Codex

My musings on Biblical Studies, Biblical Hebrew, Dead Sea Scrolls, Septuagint, Popular Culture, Religion, Software, and pretty much anything else that interests me!





Old Testament on Film

  • Searches



Reasons to Study the Septuagint (in Honour of International Septuagint Day)

8th February 2009

“The Sept-tu-a-what?” is what I hear from many of my students when I first mention the Septuagint in my introductory lecture on the text and transmission of the Hebrew Bible/Old Testament.  By mid-term, however (or should I say by the midterm, i.e., the midterm exam), virtually all of my students are able to tell me that the Septuagint is the Greek translation of the Hebrew Bible begun around the third century BCE for the Pentateuch and completed sometime in the second or first century BCE for the rest of the books. Keen students should be able to further tell me that the title “Septuagint” comes from the Latin Septuaginta, which means “70” (thus the abbreviation LXX), and relates to the legendary origins of the translation by 70 Jewish elders from Israel (my “A” students may even relate how some versions of the legend report 72 elders were involved in the translation).

You may be wondering why I am bothering to relate something of my experience of teaching about the LXX. Just in case it didn’t come pre-marked in your calendar, February 8 is International Septuagint Day. This is a day established by the International Organization for Septuagint and Cognate Studies (IOSCS) to promote Septuagint studies throughout the world.

In honour of International Septuagint Day, I thought I would provide some of the top reasons why we should study the Septuagint today:

  • The Septuagint preserves a number of Jewish-Greek writings from the pre-Christian era not contained in the Hebrew Bible (known in Christian circles as the Apocrypha or the Deuterocanonical works)
  • As such, study of the LXX can provide a glimpse into the thought and theology of diaspora Jews before the common era.
  • For the majority of the books of the Old Testament/Hebrew Bible, the LXX provides us the earliest witness to the biblical text (earlier than most of Hebrew witnesses found among the Dead Sea Scrolls, for example) and is indispensable for textual criticism.
  • The LXX provides a unique glimpse into the literary and textual development for some books of the Old Testament (e.g., Jeremiah, Esther, Daniel), as well as the sometimes fuzzy border between literary development and textual transmission.
  • Insofar that all translations are interpretations, the LXX provides one of the earliest commentaries on the Hebrew Bible.
  • The LXX gives us a glimpse of the shape of the OT canon before the common era (at least for Greek-speaking Judaism in the diaspora, perhaps not for Palestinian Jews).
  • The LXX functioned as the Bible of most of the early Greek-speaking Christians (and continues to function as such for the Greek Orthodox Church).
  • In connection with the previous point, the LXX often served as a theological lexicon for the writers of the NT, and as such it provides a fruitful avenue of research into the background of many of the theological terms and concepts in the NT.
  • The LXX was the preferred Scriptures for many of the early church fathers and is essential for understanding early theological discussions.
  • It’s a great conversation starter at parties (Attractive Woman/Man: “Read any good books lately?” Budding LXX student: “Why yes, I was just reading the Septuagint today!” Attractive Woman/Man: “The Sept-tu-a-what?” Budding LXX student: “Let me buy your a drink and tell you more…”)

I imagine more reasons could be thought of to read and study the Septuagint, but the above list is a good start. If you are interested to learn more about the Septuagint, I encourage you to work through my “Resources Relating to the LXX” pages, though I will mention three essential resources:

  • A New English Translation of the Septuagint (Alberta Pietersma and Benjamin G. Wright, eds.; Oxford University Press, 2007). This is the best English translation available of the LXX and a great place to begin your study of the Septuagint. Buy from Amazon.ca | Buy from Amazon.com
  • Karen H. Jobes and Moisés Silva, Invitation to the Septuagint (Baker Academic, 2000). This is probably the best introduction for beginning students. It aims to familiarize readers with the history and current state of Septuagintal scholarship as well as the use of the LXX in textual criticism and biblical studies. For a more detailed description, see my review in the Catholic Biblical Quarterly 64 (2002) 138-140. Buy from Amazon.caBuy from Amazon.com
  • Septuaginta (Alfred Rahlfs, ed.; Editio altera/Revised and corrected edition by Robert Hanhart; German Bible Society, 2006). This is the popular edition of the Septuagint — and the only affordable version with the complete Greek text. Buy from Amazon.caBuy from Amazon.com

I challenge you to think of some creative ways to celebrate International Septuagint Day today!


17 Responses to “Reasons to Study the Septuagint (in Honour of International Septuagint Day)”

  1. Bob MacDonald Says:

    Well – that’s better. After this post you are forgiven for missing the December carnival! :)

  2. Dr. Platypus » Blog Archive » Why Study the Septuagint? Says:

    [...] spring. In honor of International Septuagint Day (who knew?), Tyler Williams has produced a list of Reasons to Study the Septuagint, complete with a brief annotate bibliography. Darrell Pursiful posted this entry on Sunday, [...]

  3. MetaCatholic » International Septuagint Day Says:

    [...] thank Tyler Williams for filling one of the many gaps in my knowledge of this new calendar, with a an excellent post on reasons to study the LXX. The exact connection of the date with the topic seems a bit arbitrary [...]

  4. International Septuagint Day - Sam Harrelson Says:

    [...] LXX Day! Codex: Biblical Studies Blogspot » Blog Archive » Reasons to Study the Septuagint (in Honour of In…: “February 8 is International Septuagint Day. This is a day established by the International [...]

  5. Chris Says:

    So what is the best introductory grammar for Septuagint Greek? Thanks for the post!

    P.S. Is Pietersma’s translation finished?? I thought only a few books are.
    Cristian

  6. International Septuagint Day! – Targuman Says:

    [...] Williams has an excellent introductory post for us on the Septuagint in honor of International Septuagint [...]

  7. why the lxx? « finitum non capax infiniti Says:

    [...] celebration of “International Septuagint Day” Tyler Williams has written an post pointing out various reasons why the study of the LXX is important. He also includes links to some resources for studying the LXX. I would encourage all those [...]

  8. Higgaion » A belated happy International Septuagint Day Says:

    [...] San Diego to visit the Canyon View Church of Christ for “Christian Education Sunday,” Tyler Williams encouraged us all to study the Septuagint on February 8. Okay, so I don’t think he meant for us to limit our study to February 8. If [...]

  9. biblicalia » Blog Archive » International Septuagint Day Says:

    [...] Williams reminds us all that 8 February is International Septuagint Day. The day was established by the International [...]

  10. International Septuagint (a) Day (Late) « Rightly Dividing the Word of Truth Says:

    [...] Reasons to Study the Septuagint (in Honour of International Septuagint Day) – Tyler F. Williams [...]

  11. Chris Says:

    I saw the new translation. That is great. Does anyone know if this will be offered soon by Libronix or Bible Works etc…?

  12. The Study of the Septuagint « Evedyahu -Serving the Lord with Joy Says:

    [...] The Study of the Septuagint Posted on February 10, 2009 by evedyahu A great post on the importance of studying the Septuagint by Tyler Williams can be found here. [...]

  13. International Septuagint Day - Reasons to Study the Septuagint « The Church of Jesus Christ Says:

    [...] From here: [...]

  14. White Man Says:

    Rahlf’s the cheapest? How about Bagster’s Gk & English LXX, republished by Hendrickson?

  15. Septuaginta-dagen « Arne Berge Says:

    [...] vera ærleg, var eg ikkje ein gong klar over at det fanst ein slik markeringsdag før eg kom over Reasons to Study the Septuagint (in Honour of International Septuagint Day) på bloggen Codex: Biblical Studies Blogspot. Herved er artikkelen [...]

  16. It’s never too late… « Conversational Theology Says:

    [...] an excellent post explaining why the LXX is such an important text for all biblical scholars, theologians, pastors, [...]

  17. Kent Says:

    Logos Bible Software has begun working on the Göttingen LXX. This version will be morphologically tagged, and the apparati will be linked directly to the primary sources.

    I thought you might be interested!

    Göttingen Septuagint