|Philadelphus r. 285–246 BCE|
Send us six men from each of your tribes, those who have proven their character by their way of life, men who are Elders, experienced in the things of their own law, so that after examining the translation and taking the agreement from the majority, which is accurate with reference to the translation, we might set it elegantly in a manner worth of the regime and your choice! (32).
And it happened in such a way, that the work of the translation was finished in seventy two days, something like this having happened as though according to some Plan (Aristeas, 307).
Resting in the cloistered place, and with no one present, that is except the elements of the region—earth, water, air, heaven—concerning the creation of which they were about to give a sacred account—for the beginning of the law is the account of creation!—the others, just as though they were being inspired, other people were not interpreting other things, but all were translating the same nouns and verbs, as if a Suggester gave were instructing each of them invisibly (Philo, Life of Moses 2.37).
And yet, who does not know that all dialects (especially the Greek dialect!) have a large number of words, and so it’s quite possible for someone to translate differently while metaphrasing and paraphrasing, or adapting other words? But they say this did not occur with this translation, but the words in their original etymological meaning corresponded to the words in their original etymological meaning and to the same sense, the Greek with the Chaldean, well suited to the realities indicated! (2.38).
- The Septuagint only includes the Greek translation of the Pentateuch undertaken by scholars and Ptolemaic authority and provision, not the entire Greek Bible (although, it should be noted that what most people mean when they reference the Septuagint is this broader, metonymic usage and most folks aren’t always exact).
- It’s called the Septuagint or LXX because of the 72 (in Aristaeus) or 70 (in Philo) scholars who translated the Pentateuch under the Ptolemaic aegis (LXX is the Latin enumeration of 70)
- The LXX was (most likely) translated in the 3rd-2nd century BCE but definitely in Alexandria, Egypt
- The LXX translation was disseminated and used by Jews throughout the Diaspora and even in Palestine, where—if the gospels can be believed—it was even read in Jewish synagogues, used by Jesus and by Paul.
This is a pretty complex topic. You can read through some of the primary sources yourself, but I’d also highly recommend reading through Timothy Michael Law’s When God Spoke Greek if you want more information. There are a lot of good introductions to this topic (Jobes, Marcos, and Swete are always excellent!), but TML writes for a general audience and in such a way as to make the reading enjoyable and stimulating. I disagree with TML in any number of ways, but none of those ways alter my recommendation (Disclaimer: TML is a friend/acquaintance of mine, but I\’ve been recommending his work since before I knew him personally.)
Next time, we’ll talk about the Masoretic Text.
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