Sunset - Larnaca

Sunset - Larnaca

Monday, 13 October 2014

The Septuagint

The Septuagint ( from the Latin Septuaginta ) meaning seventy, is the Greek version of the Old Testament Scriptures. According to tradition, it was put together by seventy Jewish scholars, from all twelve Jewish tribes - making the translation from Hebrew, into Greek. It soon became the universally accepted version of the Old Testament, from the time of its appearance, some centuries before the birth of Christ. Christ Himself, along with Paul and all His apostles and evangelists, used this version when quoting the Old Testament Scriptures. It consists of a collection of forty-nine Old Testament books and is traditionally subdivided into four main sections: the five books of the law, the books of history, the books of wisdom, and the books of prophecy.

The Septuagint, the New Testament and the early Church
Interestingly, in the Gospel writers’ accounts, they generally use the Greek Jewish Scriptures. Matthew for example, would probably have derived from a Jewish group such as the Pharisees, however he still appears to be using the Septuagint on many occasions when referring to the holy scriptures. This stresses the importance of the text, and its strong link with the early Church. The consensus is that when Paul quotes from the Jewish scriptures, he also uses the Greek Septuagint. For Paul, these scriptures are central to his theological expression. The connection between Romans 2:24, and Isaiah 52:5 (LXX)  is a significantly important example. Paul ‘shaped Christian theology more than any other New Testament writer’ and so the fact that he clearly uses the Septuagint highlights that in the early Church it is seen as the valid, and accurate version which emphasises how these divinely inspired books prepare the world for, and unfold, the incarnation and resurrection of the fulfiller, Christ. ‘Through the words of the prophets too the mystery of the Lord is being proclaimed.’

According to Justin Martyr’s Apologia I:67:3, the scriptures of the Prophets ( referring to the Septuagint ) were read during worship , along with a homily. The Orthodox Church upholds this practice to this very day, with frequent passages from the Septuagint being read throughout services. 

Primary Witnesses
Fragments from the Septuagint were found at Qumran - with the texts dating back to the second century B.C.E, and several papyri containing parts of the scriptures were excavated - dating from the second century B.C.E to the first century C.E. We therefore know that the text was put together and revised ( revisions of the translation took place, with the intension to correct mistranslations ) by the 2nd century B.C.E at the latest.

The Septuagint, as the text used by Paul in his epistles, the other apostles and evangelists, and Christ Himself, is of great historical importance and value. It connects Judaism with early Christianity and Hellenism. It is the foundation of the Christian Bible, and theologically speaking is the prophetic process leading to the renewal and fulfilment of life itself, with the incarnation and resurrection of Christ.
Hengel, M 2002, The Septuagint as Christian Scripture, Grand Rapids : BakerAcademic, p.61.
Law, T 2013, When God spoke Greek, Oxford : OUP, p.111.
The Orthodox Study Bible ( Overview of the Books of the Bible ) 2008, St Athanasius Academy : Thomas Nelson, p.15.
The Anchor Bible Dictionary Vol.5 O-Sh 1992, New York : Doubleday, p. 1095-1096.

- This piece was written for the course 'Paul and his letters' 

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