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WORD OF GOD
THE SEPTUAGINT VERSION
Victor M. Eskew
A. The Old Testament was originally written in the Hebrew language.
B. Alexander the Great (356 B.C. – 323 B.C) conquered the Persian Empire.
1. Greece became the world power.
2. The language that took over the world was the Greek language. The common language of the people was referred to as Koine Greek.
C. In the course of time, there was a need for a Greek translation of the Hebrew Old Testament. One of those translations was the Septuagint Version.
I. THE NAME
1. This is the Latin word for “seventy.”
2. It took this name in the time of Augustine of Hippo (354-430).
3. It refers to the seventy-two Jewish translators who are said to have translated the Pentateuch, that is, the five books of Moses.
B. The Translation of the Seventy
C. The LXX
D. The Greek Old Testament.
II. THE ORIGIN OF THE SEPTUAGINT
A. Traditional Explanation
1. Following Alexander’s rule, the Ptolemys came into power in Egypt.
2. Ptolemy Philadelphus was the King of Egypt from 285-246 B.C.
3. He was a patron of literature and it was under his reign that the great library at Alexandria was established.
4. His librarian, Demetrius of Phalerum, “aroused the king’s interest in the Jewish law and advised him to send a delegation to the high priest, Eleazar, at Jerusalem” (The Books and the Parchments, F.F. Bruce, “The Old Testament in Greek,” p. 146). He was to ask the priest to allow scholars of the Pentateuch to translate the Hebrew into the Greek language.
5. The high priest selected seventy-two Jewish scholars to make the translation of the Hebrew Old Testament. Six were selected from each of the twelve tribes.
6. Within 72 days, these men had made a Greek translation of the Pentateuch.
B. Practical Explanation
1. In the book of Jeremiah (chapt. 41-44), we learn that a large number of Jews went down to Egypt to settle three or four months after Nebuchadnezzar destroyed the city of Jerusalem and the Temple in 586 B.C.
2. When Alexander the Great founded the city of Alexandria, the Jews were a very important element of the population.
a. Two of the five wards were Jewish.
b. Jews were also scattered among the other three wards.
3. Alexandria was a Greek speaking city.
a. The Jews spoke exclusively in Greek.
b. Thus, a need arose for a Greek translation of the Hebrew Old Testament.
4. “And the internal evidence of the Septuagint suggests that this Greek version of the Old Testament was made in the first instance to meet the requirements of the Jewish population of Alexandria, and not to grace the royal library” (Books and Parchments, Bruce, p. 148).
III. FACTS ABOUT THE SEPTUAGINT
A. The Septuagint uses the Koine Greek. This was the everyday Greek of the common man.
B. The Pentateuch was completed in the third century B.C.. The rest of the Septuagint was finished by 132 B.C. (NOTE: It is not clear who, when, or where the other books were translated.
C. By the first century, the Septuagint was more commonly used by Christians.
D. The Septuagint was eventually rejected by the Jews.
1. They believed that there were some inaccuracies in the translation.
2. The Christians used this book to establish the legitimacy of the Christian faith.
3. By 100 A.D., a Hebrew standard text was produced for the Jews. “…when this authorized text was fixed, any version in another language which was to be fit for Jewish use must conform to it, and this the existing forms of the Greek version plainly did not” (Books and Parchments, Bruce, p. 151).
E. The Septuagint was not the only Greek text in existence.
1. Others: Aquila, Symmachus, Theodotion
2. Some thought that the other Greek versions conformed more closely to the Hebrew text.
IV. THE BOOKS OF THE SEPTUAGINT
Law History Wisdom Prophets Appendix
Genesis Joshua Psalms Hosea 4 Maccabees
Exodus Judges Psalm 151 Amos
Leviticus Ruth Prayer of Manassah Micah
Numbers I Samuel Job Joel
Deuteronomy II Samuel Proverbs Obadiah
I Kings Ecclesiastes Jonah
II Kings Song of Solomon Nahum
I Chronicles Wisdom Habakkuk
II Chronicles Sirach or Ecclesiasticus Zephaniah
I Esdras Psalms of Solomon Haggai
Tobit or Tobias Malachi
Esther with add. Jeremiah
I Maccabees Baruch
II Maccabees Lamentations
III Maccabees Letter to Jeremiah
Daniel with add.