Biblical Studies Septuagint
by
Leonard J. Greenspoon
  • LAST REVIEWED: 18 June 2015
  • LAST MODIFIED: 15 December 2011
  • DOI: 10.1093/obo/9780195393361-0097

Introduction

The term Septuagint (or LXX) refers to the oldest Greek translation of the Hebrew Bible and of other ancient Jewish scripture, as well as the texts of several works or sections of works originally composed in Greek. The earliest of portion of the LXX, the translation of the Pentateuch, dates from the first third of the 3rd century BCE; it was produced in Alexandria, Egypt. The study of the Septuagint encompasses the transmission and revision of these texts in Greek, fresh translations of the Hebrew (and Aramaic) into Greek, and early translations of the Greek into other languages. The Septuagint is significant in and of itself, as a witness to Hellenistic Judaism, as the Scriptures of diaspora Judaism and early Christianity, and as a source for greater understanding of the New Testament.

General Overviews

Since the late 20th century, introductions to the Septuagint have appeared with increased frequency. These include both freestanding volumes (Dorival, et al. 1994; Fernández Marcos 2000; Jobes and Silva 2000; Dines 2004) and extended encyclopedia entries (Peters 1992, Greenspoon 2009). Although there is bound to be repetition from one study to another, each of these contributions is distinguishable by virtue of its emphases, approaches, and intended audience. At the same time, these more recent contributions should be viewed as supplements to, rather than replacements for, the earlier and still valuable studies Swete 1914 and Jellicoe 1968.

  • Dines, Jennifer M. The Septuagint. Edited by Michael A. Knibb. London: T&T Clark, 2004.

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    This work can be most profitably used by those with some background in Hellenistic studies, but it does not presuppose specialist knowledge of the LXX itself. Its compact length and lucid style recommend it as a starting point for advanced undergraduate or graduate students.

  • Dorival, Gilles, Marguerite Harl, and Olivier Munnich. La Bible grecque des Septante: Du judaïsme hellénistique au christianisme ancien. 2d ed. Initiations au Christianisme Ancien. Paris: Édition du Cerf, 1994.

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    This jointly written study is aimed at those who have considerable prior familiarity with the LXX. Its particular strengths, as indicated by the last part of its title, lie in its extensive identification and exploration of LXX citations and allusions among early Christian writers.

  • Fernández Marcos, Natalio. The Septuagint in Context: Introduction to the Greek Version of the Bible. Translated by Wilfred G. E. Watson. Leiden, The Netherlands: Brill, 2000.

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    Originally published in Spanish, this volume is especially strong in its treatment of the LXX in its daughter versions and in Jewish traditions. Overall, it is informed by judicious insights on the part of its author, a seasoned researcher. Some background in LXX studies is necessary to fully appreciate the material contained here.

  • Greenspoon, Leonard. “Septuagint.” In The New Interpreter’s Dictionary of the Bible. Vol. 5. Edited by Katharine Doob Sakenfeld, 170–177. Nashville: Abingdon, 2009.

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    This encyclopedia entry is intended for consultation by members of the clergy as well as of the academy. It contains up-to-date discussions and analyses of relevant topics, including the relatively recent application of translation studies to the explication of the LXX and current theories of Septuagint origins.

  • Jellicoe, Sidney. The Septuagint and Modern Study. Oxford: Clarendon, 1968.

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    This stands as the major synthesis of LXX studies at (or just after) the midpoint of the 20th century. It is marked by its clear, essentially unbiased account of scholarly consensuses, disagreements, and controversies among the major scholars of that generation and should be consulted by anyone interested in the historical development of LXX studies.

  • Jobes, Karen H., and Moisés Silva. Invitation to the Septuagint. Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Academic, 2000.

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    This is certainly the best introduction for beginning students. Making use of a well-developed and carefully applied pedagogy, this book is an excellent guide for those approaching the LXX for the first time. In addition to covering major topics related to the LXX itself, it also deals more broadly with the Septuagint in the context of biblical studies.

  • Peters, M. K. H. “Septuagint.” In The Anchor Bible Dictionary. Vol. 5. Edited by David Noel Freedman, 1093–1104. New York: Doubleday, 1992.

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    This is an accessible introduction in a well-known and highly regarded multivolume dictionary. It succinctly acquaints users, ranging from undergraduates to faculty members, with major trends in LXX studies and introduces a wide range of research topics and researchers.

  • Swete, Henry Barclay. An Introduction to the Old Testament in Greek. 2d ed. Revised by Richard Rusden Ottley. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press, 1914.

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    Although numerous new discoveries and approaches have appeared in the years since its first publication (it first appeared in 1900), this is a classic that should not be ignored both because it is important for the history of scholarship and because it covers a number of topics more extensively than any subsequent publications.

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