Top Ten Surprises in the Septuagint

You may know that the Septuagint (abbreviated LXX by common agreement, with reference to the ancient legend of its drafting by seventy scholars) is the umbrella term for the Greek translation of the Old Testament. It was already complete in at least one version by the end of the third century BCE or so, thanks to the thorough Hellenization of the eastern Mediterranean world in the wake of Alexander’s conquests, and thus of the dispersed Jewish communities in those lands. The first edition generally goes by the name of the Old Greek, and revisions followed that go by the names of Aquila, Symmachus, Theodotion and Lucian in the centuries either side of the time of Christ, as well as Origen’s rendition in his Hexapla and others.

You may also know that the Septuagint is the most important source for the textual criticism of the Old Testament, being the oldest complete witness to the state of the Hebrew text lines a couple of centuries before Christ. When there are significant differences between the LXX and the Hebrew Masoretic Text lying behind our modern English versions, the sixty-four million-dollar question is often whether the LXX reflects roughly the same Hebrew text but paraphrases or amends it freely, or instead whether there is a quite different Hebrew text tradition lying behind the LXX that has since gone the way of the dinosaur. Continue reading