Jewish Literature in New Testament Times
Who Wrote the Septuagint and Why was it Written?
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
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
The Text of the Old Testament
John 10:34 "Jesus answered them, "Is it not written in your law.."
Rabbinical Literature and Second Temple Judaism
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
Brief Historical Background
The Jews and Torah
The Holy Scriptures
The Apocryphal Literature
The Oral Law
The Tractates of the Mishnah
The Palestinian Talmud
The Babylonian Talmud
The Purpose and Heart of the Law
- A Heart Message
Rabbinical Writings Chart
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 Text of the Old Testament
The Aramaic Language
The Great Synagogue
Preparation for Christ