The Septuagint (Latin: Interpretatio Septuaginta Virorum; Greek: Ἡ Μετάφρασις τῶν Ἑβδομήκοντα, Hē Metáphrasis tōn Hebdomēkonta; "Name means::Interpretation According to the Seventy", abbr. LXX or 𝔊) is the first translation of the Old Testament of the Bible into the classical Greek that was spoken shortly after the death of Alexander the Great.
The Septuagint contains some different features when compared to the Masoretic text for three reasons. Firstly, being completed around 130 BC, after several stages of development, would mean it was translated from even older Hebrew copies. Thus (2) motivation by Jewish scribes, and leaders to change the prophetic language about Christ within the Old Testament was not present because Christ was not known specifically. And (3) the New Testament authors quoted from the Septuagint for more than half of their OT quotes used within the NT.
Upon the death of Alexander (332 BC), one of his generals, named Ptolemy Lagus, took over Egypt as King Ptolemy I Soter (literally, "Ptolemy the Savior"). This king built, among other things, the Great Library of Alexandria, which he intended to be a major research center throughout the Mediterranean region.
He continued the generally tolerant policy toward the Jews that Alexander had observed since the priests at Jerusalem had surrendered to him. His successor Ptolemy II Philadelphus (r. 285-246 BC) continued that policy. In his effort to make the Great Library the best center of learning in the known world, Ptolemy Philadelphus sought to translate the Old Testament from Hebrew into Greek. Sadly, his staff found Hebrew to be a difficult language to understand, and were not sure of the meanings of several turns of phrase found in the Hebrew text. So Ptolemy appointed a team of seventy scholars, each fluent in Hebrew and in Greek, and assigned to them the task of translating the Hebrew text. The result is a work produced largely by consensus. Yet the Evangelists, and the Apostles Paul, James, Peter, Jude, and the author of the Epistle to the Hebrews quoted the Septuagint often in their respective writings.
The Septuagint contains the thirty-nine canonical books of the Old Testament agreed upon by Catholics and Protestants to be canonical, but also contains the books called the Deuterocanonicals by Catholics and the Apocrypha by Protestants, which are considered non-inspired, and hence non-canonical, by most Protestant denominations but, are considered inspired and canonical by the Roman Catholic and Eastern Orthodox Churches, and are included in Catholic and Orthodox Bibles.
Objections to the Septuagint
Any translation is automatically suspect, if only because of differences in grammar and idiom between the source and target languages. However, the Jews, especially after the failure of the Simon bar Kokhba rebellion, determined never to accept anything that had a non-Jewish influence. Therefore, since midway through the second century AD, Jews have used the Masoretic text, which they insist is the original.
James Ussher, who made himself an expert on Semitic languages, determined to his own satisfaction that the Septuagint contained errors of translation, and even errors of fact, that he considered critical and fatal to his purpose of determining a unified chronology of the world. For that reason, he rejected the Septuagint in favor of the Masoretic Text.
Note that there are several discrepancies between the LXX and Masoretic Text that lend support to the notion that the 72 rabbis were, to put it simply, poor at math.
In 1947, certain copies of Hebrew texts in scroll form turned up at Qumran. These "Dead Sea Scrolls" tend to vindicate the Masoretic text. These scrolls date back at least two centuries BC and thus to shortly after the time in which the Septuagint came to be. Yet at the same time, Septuagint and Dead Sea Scroll manuscripts together vindicate the prophecies of Jesus Christ, because they render any conspiracy to write "prophecies after the fact" temporally impossible.
- Craig A. Evans, Ancient Texts For New Testament Studies: A Guide To The Background Literature (Hendrickson Publishing 2005), pg. 2
- Historical Apologetics - Part 1 Dr. Phil Fernandes. Posted: Tue, 02 Dec 2008 22:58:15 +0000
- Some Remarks Preliminary to a Biblical Chronology by Pete Williams. April 1, 1998
- Online Version of the Septuagint
- The Septuagint LXX in English
- The Septuagint on the Web.
- Septuagint at Orthodoxwiki.
- Septuagint by Wikipedia
- Will and Ariel Durant, The Story of Civilization: the Life of Greece