I apologize for not accepting this assignment as Bill suggested, but it is
considerably easier to take pot-shots at someone else's efforts than to
produce the same sort of thing myself! I actually checked to see if there
was anything appropriate in my electronic pot, but found that most things
(see my URL below, under publications) were overly technical for this
purpose. Thus some friendly comments below.
Incidentally, on the earlier question of papyri vs parchment/vellum
codices, Eric's Turner study of <t>The Typology of the Early Codex</>
(1977) lists materials up through the 6th century, and of the 415 extant
codices for which page dimensions can be established or estimated, about
250 are papyri, 165 parchment). The figures even more dramatically show
the preponderance of PRESERVED papyri codices prior to the 4th century. Of
course, much of the evidence comes from Egypt, the papyrus capital of the
ancient world. In any event, papyri codices were plentiful.
> A Brief History of the Bible - 2
> >From a Christian point of view, the most significant of the Greek
> translations of the Old Testament is what is called the Septuagint (Latin
> for "Seventy" and often abbreviated to "LXX"). This is traditionally
> credited to the initiative of Ptolemy Philadelphus (285-246 BC) who wanted a
> translation of the Hebrew Law for his library at Alexandria. He is said to
> have engaged 70, or more exactly 72, translators for this work - hence the
> They seem to have translated only the Torah, or Law - that is, Genesis,
> Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers and Deuteronomy. The tradition grew, as
> traditions do, in the telling. It was said that all 72 translators were
> miraculously inspired to produce exactly the same translation. Furthermore
> the title LXX came to be applied to a much more extensive work than simply
> the Law.
> The LXX, as we now have it, differs in many respects from the Hebrew Bible:
> 1. The Books are arranged in a different order. The threefold division
> observed in the Hebrew Bible, "Law" "Prophets" and "Writings", is abandoned.
The (re)arranging of books is almost certainly a late feature, dependent
on the development of the large codex in the 3rd-4th centuries. The
heterogeneous origins of the various LXX/OG books makes it virtually
impossible to speak of an "original" arrangement. The earliest list we
have in Greek (Sirach's prologue) is suitably vague about details of
categories of scriptural writings, whether it applies to Greek or Semitic
collections. Later attempts at arranging the Greek books in some order
show great diversity (see H.B.Swete, <t>Intro to the OT in Greek</> [1902,
> 2. The text of some of the books differs considerably from that of the
> Hebrew. "The original LXX of Job is about one-sixth shorter than the
> Hebrew; there are several interesting passages in the LXX of 1 Kings that
> are not in the Hebrew; and there are considerable differences in order
> between the Hebrew and the LXX in Jeremiah" (ODCC).
Actually, Jeremiah is probably a better example of the long/short problem,
since the textcritical situation for Job is extremely complex. With
Jeremiah, we now have fragments of a shorter Hebrew (among the Dead Sea
Scrolls) that attests what the OG translator(s) were most probably working
from -- a textual tradition already in variant Hebrew forms. The OG
Jeremiah is, indeed, about 1/6th or 1/7th shorter than the traditional
Hebrew, and has a significantly different order of some sections.
> 3. There are more books in the LXX than in the Hebrew. At least one of
> these, Ecclesiasticus, is a translation of a Hebrew original, now lost;
> others - Wisdom, Judith, Tobit, Baruch - seem not to be translations at all,
> but original compositions in Greek.
The scholarly convention in the west now seems to be to refer to "Ben
Sira" or "Sirach" rather than the confusing "Ecclesiasticus." The Hebrew
of Sirach exists for large portions of the book, in fragments found in the
Cairo Geniza and more recently at Masada. The Hebrew already shows
variations. Jerome claims to have seen Semitic forms of Judith and Tobit,
and fragments of Tobit in both Hebrew and Aramaic have shown up among the
Dead Sea Scrolls. At least the first part of Baruch was probably
translated from Semitic (see E.Tov) -- that short book falls rather neatly
into two parts, probably originally separate. Wisdom (of Solomon) was
probably written originally in Greek, as also 2-4 Maccabees.
> The early Christian Church inherited the LXX, and this, rather than the
> Hebrew scriptures, was its Bible.
There was no unified "bible" in our sense for early Christianity (as there
was no large-scale codex technology to accommodate such). And we know of
no specific group from which early Christians could have "inherited" the
LXX/OG conglomerate (certainly not Philo's Judaism, where the Greek
Pentateuch is focal, almost to the exclusion of any other Jewish
writings). It is better to discuss these matters scroll by scroll or group
(e.g. Pentateuch, Minor Prophets) by group in the early period.
> The New Testament, which is written
> entirely in Greek, usually quotes from the LXX. A famous instance is
> Matthew 1:23, "Behold, a virgin shall conceive", where virgin ("parthenos")
> is the Greek word, the Hebrew word meaning simply "young woman." The early
> Fathers almost all regarded the LXX as the norm, and few before Jerome took
> much interest in the Hebrew.
As an aside, <gk>parthenos</> may well have meant "young woman" for the
original translator, but as time went on, the meaning "virgin" tended to
dominate. As we all know, words can be like that!
> The one exception was Origen (185-254), about whom we must say a word. He
> produced his Hexapla, or sixfold version of the Old Testament.
> In the first column was the Hebrew text.
> In the second column was the Hebrew text, transliterated into Greek characters.
> In the third column was the Greek version of Aquila, a native of Sinope in
> Pontus, who lived under Hadrian (117-38). He was converted to Christianity
> but excommunicated for dabbling in astrology, so he became a Jew. He
> learned Hebrew and rabbinic exegesis from the rabbis. He produced a new
> Greek version of the Hebrew Scriptures to replace the LXX, which had lost
> favour with the Jewish community because it had been taken up so
> enthusiastically by the Christians. Aquila's version was painfully literal,
> staying faithful to the Hebrew idiom at the expense of any attempt at good
> Greek grammar.
The Christian traditions, clearly unsympathetic to Aquila, give such
reports. Whether we should transmit them as reliable history is quite
another matter! The idea that LXX/OG rolls had lost favor with Jews is an
interesting old theory without substantiation, and has been challenged
especially by Kurt Treu's study of early Greek fragments (see my URL for
an English translation of this article). That some Jews might like more
literal translations, or Greek that was closer to the evolving Hebrew
texts, makes sense in its own right, apart from any concern for
Christianity. Similarly Christian scholars such as Origen looked for
greater "accuracy," relative to what they knew.
> In the fourth column was the Greek version of Symmachus, who lived in the
> later 2nd century AD. His version is freer, less literal and more readable
> than that of Aquila, but for that very reason is of less value for textual
> In the fifth column was Origen's critical text of the LXX (referred to
> hereafter as the 'hexaplaric' text of the LXX).
> In the sixth column was the Greek version of Theodotion, also of the 2nd
> century. His version has much in common with the LXX and may be regarded as
> a revision rather than an independent translation. It has special value for
> the study of Job and Jeremiah, where it was used by Origen to supply many
> gaps in the LXX text, while for Daniel from the 4th century onwards the
> Church used it in preference to the LXX.
In the aftermath of D.Barthelemy's study (in French) of the "Predecessors
of Aquila," it is usually held today that "Theodotion" represents a
current in Jewish translational activity that took various closely related
forms in the first century ce and ultimately led to Aquila's hyper-literal
approach. Barthelemy argues that there was a historical
Theodotion/Jonathan who lived in the first century ce, as leader or
important representative of such "school" activity.
> For certain sections of the OT, up to three further versions were added,
> making at times a total of nine columns.
> We shall go on to look at some of the principal surviving MSS of the Greek
> Bible, then at the various kinds of texts - "Byzantine", "Alexandrian",
> "Western" etc. - that they exhibit, before looking at the process of
> translation into Latin.
These issues are very complex, and difficult to keep up with. It is
admirable that short summaries of this sort be made available for general
use. But it is also important to make them as accurate as possible. I hope
these sorts of observations will help in achieving such a goal. (For some
further details, bibliography, etc., the articles by E.Tov and myself in
the Supplement to the Interpreters Dictionary of the Bible under
"Septuagint" may be of interest. Subsequently, Tov has gone on to publish
several books on the subject! See also Mel Peters in the Anchor Bible
Robert A. Kraft, Religious Studies, University of Pennsylvania
227 Logan Hall (Philadelphia PA 19104-6304); tel. 215 898-5827
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