Why Study the Septuagint?

This is a summary of the reasons laid out by Jobes and Silva in their introductory chapter:
For anyone interested in history:

  • The Septuagint was the first translation made of any literary work of a size comparable to the Hebrew Bible. “It marks a milestone in human culture.”
  • More manuscripts of the Greek Old Testament (nearly 2,000) survive than of any other Greek text from antiquity (except the New Testament, of which there are, including fragments, about 5,000). The fact that Septuagint manuscripts outnumber witnesses to Homer’s Illiad (650) nearly 3:1 is a powerful witness to its historical significance.

For students of the Hebrew Bible, the Hebrew language, and Greek:

  • The Septuagint was the first translation made of the Hebrew Bible, and therefore is a very early witness to its Vorlage.
  • It is a major source of information concerning the Greek language in the Hellenistic period.
  • Those interested in text criticism and the tendencies of scribes will find in the manuscripts of the Septuagint an enormous amount of material for study.
  • It provides a unique opportunity for comparing translation Greek (the biblical books) to composition Greek (the apocryphal books).
  • Provides information concerning the history of interpretation of the Hebrew Bible. Certain passages are given a particular political or religious spin (e.g. Isaiah 65:11).

For New Testament students:

  • The Septuagint (1) provided some of the vocabulary that the NT author’s drew upon, (2) was used by NT authors to draw the mind of their readers to specific passages of the Hebrew Bible, and (3) is frequently quoted (rather than the Hebrew Bible) by NT authors. Therefore “the Septuagint provides essential, but often overlooked, theological links that would have been familiar to Christians of the first century, but are not so obvious in the Hebrew version.”

For theologians:

  • The doctrines of orthodox Christianity were hammered out with appeals to an Old Testament written in Greek rather than Hebrew. The Septuagint was the Bible of early Christian writers.


3 responses to “Why Study the Septuagint?”

  1. This is good stuff, man. Keep it coming. I’d like to see your ambitious reading list for the summer before entering the program!

  2. Another reason to value the LXX as a study tool is because, in at least one case, it has preserved the true rendering, whereas the Masoretic text has succumbed to the complex dynamics of history, culture and tradition. The one specific case I am referring to is Zechariah 14:5. See http://zechariahfourteenfive.wordpress.com for details. It makes me wonder if there are other examples like this.