) are abundant, but none has escaped "mixture," and the principles for reconstruction are not yet securely established (Swete, Introduction, I, iv-vi; III, vi).

1. Ancient Versions Made from Septuagint

Among the chief aids to restoration are the daughter versions made from the Septuagint, and above all the Old Latin (pre-Hieronymian) version, for the earliest (African) Old Latin version dates from the 2nd century AD, i.e. before Origen, and contains a text from which the asterisked passages in Hexaplaric manuscripts are absent; it thus "brings us the best independent proof we have that the Hexaplar signs introduced by Origen can be relied on for the reconstruction of the LXX" (Burkitt). The Old Latin also enables us to recognize the ancient element in the Lucianic recension. But the Latin evidence itself is by no means unanimous. Augustine (De Doctr. Christ., ii.16) speaks of the infinite variety of Latin VSS; though they may ultimately prove all to fall into two main families, African and European. Peter Sabatier's collection of patristic quotations from the Old Latin is still useful, though needing verification by recent editions of the Fathers. Of Old Latin manuscripts one of the most important is the codex Lugdunensis, edited by U. Robert (Pentateuchi e codex Lugd. versio Latin antiquissima, Paris, 1881; Heptateuchi partis post. versio Latin antiq. e codex Lugd., Lyons, 1900). The student should consult also Burkitt's edition of The Rules of Tyconius ("Texts and Studies," III, 1, Cambridge, 1894) and The Old Latin and the Itala (ibid., IV, 3, 1896).

Jerome's Vulgate is mainly a direct translation from the Hebrew, but the Vulgate Psalter, the so-called Gallican, is one of Jerome's two revisions of the Old Latin, not his later version from the Hebrew, and some details in our Prayer-book Psalter are ultimately derived through the Vulgate Psalter from the Septuagint. Parts of the Apocrypha (Wisdom, Ecclesiasticus, Baruch, 1 and 2 Maccabees) are also pure Old Latin, untouched by Jerome.

The early date (2nd century AD) once claimed for the Egyptian or Coptic versions (Bohairic, i.e. in the dialect of Lower Egypt, Sahidic or Upper Egyptian and Middle Egyptian) has not been confirmed by later researches, at least as regards the first-named, which is probably not earlier than the 3rd or 4th century AD. Rahlfs (Sept-Studien, II, 1907) identifies the Bohairic Psalter as the Hesychian recension. The Sahidic version of Job has fortunately preserved the shorter text lacking the later insertions from Theodotion (Lagarde, Mittheilungen, 1884, 204); this does not conclusively prove that it is pre-Origenic; it may be merely a Hexaplaric text with the asterisked passages omitted (Burkitt, EB, IV, 5027). The influence bf the Hexapla is traceable elsewhere in this version.

The Ethiopic version was made in the main from the Greek and in part at least from an early text; Rahlfs (Sept. Stud., I, 1904) considers its text of S-K, with that of codex B, to be pre-Origenic.

The vulgar or Peshitta Syriac version was made from the Hebrew, though partly influenced by the Septuagint. But another Syriac version is of primary importance for the Septuagint text, namely, that of Paul, bishop of Tella (Constantine in Mesopotamia), executed at Alexandria in 616-17 and known as the Syro-Hexaplar. This is a bald Syriac version of the Septuagint column of the Hexapla, containing the Hexaplar signs. A manuscript of the poetical and prophetical books is in the Ambrosian Library at Milan and has been edited by Ceriani (Monumenta sacra et profana, 1874); fragments of the historical books are also extant (Lagarde and Rahlfs, Bibliothecae Syriacae, Gottingen, 1892). This version supplements the Greek Hexaplaric manuscripts and is the principal authority for Origen's text. For the original version of Daniel, which has survived in only one late MS, the Syro-Hexaplar supplies a second and older authority of great value.

The Armenian version (ascribed to the 5th century) also owes its value to its extreme literalness; its text of the Octateuch is largely Hexaplaric.

A bare mention must suffice of the Arabic version (of which the prophetical and poetical books, Job excluded, were rendered from the Septuagint); the fragments of the Gothic version (made from the Lucianic recension), and the Slavonic (partly from Septuagint, also Lucianic) and the Georgian versions.

2. Manuscripts

For a full description of the Greek manuscripts see Swete, Introduction, I, chapter V. They are divided according to their script (capitals or minuscules) into uncials and cursives, the former ranging from the 4th century (four papyrus scraps go back to the 3rd century; Nestle in Hauck-Herzog, Realencyklopadie fur protestantische Theologie und Kirche, XXIII, 208) to the 10th century AD, the latter from the 9th to the 16th century AD. Complete Bibles are few; the majority contain groups of books only, such as the Pentateuch, Octateuch (Gen-Ruth), the later historical books, the Psalter, the 3 or 5 "Solomonic" books, the Prophets (major, minor or both). Uncials are commonly denoted by capital letters (in the edition of Holmes and Parsons by Roman figures); cursives, of which over 300 are known, by Arabic figures; in the larger Cambridge Septuagint the selected cursives are denoted by small Roman letters.

The following are the chief uncials containing, or which once contained, the whole Bible: B (Vaticanus, at Rome, 4th century AD), adopted as the standard text in all recent editions; aleph (Codex Sinaiticus, at Petersburg and Leipzig, 4th century AD), discovered by Tischendorf in 1844 and subsequent years in Catherine's Convent, Mt. Sinai; A (Alexandrinus, British Museum, probably 5th century AD); C (Ephraemi rescriptus, Paris, probably 5th century), a palimpsest, the older Biblical matter underlying a medieval Greek text of works of Ephrem the Syrian. For the Octateuch and historical books: D (Cottonianus, British Museum, probably 5th or 6th century), fragments of an illuminated Gen, the bulk of which perished in a fire at Ashburnham House in 1731, but earlier collations of Grabe and others are extant, which for the lost portions are cited in the Cambridge texts as D (Dsil, i.e. silet Grabius, denotes an inference from Grabe's silence that the manuscript did not contain a variant); F (Ambrosianus, Milan, 4th to 5th century), fragments of the Octateuch; G (Sarravianus, fragments at Leyden, Paris and Petersburg, 4th to 5th century), important as containing an Origenic text with the Hexaplar signs; L (Purpureus Vindobonensis, Vienna, 5th to 6th century), fragments of an illuminated manuscript Genesis on purple vellum; M (Coislinianus, Paris, 7th century), important on account of its marginal Hexaplaric matter. For the Prophets, Q (Marchalianus, Rome, 6th century) is valuable, both for its text, which is "Hesychian" (see above), and for its abundant marginal Hexaplaric matter. A curious mixture of uncial and cursive writing occurs in E (Bodleianus, probably 10th century), fragments of the historical books (to 1 Kings 16:28) preserved at Oxford, Cambridge (1 leaf), Petersburg and London; Tischendorf, who brought the manuscript from the East, retained the tell-tale Cambridge leaf, on which the transition from uncial to cursive script occurs, until his death. The long-concealed fact that the scattered fragments were part of a single manuscript came to light through Swete's identification of the Cambridge leaf as a continuation of the Bodleian fragment. Many of the cursives still await investigation, as do also the lectionaries. The latter, though the manuscripts are mainly late, should repay study. The use of the Septuagint for lectionary purposes was inherited by the church from the synagogue, and the course of lessons may partly represent an old system; light may also be expected from them on the local distribution of various types of text.

3. Printed Texts

Of the printed text the first four editions were (1) the Complutensian Polyglot of Cardinal Ximenes, 1514-17, comprising the Greek, Hebrew and Vulgate texts, the last in the middle place of honor being compared to Jesus in the midst between the two thieves (!). The Greek was based on manuscripts from the Vatican and one from Venice; it exhibits on the whole the Lucianic recension, as the Hesychian is by a curious coincidence represented in (2) the Aldine edition of 1518, based on Venetian manuscripts. (3) The monumental Sixtine edition, published at Rome in 1586 under the auspices of Pope Sixtus V and frequently reprinted, was mainly based on the codex Vaticanus, the superiority of which text is justly recognized in the interesting preface (printed in Swete's Intro) (4) The English edition (Oxford, 1707-20) begun by Grabe (died 1712) was based on the codex Alexandrinus, with aid from other manuscripts, and had the peculiarity that he employed Origen's critical signs and different sizes of type to show the divergence between the Greek and the Hebrew. Of more recent editions three are preeminent. (5) The great Oxford edition of Holmes and Parsons (Oxford, 1798-1827, 5 volumes, folio) was the first attempt to bring together in a gigantic apparatus criticus all the evidence of uncial and cursire manuscripts (upward of 300), versions and early citations from Philo and Josephus onward. As a monumental storehouse of materials "H. and P." will not be wholly superseded by the latest edition now (1913) in preparation. (6) The serviceable Cambridge "manual," edition of Swete (lst edition 1887-94, edition 3, 1901-7, 3 volumes, 8vo), is in the hands of all serious Septuagint students. The text is that of B, or (where B fails) of A, and the apparatus contains the readings of the principal uncial manuscripts. New materials discovered since the edition of H. and P., especially codex Sinaiticus, are employed, and greater accuracy in the presentation of the other evidence has been made possible by photography. The fact that the text here printed is but a provisional one is sometimes overlooked. Swete's edition was designed as a precursor to (7) the larger Cambridge Septuagint, of which three installments embracing the Pentateuch have (1913) appeared (The Old Testament in Greek, edited by A.E. Brooke and N. McLean, Cambridge, 1911 pt. III. Numbers and Deuteronomy). The text is a reprint of Swete's except that from Exodus onward a few alterations of errors in the primary manuscript have been corrected, a delicate task in which the editors have rejected a few old readings without sufficient regard to the peculiarities of Hellenistic Greek. The importance of the work lies in its apparatus, which presents the readings of all the uncials, versions and early citations, and those of a careful representative selection of the cursives. The materials of H. and P. are brought up to date and presented in a more reliable and convenient form. Besides these there is (8) Lagarde's reconstruction of the Lucianic recension of the historical books, which, as stated, must be used with caution (see above).

4. Reconstruction of Original Text

The task of reconstructing the Oldest text is still unaccomplished. Materials have accumulated, and much preliminary "spade-work" has been done, by Lagarde in particular (see his "axioms" in Swete, Introduction, 484,) and more recently by Nestle and Rahlfs; but the principles which the editor must follow are not yet finally determined. The extent to which "mixture" has affected the documents is the stumbling-block. Clearly no single Moabite Stone presents the oldest text. That of codex B, as in the New Testament, is on the whole the purest. In the 4 books of "Reigns" (1 Samuel through 2 Kings), e.g., it has escaped the grosser interpolations found in most manuscripts, and Rahlfs (Sept.-Studien, I, 1904) regards its text as pre-Origenic. It is, however, of unequal value and by no means an infallible guide; in Judges, e.g., its text is undoubtedly late, no earlier than the 4th century AD, according to one authority (Moore, "Judges," ICC). In relation to two of the 4th-century recensions its text is neutral, neither predominantly Lucianic nor Hexaplaric; but it has been regarded by some authorities as Hesychian. Possibly the recension made in the country which produced the Septuagint adhered more closely than others to the primitive text; some "Hesychian" features in the B text may prove to be original. Still even its purest portions contain marks of editorial revision and patent corruptions. Codex Alexandrinus presents a quite different type of text, approximating to that of the Massoretic Text. In the books of "Reigns" it is practically a Hexaplaric text without the critical signs, the additional matter being mainly derived from Aquila. Yet that it contains an ancient element is shown by the large support given to its readings by the New Testament and early Christian writers. Individual manuscripts must give place to groups. In order to reconstruct the texts current before Origen's time, it is necessary to isolate the groups containing the three 4th-century recensions, and to eliminate from the recensions thus recovered all Hexaplaric matter and such changes as appear to have been introduced by the authors of those recensions. Other groups brought to light by the larger Cambridge text have also to be taken into account. The attempt to penetrate into the earlier stages of the history is the hardest task. The Old Latin version is here the surest guide; it has preserved readings which have disappeared from all Greek manuscripts, and affords a criterion as to the relative antiquity of the Greek variants. The evidence of early Christian and Jewish citations is also valuable. Ultimately, after elimination of all readings proved to be "recensional" or late, the decision between outstanding variants must depend on internal evidence. These variants will fall into two classes: (1) those merely affecting the Greek text, by far the larger number and presenting less difficulty; (2) those which imply a different Hebrew text. In adjudicating on the latter Lagarde's main axioms have to be borne in mind, that a free translation is to be preferred to a slavishly literal one, and a translation presupposing another Hebrew original to one based on the Massoretic Text.

VII. Number, Titles and Order of Books

1. Contents

In addition to the Hebrew canonical books, the Septuagint includes all the books in the English Apocrypha except 2 Esdras (The Prayer of Manasseh only finds a place among the canticles appended in some manuscripts to the Psalms) besides a 3rd and 4th book of Maccabees. Swete further includes in his text as an appendix of Greek books on the borderland of canonicity the Psalms of Solomon (found in some cursives and mentioned in the list in codex A), the Greek fragments of the Book of Enoch and the ecclesiastical canticles above mentioned. Early Christian writers in quoting freely from these additional books as Scripture doubtless perpetuate a tradition inherited from the Jews of Alexandria. Most of the books being original Greek compositions were ipso facto excluded from a place in the Hebrew Canon. Greater latitude as regards canonicity prevailed at Alexandria; the Pentateuch occupied a place apart, but as regards later books no very sharp line of demarcation between "canonical" and "uncanonical" appears to have been drawn.

2. Titles

Palestinian Jews employed the first word or words of each book of the Pentateuch to serve as its title; Genesis e.g. was denoted "in the beginning," Exodus "(and these are the) names"; a few of the later books have similar titles. It is to the Septuagint, through the medium of the Latin VSS, that we owe the familiar descriptive titles, mostly suggested by phrases in the Greek version. In some books there are traces of rival titles in the Ptolemaic age. Exodus ("outgoing") is also called Exagoge ("leading out") by Philo and by the Hellenist Ezekiel who gave that name to his drama on the deliverance from Egypt. Philo has also alternative names for Deuteronomy -- Epinomis ("after-law") borrowed from the title of a pseudo-Platonic treatise, and for Judges, "the Book of Judgments." The last title resembles the Alexandrian name for the books of Samuel and Kings, namely, the four Books of Kingdoms or rather Reigns; the name may have been given in the first place to a partial version including only the reigns of the first few monarchs. Jerome's influence in this case restored the old Hebrew names as also in Chronicles (= Hebrew "Words of Days," "Diaries"), which in the Septuagint is entitled Paraleipomena, "omissions," as being a supplement to the Books of Reigns.

3. Bipartition of Books

Another innovation, due apparently to the Greek translators or later editors, was the breaking up of some of the long historical narratives into volumes of more manageable compass. In the Hebrew manuscripts, Samuel, Kings, Chronicles, Ezra-Nehemiah form respectively one book apiece. In the Septuagint the first three of these collections are subdivided into two volumes as in modern Bibles; an acquaintance with the other arrangement is, however, indicated in Codex B by the insertion at the end of 1 Regnorum (1 Samuel), 3 Regnorum (1 Kings), 1 Chronicles of the first sentence of the succeeding book, a reminder to the reader that a continuation is to follow. Ezra-Nehemiah, the Greek version (2 Esdras) being made under the influence of Palestinian tradition, remains undivided. Originally Chronicles-Ezra-Nehemiah formed a unit, as was apparently still the case when the oldest Greek version (1 Esdras) was made.

4. Grouping and Order of Books

In the arrangement of books there is a radical departure from Palestinian practice. There were three main unalterable divisions in the Hebrew Bible, representing three stages in the formation of the Canon: Law, Prophets ("Former" i.e. Joshua, Judges, Samuel, Kings, and "Latter") and "Writings." This arrangement was known at Alexandria at the end of the 2nd century BC (Sirach, prologue) but was not followed. The "Writings" were a miscellaneous collection of history and poetry with one prophetical book (Daniel). Alexandrian scholars introduced a more literary and symmetrical system, bringing together the books of each class and arranging them with some regard to the supposed chronological order of their authors. The Law, long before the Greek translation, had secured a position of supreme sanctity; this group was left undisturbed, it kept its precedence and the individual books their order (Leviticus and Numbers, however, exchange places in a few lists). The other two groups are broken up. Ruth is removed from the "Writings" and attached to Judges. Chronicles and Ezra-Nehemiah are similarly transferred to the end of the historical group. This group, from chronological considerations, is followed by the poetical and other "Writings," the Prophets coming last (so in Codex Vaticanus, etc.; in Codex Sinaiticus and Codex Alexandrinus, prophets precede poets). The internal order of the Greek Hagiographa, which includes quasi-historical (Esther, Tobit, Judith) and Wisdom books, is variable. Daniel now first finds a place among the Prophets. The 12 minor prophets usually precede the major (Codex Sinaiticus and Western authorities give the four precedence), and the order of the first half of their company is shuffled, apparently on chronological grounds, Hosea being followed by Amos, Micah, Joel, Obadiah, Jonah. Jeremiah has his train of satellites, Baruch, Lamentations (transferred from the "Writings") and Epistle of Jeremiah; Susanna and Bel and the Dragon consort with and form integral parts of Daniel. Variation in the order of books is partly attributable to the practice of writing each book on a separate papyrus roll, kept in a cylindrical case; rolls containing kindred matter would tend to be placed in the same case, but there would be no fixed order for these separate items until the copying of large groups in book-form came into vogue (Swete, Introduction, 225, 229 f).

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