After the Northern Kingdom (Israel) was captured by the Assyrians (722 BC) and the Southern Kingdom (Judah) was destroyed by the Babylonians (586 BC) the Jewish population was deported. Many returned to their homeland upon their release, but others spread throughout the world. Far removed from Judea, many Jews lost their Hebrew mastery as Greek became their main language. This created a growing need for a Greek translation of the Hebrew Scriptures. Alexandria, Egypt, held the largest Jewish community of that era and was also a great center of Greek learning. On request of the Alexandrian Jews – according to tradition (supported by the legend of Ptolemy and other scholars) – some 70 Hebrew scribes traveled to Alexandria in 285-270 BC where they produced a translation now known as the Septuagint. That name derives from the Greek word for 70 and is also designated as LXX (the Latin numeral for 70).
Overall the translation was executed with great care given the means of those days and the challenges that faced translators. Still, when comparing the LXX and the Hebrew (Masoretic) texts a number of small differences between the texts can be noted. Through the Dead Sea Scrolls, many of these differences are now identified as being caused by the fact that translators likely followed a different Hebrew text belonging to what now is called the Proto-Septuagint family.
In addition to the 24 books of the Hebrew Old Testament, the LXX contains additional books as well as add-ons to books circulated in the Greek-speaking world, but were not included in the Hebrew texts. These books are now known as the Apocrypha of the Old Testament.
The LXX was held with great respect in ancient times; Philo and Josephus ascribed divine inspiration to its authors. It formed the basis of the Old Latin versions and is still used intact within the Eastern Orthodox Church. Besides the Old Latin versions, the LXX is also the basis for Gothic, Slavonic, old Syriac, old Armenian, and Coptic versions of the Old Testament.
Significant to all Christians and Bible scholars is the fact that the LXX was quoted both by the writers of the New Testament and by the leaders of the early church. Christians naturally used the LXX since it was the only Greek version available to the earliest Christians, who, as a group, had rapidly become overwhelmingly Gentile and, therefore, unfamiliar with Hebrew. While Jews have not used the LXX in worship or religious study since the second century AD, recent scholarship has brought renewed interest towards it in Judaic Studies. The oldest surviving LXX codices date to the fourth century AD.
The importance of the LXX as evidence for the reliability of the texts of the Old Testament is two-fold:
1) Confirmation of the Masoretic texts: Although there are textual differences between the LXX and the Masoretic texts, generally these differences are small.
2) Confirmation of early texts: The LXX was translated from the Hebrew Scriptures in the years 285-250 BC. It includes all 24 books of the Hebrew Old Testament. Therefore the existence of the LXX proves that the OT was widely available in written form before this time. Therefore the prophecies in the book of Daniel about the Greek and Roman empires as well the extensive prophecies about the Messiah in Daniel, Isaiah and especially Psalm 22 were written well before the actual events happened.
About the author:
Rob VandeWeghe is a sceptic turned Christian by studying the foundations for Christianity. Rob’s book ‘Prepared to Answer’ and more evidences about the Old Testament are available at http://www.WindmillMinistries.org.
The above article is an excerpt from Rob's book: Prepared to Answer. You can get a copy of this book on his website or as Ebook here on FaithWriters-FaithReaders.
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