The Septuagint, Emanuel Tov, Textual Criticism of the Hebrew Bible, Fortress Press, Minneapolis 1992.


Greek Minor Prophets Scroll from Nahal Hever

Greek Minor Prophets Scroll from Nahal Hever

1. The Septuagint (G*)

S.P. Brock et al., A Classified Bibliography of the Septuagint (Leiden 1973).

E. Bickerman, “Some Notes on the Transmission of the Septuagint,” in- A. Marx Jubilee Volume (New York 1950) 149–178 = idem, Studies ill Jewish and Christian History, Part One (Leiden 1976) 137–166; P.-M. Bogaert, “Les etudes sur la Septante—Bilan et perspectives,” Revue théologique de Louvain 16 (1985) 174–200; S.P. Brock, “The Phenomenon of the Septuagint—The Witness of Tradition,” OTS 17 (1972) 11–36; G. Dorival, M. Harl, O. Munnich, La Bible grecque des Septante—Du judaïsme hellénistique au christianisme ancien (Paris 1988); S. Jellicoe, The Septuagint and Modern Study (Oxford 1968); S. Olofsson, The LXX Version—A Guide to the Translation Technique of the Septuagint (ConB, OT Series 30; Lund 1990); I.L. Seeligmann, “Problems and Perspectives in Modern Septuagint Research,” Textus 15 (1990) 169–232 (previously published in Dutch in 1940); H.B. Swete, An Introduction to the OT in Greek (2d ed.; Cambridge 1914); Tov, TCU; idem, “Die griechischen Bibelübersetzungen,” in- ANRW II, 20.1 (Berlin/New York 1987) 121–189; idem, “The Septuagint,” in- Mulder, Mikra, 161–188; idem, “The Contribution of the Qumran Scrolls to the Understanding of the LXX,” in press.

G* is a Jewish translation which was made mainly in Alexandria. Its Hebrew source differed greatly from the other textual witnesses (M* T* S* B* and many of the Qumran texts), and this accounts for its great significance in biblical studies. Moreover, G is important as a source for early exegesis, and this translation also forms the basis for many elements in the NT.

a. Name

G* is known in various languages as the translation of the seventy (two elders). Its traditional name reflects the tradition that seventy two elders translated the Torah into Greek (see especially the Epistle of Aristeas, an apocryphal composition describing the origin of G*). In the first centuries CE this tradition was expanded to include all of the translated biblical books, and finally it encompassed all of the Jewish-Greek Scriptures, including compositions originally written in Greek.

Today, the name Septuagint(a) denotes both the original translation of the Bible into Greek and the collection of sacred Greek Writings in their present form. The former use is imprecise, since the name Septuaginta is not suitable for a collection which contains, in addition to the original translation, late revisions (recensions) of that translation as well as compositions written in Greek. Because of this, scholars usually distinguish between the collection of sacred Greek writings named the Septuagint and the original translation, called the Old Greek (OG) translation. The presumed original translation is known from two sources- the greater part is included in the collection of sacred Greek writings (G*) and a smaller segment is reconstructed by modem scholars from various later sources. In places where it is necessary to stress the diverse nature of the collection of books included in G*, its name is placed in quotation marks (“G*”).

b. Scope

“G*” contains two types of books-

(a) The Greek translation of the twenty-four canonical books. These books contribute significantly to biblical studies, in particular to textual criticism.

(b) Books not included in the collection of the Holy Scriptures of the Jews of Palestine and therefore named Apocrypha (the “hidden” books) in Greek and hisoniyyim (the “outside” books) in Hebrew.

These books are subdivided into two groups-

(1) the Greek translation of certain books, whose Hebrew source has either been lost, or preserved only in part;

(2) compositions composed from the outset in Greek, such as the Wisdom of Solomon.

c. Sequence of the Books

The twenty-four books of the Hebrew canon included in G* are arranged in a different sequence from that of the Hebrew Bible. Whereas the books of the Hebrew canon are arranged in three sections reflecting different stages of their acceptance into the canon, the Greek tripartite arrangement of the books is made in accordance with their literary genre-

(1) legal and historical books (starting with the Torah),

(2) poetic and sapiential books,

(3)prophetic books—in some manuscript traditions the latter two sections appear in a reverse order.

Within each section the Greek books are arranged in a sequence different from that of the twenty-four books of the Hebrew Bible. The apocryphal books are integrated into the three sections in accordance with their literary genre.

d. The Original Form of G* and Its Date

Most scholars are of the opinion that there once existed only one original translation of each of the books of the Hebrew Bible—see the opinion of de Lagarde described on p. 183–and accordingly, various attempts have been made to reconstruct their original translation—see p. 140. At the same time, a minority of scholars accept the opinion of Kahle (p. 183), who claimed that initially there were various attempts at translation as was the case with the Targumim. The discussion below of the dates of the Greek translations takes both possibilities into account.

The books of the Bible were translated at different times and there are various attestations of the date of composition of the books of G*. Some of the evidence is external, e.g., quotations from G* in ancient sources, and some internal, e.g., reflections of historical situations or events found in the translation.

According to the generally accepted explanation of the testimony of the Epistle of Aristeas, the translation of the Torah was carried out in Egypt in the third century BCE. This assumption is compatible with the early date of several papyrus and leather fragments of the Torah from Qumran and Egypt, some of which have been ascribed to the middle or end of the second century BCE (4QLXXLeva, 4QLXXNum, Pap. Fouad 266, Pap. Rylands Gk. 458).

The translations of the books of the Prophets, Hagiographa, and the apocryphal books came after that of the Torah, for most of these translations use its vocabulary, and quotations from the translation of the Torah appear in the Greek translations of the Latter Prophets, Psalms, Ben Sira, etc. Since the Prophets and several of the books of the Hagiographa were known in their Greek version to the grandson of Ben Sira at the end of the second century BCE, we may infer that most of the books of the Prophets and Hagiographa were translated in the beginning of that century or somewhat earlier. There is only limited explicit evidence concerning individual books- Chronicles is quoted by Eupolemos in the middle of the second century BCE, and Job is quoted by Pseudo-Aristeas in the beginning of the first century BCE (see Swete*, 25–26). The translation of Isaiah contains allusions to historical situations and events which point to the years 170–150 BCE.
The corpus of “G*” also contains revisions (recensions) of original translations (below 2). These revisions were made from the first century BCE onwards (parts of Samuel-Kings [below, pp. 144–145]) until the beginning of the second century CE (Qoheleth, if indeed translated by Aquila). Therefore, some four hundred years separate the translation of the Torah from the latest translation contained in “G*.”

e. Evidence

There are many witnesses of G*, some direct, such as papyrus fragments and manuscripts, and others indirect, such as the translations made from G*, and quotations by early authors.

a. Direct Witnesses

The sources which contain G*, either completely or in part, are numerous. Some of them have been published in separate editions, while others are known to scholars from the critical editions of G*. The date of these witnesses varies from the second century BCE until the late Middle Ages.

In the description of the witnesses of G* one usually distinguishes between

1. early texts written on papyrus and leather including both scrolls and codices;

2. uncial (uncialis) or majuscule (majusculus) manuscripts from the fourth century onwards, written with “capital” letters

3. minuscule (minusculus) or cursive manuscripts, written with small letters, from medieval times.

(1) Early texts dating from the second century BCE onwards, mainly fragments of the Torah, were discovered in Palestine and Egypt. With the aid of these fragments one now gains insights about the period before the Hexapla (see p. 147). The textual tradition of that composition supplanted most of the early traditions from the third century CE onwards.

Of the many papyrus fragments, particular significance is attached to those belonging to the Chester Beatty/Scheide collection, discovered in Egypt in 1931. This collection contains large sections of most of the biblical books; especially significant are the papyri containing Daniel (numbered 967–8) which serve as the sole witness (except for the late Hexaplaric manuscripts) of the G* of this book, since all other manuscripts and, in their wake, the early editions do not contain the Old Greek version of Daniel, but contains instead the revision of Theodotion which had replaced the original translation in the corpus of “G*.”

Among the leather fragments of G* found in Qumran, 4QLXXLeva, published in DJD IX, is especially significant. This text contains a freer translation of Leviticus than that found in the other manuscripts. According to Skehan, this fragment contains the original text of G*, while all the other texts reflect a tradition corrected according to M*.

(2) Uncial manuscripts of G* dating from the fourth to the tenth century CE (see an example on plate 19*) are the main source for our knowledge of G*. The three most important manuscripts containing all or almost all books of G* are B, A, and S.

B (Cod. Vat. Gr. 1209, indicated as “Vaticanus”) dates from the fourth century. Codex B is the best complete manuscript of G* (see plate 19*), and therefore several editions are based on it. It is relatively free of corruptions and influences from the revisions of G*. At the same time, its text of Isaiah is Hexaplaric and in Judges it contains another type of revision.

S also named א (B.M. Add. 43725, indicated as “Sinaiticus”) dates from the fourth century. Codex S usually agrees with the text of B, when the two reflect the Old greek translation, but it is also is influenced by the later revisions of G*. This manuscript was brought by C. von Tischendorf to Russia in the middle of the nineteenth century from St. Catherine’s monastery in Sinai, from which it derives its name.

A (B.M. Royal MS 1 D V–VIII, indicated as “Alexandrinus”) dates from the fifth century. Codex A is greatly influenced by the Hexaplaric tradition and in several books represents it faithfully. The scribe of A often adapted the text to similar verses and added harmonizing details.

(3) Minuscules—Many minuscule manuscripts from the ninth to the sixteenth centuries are known. Some of them are recorded in the Göttingen and Cambridge editions (below pp. 140–141), while others are known from the edition of Holmes-Parsons (ibid.). Even though minuscules are relatively late, they often preserve ancient traditions, as, for example, in the Lucianic tradition known mainly from the four minuscules denoted as b,o,c2,e2 in the Cambridge editions.

ß. Indirect Witnesses- Daughter Translations of G*

In the first centuries CE G* served as the official source of the Bible for the Christian Church and therefore many translations were made from it in accordance with the needs of the churches in the East and West. Several of these translations are important for our knowledge of G* and its revisions in the first centuries CE. The testimony of the daughter versions is adduced in the editions of Cambridge and Göttingen.

Particularly important among these is the Vetus Latina, “The Old Latin” <translation>. This translation preserved many important Greek readings sometimes as their only witness, but more frequently in conjunction with the Lucianic manuscripts (see p. 148). The Vetus Latina translation derived directly from the Greek, but some of its “Hebraizing” elements may have entered the Latin translation directly from a Hebrew source, possibly during the oral citation of the text in the synagogue service in North Africa, as surmised by Quispel.

f. Editions

Almost all the Uncial manuscripts of G* have been published in diplomatic editions (editions which present the text of a particular manuscript without any changes and with or without an accompanying critical apparatus of variants). The two major diplomatic editions are-

(1) R. Holmes and J. Parsons, Vetus Testamentum graecum cum variis lectionibus, vols. I–V (Oxford 1798–1827). This edition records variants from 164 manuscripts, the daughter translations of G*, and the first editions of G*. The text of this extensive edition itself is based on the editio Sixtina of 1587. This edition, although often imprecise, is nevertheless very significant since it contains the largest collection of the variants of G*.

(2) A.E. Brooke, N. McLean, and H.St.J. Thackeray, The Old Testament in Greek according to the Text of Codex Vaticanus (Cambridge 1906–1940), also known as “The Cambridge Septuagint.” This series contains the books Genesis until Nehemiah, as well as Esther, Judith, and Tobit in four volumes, according to codex B, and where that manuscript is lacking, it has been supplemented by A or S. Together with the editions of the Göttingen series, this edition is used by scholars for precise research.

Another type of edition is caned critical or eclectic. Such editions present the reconstructed “original” text which is selected from elements found in all known sources; in addition these editions provide a critical apparatus of variants. The idea of publishing such a reconstructed text derives from the assumption that there once existed an original text of G* (see p. 136). Obviously, any attempt to reconstruct such a text is based on all the data known prior to the preparation of the edition, and any new data may bring about changes in the reconstructed text and even in the evaluation of the known data. For example, some of the papyrus fragments belonging to the Chester Beatty/Scheide collection (p. 138), which were published after the publication of the critical editions, have brought about changes in the evaluation of the data included in these editions.

The Göttingen Septuagint series, named Septuaginta, Vetus Testamentum graecum auctoritate societatis litterarum gottingensis editum, comprises the most precise and thorough critical editions of G*. Each volume contains a detailed critical apparatus in which the witnesses are divided into groups and subgroups, so that readers can find their way through the maze of manifold variants—see plate 20* for an example. In Jeremiah, for example, the witnesses of the Lucianic tradition are subdivided into a main group (L) and a secondary group (l), and when a reading occurs in both it is recorded as L’. Each book commences with an introduction containing a detailed evaluation of all the textual witnesses of that book, a description of orthographical variants, and a bibliography.

An abridged critical edition according to the Göttingen system was published by A. Rahlfs, Septuaginta, id est Vetus Testamentum graece iuxta LXX interpretes (Stuttgart 1935).
The great problems surrounding the transmission of the text of G* make the reconstruction of its original text difficult. Nevertheless, with regard to the evaluation of at least three categories of readings relatively stable criteria can be used-

1. grammatical variants;

2. readings which have been corrupted from other readings;

3. readings known as belonging to one of the revisions of the mainstream of G*.

g. Auxiliary Tools for the Study of G*

The main auxiliary tool is the bilingual concordance by E. Hatch and H.A. Redpath, A Concordance to the Septuagint and the Other Greek Versions of the OT (Oxford 1897–1906; repr. Graz 1954). This work lists the Hebrew and Aramaic equivalents for most of the words of G*—for the Apocrypha the Greek words are listed without equivalents. This work does not take a stand regarding the presumed Vorlage of the Greek words contained in G* but only lists the “formal” equivalents of G* and M*. The Hebrew/Aramaic-Greek index of Hatch-Redpath refers to the numbers of the pages where the reverse equivalents are mentioned, that is, Greek-Hebrew/Aramaic. These equivalents are recorded explicitly (with data concerning frequency) in the index to Hatch-Redpath by Camilo dos Santos.

Precise electronic concordances of all the equivalents of M* and G* have been prepared on the basis of a computer-assisted comparison of M* and G*. See J.R. Abercrombie and others, Computer Assisted Tools for Septuagint Studies (CATSS), Vol. 1, Ruth (SCS 20; Atlanta, GA 1986); E. Tov, A Computerized Data Base for Septuagint Studies, The Parallel Aligned Text of the Greek and Hebrew Bible, CATSS Vol. 2 (JNSL, Supplementary Series 1; Stellenbosch 1986).

h. The Importance of G* for Biblical Studies

Among the witnesses of the Bible special importance is attached to M*, some of the Qumran scrolls, m*, and G*. The importance of G* is based on the fact that it reflects a greater variety of important variants than all the other translations put together (see Tov*, 1991). Many details in the Hebrew source of the translation can be reconstructed, since large sections have been translated with a high degree of literalness. Examples of such retroversions are listed in Table 24 on pp. 131–132 as well as in chapters 4 and 7. Although one should not generalize, the importance of G* should be stressed especially for the study of several books.

Genesis- genealogies, chronological data (see chapter 7B, section 6).

Exodus- the second account of the building of the Tabernacle in chapters 35–40.

Numbers- sequence differences, pluses and minuses of verses.

Joshua- significant transpositions, pluses, and minuses (see chapter 7B, section 2).

Samuel-Kings- many major and minor differences, including pluses, minuses, and transpositions, involving different chronological and editorial structures (see chapter 7B, sections 4, 7, 9, 10).

Jeremiah- differences in sequence, much shorter text (see chapter 7B, section 1).

Ezekiel- slightly shorter text (see chapter 7B, section 3).

Proverbs- differences in sequence, different text (see chapter 7B, section 5).

Daniel and Esther- completely different text, including the addition of large sections,
treated as “apocryphal.”

Chronicles- “synoptic” variants, that is, readings in the Greek translation of Chronicles
agreeing with M* in the parallel texts.

Some of these data bear on the literary development of the Hebrew book (see chapter 7A).

Pages 134-142

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