The Septuagint (pronounced, sep-tjoo-uh-jint, literally "Interpretation According to the Seventy," as requested by Ptolemy II) is the first translation of the Hebrew Old Testament of the Bible into any foreign language—and specifically the classical Greek and Koine Greek that was spoken shortly after the death of Alexander the Great. In New Testament times, the Septuagint was the form of scripture in common use. Jesus quotes from it in Luke 4:18-19. The Bible itself does not present a definitive listing of the books of the Bible or their number. The divinely inspired statement of Saint Paul in 2 Timothy 3:16-17 encompasses and includes all of sacred scripture, and its purpose.
Upon the death of Alexander in 332 B.C., 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. Supposedly all of the translators worked independently and arrived at the same exact translation, thus demonstrating that the translated text was as divinely inspired as the original.
The result is a work produced largely by scholarly consensus and was the primary translation in Palestine at the time of Jesus. The Gospels, Paul, James, Peter, Jude, and the author of the Epistle to the Hebrews quoted from the Septuagint often in their respective writings.
The Septuagint contains the forty-six canonical books of the Catholic and Orthodox Old Testament, and includes the thirty-nine books held by most Protestant denominations to be inspired, together with those called the Apocrypha, which are considered by non-Catholic and non-Orthodox Christians as non-inspired, and hence non-canonical. They were first segregated into a separate section between the Old Testament of the Jewish Tanakh and the Christian New Testament by Martin Luther in his German Bible in the 16th century. They were retained in the King James Bible (KJV) until popular pressure by Protestant groups in the 19th century persuaded publishers of the KJV to omit the Apocrypha altogether. The Apocrypha are still considered canonical by the Roman Catholic Church and the Orthodox Church communities, and are retained in Catholic and Orthodox Bibles. The Septuagint also includes the anagignoskomena books which are not included in the Apocrypha, and are not included in the Catholic and Protestant Bibles.
See Biblical Canon
Objections to the Septuagint
Any translation is automatically suspect, if only because of differences in grammar and idiom between the source and target languages. Also, later Jews were suspicious of anything that had a non-Jewish influence, and so kept most of the original Hebrew texts The Masoretic Text is the traditional Hebrew (and in some books, Aramaic), and is the text that is used today both for those who read Hebrew, and for translating to other languages.
Saint Jerome used the Septuagint as the basis of the Gallican Psalter and the book of Job of the Vulgate. After more than a decade he decided the Septuagint was too fraught with mistranslations to be acceptable. At the beginning of AD the fifth century Jerome used only copies of biblical books in Hebrew and in some places Aramaic. It is important to note that Jerome did not exclude from the whole of the Christian Bible the books designated as Apocrypha by the second century Palestinian Jewish rabbinical authorities and afterward by the leaders of the Protestant Reformation, but he included them among the books of the Old Testament. Martin Luther was first to separate and segregate the deuterocanonicals in a separate section apart from the Old Testament which he designated "The Apocrypha".
James Ussher, who made himself an expert on Semitic languages, concluded 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.
Objections overcome: Dead Sea Scrolls vindicate accuracy of both LXX and Masoretic text
In 1947, ancient copies of Hebrew texts in scroll form turned up at Qumran. These "Dead Sea Scrolls" were written over various times, but dated back to the time of Jesus and before. This was a monumental find as it pushed back the time of the earliest known Hebrew text by almost 1000 years and was still a few hundred years earlier than the earliest surviving Greek text. The scrolls vindicate the accuracy of both the Septuagint and the Masoretic text which were surprisingly accurate for the large amount of time that had passed. In those cases where there were differences, the Septuagint was more accurate overall. 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.
Table of LXX quotes and allusions in the New Testament
Compare the KJV Old Testament texts with the Greek and English Septuagint text at ellopos.net/elpenor/greek-texts
|New Testament KJV||Old Testament KJV||New Testament KJV||Deuterocanonical Books|
|Isaiah 11:2 Seven Gifts of the Holy Spirit in the Bible|
| Compare:—KJV Isaiah 11:2-3—Douay-Rheims Isaiah 11:2-3—Septuagint Isaiah 11:2-3  —RSVCE Isaiah 11:2-3
The sixth gift εὐσεβείας eusebias "piety" or "godliness" is found only in the Septuagint. See multiple versions of Isaiah 11:2 and 11:3.
Existence of the Septuagint before the Third Century
The existence of the Septuagint before A.D. 100 has been disputed and denied, on the basis that no extant manuscript of the Septuagint as a whole can be dated earlier than the Codex Vaticanus, and that the Ryland Papyrus is only a small portion of the biblical text, which cannot of itself prove the existence of an entire Greek translation of the whole Old Testament at or before the time of the Apostles and before the birth of Jesus. Some hold the opinion that the Septuagint was composed around A.D. 275 to bolster the claims of the Catholic Church, that quotations from the LXX were falsely inserted into the Gospels and the New Testament in place of the true Hebrew texts, corrupting the Bible, and that it is evidence of a growing syncretistic compromise with the pagan religion of the Roman Empire. The Letter of Aristeas purporting to describe its origin beginning the third century B.C. as the miraculously accurate translation of seventy or seventy-two rabbinical scholars retained by Pharaoh Ptolemy Philadelphus in Egypt has been rejected as a purely legendary, very late composition, according to some originally invented as hoax in the third century, and therefore utterly unworthy of belief as a testimony to the authenticity of the Septuagint.
However, the consistent witness of the ecclesiastical writers of the first and second centuries of Christianity, the Apostolic Fathers, who quote as authoritative scripture Greek texts of the Old Testament including the deuterocanonicals, suggests strongly that there is no substantive basis for the assertion that the Septuagint was compiled after A.D. 210 and was utterly unknown before that time. The earliest extant fragments of the Gospels and the New Testament have no evidence of quotations of the Old Testament translated directly from the Hebrew Old Testament. There is no before and after textual evidence which demonstrates that quotations of Old Testament texts in the New Testament were later systematically revised or replaced by copyists using the LXX. The constant tradition of both the eastern and western churches also argues strongly against the contention that the Septuagint did not exist before the third century, confidently asserting instead that the collection of the forty-six books of the Septuagint was the Bible of Jesus and the Apostles before the writing of the New Testament Gospels, Epistles and Revelation. This is taken together with the evidence of the tradition of the ancient African Jewish communities, in particular Beta Israel, all of whom reject Christian claims and scriptures, whose ancient traditional translation of the Tanakh Bible contains all of the books rejected by the Palestinian rabbinical schools of the first and second centuries, a canon of scripture that is almost identical to the Old Testament of the Greek Orthodox Church (without the book of Ecclesiasticus). The argument that Beta Israel originated with isolated communities of African Christians who fell away from Christianity into a form of Judaism while still retaining the books of the Septuagint as their Tanakh as an integral part of their ancestral heritage has recently been dismissed by conclusive evidence that their cultural and genetic ancestors were never Christian. All available textual and historical evidence indicates that efforts to prove the Septuagint did not exist before the time of Christ and therefore could not have been the Bible of Jesus and the Apostles are revisionist errors presented as an argument against Orthodoxy and Catholicism in favor of the Protestant Reformation rejection of seven books and parts of books of the Bible.
- Latin Interpretatio Septuaginta, Greek Hermeneutica kata ton hebdomekonton abbr. LXX
- The Septuagint on the Web.
- For the context of 2 Timothy 3:16-17 compare 2 Timothy 3:14-15; 1 Timothy 3:15; Ephesians 3:8-12; 2:10; James 2:24; and Matthew 7:21-23. In Matthew 25:31-46 the Lord does not ask how the Bible was read and interpreted. In Romans 2:6-11 the Bible is not mentioned as a requirement of salvation.
- Ptolemy II at Infoplease.com
- See Sirach (Ecclesiasticus) 1:1, Douay-Rheims 1899 American edition DRA (biblegateway.com). The book of Sirach was originally written in Hebrew, not Greek. See Apocrypha.
- Durant, Will, The Story of Civilization, Volume 2: The Life of Greece. ISBN 1567310133
- Biblical Apocrypha: Modern Editions - Wikipedia
- See Sirach 1:1 Douay-Rheims 1899 American edition (DRA) (biblegateway.com) Ben-Sira's introduction to the Book of Ecclesiasticus
- "...for the Hebrew words have not the same force in them when translated into another tongue. And not only these, but the law also itself, and the prophets, and the rest of the books, have no small difference, when they are spoken in their own language."
- All of the Old Testament books rejected as apocrypha from the 2nd century onward by rabbinical authority have been found to have originally been Hebrew texts, with the sole exception of the Wisdom of Solomon. See Council of Jamnia. Discoveries of Hebrew and Aramaic manuscripts of Tobit, ben Sira (Sirach, or Ecclesiasticus), Epistle of Jeremiah in the caves at Qumran near the Dead Sea, the "Dead Sea Scrolls", demonstrate that a Hebrew or Aramaic origin of a text included in the Greek translation of the Jewish scriptures in the Septuagint accepted by Christians was not the sole criterion for inclusion or exclusion in the Hebrew canon, but included consideration of (rejected) evidence of content which supported Christian doctrine. Linguistic evidence shows that other Septuagint books which were excluded by rabbinical authority after A.D. 90 certainly had an original Hebrew or Aramaic text. See
- Jewish Virtual Library. Jewish Holy Scriptures: The Apocrypha and Pseudepigrapha, by Michael E. Stone
- BACKGROUND AND HISTORY TO THE APOCRYPHA, By David Phillips Article reprinted from Cross†Way Issue Autumn 2006 No. 102 (archive.churchsociety.org)
- The Origin of the Apocrypha
- The Apocrypha of the Old Testament: With Historical Introductions, a Revised Translation, and Notes Critical and Explanatory, by Edwin Cone Bissell. Scribner, 1890. 680 pages, page 208ff, citing evidence that the "additions to Esther" were also translated from the Hebrew. (Google eBook)
- The Development of the Canon of the New Testament: Vulgate
- Obscure. See multiple commentaries on Hebrews 1:6. Scholars specifically see Hebrews 1:6 as a citation of LXX Deuteronomy 34:43. This is puzzling. The passage does not refer to the "firstborn", either the messiah of Israel or to "Israel my son". According to scholarly commentaries they are undecided what text is being quoted in Hebrews, but see a possible alternative reference to :Psalm 97:6-7. Hebrews 1:6 is not actually identifiable as being from any extant Hebrew OT text. See Septuagint English-Greek text of Deuteronomy 32:43 (ellopos.net/elpenor)
- 43. Rejoice, ye heavens, with him, and let all the angels of God worship him; rejoice ye Gentiles, with his people, and let all the sons of God strengthen themselves in him; for he will avenge the blood of his sons, and he will render vengeance, and recompence justice to his enemies, and will reward them that hate him; and the Lord shall purge the land of his people.
- An allusion to King Herod who "did not lack the means to send upon them" merciless soldiers "full of rage" to "exterminate men" like the vicious beasts mentioned in the parallel language of this passage in Wisdom 11:17-19
- References to Wisdom as a living being in the Old Testament have been interpreted as referring to the Word of God made flesh, Jesus Christ himself:
- Jesus, the Word and Wisdom of God, gives himself, his flesh and blood, as food and drink, that all who come to him may share in (partake of) the divine nature:
- The ninth month "Chisleu / Chislev" in the Jewish calendar is in November/December, the time of the Early and Later Rains. The "feast of dedication" is Hanukkah.
- An allusion to "signs and wonders" worked by the Wisdom of God, in the Book of Acts by Jesus through the hands of the Apostles, "made unto us wisdom". See 1 Corinthians 1:30.
- See also :Isaiah 59:17 and :1 Thessalonians 5:8.
- See also :2 Kings 2:1-13 and :Sirach 48:9.
- See context 2 Maccabees 2:4-8. Those who believe both the Second Book of Maccabees and the Book of Revelation are true according to the literal sense of scripture are convinced that the Ark of the Covenant is not on earth but was physically taken to heaven after Jeremiah hid it in a cave, and that to John on the island of Patmos it was revealed again and was seen by him to be in heaven, because God had fulfilled the prophesy uttered by Jeremiah, having begun the gathering of his redeemed people together again and revealed his mercy to sinners in his Son the Lord Jesus Christ.
- Click on Septuagint Isaiah 11 This link includes the entire chapter of Isaiah 11 with number links to other chapters which are not verse numbers. The reader will need to scroll down the page to find the text.
- The External links below offers a detailed in-depth introduction to the range of issues, opinions, controversy, and research on the origins of the Septuagint. They are best read in the sequence provided here.
- Overview of the Septuagint Bible
- 10 Archaeological proofs the Septuagint Tanakh was translated by the Jews before 150 BC, by Steve Rudd (bible.ca)
- Septuagint - Theopedia (theopedia.com) "Ethiopian Jews are the only Jewish community today who accept the Septuagint (minus Ecclesiasticus)."
- Beta Israel - Wikipedia
- A Genetic Perspective on the Beta Israel, Ethiopian Jews: Evidence mounts of ancient Jewish roots of Beta Israel Ethiopian Jewry, by Ibrahim Omer - Genetic Literacy Project (geneticliteracyproject.org)
- Septuagint (LXX) Quotes in the New Testament
- Septuagint Quotes in the New Testament (scripturecatholic.com)
- Deuterocanonical Books in the New Testament (scripturecatholic.com)
- The Great Bible Hoax of 1881, posted by Faith aka Connie (greatbiblehoax.blogspot.com) Includes extensive quotation of the text of the letter from the King James Translators to the Reader praising and recognizing the authenticity of the Greek Septuagint.
- The Translators to the Reader (bible-researcher.com) The full text of the KJV translators' letter to the reader.
Note especially the paragraph titled "The Translation of the Old Testament out of the Hebrew into Greek" in which they praise and recognize the authenticity of the Septuagint.
- Table of Old Testament quotes in the New Testament, in English Translation, Joel Kalvesmaki (kalvesmaki.com)
- Eonian Document 5A: The Septuagint Hoax (eonianlifebible.com)
- Is the Greek Septuagint Real? Author: Christopher J. E. Johnson (creationliberty.com)
- Is the "World's Oldest Bible" a Fake?: How a 19th century hoax affects your faith. - What is the "Septuagint"? by David W. Daniels - Chick Publications (chick.com)
- The Masoretic Hebrew vs. The Septuagint (Part II): The Septuagint, Eric Jobe (blogs.ancientfaith.com) Blog by Eastern Orthodox contributor. "The Greek Old Testament today cannot be easily nailed down to a single text [...] One cannot simply say 'The LXX reads...' without checking to find out which LXX one is talking about."
- Septuagint: History of the Septuagint (ecclesia.org) includes quotation of Sir Lancelot L.C. Brenton preface on reliability of LXX and evidence of its use by the Apostles and the early church.
- Comparisons between the Bible and the Septuagint, Randy Lee and Richard Anthony (ecclesia.org)
- Orthodox Faith. On the Septuagint in the New Testament (orthochristian.com)
- Quotations in the New Testament (scribd.com) detailed scholarly article
- Septuagint Fraud. LXX Hoax EXPOSED! (moresureword.com)
- The Truth about the Septuagint. Dr. Sam Gipp (blessedquietness.com) "quotations from the LXX were falsely inserted into the Gospels and the New Testament in place of the true Hebrew texts, corrupting the Bible".
- Roman Catholic and Orthodox Faith Examined, and The Apocrypha: "Reasons why the Apocrypha does NOT belong in the Bible!" (bible.ca)
- CARM Christian Apologetics & Research Ministry: Reasons why the Apocrypha does not belong in the Bible, by Ryan Turner (carm.org)
- Reasoning From the Scriptures with Ron Rhodes Critique of Chapter 2, Does the Apocrypha Belong in the Bible?, by Matt1618 —gives reasons why the Apocrypha is Scripture which actually does belong in the Bible, in answer to Protestant arguments presented by Ron Rhodes
- Septuagint (simplebibletruths.net) —a very dense and detailed compilation of source materials which includes brief discussions of the Anagignoskomena—worth careful and patient reading
- Greek and English Septuagint
Latin and English Vulgate
Kings James Apocrypha Online