Jewish Literature in New Testament Times

The Septuagint


Who Wrote the Septuagint and Why was it Written?

Jerusalem Temple CoinThe Greek Empire truly brought the Greek language to the entire known world, but one important event sprang from this that would also influence the whole world and especially the Jews. The Hebrew Bible was translated into the Greek language, the Jewish Bible which had been so isolated was now a work of literature in the library of Alexandria. The Jews were actually blessed by this event, because their religion had degenerated as Hellenism spread within their culture. Judaism was on shaky ground as the world was changing. The solution was a Bible that those Hellenized Jews could read for themselves. It was truly the answer for any rationalistic thoughts but the Greek culture had bread into the mind of the Jews.

The Septuagint

The Septuagint is recognized in history as a Greek translation of the Hebrew Old Testament, the Hebrew Torah. In fact the Septuagint contained not only the entire Old Testament, but the Apocrypha as well. There actually is a mention in history from about 125 BC known as the Letter of Aristeas which revealed that Ptolemy II Philadelphus (275 BC) was persuaded by those who studied in the Library of Alexandria to acquire a copy of the Jewish Torah for the library. They were no doubt influenced by the nearly 1,000,000 Greek speaking Jews of the Diaspora who were living in Alexandria at the time. Ptolemy II Philadelphus contacted the High-priest in Jerusalem whose name was Eleazar, and 72 men (six from each of the 12 tribes of Israel) skillful linguists were sent from Jerusalem to Alexandria, Egypt. They prepared on an island called Pharos and completed the work in 72 days. The translation was called "the Septuagint" (meaning translation of the 70), and he was designated by the Roman numerals LXX which also equates to number 70. This account which was composed by a Letter of Aristeas was believed by the Christians to be an accurate report, and later the Jews despised it for this reason. When the Dead Sea Scrolls were discovered in 1948, the findings revealed much about the Septuagint and is complexity, as well as the accurate rendering of the Hebrew Torah into Greek around 250 BC. The Pentateuch was first translated. Later the rest of the Old Testament books were added to the translation. It was called the "Septuagint" from the 70 translators who were reputed to have begun it. .Greek was the language of the world at that time. This version was in common use in the days of Christ. The New Testament was written in Greek. Many of its quotations from the Old Testament are from the Septuagint.

Septuagint Fragment  Septuagint Fragment

Also see The Text of the Old Testament


Jewish Literature

Esther Scroll

John 10:34 "Jesus answered them, "Is it not written in your law.."

Rabbinical Literature and Second Temple Judaism

Jerusalem Temple CoinThe Rabbinic Writings, The Mishnah, and the Talmud. During the first century A.D. the Pharisaic rabbis created many commentaries on the Torah. When Jesus began his ministry He attacked the Pharisees for putting their traditions above the word of God. All the writings and commentaries of the first two centuries A.D. were compiled and organized into a collection by a man named Judah Hanasi around 200 A.D. forming a collection called the Mishnah. The Pharisaic rabbis were known as the "Tannaim" which in Hebrew is translated teachers, and these men were the teachers who regulated the law. There was another collection of their commentary which was much smaller, it was known as the Tosefta which in Hebrew means "enlargement". The later commentaries on the Mishnah were made by "expositors".

Brief Historical Background

The Jews and Torah
The Holy Scriptures
The Apocrypha
The Apocryphal Literature
The Oral Law
The Mishnah
The Gemara
The Halakah
The Haggadah
The Midrash
The Zugoth
The Tannaim
The Amoraim
The Tosefta
The Baraitha
The Talmud
The Tractates of the Mishnah
The Palestinian Talmud
The Babylonian Talmud

The Purpose and Heart of the Law - A Heart Message
Rabbinical Writings Chart

Historical Timeline

The Persian Period 430-332 B.C.
The Greek Period 331-167 B.C.
The Period of Independence 167-63 B.C.
The Roman Period 63 B.C. to the time of Christ
The Old Testament Canon
The Apocrypha
Other Writings
The Septuagint
The Text of the Old Testament
The Aramaic Language
The Targums
The Talmud
The Great Synagogue
The Sanhedrin
The Dispersion
Preparation for Christ




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