The accepted name for the earliest translation of the Old Testament into Greek. Based on Latin septuaginta, 70, it reflects the legend given in the Letter of aristeas according to which the Greek translation of the Hebrew Pentateuch was the work of 70 (or rather, 72) translators sent from Jerusalem to Alexandria during the reign of Ptolemy II Philadelphus, from 285 to 246 b.c.. The time and place thus given for the compilation of the Greek Pentateuch are in keeping with what is otherwise known of Hellenistic Judaism (see diaspora, jewish) and its literature, and can be taken as fact. The extension of the name Septuagint or "Seventy," abbreviated LXX, to the Greek Old Testament as a whole became established usage among Christian writers by the fourth century; and the name is applied today to the printed text of the Old Testament in Greek and to its manuscript witnesses, even for those books either composed in Greek, or based on a Semitic original now wholly or partly lost, and excluding only the identifiable work of revisers and translators subsequent to the first Christian century, such as Aquila, Symmachus, and (though the case is confused) Theodotion. Together with the original Greek books of the New Testament, the Septuagint is still the official Bible of both the Greek Orthodox Church and the Byzantine Catholic Churches.
Formative period. The assembling of this corpus of Old Testament texts was the work of fully 400 years, from the early third century b.c. to the early second Christian century (Ecclesiastes). The prologue to Sirach (Ecclesiasticus), written about 116 b.c. by its Greek translator, grandson of the author, admits of the inference that the Jews of Alexandria had, by that date, translations of the Mosaic law and of substantial portions of the historical books and the writing Prophets, as well as at least some of the "other books," that is, the wisdom literature and the Psalms. An occasional note, such as the vague one attached to the end of the Greek Esther, points in the same direction (see 2 Mc 1.9). Also, internal evidence of the type of Hebrew text actually translated, of the time of origin in Greek of the deuterocanonical books and of the Letter of Aristeas, and of the use in Wisdom and 1 Maccabees especially of existing LXX materials helps to establish that by the end of the second century b.c. the repertory of Old Testament materials in Greek was nearing completion in substantially the form in which it is now known.
Question of Unity of the LXX. In the period 1941 to 1960, vigorous controversy was waged, especially in England, on the subject of LXX origins. P. E. Kahle was the protagonist for a theory that denied that the materials transmitted as the one "Septuagint" for most Old Testament books actually represent one single, pre-Christian, accepted Jewish rendering. He proposed instead that the earliest Greek renderings were oral and fluid, like the Palestinian targums, and that in the midst of a number of fluctuating partial translations no standardized Greek Old Testament came into being until the early fourth Christian century, when the Greek biblical text became fixed by the authoritative decision of the hierarchy of the Christian Church. This position is historically untenable; but it was based on real difficulties in the actual texts and early citations (in Philo, the New Testament, Josephus, Justin, etc.). The difficulties could not be resolved as long as it was presumed that the first serious critical work on the LXX text dated from the days of origen (d. a.d. 254) and his Hexapla. The opposite standpoint to that of Kahle, maintained by P. Katz in England and H. Orlinsky in America, harked back to the 100-year-old enterprise of P. A. de Lagarde, directed toward identifying in the extant manuscripts recognizable families that can be used as avenues of approach to the single underlying rendering posited for pre-Christian times. This view governed the comprehensive editorial projects (see below) centered in Cambridge and in Göttingen. The latter, in the Prophets especially, through the efforts of Monsignor Joseph Ziegler, yielded very satisfactory results during the same period in which the theoretical discussions were taking place.
New Evidence of Continuity. Evidence in the form of actual text fragments in Greek of pre-Christian and first-Christian-century date has been accumulating in recent years both from Egyptian sources and as a result of the dead sea scrolls discoveries at Khirbet Qumran and in the Wadi Khabra in Palestine. From Egypt have come two fragmentary manuscripts of Deuteronomy: P. Rylands Gr. 458 of the mid-second century b.c., and P. Fuad inv. 266 of a slightly later date. From Qumran are an Exodus fragment (7Q1), bits of Leviticus on leather (4QLXX Leva) and on papyrus (4QLXX Levb), of Numbers on parchment (4 QLXX Num), and of the "Letter of Jeremia" on papyrus (7Q2); the oldest of these is 4Q LXX Leva, about 100 b.c., the youngest 4Q LXX Num, about the turn of the era. From the Wadi Khabra comes a fragmentary scroll of the Minor Prophets of the first Christian century, which has been studied by D. Barthélemy, OP. None of these gives any warrant for the hypothesis of a lack of continuity between the pre-Christian Jewish texts and the medieval manuscripts; quite the contrary. Later witnesses, but illustrating the character of the text before Origen, are the papyrus codices and fragments of many Old Testament books from the second and third Christian centuries (see below). Between these and the witness of the early Coptic and Old Latin secondary versions, the evidence for a continuity of transmission of one same written LXX text for most of the books of the Old Testament is overwhelming.
Expansions, recensions, and supplements. To the unity of the LXX certain qualifications are necessary, however, and these are of major importance. Added to the collection were not only certain books that had been composed wholly in Greek (Wisdom, 2 Maccabees), but also others that were translated from Semitic texts now no longer extant, in whole or in part (Tobit, Judith, Sirach, Baruch, 1 Maccabees). Still other LXX texts show a recension of a Semitic book differing from that in the Masoretic Text and including some purely Greek additions (Daniel, Esther). For some books the LXX offers an expanded text in all manuscripts (Proverbs) or in some (Sirach) that are based on copious reworkings and double renderings with an eye to the original. Finally there are books that show in the LXX manuscripts two strikingly different recensions (Judges) or even three (Tobit); in which an existing Alexandrian rendering is generally ignored (Daniel, 3 Esdras) in favor of a later, more labored but less erratic translation; or in which a primitively short LXX text, whether bad (Job) or good (Jeremiah), has been filled out at a different time in a different style by another hand.
Proto-Theodotion. Barthélemy's study of the Wadi Khabra fragments of the Minor Prophets has disclosed that they represent a recension made in the first Christian century of the earlier LXX on the basis of a Hebrew text; that it is this same recension that supplied the seventh column, or quinta editio, of Origen's Hexapla for these books; that it also accounts for approximations to the Hebrew text in the Sahidic Coptic and in the Freer codex in Greek; that it is the recension that Justin Martyr quoted in the mid-second century; that it is identical in technique with the valid evidence at hand for the so-called Theodotion; and that it forms the actual substratum for the work of Aquila. Extending his study to other putative work of Theodotion, he is able to establish that the recension in question is Palestinian in origin and that its witnesses include the supplements to Job and Jeremiah in the LXX, the "Septuagint" renderings of Lamentations and (probably) Ruth, the so-called Theodotion text of Daniel, the quinta form of the Psalms, and the text of 2 Sm 11.2 to 3 Kgs 2.11 [2 Sm 11.2 to 1 Kgs 2.11] in the LXX column of the Hexapla. The same recension again stands as "Septuagint" for Origen in 3 Kgs [1 Kgs] 22.1 to 22.54 with all of 4 Kgs [2 Kgs]. As a corollary to all this, Barthélemy reaffirms what has long been suspected, that the "Septuagint" of Ecclesiastes is in fact the work of Aquila.
Other Recensional Activities. In the perspectives thus opened up, it becomes possible to find other evidences of early recensional activity in the LXX. Since the secondary recension of Sir 12.1 is quoted in the Didache1.6, the expanded form of Sirach in codex 248 and the Old Latin dates back to at least the first Christian century. Since the variant form of Prv 2.21 is quoted in Clement of Rome (1 Clem. 14.4), the reworking of the first nine chapters of the LXX of that book may be dated in the same first century at the latest. In Ezekiel, Ziegler has shown that pap. 967 (the Beatty-Scheide manuscript) displays a pre-Origen, first-century recensional treatment of the text. The reworked and harmonizing character of Deuteronomy and Isaia in the Greek tradition reflects, not only tendencies of that sort in Greek translators or revisers in pre-Christian times, but, in Isaia at least, a harmonizing, expansionist technique in the Hebrew text from which the Greek was prepared.
Proto-Lucian. For the Pentateuch and Samuel, a further step has been made possible to F. M. Cross by the evidence of Hebrew manuscripts from Qumran cave 4. The recension of the LXX associated with the name of St. lucian of antioch (d. 312) has long presented problems equally thorny to those in the "Theodotion" material, typified most strikingly by the fact that Josephus Flavius at the end of the first Christian century employed a characteristically "Lucianic" text. For Exodus through Deuteronomy, it has been possible to establish that a "proto-Lucianic" form of the LXX was the type of text circulating from pre-Christian times in Palestine and Syria and cited by the Fathers of the "School of Antioch"; it was this text and a similar text in Samuel and Kings that were available to Josephus. The manuscript 4Q LXX Num is of this type, though it seems already to have "Theodotionic" features also. A "Lucianic" text is identified by Barthélemy as having been displaced from the LXX column of the Hexapla for 1 Kgs 11.2 to 3 Kgs 2.11 [1 Sm 11.2 to 1 Kgs 2.11] and for 3 Kgs [1 Kgs] ch 22 plus 4 Kgs [2 Kgs] by a later, "Theodotionic" reworking (see above); the displaced text found room in the adjoining sixth column of the Hexapla, where it appears related to the "Lucianic" material of the minuscule manuscripts b, o, c 2, e 2. On the basis of three Hebrew manuscripts of Samuel, that is, 4Q Sama,b,c, Cross is able to affirm that this "proto-Lucianic" text is not the primitive LXX subject to incidental corruption, but it is part of a deliberate recension carried out in the second or first century b.c. to bring the Greek rendering from Egypt into better harmony with the Hebrew manuscripts then current in Palestine. He applies the same interpretation to the Pentateuch evidence, where he sees again a deliberate harmonizing of the older LXX text from Egypt with the evolved Palestinian Hebrew manuscripts of the second or first century b.c. For the portions of Samuel and Kings in which the "Theodotionic" recension has made inroads into the main stream of LXX transmission, the proto-Lucianic stage is the first one available because, according to Cross, a primitive LXX from Egypt is not extant in these sections.
From this it can be seen that the forthcoming period of LXX criticism will be aided by a chronology, both relative and absolute, for the known text types, one that will clear up many existing anomalies in their evaluation. This will be accompanied by a fuller appreciation of the nature and extent of the recensions described above; and it will be backed up by a generous sampling of Hebrew texts of pre-Christian date and varied text types from Qumran, which will illustrate the prototypes available for consultation at different stages of the evolution of the LXX. The realization that Aquila (c. a.d. 130) builds on "Theodotion," and that "Theodotion" builds on "Lucian," which in turn revises the primitive LXX, and that Symmachus late in the second century and Origen before 245 stand rather toward the end than toward the beginning of an intensive reworking of the LXX text lays the foundation for a much more effective use of the successive Greek recensions to penetrate to the underlying Hebrew originals in the period before the definitive fixing of the Hebrew consonantal text c. a.d. 100.
Manuscripts of the LXX. Apart from the eight fragmentary witnesses described above (fragments of early scrolls), the manuscripts of the LXX are almost all in codex (book) form: either on papyrus, or on vellum in uncial (rounded capital) script, or on vellum or paper in a cursive minuscule hand.
Papyri of the LXX. These provide our oldest extensive texts. In the Chester Beatty collection, now in London, there are portions of Numbers, Deuteronomy, and Jeremiah of the second Christian century; of similar date are fragments of the Psalms in London and Oxford. In the same group of manuscripts from the Egyptian Fayyûm, purchased in part by C. Beatty and in part by J. H. Scheide, there are third-century texts of portions of varying size of Genesis, Isaiah, Ezekiel, Daniel, and Esther. Of a third-century manuscript of the Minor Prophets, 33 leaves are in the Freer collection in Washington, and further fragments of third-century date representing Genesis, Psalms, Proverbs, Wisdom, and Sirach are in Oxford, Geneva, and London. With the fourth century, papyrus witnesses begin to multiply; some 200 may be counted through the seventh century.
Uncial Codices. The great uncial codices on vellum of the fourth to the tenth century were, until the 1900s, not only the most careful and the most complete, but also the oldest available witnesses to the LXX. They are usually pandects, or complete Bibles, including also the New Testament. The most significant for the LXX are the following.
The Codex Vaticanus (known as B), Vat. Gr. 1209, of the mid-fourth century, lacking only Gn 1.1 to 46.8 at the beginning, some verses of 2 Samuel ch. 2, and about 30 Psalms; 1 and 2 Maccabees were never contained in it. For a number of Old Testament books this codex is in a class by itself as the best single witness to the earliest form of the LXX text.
The Codex Sinaiticus (S or Aleph ), also of the fourth century, is presently in the British Museum, except for 43 leaves in Leipzig and some sizable lacunae. Careless though it is in its orthography, it is witness to a very early text tradition often related to that of B. In Tobit it is the unique Greek witness to the longer and more nearly original form of the text. With 1 Maccabees is joined 4 Maccabees; 2 and 3 Maccabees were never in the manuscript.
The Codex Alexandrinus (A), also in the British Museum, fifth century, with slight Old Testament lacunae in Genesis and 1 Samuel, and again missing about 30 Psalms. It is often at variance with B, strikingly so in Judges; in general, it shows proto-Lucianic and also hexaplaric tendencies. It includes 3 and 4 Maccabees in addition to the canonical books.
The Codex Marchalianus (Q), Vat. Gr. 2125, sixth century, containing Prophets only. It is notable for the copious citations of Aquila, Symmachus, and Theodotion in its margins.
Minuscule Codices. Of cursive manuscripts between the ninth century and the spread of printing in the sixteenth, some 1,500 contain the LXX text. Nearly 300 were collated, with varying degrees of accuracy, early in the nineteenth century for the edition of R. Holmes and J. Parsons [Vetus Testamentum Graecum cum variis lectionibus, 5 v. (Oxford 1798–1827)].
Printed editions. The LXX of the Complutensian Polyglot, published in 1521 (see polyglot bibles) offers, from the minuscule manuscript b (Holmes and Parsons, 108), a text of "Lucianic" type, mingled with portions and eclectic readings from other minuscules, notably cod. 248. The Aldine Greek Bible of 1518 based its LXX text on minuscule manuscripts in Venice. The Sixtine edition of 1587, an outgrowth of the Council of Trent, had great influence on subsequent editions; as it was based largely on codex B, it offered a good foundation for critical study. J. E. Grabe's edition based on codex A (Oxford 1707–20) is noteworthy. The extensive collations undertaken by Holmes and Parsons drew on 20 uncials, nearly 300 minuscules, and evidence from several daughter versions of the LXX and from patristic citations. K. von Tischendorf produced a good manual edition of the LXX, several times revised from 1850; the 1887 edition, overseen and supplemented by E. Nestle, attained a high degree of accuracy; it offered a revised Sixtine text with an apparatus from the great uncials. Manual editions in current use are those of H. B. Swete, The Old Testament in Greek (3 v. Cambridge, Eng.; several editions since 1894), and A. Rahlfs, Septuaginta (Stuttgart 1935, 6th ed. 1959). Both offer a collation from the great uncials, Rahlfs under an eclectic text, Swete under that of B where it is extant (in Genesis, that of A; the Psalms lacuna from S); useful for ready reference though they are, neither is now an adequate critical instrument. Of a projected Lucianic edition by P. de Lagarde, volume 1 appeared in 1883; though Lagarde was a great scholar, this edition was not really successful, and it is now antiquated. The full-scale undertaking, to include all pertinent evidence for text, secondary versions, and citations of LXX, directed by A. E. Brooke, N. McLean, and H. St. John Thackeray at Cambridge has yielded editions of all the historical books from Genesis (1906) to 1 and 2 Chronicles; Esther, Judith, and Tobit are included (1940). The continuous text reproduces an uncial (B when available); the user is left largely to his own devices in disentangling from the apparatus the jumble of recensions described above. The Göttingen Academy of Sciences sponsors a parallel endeavor that has so far published in full the LXX Prophets (Isaiah, Jeremiah with Lamentations and Baruch, Ezekiel, Daniel, and the Twelve, ed. J. Ziegler, between 1939 and 1954); 1, 2, and 3 Maccabees (W. Kappler and R. Hanhart, 1936, 1959–60); Psalms (Rahlfs, 1931); Wisdom (Ziegler, 1962); Sirach (also Ziegler, Sapientia Jesu filii Sirach, 1965). In this series, the editor establishes the running text and presents his collations, by family groups when possible, against that base. Outside these series, M. Margolis published (Paris 1931–38) a separate edition of most of Jostle, and the Göttingen undertaking offered sample editions of Genesis (1926) and Ruth (1922).
Significance of the LXX: Its use in textual criticism. The LXX is especially noteworthy as having provided a cultural milieu and a literary vehicle for the preaching of earliest Christianity. This providential role for it, combined with its not infrequent shortcomings and liberties in dealing with the Hebrew, and its notable divergence from the more narrowly based and rigid standard of the Hebrew consonantal text of about a.d. 100, made it increasingly distasteful to the Jews, who replaced it with Aquila for the most part.
For the use of the LXX in textual criticism, the primary rule is that each book of the Old Testament in Greek had its own history and must be studied on its own terms: competence and idiosyncrasies of its translator(s), possible recensions, time of its original rendering and its successive modifications, and only then at last the force of its individual readings in their relation to a presumed Hebrew prototype that may or may not coincide with the received Hebrew text or with variants on it known from elsewhere. It is often our earliest witness, and is sometimes the best; but any sweeping general statement about the value of the LXX as a whole, whether for praise or for blame, is the fruit of ignorance.
Bibliography: e. hatch and h. redpath, A Concordance to the Septuagint and the Other Greek Versions of the Old Testament, 2 v. (Oxford 1892–97; suppl. 1900–06; repr. Graz 1954). h. b. swete, An Introduction to the Old Testament in Greek (rev. ed. Cambridge, Eng. 1914). a. rahlfs, Verzeichnis der griechischen Handschriften des Alte Testament (Berlin 1914). f. g. kenyon, Our Bible and the Ancient Manuscripts, rev. a. w. adams (5th ed. New York 1958) 97–134. r. devreesse, Introduction à l'étude des manuscrits grecs (Paris 1954). p. e. kahle, The Cairo Geniza (2d ed. New York 1960). p. katz, "Septuagint Studies in the Mid-Century," The Background of the New Testament and Its Eschatology, ed. w. d. davies and d. daube (Cambridge, Eng. 1956) 176–208. j. ziegler, Die Septuaginta: Erbe und Auftrag (Würzburg 1962); Lexikon für Theologie und Kirche, 10 v. (Freiburg 1957–65) 2:375–380. h. m. orlinsky, "The Textual Criticism of the Old Testament," in The Bible and the Ancient Near East, ed. g. e. wright (New York 1961) 113–132. d. barthÉlemy, Les Devanciers d'Aquila (Vetus Testamentum suppl. 10; 1963). f. m. cross, "The History of the Biblical Text in the Light of Discoveries in the Judaean Desert," Harvard Theological Review 57 (1964) 281–299. o. eissfeldt, Einleitung in das Alte Testament (3d ed. Tübingen 1964) 951–973, 1031. g. gerlemann, Die Religion in Geschichte und Gegenwart, 7 v. (3d ed. Tübingen 1957–65) 1:1193–1195. Encyclopedic Dictionary of the Bible, tr. and adap. l. hartman (New York 1963) 2165–2171.
[p. w. skehan]
SEPTUAGINT , the oldest Greek translation of the Bible. The designation Septuagint, from the Latin septuaginta, "seventy," is based on the legend contained in the apocryphal Letter of *Aristeas, according to which 72 elders of Israel, six from each tribe, translated the Law into Greek, in Alexandria, during the reign of *Ptolemy ii Philadelphus (285–246 b.c.e.). On the basis of this legend it can be inferred that the Pentateuch was translated into Greek in Alexandria during the first half of the third century b.c.e.
The designation Septuagint was extended to the rest of the Bible and the noncanonical books that were translated into Greek during the following two centuries. For full details, see *Bible, Translations.
The name is recorded from the mid 16th century (originally denoting the translators themselves), from Latin septuaginta ‘seventy’, because of the tradition that it was produced, under divine inspiration, by seventy-two translators working independently.
a group of seventy, 1864.