The LXX - Its origins and uses

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The LXX - Its origins and uses

  1. 1. The Septuagint*, its origin and use in the New Testament Laindon Bible Class 11 th June 2008, SJIF * Hereafter LXX i.e. seventy
  2. 2. In simple terms <ul><li>A Greek translation of the Hebrew Old Testament scriptures </li></ul><ul><li>Started during the reign of Ptolemy (II) Philadelphus (285-246 BC) </li></ul><ul><li>(By deduction) Translated from older Hebrew manuscripts than exist in the world today </li></ul><ul><li>The ‘Authorised Version’ of the scriptures for Greek speaking Jews until 1 st century AD and for Greek speaking Christians for the Christian era (still official vn. Greek Orthodox) </li></ul>
  3. 3. Why consider this subject? <ul><li>Its antiquity -- Complete preserved versions of the LXX exist that pre-date the Massoretic texts by 700+ years and manuscripts pre-Christ have been found </li></ul><ul><li>How we got our Bible -- The LXX was the first major translation of the Hebrew scriptures </li></ul><ul><li>The preservation of God’s word -- The LXX shows us the way in which God’s providence actively worked to help spread the gospel quickly and effectively </li></ul><ul><li>Its use by Spirit-guided writers of the NT -- The LXX appears to be the source for the substantial majority of NT quotes of the OT (85-95%) </li></ul><ul><li>Shedding light on certain passages -- The LXX appears to help elucidate some OT passages </li></ul>
  4. 4. The Dead Sea Scrolls, a key find Sections of LXX translations of Exodus, Leviticus and Deuteronomy discovered in the caves at Qumran…
  5. 5. Scrolls and manuscripts uncovered <ul><li>Parts LXX </li></ul><ul><li>2 nd c. BC Leviticus, Deuteronomy </li></ul><ul><li>1 st c. BC Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers, Deuteronomy, Minor Prophets </li></ul><ul><ul><li>>1,000 years before Massoretic text </li></ul></ul><ul><li>Complete LXX </li></ul><ul><li>4 th c. AD Codex Vaticanus / Sinaiticus </li></ul><ul><li>5 th c. AD Codex Alexandrus </li></ul><ul><ul><li>600-700 years before Massoretic text </li></ul></ul>
  6. 6. A letter from Aristeas to Philocrates <ul><li>A lot of the ‘accepted wisdom’ about the LXX is derived from a letter by Aristeas (supposed courtier of Ptolemy II) to Philocrates </li></ul><ul><li>He claimed the work was translated by 72 Hebrew Jews (6 from each tribe) over 72 days (rounded to LXX, septuaginta ) </li></ul><ul><li>Others subsequently embellished this account yet further (pairs in cells, inspiration etc.) </li></ul><ul><li>This letter has now been almost universally acknowledged by scholars to be a fake… </li></ul>
  7. 7. Dispelling some myths about the LXX 1 The translation may have been performed by far fewer scholars The translation was performed by 70 or 72 scholars The translation was performed by Hellenistic Jews (i.e. from outside Judah) The translation was performed by Hebrew Jews (i.e. from Judah) Language scholars agree that Pentateuch is best translation and quality varies The translation is of a consistent quality throughout The translation was completed in three stages : Law c.250 BC, Prophets before 150 BC and Writings shortly afterwards The translation was completed as a single version at one time The truth The myth
  8. 8. Dispelling some myths about the LXX 2 * World’s largest expatriate Jewish colony ** As noted earlier, the ‘substantial majority’ Some OT quotes appear to be drawn from LXX**, some from original Hebrew and some from other Greek version(s) The translation is used uniformly by certain Spirit-guided NT writers and not by others The translation may have been added to this library but was probably for the Hellenistic Jews in Egypt (c.1,000,000 in Egypt at beginning of Christian era, 200,000 in Alexandria* = 2 / 5 divisions) The translation was performed so as to make available a Greek copy of the Hebrew scriptures for the Library at Alexandria The truth The myth
  9. 9. Some familiar principles revisited <ul><li>God is all powerful and would not have allowed His original message to have been corrupted beyond all understanding </li></ul><ul><ul><li>God’s providence has ensured the message has been preserved down to our own day </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Higher critic objections are answered by faith </li></ul></ul><ul><li>However, no translation is inspired </li></ul><ul><ul><li>“errors of transcription or translation” BASF </li></ul></ul>Ecclesiastes 12v12-14 “… of making many books there is no end; and much study is a weariness of the flesh. Let us hear the conclusion of the whole matter: Fear God, and keep his commandments: for this is the whole duty of man….”
  10. 10. The presence of a need… <ul><li>The Jews of the dispersion felt the need for a copy of the Scriptures in Greek </li></ul><ul><li>This, in the passage of time, led to two very important outcomes: </li></ul>There was an available and accessible version of the Scriptures for non-Hebrew Christians There was a ready made vocabulary of ordinary Greek words for NT Spirit-guided writers to call upon for specialised theological terms (e.g. law, covenant, sin, propitiation, righteousness) A key foundation stone for spreading the gospel
  11. 11. The LXX’s role in spreading gospel Acts 17v1-4, 12 “ Now when they had passed through Amphipolis and Apollonia, they came to Thessalonica, where was a synagogue of the Jews: And Paul, as his manner was, went in unto them, and three sabbath days reasoned with them out of the scriptures , Opening and alleging, that Christ must needs have suffered, and risen again from the dead; and that this Jesus, whom I preach unto you, is Christ. And some of them believed, and consorted with Paul and Silas; and of the devout Greeks a great multitude , and of the chief women not a few.” Acts 17v1-4, 12 “ Now when they had passed through Amphipolis and Apollonia, they came to Thessalonica, where was a synagogue of the Jews: And Paul, as his manner was, went in unto them, and three sabbath days reasoned with them out of the scriptures , Opening and alleging, that Christ must needs have suffered, and risen again from the dead; and that this Jesus, whom I preach unto you, is Christ. And some of them believed, and consorted with Paul and Silas; and of the devout Greeks a great multitude , and of the chief women not a few.” “ Therefore many of them [Bereans] believed; also of honourable women which were Greeks , and of men, not a few.” The LXX paved the way for the Gentiles to receive the good news
  12. 12. The use of the LXX in the NT <ul><li>The ‘substantial majority’ of the 300-350 NT quotations from the OT agree with the LXX </li></ul><ul><li>But what about fact that LXX ‘quality varies’? </li></ul><ul><li>We need not worry ourselves about this and why some passages seem to be drawn from LXX and others from the Hebrew text or some other Greek text </li></ul><ul><li>We can rest assured that sense is preserved </li></ul>Acts 2v4 (see also 2 Peter 1v19-21) “ And they were all filled with the Holy Ghost, and began to speak with other tongues, as the Spirit gave them utterance.”
  13. 13. An aside – Jewish backlash to LXX <ul><li>Disputed the Greek word used in Isaiah 7v14 “virgin” </li></ul><ul><li>Disputed the LXX rendering of passages such as Amos 9v11-12 in Acts 15v16-18 “all the Gentiles” </li></ul><ul><li>These just a couple of examples… </li></ul><ul><li>New Jewish versions of Greek appeared, first being that of Aquila in 130 AD (Isaiah 7v14, used neanis , young woman, not parthenos virgin!) </li></ul>
  14. 14. The Ethiopian Eunuch, a cameo Acts 8v32-33 (KJV) “ The place of the scripture which he read was this, He was led as a sheep to the slaughter; and like a lamb dumb before his shearer, so opened he not his mouth: In his humiliation his judgment was taken away: and who shall declare his generation? for his life is taken from the earth .” Isaiah 53v7-8 (KJV) “ He was oppressed, and he was afflicted, yet he opened not his mouth: he is brought as a lamb to the slaughter, and as a sheep before her shearers is dumb, so he openeth not his mouth. He was taken from prison and from judgment: and who shall declare his generation? for he was cut off out of the land of the living : for the transgression of my people was he stricken.” Isaiah 53v7-8 (LXX) “ And he, because of his affliction, opens not his mouth: he was led as a sheep to the slaughter, and as a lamb before the shearer is dumb, so he opens not his mouth. In his humiliation his judgment was taken away: who shall declare his generation? for his life is taken away from the earth : because of the iniquities of my people he was led to death.” “… as the Spirit gave them utterance…”
  15. 15. Proceeding with caution… <ul><li>It is too easy to slip into the trap of referring to many different versions until the particular point expected / desired is put forwards </li></ul><ul><li>However, if this point is found in only 1 out of say 5 translations, how valid is it really? </li></ul><ul><li>We must always compare scripture with scripture, not superimpose human ideas </li></ul><ul><li>With this caveat, the LXX can nevertheless sometimes help us to elucidate scripture* </li></ul>* If used in a balanced / discerning way
  16. 16. Interesting example 1 Genesis 4v8 (KJV) “ And Cain talked with Abel his brother: and it came to pass, when they were in the field, that Cain rose up against Abel his brother, and slew him.” Genesis 4v8 (LXX) “ And Cain said to Abel his brother, Let us go out into the plain ; and it came to pass that when they were in the plain Cain rose up against Abel his brother and slew him.” Genesis 4v8 (NIV) “ Now Cain said to his brother Abel, &quot; Let's go out to the field .&quot; And while they were in the field, Cain attacked his brother Abel and killed him.” LXX appears to have preserved part of the original text which our Hebrew (Massoretic) texts have lost “ talked” about what?
  17. 17. Interesting example 2 1 Samuel 14v41 (LXX) “ And Saul said, O Lord God of Israel, why hast thou not answered thy servant this day? is the iniquity in me, or in Jonathan my son? Lord God of Israel, give clear manifestations; and if the lot should declare this, give, I pray thee, to thy people of Israel, give, I pray, holiness. And Jonathan and Saul are taken, and the people escaped.” 1 Samuel 14v41 (NIV) “ Therefore Saul said, &quot;O LORD God of Israel, why hast thou not answered thy servant this day? If this guilt is in me or in Jonathan my son, O LORD, God of Israel, give Urim [Heb. ‘lights’] ; but if this guilt is in thy people Israel, give Thummim [Heb. ‘perfections’] .&quot; And Jonathan and Saul were taken, but the people escaped. 1 Samuel 14v41 (KJV) “ Therefore Saul said unto the LORD God of Israel, Give a perfect lot. And Saul and Jonathan were taken: but the people escaped.” A marvellous illustration of Urim / Thummim? what is this?
  18. 18. Interesting example 3 1 Kings 8v53 (LXX) “ Then spoke Solomon concerning the house, when he had finished building it— He manifested the sun in the heaven: the Lord said he would dwell in darkness: build thou my house, a beautiful house for thyself to dwell in anew. Behold, is not this written in the book of the song?”* 1 Kings 8v12-14 (KJV) “ Then spake Solomon, The LORD said that he would dwell in thick darkness. I have surely built thee an house to dwell in, a settled place for thee to abide in for ever. And the king turned his face about, and blessed all the congregation of Israel: (and all the congregation of Israel stood;)” LXX preserves the poetic form (quatrain)? * Very similar in Hebrew to “Jasher” as in 2 Sam. 1v18
  19. 19. We could go on… Deuteronomy 32v43 (KJV) “ Rejoice, O ye nations, with his people: for he will avenge the blood of his servants, and will render vengeance to his adversaries, and will be merciful unto his land, and to his people.” Deuteronomy 32v43 (LXX) “ 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 recompense justice to his enemies, and will reward them that hate him; and the Lord shall purge the land of his people. Hebrews 1v6 (KJV) “ And again, when he bringeth in the firstbegotten into the world, he saith, And let all the angels of God worship him .” Psalm 97v7 (KJV) “ Confounded be all they that serve graven images, that boast themselves of idols: worship him, all ye gods .” Psalm 8v5 (KJV) “ For thou hast made him a little lower than the angels [Heb. elohim ], and hast crowned him with glory and honour.” Psalm 8v5 (LXX) “ Thou madest him a little less than angels [Gk. aggelos ], thou hast crowned him with glory and honour;”
  20. 20. Our conclusions… <ul><li>After dispelling the myths, we can better understand what LXX is and how it came to exist </li></ul><ul><li>The translation paved the way for the Gentile acceptance of the gospel: </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Freely available scriptures </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Transportable vocabulary </li></ul></ul><ul><li>The antiquity of the book does not necessarily mean it is a ‘better’ version (we do not place ourselves in the position of the Spirit) </li></ul><ul><li>However, it was an important source for NT writers, who the Spirit guided to use a form of words familiar to the masses (whilst still preserving the sense) </li></ul><ul><li>The LXX remains a useful reference work, but as it he case with all translations, was subject to ‘errors of transcription or translation’ </li></ul><ul><li>The LXX is a wondrous example of God’s providence at work </li></ul>

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