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Old Testament 3—Study Paper 2007 Brendan Moar

The Septuagint (LXX) et al


1. Introduction: Ancient Versions of the OT
There are a number of ancient versions of the OT, all with varying importance to the
task of Textual Criticism.
The LXX is the oldest version of the OT we have; dated at between 250-200 BC.
The LXX differs from the MT more often than all the other mss combined, perhaps
providing the most important textual variants.

2. Versions other than the Septuagint

2.1. Targums (Tg; T)


The Targums derive from the oral translations of the Hebrew readings in the
Synagogue. As such, their style is generally—although not necessarily—highly
paraphrastic.
They were recorded in the 1st – 2nd Centuries AD, but the oral traditions are much
older.
Their value for textual criticism is low, due to the paraphrastic nature.
Official (Authorised) Versions: Tg Onqelos; Tg Jonathan
Unofficial Versions: Tg Neofiti; Tg Pseudo-Jonathan

2.2. Vulgate (Vg)


There are heaps of Old Latin versions available from the 2nd Century AD. These are
all based on the LXX.
At the end of the 4th Century AD, Jerome made fresh translations into Latin from the
Hebrew. This version was received as the official version of the Roman Catholic
Church in 1546 (Council of Trent).
The value of the Vulgate for textual criticism is low, due to its own complex
history of transmission.
The value of the Old Latin, lies in the access it gives to early versions of the
Septuagint.

2.3. Peshitta (Pesh)


The Syriac translation. Little is known about its origins and history.
Its revisions were influenced by the LXX.

2.4. Samaritan Pentateuch


Discovered in 17th Century.
The Pentateuch was the only book with canonical status in Samaria. Therefore, it was
the only book preserved and transmitted.
It is written in Old Hebrew script.
There are thousands of differences between the Samaritan Pentateuch and the
Pentateuch of the MT. AS say 1600-1900, Brotzman says 6000.

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Old Testament 3—Study Paper 2007 Brendan Moar

Differences are due to:


 Scribal Error
 Differences is grammar
 Modernisation of archaisms
 Removal of grammatical difficulties
 Additions for clarification
 Attempts at historical consistency
 Changes to interpret or clarify text
 Samaritan Theology
The value of the Samaritan Pentateuch is uncertain.
Positively, the text-type is older than the Samaritan sect, so most of the
variants precede sectarian alterations. This means that original readings lost
from MT and LXX may be preserved.
Negatively, the text is a 'popular' text form, with no mss earlier than 10th
Century AD.

3. The Septuagint (G; LXX; G)

3.1. Why is the Septuagint the most important version for


textual criticism?
Four reasons:
1) It is the oldest version available (c. 250-150 BC)
2) It is attested by heaps of ancient mss
3) It contains the entire OT
4) It has more differences than all other versions combined

3.2. Origins
The letter of Aristeas (written between 200-50 BC) describes the creation of the
LXX. Its story includes obvious fiction; all 70 scholars translated it separately, but
came up with the same translation.
However, we do know that it was Egyptian in origin (translated in Alexandria:
although many of the scholars were probably Palestinian imports), and was initially
restricted to the Pentateuch, for synagogue use. The other OT books were translated
at a later time (up to 150 BC).

3.3. Character
The LXX is the first commentary on the OT.
Some parts of the current LXX are revisions of the original text (e.g. parts of Sam-
Kngs are revisions conducted in the 1st century BC, Ecclesiastes was revised by
Aquilla, and Daniel was revised by Theodotion). For this reason, it is best to refer to
the original LXX as 'Old Greek' (OG).

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Old Testament 3—Study Paper 2007 Brendan Moar

3.4. Revisions (Recensions)


Between 100 BC and 350 AD the LXX went through several series of revisions,
bringing it closer to the MT.
The LXX differed from the MT due to independent transmissions of the OG and the
Hebrew texts, as well as Jewish exegesis in the translation of the LXX.
There are 4 groups of revisions made to the LXX:

3.4.1. Early Revisions: 1st cent. BC to 1st cent. AD


Proto-Lucian (1st cent. BC) – This revision gets it name because many of the
revisions share characteristics with Lucian's version, dated in the 4th century. We
know it is proto-Lucian, because some of its revisions are reflected in Josephus and
the Old Latin.
Kaige (late 1st cent BC – early 1st cent AD) – This version receives its name for its
characteristic translation of ~g; (also) with kaige. It revises the OG towards the Proto-
MT.

3.4.2. The 'Three': 2nd cent. AD


Since the LXX was used by Christians when debating with Jews, several Jews
produced rival versions of the LXX.
Aquila (a´ completed 125-140 AD) – He was a Greek convert to Christianity, who
then crossed over to Judaism. He created a very literal Greek translation of the OT,
based on the Proto-MT. This version corrected perceived deficiencies in the LXX,
including readings used by Christians against Judaism.
Symmachus (s´ completed 170-200 AD) – His translation was more stylistic than
Aquila's, which accurately conveyed the Hebrew original. He retained respect for the
LXX, while smoothing out its inconsistencies.
Theodotion (q´ completed after Aquila's version) – He is believed to be a convert to
Judaism based in Ephesus. His translation was more literal than Symmachus', but not
as literal as Aquila's. Recent findings have uncovered mss that predate Theodotion,
but include readings distinctive to Theodotion: thus postulating a pre-Theodotion text
that Theodotion used.

3.4.3. The Trifaria Varietas


While the 'Three' were used by Jewish scholars, there are a number of versions that
were used in the Christian world.
The name Trifaria Varietas denotes the three versions of the LXX use by Christians:
in Egypt, a version by Hesychius (now lost); in Palestine, a version by Origen; from
Constantinople to Antioch, a version by Lucian.
Origen (185-254 AD) – He created the 'Hexapla', a 6 columned work of the OT, now
lost. Origen was perhaps the first to see the importance of establishing a correct text.
The 5th column of his Hexapla was his own reconstruction of the LXX, with reference
to the MT (with annotations for differences).

Hebrew Greek Aquila Symmachus Origen's Theodotion


transliteration Recension
of Hebrew

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Old Testament 3—Study Paper 2007 Brendan Moar

Origen mistakenly held the LXX to be based on the Proto-MT, bringing the LXX into
conformity with the Proto-MT (a mistake). His 5th column, while attempting to retain
the original, was never copied with the annotations, thus loosing the original.
Lucian (312 AD) – Stationed in Antioch, his revisions to the LXX were mostly
stylistic, perhaps drawing from Origen's 5th column. Many of his revisions were
conflations (combining two variant readings into a single reading).

3.4.4. The Great Uncials (B, a, A)


These date primarily from the 4th century, and are the first full copies of the OT.
Codex Vaticunus (B) – Copied in 350 AD in Alexandria. This uncial prefers the older
shorter readings, and is free of Hexapla influence and scribal conflations.
Codex Siniaticus (S or a) – Dated to the 4th century. It is free from Hexapla
influence, but amended (corrected) using a ms influenced by the Hexapla.
Codex Alexandrinus (A) – Probably from the 5th century. It has both Hexapla and
Lucianic influence, sharing their theological glosses.

3.5. Impact of the Revisions


These revisions show that recovering the original LXX text is complicated.
The major task of LXX research today is to move from the Uncials back to the texts
of Origen and Lucian. Then further penetration can be made back to the original
LXX.
Before the LXX can be used in OT textual criticism, the LXX itself must undergo
textual criticism. Once this is done, the text critic must determine whether the
translator correctly rendered the Hebrew text.
Other factors that affect this are differing vowel traditions (as vowels weren't added
until the Masoretes), word crowding (mistranslating breaks between words), and
vocab usage (is the translation a literal or free translation).

3.6. Conclusion
The textual variants found in the LXX must be taken on a case by case basis.
Sometimes they should be neglected, while other times they hold the key.

Appendix
Overview
There are a number of ancient versions of the OT.
Of the significant versions—Targums, Vulgate, Peshitta, Samaritan Pentateuch and
the Septuagint—the Septuagint is the most important for textual criticism.
The Septuagint (LXX) is the oldest version available, is well attested, contains the
entire OT and has the largest number of variants of all ancient versions.
There are a number of revisions to the LXX, which means that before it can be used to
asses the variants of the MT, it must undergo textual criticism of its own.

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