International Septuagint Day

Tyler Williams reminds us all that 8 February is International Septuagint Day. The day was established by the International Organization for Septuagint and Cognate Studies in order to bring attention to the Septuagint. The IOSCS website hosts a wealth of information regarding the Septuagint and related subjects, including lists of recommended critical editions, studies, projects, and so on.

The IOSCS is also responsible for one of the most useful tools for a student seeking to learn about the Septuagint: A New English Translation of the Septuagint, published in late 2007, which I’ve mentioned favorably here before. Tyler also recommends (as do I!) two further volumes for the introductory student:

Invitation to the Septuagint by Karen Jobes and Moisés Silva (Baker Academic, 2000), and

Septuaginta: editio altera, edited by Alfred Rahlfs; revised and corrected by Robert Hanhart (Deutsche Bibelgesellschaft, 2006).

For those who are interested in how the Septuagint compares to the Hebrew Masoretic Text, a truly amazing tool is available from the IOSCS: a parallel presentation in transliteration of the Greek and (where available) Hebrew texts. That’s some awesome primary data, prepared and maintained (along with other presentations, like a morphologically tagged LXX text, and a presentation of LXX variants) by IOSCS members. There is also the very interesting work done by Emanuel Tov. He covers the interrelation between the MT and LXX in his Textual Criticism of the Hebrew Bible (Augsburg Fortress, 2001), and in much more depth in The Text-Critical Use of the Septuagint in Biblical Research. Revised and Enlarged Second Edition. Jerusalem Biblical Studies 8. (Jerusalem: Simor Ltd, 1997) (information on this volume from Amazon; it’s unfortunately hard to find). A good online source, aside from the IOSCS, is Joel Kalvesmaki’s The Septuagint Online.

As these various sources noted above will explain in more detail, the Septuagint is an umbrella term for the first widespread Greek translations of the Hebrew Bible and related books. In more technical usage, the term Septuagint applies only to the Pentateuch, the Books of Moses, which were traditionally translated in Alexandria at the behest of Ptolemy II Philadephus by a group of seventy or seventy-two Jewish translators. Thus the septuaginta, Latin for “seventy”, or its numeric representation LXX, or as in Greek, εβδομηκοντα, or its numeric representation Ο’. The other texts are referred to as the Old Greek versions. But “Septuagint” is commonly understood to include the Septuagint proper and the Old Greek texts. The vast majority of Old Testament citations in the New Testament are fromThe Septuagint is also the Old Testament of the Early Church, and is still the Old Testament for Greek Orthodox Christians, and all other Orthodox Christians, whose versions were translated from it or edited to conform to it. And while St Jerome, in his work translating the Hebrew Bible into Latin, was adamant about the value of the Hebrew text, he also repeatedly and explicitly stated that he had no intention of displacing the Latin translation of the Septuagint in common use, as it was universally recognized as the Old Testament of the Church. This comes up often in the Prologues to his various translations, which prologues or prefaces I’ve translated and made available here. Of course, St Jerome’s protests, we know in hindsight, were in vain. The Latin Vulgate Old Testament became the Old Testament of the West by the end of the first millennium, and remained so until the Reformation. Even so, the Septuagint has always had its admirers, and continues to garner more of them.


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