Septuaginta (LXX), wat is de

The Septuagint was the first Greek translation made of the Old Testament. According to tradition, it was made in Alexandria, Egypt, during the third century B.C. by seventy (or seventy-two) translators. (The word “Septuagint” comes from the Latin word for “seventy.”) When the New Testament writers quoted from the Old Testament, they nearly always quoted from the Septuagint, not from the Hebrew text. Indeed, the Septuagint soon became the Old Testament of the church. After its enthusiastic acceptance by Christians, however, the Jews eventually discontinued using it—preferring the second-century translation made by a Jewish convert, Aquila.

I. History and use of the Septuagint

II. Differences between the Septuagint and other Old Testament texts 

III. Examples of quotations from the Septuagint

I. History and use of the Septuagint

When Ptolemy, king of Egypt, formed a library and sought to collect the writings of all men, he also heard of these prophets. So he sent to Herod, who was the king of the Jews at that time, requesting that the books of the prophets be sent to him. And Herod the king did indeed send them, written, as they were, in the Hebrew language. Now, when their contents were found to be unintelligible to the Egyptians, he again sent and requested that men be commissioned to translate them into the Greek language. And when this was done, the books remained with the Egyptians, where they are until now. They are also in the possession of all Jews throughout the world. Justin Martyr (c. 160, E), 1.173. 

Ptolemy, king of Egypt, had built the library in Alexandria and had filled it by gathering books from every place. He then learned that the very ancient histories written in Hebrew happened to be carefully preserved. Wishing to know their contents, he sent for seventy wise men from Jerusalem, who were acquainted with both the Greek and Hebrew languages. He directed them to translate the books. So that they could more speedily complete the translation by being free from all disturbances, he ordered the construction of as many cottages as there were translators—not in the city itself, but seven stadia away. . . . He ordered the officers overseeing this . . . to prevent any communication [of the translators] with one another. This was so the accuracy of the translation could be verified by their agreement [of one translation with another]. When Ptolemy discovered that the seventy men not only had all given the same meanings, but had even used the same words, . . . he believed that the translation had been written by divine power. . . . You men of Greece, this is no fable. Nor have I narrated something fictitious. Rather, I myself have been in Alexandria and have seen the remains of the little cottages at the Pharos, which are still preserved. And I have heard these things from the inhabitants [of Alexandria], who had received them as part of their country’s tradition. I have told you things that you can also learn from others—and especially from those wise and esteemed men who have written of these things: Philo and Josephus. Justin Martyr (c. 160, E), 1.278, 279.

Before the Romans possessed their kingdom (while as yet the Macedonians held Asia), Ptolemy, the son of Lagus, was anxious to adorn the library which he had founded in Alexandria with a collection of the writings of all men that were of merit. So he requested the people of Jerusalem to have their Scriptures translated into the Greek language. And they . . . sent to Ptolemy seventy of their elders, who were thoroughly skilled in the Scriptures and in both languages [i.e., Hebrew and Greek], to carry out what Ptolemy had desired. . . . However, Ptolemy wished to test them individually. For he feared that they might perhaps, by taking counsel together, conceal the truth in the Scriptures by their translation. So he separated them from each other, and commanded them all to write the same translation. He did this with respect to all the books. But when they came together in the same place before Ptolemy, and each of them compared his own translation with that of every other, God was indeed glorified, and the Scriptures were acknowledged as truly divine. For all of them read out the same translation in the very same words.
Irenaeus (c. 180, E/W), 1.451, 452.

The apostles are of more ancient date than all these [heretics]. And they agree with this aforesaid translation [i.e., the LXX]. And the translation harmonizes with the tradition of the apostles. For Peter, John, Matthew, and Paul, and the rest in turn, as well as their followers, quoted all prophecies just as the interpretation of the elders contains them. Irenaeus (c. 180, E/ W), 1.452.

The Scriptures were translated into the language of the Greeks, in order that the Greeks might never be able to allege the excuse of ignorance. Clement of Alexandria (c. 195, E), 2.308.

It is said that the Scriptures, both of the Law and of the Prophets, were translated from the language of the Hebrews into the Greek language during the reign of Ptolemy, the son of Lagos. Or, according to others, it was a Ptolemy surnamed Philadelphus. . . . For the Macedonians were still in possession of Asia, and the king was ambitious to adorn his library at Alexandria with all writings. So he desired the people of Jerusalem to translate the prophecies they possessed into the Greek language. And, they, being the subjects of the Macedonians, selected seventy elders from those of highest character among them. And each one individually translated each prophetic book. However, when all the translations were compared together, they agreed both in meaning and expression. For it was the counsel of God carried out for the benefit of Grecian ears. It was not alien to the inspiration of God (who originally gave the prophecy) also to produce the translation and make it, as it were, Greek prophecy. Clement of Alexandria (c. 195, E), 2.334.

That the understanding of their books might not be lacking, this also the Jews supplied to Ptolemy. For they gave him seventy-two interpreters. . . . The same account is given by Aristeas. So the king left these works unlocked to all, in the Greek language. To this day, at the temple of Serapis, the libraries of Ptolemy are to be seen, with the identical Hebrew originals in them. The Jews, too, read them publicly. Tertullian (c. 197, W), 3.32.

He will endeavor to praise the divine Scriptures, which, with marvelous care and the most generous expenditure, Ptolemy Philadelphus caused to be translated into our language. Theonas of Alexandria (c. 300, E), 6.160.

II. Differences between the Septuagint and other Old Testament texts

The first quotation concerns Isaiah 7:14, where the Septuagint reads, “virgin,” while the Masoretic Text reads, “young woman.”

But you [Jews] and your teachers venture to declare that in the prophecy of Isaiah it does not say, “Behold, the virgin will conceive,” but, “Behold, the young woman will conceive, and bear a son.” Furthermore, you explain the prophecy as if [it referred] to Hezekiah, who was your king. Therefore, I will endeavor to discuss shortly this point in opposition to you. Justin Martyr (c. 160, E), 1.216.

Shall I not in this matter, too, compel you not to believe your [Jewish] teachers—who venture to assert that the explanation given by your seventy elders, who were with Ptolemy, the king of the Egyptians, is untrue in certain respects. Justin Martyr (c. 160, E), 1.233.

But I am far from putting reliance in your [Jewish] teachers, who refuse to admit that the interpretation made by the seventy elders who were with Ptolemy of the Egyptians is a correct one. . . . I wish you to observe, that the Jewish teachers have altogether taken away many Scriptures from the translations made by those seventy elders who were with Ptolemy, and by which this very man who was crucified is proved to have been set forth expressly as God and man. Justin Martyr (c. 160, E), 1.234.

The Lord Himself saved us, giving us the sign of the virgin. But it is not as some allege, who are now presuming to expound the Scripture as “Behold, a young woman will conceive, and bring forth a son,” as Theodotion the Ephesian has interpreted, and Aquila of Pontus, both Jewish proselytes. Irenaeus (c. 180, E/W), 1.451.

At this point, we have an asterisk. The words are found in the Hebrew, but do not occur in the Septuagint. Hippolytus (c. 205, W), 5.163.

“For the Lord is righteous, and He loved righteousnesses” [Ps. 11:7]. This is the reading in the exact copies and in the other versions besides the Septuagint, and in the Hebrew. Origen (c. 228, E), 9.353.

 In many other of the sacred books, I sometimes found more in our copies [i.e., the LXX] than in the Hebrew, sometimes less. I will give a few examples, since it is impossible to give them all. Of the Book of Esther, neither the prayer of Mordecai nor that of Esther—both intended to edify the reader—is found in the Hebrew. Origen (c. 240, E), 4.387.

I make it my endeavor not to be ignorant of their various readings. Otherwise, in my controversies with the Jews, I might quote to them what is not found in their copies. Also, I want to be able to make use of what is found there—even though it is not in our Scriptures [i.e., the LXX].
Origen (c. 240, E), 4.387.

III. Examples of quotations from the Septuagint

Where the New Testament writers quote from the Old Testament, their quotations often read differently than do the Old Testament passages found in most Bibles. That is because the New Testament writers generally quote from the Septuagint. In contrast, most Old Testaments have been translated from the Hebrew Masoretic Text.
Take, for example, Hebrews 10:5, 6: “Therefore, when He came into the world, he said: ‘Sacrifice and offering You did not desire, but a body You have prepared for Me.’” Here, the writer of Hebrews is quoting from Psalm 40:6 of the Septuagint. But in most translations, Psalm 40:6 reads: “Sacrifice and offering You did not desire; My ears You have opened.” Similarly, when the early Christian writers quote from the Old Testament, they nearly always quote from the Septuagint.

“He set the bounds of the nations according to the numbers of the children of Israel” [Deut. 32:7, quoting from the Hebrew text of his day]. . . . Having said this, I added: “The Seventy have translated it, ‘He set the bounds of the nations according to the number of the angels of God.’”
Justin Martyr (c. 160, E), 1.265.

“No one is pure from defilement, not even if his life were but for one day” [Job 14:4, 5, LXX]. Clement of Alexandria (c. 195, E), 2.428.

“Come, let us put wood into his bread, and let us wear him away from out of the land of the living. And his name will be remembered no more”
[Jer. 11:19,
LXX]. Tertullian (c. 197, W), 3.166.

Jeremiah declares: “Then I saw their devices. I was led as an innocent lamb to the sacrifice. They meditated a plan against me, saying, ‘Come, let us send wood into his bread and let us sweep away his life from the earth, and his name will no more be remembered’” [Jer. 11:18, 19, LXX]. Lactantius (c. 304–313, W), 7.121.

Let us learn, therefore, how the divine word triumphs over such women, saying, . . . “As a worm in wood, so does a wicked woman destroy her husband” [Prov. 12:4, LXX]. Apostolic Constitutions (compiled c. 390, E), 7.395.

© OTR 2023