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Cep to a what? The Old Testament in Greek

Part 1

Posted Thursday, May 25, 2006 by Charlie Trimm

My ThM thesis on how Stephen uses the OT in his speech in Acts 7. Since Stephen quotes the LXX and not the Hebrew, I figured I had better read up on the LXX. So I decided to read Invitation to the Septuagint, by Karen Jobes and Moises Silva. And since I know I will learn better if I take notes, that is what I am doing. So for all of you (maybe all one of you!) who want to learn more about the OT in Greek, here is a new series for you.

                        The introductory chapter introduces the Septuagint and explains why it is important. They illustrate some differences between the MT and the LXX (Genesis 1:6-7 and Isaiah 65:11). The LXX is important because it provides the vocabulary of some of the NT authors, it is alluded to by the NT authors, it provides help to the textual critic, and it was the bible of the early church, influencing their theology and exegesis.

                        The first chapter discusses the origin of the LXX. The word Septuagint is used in various ways, such as the whole LXX, or only the Torah translated into Greek. The textual history of each book is different, even if they are bound together as one book. The authors say there is some measure of truth in the Letter of Aristeas, such as that it was translated in Alexandria. The letter claims there was 72 men, while later tradition places it at 70 (similar to the 70 men with Moses). There were several versions of the LXX. The Jews might have given up on the LXX because of the use of it by the church, but there was also textual fluidity in the first century, as evidenced by the DSS. So another reason for the Jews redoing the LXX is that a superior textual basis is being used. Aquila was a Gentile convert to Judaism who made a very literal translation around 130 AD. Symmachus might have been an Ebionite Christian late in the second century whose translation is between Aquila and the LXX. Theodotion is relatively unknown, although he might have been a convert to Judaism in the late 2nd century. He revised the LXX towards the Hebrew text and apparently used a text that existed before him. There are also a few other versions, but we know very little about them.

                        The second chapter is about the transmission of the Septuagint. There are several Greek translations (LXX, Aquila, Symmachus, and Theodotion) and several recensions of the LXX (Hesychian, Hexaplaric, and Lucianic). The line between translation and recension is fuzzy, however. We do not have a text of Hesychian. The Hexapla is a work by Origen which has the Hebrew text, the Greek transliteration of the Hebrew, Aquila, Symmachus, LXX, and Theodotion in six columns. Unfortunately, we have very few sections of the Hexapla. Also problematic is that the LXX (column 5) was apparently modified by Origen to fit the Hebrew, complicating the search for the original LXX. Lucian revised the LXX in about 300 in Syria. His text is also called the Antiochian text and has been identified for most of the OT except for the Pentateuch. There are also proto-Lucian readings, which apparently indicate that Lucian’s text is based on a text that already was being revised towards the Hebrew.

There are five main stages in the transmission of the LXX.

1.      Original translation from Hebrew into Greek

2.      Early revisions (Kaige-Theodotion and Proto-Lucian)

3.      versions of Aquila, Symmachus, and Theodotion

4.      Origen’s recension

5.      Lucian’s recension

There are several categories of witnesses to the LXX, and the book has nice pictures of several important manuscripts. These are divided based on writing style (uncial and miniscule) and type of medium (papyri and parchment). There are also translations in other languages and citations from the church fathers, but these are difficult to use in TC.

The third chapter discusses the LXX in modern times. There were several early versions of the LXX done in the centuries after the printing press was invented. Critical versions began to appear in the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries. The standard critical edition has been Rahlfs, produced in Germany in the early part of the twentieth century and largely based on the three great uncials, although it was only intended to be a provisional edition. Today work is being done a full critical edition. The major English translation of the LXX is Brenton, from 1851. A new translation is underway, entitled NETS. The LXX has differences in chapters and verses in many places from the Hebrew and English texts, especially in the Psalms. There are also extra books in the LXX, called the deuterocanonical books by the Catholics and the Apocrypha by Protestants.

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