The Story of the Septuagint Bible and the Name Behind It

Fragment from Septuagint Bible. Wiki Commons, Public Domain

The Septuagint Bible arose in the 3rd century B.C., when the Hebrew Bible, or Old Testament, was translated into Greek. The name Septuagint derives from the Latin word septuaginta, which means 70. The Greek translation of the Hebrew Bible is called Septuagint because 70 or 72 Jewish scholars reportedly took part in the translation process.

The scholars worked in Alexandria during the reign of Ptolemy II Philadelphus (285-247 B.C.), according to the Letter of Aristeas to his brother Philocrates.

They assembled to translate the Hebrew Old Testament into the Greek language because Koine Greek began to supplant Hebrew as the language most commonly spoken by the Jewish people during the Hellenistic Period.

Aristeas determined that 72 scholars took part in the Hebrew-to-Greek Bible translation by calculating six elders for each of the 12 tribes of Israel. Adding to the legend and symbolism of the number is the idea that the translation was created in 72 days, according to The Biblical Archaeologist article, "Why Study the Septuagint?" written by Melvin K. H. Peters in 1986.

Calvin J. Roetzel states in The World That Shaped the New Testament that the original Septuagint only contained the Pentateuch. The Pentateuch is the Greek version of the Torah, which consists of the first five books of the Bible. The text chronicles the Israelites from creation to the leave-taking of Moses. The specific books are Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers and Deuteronomy.

Later versions of the Septuagint included the other two sections of the Hebrew Bible, Prophets and Writings.

Roetzel discusses a latter-day embellishment to the Septuagint legend, which today probably qualifies as a miracle: Not only did 72 scholars working independently make separate translations in 70 days, but these translations agreed in every detail.

Featured Thursday's Term to Learn.

The Septuagint is also known as: LXX.

Example of Septuagint in a sentence:

The Septuagint contains Greek idioms that express events differently from the way they were expressed in the Hebrew Old Testament.

The term Septuagint is sometimes used to refer to any Greek translation of the Hebrew Bible.

Books of the Septuagint (Source: CCEL)

  • Genesis
  • Exodus
  • Leviticus
  • Numbers
  • Deuteronomy
  • Joshua
  • Judges
  • Ruth
  • Kings (Samuel) I
  • Kings (Samuel) II
  • Kings III
  • Kings IV
  • Paralipomenon (Chronicles) I
  • Paralipomenon (Chronicles) II
  • Esdras I
  • Esdras I (Ezra)
  • Nehemiah
  • Psalms of David
  • Prayer of Manasseh
  • Proverbs
  • Ecclesiastes
  • Song of Solomon
  • Job
  • Wisdom of Solomon
  • Wisdom of the Son of Sirach
  • Esther
  • Judith
  • Tobit
  • Hosea
  • Amos
  • Micah
  • Joel
  • Obadiah
  • Jonah
  • Nahum
  • Habakkuk
  • Zephaniah
  • Haggai
  • Zechariah
  • Malachi
  • Isaiah
  • Jeremiah
  • Baruch
  • Lamentations of Jeremiah
  • Epistles of Jeremiah
  • Ezekial
  • Daniel
  • Song of the Three Children
  • Susanna
  • Bel and the Dragon
  • I Maccabees
  • II Maccabees
  • III Maccabees

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