Designated Septuagint. The Greek version of Old Testament, made for the Greek speaking (Hellenistic) Jews at Alexandria. The oldest manuscripts in capitals ("uncials") are the Cottonian ("fragments") in British Museum; Vatican (representing especially the oldest text) at Rome; Alexandrian in British Museum, of which Baber in 1816 published a facsimile; Sinaitic at Petersburgh. Alexandrian is of the fifth century, the others are of the fourth. The ancient text current before Origen was called "the common one"; he compared this with the versions of Aquila, Theodotion, and Symmachus, and marked the Septuagint with an obelos mark where he found superfluous words, and supplied deficiencies of Septuagint from those three, prefixing an asterisk.* Its wide circulation among Hellenistic Jews before Christ providentially prepared the way for the gospel. Its completion was commemorated by a yearly feast at Alexandria (Philo, Vit. Mos. 2). Its general use is proved by the manner of its quotation in New Testament. The Jews in Justin Martyr's Apology questioned its accuracy.
A letter of Aristeas to his brother Philocrates (Hody, Bibl. Text. Orig., 1705) describes the origin of Septuagint; King Ptolemy (Philadelphus), by the advice of his librarian Demetrius Phalereus, obtained from the high priest at Jerusalem 72 interpreters, six from each tribe; by conference and comparison in 72 days they completed the work. Aristobulus (second century B.C., in Clemens Alex. Strom.) says that, before Demetrius, others had made a translation of the Pentateuch and Joshua (the history of the going forth from Egypt, etc.). Aristeas' letter is probably a forgery of an Alexandrian Jew; nevertheless the story gave its title to the Septuagint (70, the round number for 72). The composition at Alexandria begun under the earlier Ptolemies, 280 B.C.; the Pentateuch alone at first; these are the main facts well established. The Alexandrian Macedonic Greek forms in the Septuagint disprove the coming of 72 interpreters from Jerusalem, and show that the translators were Alexandrian Jews.
The Pentateuch is the best part of the version, being the first translated; the other books betray increasing degeneracy of the Hebrew manuscripts, with decay of Hebrew learning. The Septuagint translators did not have Hebrew manuscripts pointed as ours; nor were their words divided as ours. Different persons translated different books, and no general revision harmonized the whole. Names are differently rendered in different books. The poetical parts (except Psalms and Proverbs) are inferior to the historical. In the greater prophets important passages are misunderstood, as Isaiah 9:1; Isaiah 9:6; Jeremiah 23:6; Ezekiel and the lesser prophets are better. Theodotion's version of Daniel was substituted for Septuagint, which was not used.
The delicate details of the Hebrew are sacrificed in Septuagint, the same word in the same chapter being often rendered by differing words, and differing words by the same word, the names of God (Yahweh, Kurios, and 'Elohim, Theos) being confounded; and proper names at times being translated, and Hebrew words mistaken for words like in form but altogether different in sense (sh being mistaken for s, Shin (? ) (pronounced "sheen") for Sin (? ) (pronounced "seen") [the same letter (with a different "point") pronounced different], r for d, Resh (? ) for Daleth (? )). Some of the changes are designed; Genesis 2:2, "sixth" for "seventh." Strong Hebrew expressions are softened, "God's power" for "hand," "word" for "mouth"; so no stress can be laid on the Septuagint words to prove a point. (See OLD TESTAMENT.)
Use of Septuagint. Being made from manuscripts older far than our Masoretic text (from 280 to 180 B.C.), it helps towards arriving at the true text in doubtful passages; so Psalm 22:16, where Septuagint "they pierced" gives the true reading instead of "as a lion," Aquila a Jew (A.D. 133) so translated "they disfigured"; (Psalm 16:10) "Thy Holy One" singular, instead of our Masoretic "Thy holy ones." The Septuagint is an impartial witness, being ages before the controversy between Jews and Christians. In Genesis 4:8 Septuagint has "and Cain said to Abel his brother, Let us go into the plain" or "field" (so Samaritan Pentateuch); but Aquila, Symmachus, Theodotion, and the Targum of Onkelos agree with our Hebrew.
Of 350 quotations of the Old Testament in the New Testament only 50 differ materially from Septuagint Its language molded the conceptions of the New Testament writers and preachers. The Hebrew ideas and modes of thought are transfused into its Greek, which is wholly distinct from classic Greek in this. Expressions unknown to the latter are intelligible from Septuagint, as "believe in God," "faith toward God," "flesh," "spirit," "justify," "fleshly mindedness." "The Passover" includes the after feast and sacrifices (Deuteronomy 16:2), illustrating the question on what day Christ kept it (John 18:28).
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