The Septuagint

by H. St. J. Thackeray

The International Standard Bible Encyclopedia (1915)

I. Importance

The Greek version of the Old Testament commonly known as the Septuagint holds a unique place among translations. Its importance is manysided. Its chief value lies in the fact that it is a version of a Hebrew text earlier by about a millennium than the earliest dated Hebrew manuscript extant (916 AD), a version, in particular, prior to the formal rabbinical revision of the Hebrew which took place early in the 2nd century AD. It supplies the materials for the reconstruction of an older form of the Hebrew than the Massoretic Text reproduced in our modern Bibles. It is, moreover, a pioneering work; there was probably no precedent in the world’s history for a series of translations from one language into another on so extensive a scale. It was the first attempt to reproduce the Hebrew Scriptures in another tongue. It is one of the outstanding results of the breaking-down of international barriers by the conquests of Alexander the Great and the dissemination of the Greek language, which were fraught with such vital consequences for the history of religion. The cosmopolitan city which he founded in the Delta witnessed the first attempt to bridge the gulf between Jewish and Greek thought. The Jewish commercial settlers at Alexandria, forced by circumstances to abandon their language, clung tenaciously to their faith; and the translation of the Scriptures into their adopted language, produced to meet their own needs, had the further result of introducing the outside world to a knowledge of their history and religion. Then came the most momentous event in its history, the starting-point of a new life; the translation was taken over from the Jews by the Christian church. It was the Bible of most writers of the New Testament. Not only are the majority of their express citations from Scripture borrowed from it, but their writings contain numerous reminiscences of its language. Its words are household words to them. It laid for them the foundations of a new religious terminology. It was a potent weapon for missionary work, and, when versions of the Scriptures into other languages became necessary, it was in most cases the Septuagint and not the Hebrew from which they were made. Preeminent among these daughter versions was the Old Latin which preceded the Vulgate. Jerome’s version (390-405 A.D.), for the most part a direct translation from the Hebrew, was in portions a mere revision of the Old Latin; our Prayer-book version of the Psalter preserves peculiarities of the Septuagint, transmitted through the medium of the Old Latin. The Septuagint was also the Bible of the early Greek Fathers, and helped to mold dogma; it furnished proof-texts to both parties in the Arian controversy. Its language gives it another strong claim to recognition. Uncouth and unclassical as much of it appears, we now know that this is not wholly due to the hampering effects of translation. “Biblical Greek,” once considered a distinct species, is now a rather discredited term. The hundreds of contemporary papyrus records (letters, business and legal documents, etc.) recently discovered in Egypt illustrate much of the vocabulary and grammar and go to show that many so-called “Hebraisms” were in truth integral parts of the koine, or “common language,” i.e. the international form of Greek which, since the time of Alexander, replaced the old dialects, and of which the spoken Greek of today is the lineal descendant. The version was made for the populace and written in large measure in the language of their everyday life.

[Thackeray here follows the conclusions of Adolf Deissmann, whose studies in the language of the Greek Bible tended to minimize the peculiarities of Biblical Greek and to emphasize its “popular” character. In his Grammar of the Septuagint Thackeray likewise wrote: “The old controversy between the Hebraist School who discovered Hebraisms in colloquial expressions, and the Purists who, endeavoured to bring every peculiarity under the strict rules of Attic grammar, has given way to a general recognition that the basis of the language of the Greek Bible is the vernacular employed throughout the whole Greek-speaking world since the time of Alexander the Great.” (A Grammar of the Old Testament in Greek [Cambridge: University Press, 1909], p. 26). However, he also wrote in the same work, “Notwithstanding that certain so-called ‘Hebraisms’ have been removed from that category or that their claim to the title has become open to question, it is impossible to deny the existence of a strong Semitic influence in the Greek of the LXX.” (ibid, p. 29). Thackeray is not denying the presence of Hebraisms in Septuagint Greek. He is only maintaining (in general agreement with Deissmann) that the Greek of the LXX is fundamentally the Koine Greek, and not so peculiar as to indicate that the Jews who produced this version spoke a kind of Jewish dialect of the Greek language (as was thought by some). He attributes the substantial Hebraistic element in the LXX to the literal method of the translation, not a Jewish dialect. —M.D.M.]

II. Name

The name “Septuagint” is an abbreviation of Interpretatio secundum (or juxta) Septuaginta seniores (or viros), i.e. the Greek translation of the Old Testament of which the first installment was, according to the Alexandrian legend (see III, below), contributed by 70 (or 72) elders sent from Jerusalem to Alexandria for the purpose at the request of Ptolemy II. The legend in its oldest form restricts their labors to the Pentateuch but they were afterward credited with the translation of the whole Bible, and before the 4th century it had become customary to apply the title to the whole collection: Augustine, De Civ. Dei, xviii.42, “quorum interpretatio ut Septuaginta vocetur iam obtinuit consuetudo” (“whose translation is now by custom called the Septuagint”). The manuscripts refer to them under the abbreviation οι ο′ (“the seventy”), or οι οβ′, (“the seventy-two”). The “Septuagint” and the abbreviated form “LXX” have been the usual designations hitherto, but, as these are based on a now discredited legend, they are coming to be replaced by “the Old Testament in Greek,” or “the Alexandrian version” with the abbreviation “G”.

III. Traditional Origin

The traditional account of the translation of the Pentateuch is contained in the so-called letter of Aristeas. (Editions of the Greek text are, P. Wendland, Teubner series, 1900, and Thackeray in the App. to Swete’s Introduction to the Old Testament in Greek, 1900, etc.; Wendland’s sections cited below appear in Swete’s Introduction, edition 2. English translations are by Thackeray, Macmillan, 1904, reprinted from JQR, XV, 337, and by H. T. Andrews in Charles’ Apocrypha and Pseudepigrapha of the Old Testament, II, 83-122, Oxford, 1913).

1. Letter of Aristeas

The writer professes to be a high official at the court of Ptolemy Philadelphus (285-247 BC), a Greek interested in Jewish antiquities. Addressing his brother Philocrates he describes an embassy to Jerusalem on which he has recently been sent with another courtier Andreas. According to his narrative, Demetrius of Phalerum, a prominent figure in later Athenian history, who here appears as the royal librarian at Alexandria, convinced the king of the importance of securing for his library a translation of the Jewish Law. The king at the same time, to propitiate the nation from whom he was asking a favor, consented, on the suggestion of Aristeas, to liberate all Jewish slaves in Egypt. Copies follow of the letters which passed between Ptolemy and Eleazar, the high priest at Jerusalem. Ptolemy requests Eleazar to select and dispatch to Alexandria 72 elders, proficient in the Law, 6 from each tribe, to undertake the translation, the importance of the task requiring the services of a large number to secure an accurate version. Eleazar complies with the request and the names of the selected translators are appended to his letter.

There follow: (1) a detailed description of votive offerings sent by Ptolemy for the temple; (2) a sketch of Jerusalem, the temple and its services, and the geography of Palestine, doubtless reflecting in part the impressions of an eyewitness and giving a unique picture of the Jewish capital in the Ptolemaic era; (3) an exposition by Eleazar of portions of the Law.

The translators arrive at Alexandria, bringing a copy of the Law written in letters of gold on rolls of skins, and are honorably received by Ptolemy. A seven days’ banquet follows, at which the king tests the proficiency of each in turn with hard questions. Three days later Demetrius conducts them across the mole known as the Heptastadion to the island of Pharos, where, with all necessaries provided for their convenience, they complete their task, as by a miracle, in 72 days; we are expressly told that their work was the result of collaboration and comparison. The completed version was read by Demetrius to the Jewish community, who received it with enthusiasm and begged that a copy might be entrusted to their leaders; a solemn curse was pronounced on any who should venture to add to or subtract from or make any alteration in the translation. The whole version was then read aloud to the king who expressed his admiration and his surprise that Greek writers had remained in ignorance of its contents; he directed that the books should be preserved with scrupulous care.

2. Evidence of Aristobulus and Philo

To set beside this account we have two pre-Christian allusions in Jewish writings. Aristobulus, addressing a Ptolemy who has been identified as Philometor (182-146 BC), repeats the statement that the Pentateuch was translated under Philadelphus at the instance of Demetrius Phalereus (Eusebius, Praep. Ev., XIII, 12,664b); but the genuineness of the passage is doubtful. If it is accepted, it appears that some of the main features of the story were believed at Alexandria within a century of the date assigned by “Aristeas” to the translation. Philo (Vit. Moys, ii.5) repeats the story of the sending of the translators by Eleazar at the request of Philadelphus, adding that in his day the completion of the undertaking was celebrated by an annual festival on the isle of Pharos. It is improbable that an artificial production like the Aristeas letter should have occasioned such an anniversary; Philo’s evidence seems therefore to rest in part on an independent tradition. His account in one particular paves the way for later accretions; he hints at the inspiration of the translators and the miraculous agreement of their separate versions: “They prophesied like men possessed, not one in one way and one in another, but all producing the same words and phrases as though some unseen prompter were at the ears of each.” At the end of the 1st century AD Josephus includes in his Antiquities (XII, ii, 1) large portions of the letter, which he paraphrases, but does not embellish.

3. Later Accretions

Christian writers accepted the story without suspicion and amplified it. A catena of their evidence is given in an Appendix to Wendland’s edition. The following are their principal additions to the narrative, all clearly baseless fabrications.

(1) The translators worked independently, in separate cells, and produced identical versions, Ptolemy proposing this test of their trustworthiness. So Irenaeus, Clement of Alexandria, Augustine, the Chronicon Paschale and the Cohortatio ad Graecos (wrongly attributed to Justin); the author of the last work asserts that he had seen the cells and heard the tradition on the spot. (2) A modification of this legend says that the translators worked in pairs in 36 cells. So Epiphanius (died 403 AD), and later G. Syncellus, Julius Pollux and Zonaras. Epiphanius’ account is the most detailed. The translators were locked up in sky-lighted cells in pairs with attendants and shorthand writers; each pair was entrusted with one book, the books were then circulated, and 36 identical versions of the whole Bible, canonical and apocryphal books, were produced; Ptolemy wrote two letters, one asking for the original Scriptures, the second for translators. (3) This story of the two embassies appears already in the 2nd century AD, in Justin’s Apology, and (4) the extension of the translators’ work to the Prophets or the whole Bible recurs in the two Cyrils and in Chrysostom. (5) The miraculous agreement of the translators proved them to be no less inspired than the authors (Irenaeus, etc.; compare Philo). (6) As regards date, Clement of Alexandria quotes an alternative tradition referring the version back to the time of the first Ptolemy (322-285 BC); while Chrysostom brings it down to “a hundred or more years (elsewhere “not many years”) before the coming of Christ.” Justin absurdly states that Ptolemy’s embassy was sent to King Herod; the Chronicon Paschale calls the high priest of the time Onias Simon, brother of Eleazar.

Jerome was the first to hold these later inventions up to ridicule, contrasting them with the older and more sober narrative. They indicate a growing oral tradition in Jewish circles at Alexandria. The origin of the legend of the miraculous consensus of the 70 translators has been reasonably sought in a passage in Exodus 24 (LXX) to which Epiphanius expressly refers. We there read of 70 elders of Israel, not heard of again, who with Aaron, Nadab and Abihu form a link between Moses and the people. After reciting the Book of the Covenant Moses ascends to the top of the mount; the 70, however, ascend but a little way and are bidden to worship from afar: according to the Septuagint text “They saw the place where the God of Israel stood ... and of the elect of Israel not one perished” (Exodus 24:11), i.e. they were privileged to escape the usual effect of a vision of the Deity (Exodus 33:20). But the verb used for “perish” (diaphonein) was uncommon in this sense; “not one disagreed” would be the obvious meaning; hence, apparently the legend of the agreement of the translators, the later intermediaries between Moses and Israel of the Dispersion. When the translations were recited, “no difference was discoverable,” says Epiphanius, using the same verb. Cave-dwellings in the island of Pharos probably account for the legend of the cells. A curious phenomenon has recently suggested that there is an element of truth in one item of Epiphanius’ obviously incredible narrative, namely, the working of the translators in pairs. The Greek books of Jeremiah and Ezekiel fall into two nearly equal parts, apparently the work of separate translators (see VIII, 1, a, below); while in Exodus, Leviticus and Psalms orthographical details indicate a similar division of the books for clerical purposes. There was, it seems, a primitive custom of transcribing each book on 2 separate rolls, and in the case of Jeremiah and Ezekiel the practice goes back to the time of translation (JTS, IV, 245, 398; IX, 88).

4. Criticism of the Aristeas Story

Beside the later extravagances, the story of Aristeas appears comparatively rational. Yet it has long been recognized that much of it is unhistorical, in particular the professed date and nationality of the writer. Its claims to authenticity were demolished by Dr. Hody two centuries ago (De bibliorum textibus originalibus, Oxon., 1705). Clearly the writer is not a Greek, but a Jew, whose aim is to glorify his race and to disseminate information about their sacred books. Yet the story is not wholly to be rejected, though it is difficult to disentangle truth from fiction. On one side his veracity has since Hody’s time been established; his court titles, technical terms, epistolary formulas, etc., reappear in Egyptian papyri and inscriptions, and all his references to Alexandrian life and customs are probably equally trustworthy (§§ 28, 109 ff, measures to counteract the ill effects upon agriculture of migration from country to town; § 167, treatment of informers [cf § 25]; § 175 reception of foreign embassies [cf § 182]). The import of this discovery has, however, since its announcement by Lombroso (Recherches sur l’economie politique de l’Egypte, Turin, 1870), been somewhat modified by the new-found papyri which show that Aristeas’ titles and formulas are those of the later, not the earlier, Ptolemaic age.

5. Date

The letter was used by Josephus and probably known to Philo. How much earlier is it? Schurer (HJP, II, iii, 309 f [GJV 4,III, 608-16]), relying on (1) the questionable Aristobulus passage, (2) the picture drawn of Palestine as if still under Ptolemaic rule, from which it passed to the Seleucids circa 200 BC, argued that the work could not be later than that date. But it is hard to believe that a fictitious story (as he regards it to be) could have gained credence within little more than half a century of the period to which it relates, and Wendland rightly rejects so ancient an origin. The following indications suggest a date about 100-80 BC.

(1) Many of Aristeas’ formulas, etc. (see above), only came into use in the 2nd century BC (Strack, Rhein. Mus., LV, 168; Thackeray, Aristeas, English translation, pp. 3, 12). (2) The later Maccabean age or the end of the 2nd century BC is suggested by some of the translators’ names (Wendland, xxvi), and (3) by the independent position of the high priest. (4) Some of Ptolemy’s questions indicate a tottering dynasty (§ 187, etc.). (5) The writer occasionally forgets his role and distinguishes between his own time and that of Philadelphus (§§ 28, 182). (6) He appears to borrow his name from a Jewish historian of the 2nd century BC and to wish to pass off the latter’s history as his own (§ 6). (7) He is guilty of historical inaccuracies concerning Demetrius, etc. (8) The prologue to the Greek Ecclesiasticus (after 132 BC) ignores and contradicts the Aristeas story, whereas Aristeas possibly used this prologue (Wendland, xxvii; compare Hart, Ecclesiasticus in Greek, 1909). (9) The imprecation upon any who should alter the translation (§ 311) points to divergences of text which the writer desired to check; compare § 57, where he seems to insist on the correctness of the Septuagint text of Exodus 25:22, “gold of pure gold,” as against the Hebrew. (10) Allusions to current criticisms of the Pentateuch (§§ 128, 144) presuppose a familiarity with it on the part of non-Jewish readers only explicable if the Septuagint had long been current. (11) Yet details in the Greek orthography preclude a date much later than 100 BC.

6. Credibility

The probable amount of truth in the story is ably discussed by Swete (Intro, 16-22). The following statements in the letter may be accepted: (1) The translation was produced at Alexandria, as is conclusively proved by Egyptian influence on its language. (2) The Pentateuch was translated first and, in view of the homogeneity of style, as a whole. (3) The Greek Pentateuch goes back to the first half of the 3rd century BC; the style is akin to that of the 3rd-century papyri, and the Greek Genesis was used by the Hellenist Demetrius toward the end of the century. (4) The Hebrew rolls were brought from Jerusalem. (5) Possibly Philadelphus, the patron of literature, with his religious impartiality, may have countenanced the work. But the assertion that it owed its inception wholly to him and his librarian is incredible; it is known from other sources that Demetrius Phalereus did not fill the office of librarian under that monarch. The language is that of the people, not a literary style suitable to a work produced under royal patronage. The importation of Palestinian translators is likewise fictitious. Dr. Swete acutely observes that Aristeas, in stating that the translation was read to and welcomed by the Jewish community before being presented to the king, unconsciously reveals its true origin. It was no doubt produced to meet their own needs by the large Jewish colony at Alexandria. A demand that the Law should be read in the synagogues in a tongue “understanded of the people” was the originating impulse.

IV. Evidence of Prologue to Sirach.

The interesting, though in places tantalizingly obscure, prologue to Ecclesiasticus throws light on the progress made with the translation of the remaining Scriptures before the end of the 2nd century BC.

The translator dates his settlement in Egypt, during which he produced his version of his grandfather’s work, as “the 38th year under Euergetes the king.” The words have been the subject of controversy, but, with the majority of critics, we may interpret this to mean the 38th year of Euergetes II, reckoning from the beginning (170 BC) of his joint reign with Philometor, i.e. 132 BC. Euergetes I reigned for 25 years only. Others, in view of the superfluous preposition, suppose that the age of the translator is intended, but the cumbrous form of expression is not unparalleled. A recent explanation of the date (Hart, Ecclesiasticus in Greek) as the 38th year of Philadelphus which was also the 1st year of Euergetes I (i.e. 247 BC) is more ingenious than convincing.

The prologue implies the existence of a Greek version of the Law; the Prophets and “the rest of the books.” The translator, craving his readers’ indulgence for the imperfections of his own work, due to the difficulty of reproducing Hebrew in Greek, adds that others have experienced the same difficulties: “The Law itself and the prophecies and the rest of the books have no small difference when spoken in their original language.” From these words we may understand that at the time of writing (132-100 BC) Alexandrian Jews possessed Greek versions of a large part (probably not the whole) of “the Prophets,” and of some of “the Writings” or Hagiographa. For some internal evidence as to the order in which the several books were translated see VIII, below.

V. Transmission of the Septuagint Text.

The main value of the Septuagint is its witness to an older Hebrew text than our own. But before we can reconstruct this Hebrew text we need to have a pure Greek text before us, and this we are at present far from possessing. The Greek text has had a long and complex history of its own. Used for centuries by both Jews and Christians it underwent corruption and interpolation, and, notwithstanding the multitude of materials for its restoration, the original text has yet to be recovered. We are much more certain of the ipsissima verba of the New Testament writers than of the original Alexandrian version of the Old Testament. This does not apply to all portions alike. The Greek Pentateuch, e.g., has survived in a relatively pure form. But everywhere we have to be on our guard against interpolations, sometimes extending to whole paragraphs. Not a verse is without its array of variant readings. An indication of the amount of “mixture” which has taken place is afforded by the numerous “doublets” or alternative renderings of a single Hebrew word or phrase which appear side by side in the transmitted text.

1. Early Corruption of the Text

Textual corruption began early, before the Christian era. We have seen indications of this in the letter of Aristeas (III, 5, (9) above). Traces of corruption appear in Philo (e.g. his comment, in Quis Rer. Div. Her. 56, on Genesis 15:15, shows that already in his day tapheis, “buried,” had become trapheis, “nurtured,” as in all our manuscripts); doublets already exist. Similarly in the New Testament the author of Hebrews quotes (12:15) a corrupt form of the Greek of Deuteronomy 29:18.

2. Official Revision of Hebrew Text circa 100 AD

But it was not until the beginning of the 2nd century AD that the divergence between the Greek and the Palestinian Hebrew text reached an acute stage. One cause of this was the revision of the Hebrew text which took place about this time. No actual record of this revision exists, but it is beyond doubt that it originated in the rabbinical school, of which Rabbi Akiba was the chief representative, and which had its center at Jamnia in the years following the destruction of Jerusalem. The Jewish doctors, their temple in ruins, concentrated their attention on the settlement of the text of the Scriptures which remained to them. This school of eminent critics, precursors of the Massoretes, besides settling outstanding questions concerning the Canon, laid down strict rules for Biblical interpretation, and in all probability established an official text.

3. Adoption of Septuagint by Christians

But another cause widened still farther the distance between the texts of Jerusalem and Alexandria. This was the adoption of the Septuagint by the Christian church. When Christians began to cite the Alexandrian version in proof of their doctrines, the Jews began to question its accuracy. Hence, mutual recriminations which are reflected in the pages of Justin’s Dialogue with Trypho. “They dare to assert,” says Justin (Dial., 68), “that the interpretation produced by your seventy elders under Ptolemy of Egypt is in some points inaccurate.” A crucial instance cited by the Jews was the rendering “virgin” in Isaiah 7:14, where they claimed with justice that “young woman” would be more accurate. Justin retaliates by charging the Jews with deliberate excision of passages favorable to Christianity.

4. Alternative 2nd Century Greek Versions

That such accusations should be made in those critical years was inevitable, yet there is no evidence of any material interpolations having been introduced by either party. But the Alexandrian version, in view of the revised text and the new and stricter canons of interpretation, was felt by the Jews to be inadequate, and a group of new translations of Scripture in the 2nd century AD supplied the demand. We possess considerable fragments of the work of three of these translators, namely, Aquila, Symmachus and Theodotion, besides scanty remnants of further anonymous versions.

5. Aquila

The earliest of “the three” was Aquila, a proselyte to Judaism, and, like his New Testament namesake, a native of Pontus. He flourished, according to Epiphanius (whose account of these later translators in his De mens. et pond. is not wholly trustworthy), under Hadrian (117-38 AD) and was related to that emperor; there is no probability in Epiphanius’ further statement that Hadrian entrusted to Aquila the superintendence of the building of Aelia Capitolina on the site of Jerusalem, that there he was converted to Christianity by Christian exiles returning from Pella, but that refusing to abandon astrology he was excommunicated, and in revenge turned Jew and was actuated by a bias against Christianity in his version of the Old Testament. What is certain is that he was a pupil of the new rabbinical school, in particular of Rabbi Akiba (95-135 AD), and that his version was an attempt to reproduce exactly the revised official text. The result was an extraordinary production, unparalleled in Greek literature, if it can be classed under that category at all. No jot or tittle of the Hebrew might be neglected; uniformity in the translation of each Hebrew word must be preserved and the etymological kinship of different Hebrew words represented. Such were some of his leading principles. The opening words of his translation (Genesis 1:1) may be rendered: “In heading rounded God with the heavens and with the earth.” “Heading” or “summary” was selected because the Hebrew word for “beginning” was a derivative of “head.” “With” represents an untranslatable word (’eth) prefixed to the accusative case, but indistinguishable from the preposition “with.” The Divine Name (the tetragrammaton, YHWH) was not translated, but written in archaic Hebrew characters. “A slave to the letter,” as Origen calls him, his work has aptly been described by a modern writer as “a colossal crib” (Burkitt, JQR, October, 1896, 207). Yet it was a success. In Origen’s time it was used by all Jews ignorant of Hebrew, and continued in use for several centuries; Justinian expressly sanctioned its use in the synagogues (Nov., 146). Its lack of style and violation of the laws of grammar were not due to ignorance of Greek, of which the writer shows, in vocabulary at least, a considerable command. Its importance lay and lies (so far as it is preserved) in its exact reproduction of the rabbinical text of the 2nd century AD; it may be regarded as the beginning of the scientific study of the Hebrew Scriptures. Though “a bold attempt to displace the Septuagint,” it cannot be charged with being intentionally antagonistic to Christianity. Of the original work, previously known only from extracts in manuscripts, some palimpsest fragments were recovered from the Cairo Genizah in 1897 and edited by F. C. Burkitt (Fragments of the Books of Kings, 1897) and by C. Taylor (Sayings of the Jewish Fathers 2, 1897; Hebrew-Greek Cairo Genizah Palimpsests, 1900). The student of Swete’s Old Testament will trace Aquila’s unmistakable style in the footnotes to the Books of Samuel and Kings; the older and shorter B text in those books has constantly been supplemented in the A text from Aquila. A longer specimen of his work occurs in the Greek Ecclesiastes, which has no claim to be regarded as “Septuagint”; Jerome refers to a second edition of Aquila’s version, and the Greek Ecclesiastes is perhaps his first edition of that book, made on the basis of an unrevised Hebrew text (McNeile, Introduction to Ecclesiastes, Cambridge, 1904, App. I). The suggested identification of Aquila with Onkelos, author of the Targum of that name, has not been generally accepted.

6. Theodotion

Epiphanius’ account of the dates and history of Theodotion and Symmachus is untrustworthy. He seems to have reversed their order, probably misled by the order of the translations in the columns of the Hexapla (see below). He also apparently confused Aquila and Theodotion in calling the latter a native of Pontus. As regards date, Theodotion, critics are agreed, preceded Symmachus and probably flourished under M. Aurelius (161-80), whereas Symmachus lived under Commodus (180-92); Irenaeus mentions only the versions of Aquila and Theodotion, and that of Symmachus had in his day either not been produced or at least not widely circulated. According to the more credible account of Irenaeus, Theodotion was an Ephesian and a convert to Judaism. His version constantly agrees with the Septuagint and was rather a revision of it, to bring it into accord with the current Hebrew text, than an independent work. The supplementing of lacunae in the Septuagint (due partly to the fact that the older version of some books did not aim at completeness) gave scope for greater originality. These lacunae were greatest in Job and his version of that book was much longer than the Septuagint. The text of Job printed in Swete’s edition is a patchwork of old and new; the careful reader may detect the Theodotion portions by transliterations and other peculiarities. Long extracts from Theodotion are preserved in codex Q in Jeremiah. As regards the additional matter contained in Septuagint, Theodotion was inconsistent; he admitted, e.g., the additions to Daniel (Susanna, Bel and the Dragon, and the Song of the Three Children), but did not apparently admit the non-canonical books as a whole. The church adopted his Daniel in place of the inadequate Septuagint version, which has survived in only one Greek manuscript; but the date when the change took place is unknown and the early history of the two Greek texts is obscure. Theodotion’s renderings have been found in writings before his time (including the New Testament), and it is reasonably conjectured that even before the 2nd century AD the Septuagint text had been discarded and that Theodotion’s version is but a working over of an older alternative version. Theodotion is free from the barbarisms of Aquila, but is addicted to transliteration, i.e. the reproduction of Hebrew words in Greek letters. His reasons for this habit are not always clear; ignorance of Hebrew will not account for all (compare VIII, 1, [5], below).

7. Symmachus and Others

Beside the two versions produced by, and primarily intended for, Jews was a third, presumably to meet the needs of a Jewish Christian sect who were dissatisfied with the Septuagint. Symmachus, its author, was, according to the more trustworthy account, an Ebionite, who also wrote a commentary on Matthew, a copy of which was given to Origen by Juliana, a lady who received it from its author (Euseb., HE, VI, 17). Epiphanius’ description of him as a Samaritan convert to Judaism may be rejected. The date of his work, as above stated, was probably the reign of Commodus (180-192 AD). In one respect the version resembled Aquila’s, in its faithful adherence to the sense of the current Hebrew text; its style, however, which was flowing and literary, was a revolt against Aquila’s monstrosities. It seems to have been a recasting of Aquila’s version, with free use of both Septuagint and Theodotion. It carried farther a tendency apparent in the Septuagint to refine away the anthropomorphisms of the Old Testament.

Of three other manuscripts discovered by Origen (one at Nicopolis in Greece, one at Jericho) and known from their position in the Hexapla as Quinta, Sexta, and Septima, little is known. There is no reason to suppose that they embraced the whole Old Testament. Quinta is characterized by Field as the most elegant of the Greek versions. F.C. Burkitt has discussed “the so-called Quinta of 4 Kings” in PSBA, June, 1902. The Christian origin of Sexta betrays itself in Habakkuk 3:13 (“Thou wentest forth to save thy people for the sake of [or “by”] Jesus thy anointed One”).

8. Origen and the Hexapla

These later versions play a large part in the history of the text of the Septuagint. This is due to the labors of the greatest Septuagint scholar of antiquity, the celebrated Origen of Alexandria, whose active life covers the first half of the 3rd century. Origen frankly recognized, and wished Christians to recognize, the merits of the later versions, and the divergences between the Septuagint and the current Hebrew. He determined to provide the church with the materials for ascertaining the true text and meaning of the Old Testament. With this object he set himself to learn Hebrew—a feat probably unprecedented among non-Jewish Christians of that time—and to collect the later versions. The idea of using these versions to amend the Septuagint seemed to him an inspiration: “By the gift of God we found a remedy for the divergence in the copies of the Old Testament, namely to use the other editions as a criterion” (Commentary on Matthew 15:14). The magnum opus in which he embodied the results of his labors was known as the Hexapla or “six-column” edition. This stupendous work has not survived; a fragment was discovered toward the end of the 19th century in the Ambrosian Library at Milan (Swete, Introduction, 61) and another among the Cairo Genizah palimpsests (ed C. Taylor, Cambridge, 1900). The material was arranged in six parallel columns containing (1) the current Hebrew text, (2) the same in Greek letters, (3) the version of Aquila, (4) that of Symmachus, (5) that of the Septuagint, (6) that of Theodotion. The text was broken up into short clauses; not more than two words, usually one only, stood in the first column. The order of the columns doubtless represents the degree of conformity to the Hebrew; Aquila’s, as the most faithful, heads the versions, and Symmachus’ is on the whole a revision of Aquila as Theodotion’s is of the Septuagint. But Origen was not content with merely collating the versions; his aim was to revise the Septuagint and the 5th column exhibited his revised text. The basis of it was the current Alexandrian text of the 3rd century AD; this was supplemented or corrected where necessary by the other versions. Origen, however, deprecated alteration of a text which had received ecclesiastical sanction, without some indication of its extent, and the construction of the 5th column presented difficulties. There were (1) numerous cases of words or paragraphs contained in the Septuagint but not in the Hebrew, which could not be wholly rejected, (2) cases of omission from the Septuagint of words in the Hebrew, (3) cases of paraphrase and minor divergences, (4) variations in the order of words or chapters. Origen here had recourse to a system of critical signs, invented and employed by the grammarian Aristarchus (3rd century BC) in his edition of Homer. Passages of the first class were left in the text, but had prefixed to them an obelus, a sign of which the original form was a “spit” or “spear,” but figuring in Septuagint manuscripts as a horizontal line usually with a dot above and a dot below; there are other varieties also. The sign in Aristarchus indicated censure, in the Hexapla the doubtful authority of the words which followed. The close of the obelized passage was marked by the metobelus, a colon (:), or, in the Syriac versions, shaped like a mallet. Passages missing in the Septuagint were supplied from one of the other versions (Aquila or Theodotion), the beginning of the extract being marked by an asterisk—a sign used by Aristarchus to express special approval—the close, by the metobelus. Where Septuagint and Hebrew widely diverged, Origen occasionally gave two versions, that of a later translator under an asterisk, that of the Septuagint obelized. Divergence in order was met by transposition, the Hebrew order being followed; in Proverbs, however, the two texts kept their respective order, the discrepancy being indicated by a combination of signs. Minor supposed or real corruptions in the Greek were tacitly corrected. Origen produced a minor edition, the Tetrapla, without the first two columns of the larger work. The Heptapla and Octapla, occasionally mentioned, appear to be alternative names given to the Hexapla at points where the number of columns was increased to receive other fragmentary versions. This gigantic work, which according to a reasonable estimate must have filled 5,000 leaves, was probably never copied in extenso. The original was preserved for some centuries in the library of Pamphilus at Caesarea; there it was studied by Jerome, and thither came owners of Biblical manuscripts to collate their copies with it, as we learn from some interesting notes in our uncial manuscripts (e.g. a 7th-century note appended to Esther in codex S). The Library probably perished circa 638 AD, when Caesarea fell into the hands of the Saracens.

9. Hexaplaric Manuscripts

But, though the whole work was too vast to be copied, it was a simple task to copy the 5th column. This task was performed, partly in prison, by Pamphilus, a martyr in the Diocletian persecution, and his friend Eusebius, the great bishop of Caesarea. Copies of the “Hexaplaric” Septuagint, i.e. Origen’s doctored text with the critical signs and perhaps occasional notes, were, through the initiative of these two, widely circulated in Palestine in the 4th century. Naturally, however, the signs became unintelligible in a text detached from the parallel columns which explained them; scribes neglected them, and copies of the doctored text, lacking the precautionary symbols, were multiplied. This carelessness has wrought great confusion; Origen is, through others’ fault, indirectly responsible for the production of manuscripts in which the current Septuagint text and the later versions are hopelessly mixed. No manuscripts give the Hexaplaric text as a whole, and it is preserved in a relatively pure form in very few: the uncials G and M (Pentateuch and some historical books), the cursives 86 and 88 (Prophets). Other so-called Hexaplaric manuscripts, notably codex Q (Marchalianus: Proph.) preserve fragments of the 5th and of the other columns of the Hexapla. (For the Syro-Hexaplar see below, VI, 1.) Yet, even did we possess the 5th column entire, with the complete apparatus of signs, we should not have “the original Septuagint,” but merely, after removing the asterisked passages, a text current in the 3rd century. The fact has to be emphasized that Origen’s gigantic work was framed on erroneous principles. He assumed (1) the purity of the current Hebrew text, (2) the corruption of the current Septuagint text where it deviated from the Hebrew. The modern critic recognizes that the Septuagint on the whole presents the older text, the divergences of which from the Hebrew are largely attributable to an official revision of the latter early in the Christian era. He recognizes also that in some books (e.g. Job) the old Greek version was only a partial one. To reconstruct the original text he must therefore have recourse to other auxiliaries beside Origen.

10. Recensions Known to Jerome

Such assistance is partly furnished by two other recensions made in the century after Origen. Jerome (Praef. in Paralipp.; compare Adv. Ruf., ii.27) states that in the 4th century three recensions circulated in different parts of the Christian world: “Alexandria and Egypt in their Septuagint acclaim Hesychius as their authority, the region from Constantinople to Antioch approves the copies of Lucian the martyr, the intermediate Palestinian provinces read the manuscripts which were promulgated by Eusebius and Pamphilus on the basis of Origen’s labors, and the whole world is divided between these three varieties of text.”

11. Hesychian Recension

Hesychius is probably to be identified with the martyr bishop mentioned by Eusebius (Historia Ecclesiastica, VIII, 13) along with another scholar martyr, Phileas bishop of Thmuis, and it is thought that these two were engaged in prison in revising the Egyptian text at the time when Pamphilus and Eusebius were employed on a similar task under similar conditions. How far existing manuscripts preserve the Hesychian recension is uncertain; agreement of their text with that of Egyptian versions and Fathers (Cyril in particular) is the criterion. For the Prophets Ceriani has identified codex Q and its kin as Hesychian. For the Octateuch N. McLean (JTS, II, 306) finds the Hesychian text in a group of cursives, 44, 74, 76, 84, 106, 134, etc. But the first installments of the larger Cambridge Septuagint raise the question whether Codex B (Vaticanus) may not itself be Hesychian; its text is more closely allied to that of Cyril Alex. than to any other patristic text, and the consensus of these two witnesses against the rest is sometimes (Exodus 32:14) curiously striking. In the Psalter also Rahlfs (Septuaginta-Studien, 2. Heft, 1907, 235) traces the Hesychian text in B and partially in Codex Sinaiticus. Compare von Soden’s theory for the New Testament.

12. Lucianic Recension

The Lucianic recension was the work of another martyr, Lucian of Antioch (died 311-12), probably with the collaboration of the Hebraist Dorotheus. There are, as Hort has shown, reasons for associating Lucian with a “Syrian” revision of the New Testament in the 4th century, which became the dominant type of text. That he produced a Syrian recension of the Greek Old Testament is expressly stated by Jerome, and we are moreover able with considerable certainty to identify the extant manuscripts which exhibit it. The identification, due to Field and Lagarde, rests on these grounds: (1) certain verses in 2 Kings are in the Arabic Syro-Hexaplar marked with the letter L, and a note explains that the letter indicates Lucianic readings; (2) the readings so marked occur in the cursives 19, 82, 93, 108, 118; (3) these manuscripts in the historical books agree with the Septuagint citations of the Antiochene Fathers Chrysostom and Theodoret. This clue enabled Lagarde to construct a Lucianic text of the historical books (Librorum Vet. Test. canonic. pars prior, Gottingen, 1883); his death prevented the completion of the work. Lagarde’s edition is vitiated by the fact that he does not quote the readings of the individual manuscripts composing the group, and it can be regarded only as an approximate reconstruction of “Lucian.” It is evident, however, that the Lucianic Septuagint possessed much the same qualities as the Syrian revision of the New Testament; lucidity and completeness were the main objects. It is a “full” text, the outcome of a desire to include, so far as possible, all recorded matter; “doublets” are consequently numerous. While this “conflation” of texts detracts from its value, the Lucianic revision gains importance from the fact that the sources from which it gleaned include an element of great antiquity which needs to be disengaged; where it unites with the Old Latin version against all other authorities its evidence is invaluable.

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; א (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 (1st 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).

VIII. Characteristics of the Version and Its Component Parts

Notwithstanding the uncertain state of the text, some general characteristics of the version are patent. It is clear that, like the Hebrew itself, it is not a single book, but a library. It is a series of versions and Greek compositions covering well-nigh 400 years, since it includes a few productions of the 2nd century AD; the bulk of the translations, however, fall within the first half of the period (Sirach, prologue).

1. Grouping of Septuagint Books on Internal Evidence

The translations may be grouped and their chronological order approximately determined from certain characteristics of their style. (1) We may inquire how a Hebrew word or phrase is rendered in different parts of the work. Diversity of renderings is not an infallible proof that different hands have been employed, since invariable uniformity in translation is difficult of attainment and indeed was not the aim of the Pentateuch translators, who seem rather to have studied variety of expression. If, however, a Hebrew word is consistently rendered by one Greek word in one portion and by another elsewhere, and if each of the two portions has other features peculiar to itself, it becomes highly probable that the two portions are the work of different schools. Among “test-words” which yield results of this kind are “servant” in “Moses the servant of the Lord,” “Hosts” in “Lord of Hosts,” “Philistines” (Swete, Introduction, 317; Thackeray, Grammar of the Old Testament, 7). (2) We may compare the Greek with that of dated documents of the Ptolemaic age. The translations were written in the koine or “common” Greek, most of them in the vernacular variety of it, during a period when this new cosmopolitan language was in the making; the abundant dated papyri enable us to trace some stages in its evolution. The Petrie and Hibeh papyri of the 3rd century BC afford the closest parallels to the Greek Pentateuch. The following century witnessed a considerable development or “degeneracy” in the language, of which traces may be found in the Greek of the prophetical books. Beside the vernacular Greek was the literary language of the “Atticistic” school which persistently struggled, with indifferent success, to recover the literary flavor of the old Greek masterpieces. This style is represented in the Septuagint by most of the original Greek writings and by the paraphrases of some of the “Writings.” (3) We may compare the Greek books as translations, noting in which books license is allowed and which adhere strictly to the Hebrew. The general movement is in the direction of greater literalism; the later books show an increasing reverence for the letter of Scripture, resulting in the production of pedantically literal versions; the tendency culminated in the 2nd century AD in the barbarisms of Aquila. Some of the “Writings” were freely handled, because they had not yet obtained canonical rank at the time of translation. Investigation on these lines goes to show that the order of the translation was approximately that of the Hebrew Canon. The Greek Hexateuch may be placed in the 3rd century BC, the Prophets mainly in the 2nd century BC, the “Writings” mainly in the 2nd and 1st centuries BC.

(1) The Hexateuch. — The Greek Pentateuch should undoubtedly be regarded as a unit: the Aristeas story may so far be credited. It is distinguished by a uniformly high level of the “common” vernacular style, combined with faithfulness to the Hebrew, rarely lapsing into literalism. It set the standard which later translators tried to imitate. The text was more securely established in this portion and substantial variant readings are comparatively few. The latter part of Exodus is an exception; the Hebrew had here not reached its final form in the 3rd century BC, and there is some reason for thinking that the version is not the work of the translator of the first half. In Deuteronomy a few new features in vocabulary appear (e.g. ekklesia; see Hort, Christian Ecclesia, 4 ff). The Greek version of Joshua forms a link between the Pentateuch and the later historical books. The text was not yet fixed, and variants are more abundant than in the Pentateuch. The earliest version, probably of selections only, appears from certain common features to have been nearly coeval with that of the Law.

(2) The “Latter” Prophets. — There is little doubt that the next books to be translated were the Prophets in the narrower sense, and that Isaiah came first. The style of the Greek Isaiah has a close similarity, not wholly attributable to imitation, to that of the Pentateuch: a certain freedom of treatment connects it with the earlier translation period: it was known to the author of Wisdom (Isaiah 3:10 with Ottley’s note). The translation shows “obvious signs of incompetence” (Swete), but the task was an exacting one. The local Egyptian coloring in the translation is interesting (R. R. Ottley, Book of Isaiah according to the Septuagint, 2 volumes, Greek text of A, translation and notes, Cambridge, 1904-6, with review in JTS, X, 299). Jeremiah, Ezekiel and the Minor Prophets were probably translated en bloc or nearly so. The Palestinian Canon had now been enlarged by a second group of Scriptures and this stimulated a desire among Alexandrian Jews to possess the entire collection of the Prophets in Greek. The undertaking seems to have been a formal and quasi-official one, not a haphazard growth. For it has been ascertained that Jeremiah and Ezekiel were divided for translation purposes into two nearly equal parts; a change in the Greek style occurs at the junctures. In Jeremiah the break occurs in chapter 29 (Septuagint order); the clearest criterion of the two styles is the twofold rendering of “Thus saith the Lord.” The last chapter (Jeremiah 52) is probably a later addition in the Greek. The translator of the second half of Jeremiah also translated the first half of Baruch (1:1-3:8); he was incompetent and his work, if our text may be relied on, affords flagrant examples of Greek words being selected to render words which he did not understand merely because of their similar sound. Ezekiel is similarly divided, but here the translator of the first half (chapters 1-27) undertook the difficult last quarter as well (chapters 40-48), the remainder being left to a second worker. An outstanding test is afforded by the renderings of the refrain, “They shall know that I am the Lord.” The Greek version of “the twelve” shows no trace of a similar division; in its style it is closely akin to the first half of Ezekiel and is perhaps by the same hand (JTS, IV, 245, 398, 578). But this official version of the Prophets had probably been preceded by versions of short passages selected to be read on the festivals in the synagogues. Lectionary requirements occasioned the earliest versions of the Prophets, possibly of the Pentateuch as well. Two indications of this have been traced. There exists in four manuscripts a Greek version of the Psalm of Habakkuk (Habakkuk 3), a chapter which has been a Jewish lesson for Pentecost from the earliest times, independent of and apparently older than the Septuagint and made for synagogue use. Similarly in Ezekiel of the Septuagint there is a section of sixteen verses (36:24-38) with a style quite distinct from that of its context. This passage was also an early Christian lesson for Pentecost, and its lectionary use was inherited from Judaism. Here the Septuagint translators seem to have incorporated the older version, whereas in Habakkuk 3 they rejected it (JTS, XII, 191; IV, 407).

(3) Partial Version of the “Former” Prophets (1 Samuel—2 Kings). — The Greek style indicates that the history of the monarchy was not all translated at once. Ulfilas is said to have omitted these books from the Gothic version as likely to inflame the military temper of his race; for another reason the Greek translators were at first content with a partial version. They omitted as unedifying the more disastrous portions, David’s sin with the subsequent calamities of his reign and the later history of the divided monarchy culminating in the captivity. Probably the earliest versions embraced only (1) 1 R, (2) 2 R 1:1-11:1 (David’s early reign), (3) 3 R 2:12-21:13 (Solomon and the beginning of the divided monarchy); the third book of “Reigns” opened with the accession of Solomon (as in Lucian’s text), not at the point where 1 Kings opens. These earlier portions are written in a freer style than the rest of the Greek “Reigns,” and the Hebrew original differed widely in places from that translated in the English Bible (JTS, VIII, 262).

(4) The “Writings.” — The Hagiographa at the end of the 2nd century BC were regarded as national literature. (Sirach, prologue “the other books of our fathers”), but not as canonical. The translators did not scruple to treat these with great freedom, undeterred by the prohibition against alteration of Scripture (Deuteronomy 4:2; 12:32). Free paraphrases of extracts were produced, sometimes with legendary additions. A partial version of Job (one-sixth being omitted) was among the first; Aristeas, the historian of the 2nd century BC, seems to have been acquainted with it (Freudenthal, Hellenistische Studien, 1875, 136). The translator was a student of the Greek poets; his version was probably produced for the general reader, not for the synagogues. Hatch’s theory (Essays in Biblical Greek, 1889, 214) that his Hebrew text was shorter than ours and was expanded later is untenable; avoidance of anthropomorphisms explains some omissions, the reason for others is obscure. The first Greek narrative of the return from exile (1 Esdras) was probably a similar version of extracts only from Chronicles-Ezra-Nehemiah, grouped round a fable of non-Jewish origin, the story of the 3 youths at the court of Darius. The work is a fragment, the end being lost, and it has been contended by some critics that the version once embraced the whole of Chronicles-Ezra-Nehemiah (C. C. Torrey, Ezra Studies, Chicago, 1910). The Greek is obviously earlier than Esdras B and is of great value for the reconstruction of the Hebrew. The same translator appears from peculiarities of diction to have produced the earliest version of Daniel, treating it with similar freedom and incorporating extraneous matter (the Song of the Three Children, Susanna, Bel). The maximum of interpolation is reached in Esther, where the Greek additions make up two-thirds of the story. The Greek Proverbs (probably 1st century BC) includes many maxims not in the Hebrew; some of these appear to be derived from a lost Hebrew collection, others are of purely Greek origin. This translator also knew and imitated the Greek classics; the numerous fragments of iambic and hexameter verse in the translation cannot be accidental (JTS, XIII, 46). The Psalter is the one translation in this category in which liberties have not been taken; in Psalm 13 [14]:3 the extracts from other parts of Psalms and from Isaiah included in the B text must be an interpolation possibly made before St. Paul’s time (Romans 3:13 ff), or else taken from Romans. The little Psalm 151 in the Septuagint, described in the title as an “autograph” work of David and as “outside the number,” is clearly a late Greek production, perhaps an appendix added after the version was complete.

(5) The Latest Septuagint Translations. — The latest versions included in the Septuagint are the productions of the Jewish translators of the 2nd century AD; some books may be rather earlier, the work of pioneers in the new school which advocated strict adherence to the Hebrew. The books of “Reigns” were now completed, by Theodotion, perhaps, or by one of his school; the later portions (2 R 11:2-3 R 2:11, David’s downfall, and 3 R 22-4 R end, the downfall of the monarchy) are by one hand, as shown by peculiarities in style, e.g. “I am have with child” (2 R 11:5) = “I am with child,” a use which is due to desire to distinguish the longer form of the pronoun ’anokhi (“I,” also used for “I am”) from the shorter ’ani. A complete version of Judges was now probably first made. In two cases the old paraphrastic versions were replaced. Theodotion’s Daniel, as above stated, superseded in the Christian church the older version. A new and complete version of Chronicles-Ezra-Nehemiah was made (Esdras B), though the older version retained its place in the Greek Bible on account of the interesting legend imbedded in it; the new version is here again possibly the work of Theodotion; the numerous transliterations are characteristic of him (Torrey, Ezra Studies; theory had previously been advanced by Sir H. Howorth). In the Greek Ecclesiastes we have a specimen of Aquila’s style (see McNeile’s edition, Cambridge, 1904). Canticles is another late version.

2. General Characteristics

A marked feature of the whole translation is the scrupulous avoidance of anthropomorphisms and phrases derogatory to the divine transcendence. Thus Exodus 4:16, “Thou shalt be to him in things pertaining to God” (Hebrew “for” or “as God”); 15:3, “The Lord is a breaker of battles” (Hebrew “a Man of war”); 24:10, “They saw the place where the God of Israel stood” (Hebrew “they saw the God of Israel”); 24:11, “Of the elect of Israel not one perished and they were seen in the place of God” (Hebrew “Upon the nobles ... He laid not His hand, and they beheld God”). The comparison of God to a rock was consistently paraphrased as idolatrous, as was sometimes the comparison to the sun from fear of sun-worship (Psalms 83 [84]:12, “The Lord loves mercy and truth” for Hebrew “The Lord is a sun and shield”). “The sons of God” (Genesis 6:2) becomes “the angels of God.” For minor liberties, e.g. slight amplifications, interpretation of difficult words, substitution of Greek for Hebrew coinage, translation of place-names, see Swete, Introduction, 323. Blunders in translation are not uncommon, but the difficulties which these pioneers had to face must be remembered, especially the paleographical character of the Hebrew originals. These were written on flimsy papyrus rolls, in a script probably in a transitional stage between the archaic and the later square characters; the words were not separated, and there were no vowel-points; two of the radicals (waw and yodh) were also frequently omitted. Add to this the absence at Alexandria, for parts at least of the Scriptures, of any sound tradition as to the meaning. On the other hand the vocalization adopted by the translators, e.g. in the proper names, is of great value in the history of early Semitic pronunciation. It must further be remembered that the Semitic language most familiar to them was not Hebrew but Aramaic, and some mistakes are due to Aramaic or even Arabic colloquialisms (Swete, Introduction, 319).

IX. Salient Differences between Greek and Hebrew Texts

Differences indicating a Hebrew original other than the Massoretic Text affect either the sequence or the subject-matter (compare Swete, Introduction, 231).

1. Sequence

The most extensive discrepancies in arrangement of materials occur in (1) Ex 35-39, the construction of the Tabernacle and the ornaments of its ministers, (2) 3 R 4-11, Solomon’s reign, (3) Jeremiah (last half), (4) Proverbs (end). (1) In Exodus the Septuagint gives precedence to the priests’ ornaments, which in the Hebrew follow the account of the Tabernacle, and omits altogether the altar of incense. The whole section describing the execution of the instructions given in the previous chapters in almost identical words is one of the latest portions of the Pentateuch and the text had clearly not been finally fixed in the 3rd century BC; the section was perhaps absent from the oldest Greek version. In Exodus 20:13-15 Codex B arranges three of the commandments in the Alexandrian order (7, 8, 6), attested in Philo and in the New Testament. (2) Deliberate rearrangement has taken place in the history of Solomon, and the Septuagint unquestionably preserves the older text. The narrative of the building of the Temple, like that of the Tabernacle, contains some of the clearest examples of editorial revision in the Massoretic Text (Wellhausen, Hist of Israel, 67, 280, etc.). At the end of 3 R the Septuagint places chapters 20 and 21 in their proper order; Massoretic Text reverses this, interposing the Naboth story in the connected account of the Syriac wars and justifying the change by a short preface. (3) In Jeremiah the chapter numbers differ from the middle of chapter 25 to the end of chapter 51, the historical appendix (chapter 52) concluding both texts. This is due to the different position assigned to a group of prophecies against the nations: The Septuagint places them in the center, the Massoretic Text at the end. The items in this group are also rearranged. The diversity in order is earlier than the Greek translation; see JTS, IV; 245. (4) The order of some groups of maxims at the end of Proverbs was not finally fixed at the time of the Greek translation; like Jeremiah’s prophecies against the nations, these little groups seem to have circulated as late as the 2nd or 1st century BC as separate pamphlets. The Psalms numbers from 10 to 147 differ by one in the Septuagint and Massoretic Text, owing to discrepancies in the lines of demarcation between individual psalms.

2. Subject Matter

Excluding the end of Exodus, striking examples of divergence in the Pentateuch are few. The Septuagint alone preserves Cain’s words to his brother, “Let us go into the field” (Genesis 4:8). The close of Moses’ song appears in an expanded form in the Septuagint (Deuteronomy 32:43). Similarly Hannah’s song in 1 R 2 (? originally a warrior’s triumph-song) has been rendered more appropriate to the occasion by the substitution in verse 8c of words about the answer to prayer, and enlarged by the insertion of a passage from Jeremiah; the changes in both songs may be connected with their early use as canticles. In Joshua the larger amount of divergence suggests that this book did not share the peculiar sanctity of the Law. But the books of “Reigns” present the widest differences and the fullest scope for the textual critic. The Septuagint here proves the existence of two independent accounts of certain events. Sometimes it incorporates both, while the Massoretic Text rejects one of them; thus Septuagint gives (3 R 2:35a ff, 46a ff) a connected summary of events in Solomon’s personal history; most of which appear elsewhere in a detached form, 3 R 12:24a-z is a second account of the dismemberment of the kingdom; 16:28a-h a second summary of Jehoshaphat’s reign (compare 22:41 ff); 4 R 1:18a another summary of Joram’s reign (compare 3:1 ff). Conversely in 1 R 17-18, the Massoretic Text has apparently preserved two contradictory accounts [?] of events in David’s early history, while the Septuagint presents a shorter and consistent narrative (Swete, Intro, 245 f). An “addition” in the Septuagint of the highest interest appears in 3 R 8:53b, where a stanza is put into the mouth of Solomon at the Temple dedication, taken from “the Song-book” (probably the Book of Jashar); the Massoretic Text gives the stanza in an edited form earlier in the chapter (8:12 f); for the reconstruction of the original Hebrew see JTS, X, 439; XI, 518. The last line proves to be a title, “For the Sabbath—On Alamoth” (i.e. for sopranos), showing that the song was set to music for liturgical purposes. In Jeremiah, besides transpositions, the two texts differ widely in the way of excess and defect; the verdict of critics is mainly in favor of the priority of the Septuagint (Streane, Double Text of Jeremiah, 1896). For divergences in the “Writings” see VIII, above; for additional titles to the Psalms see Swete, Introduction, 250 f.


The most important works have been mentioned in the body of the article. See, further, the very full lists in Swete’s Introduction and the bibliographies by Nestle in PRE 3, III, 1-24, and XXIII, 207-10 (1913); HDB, IV, 453-54.

H. St. J. Thackeray