What Was The Septuagint?

Tanakh, also known as the Hebrew Bible.
Tanakh, also known as the Hebrew Bible.

Septuagint is the original extant Hellenistic translation of the Tanakh, also known as the Hebrew Bible. The term ‘’Septuagint’’ is a Latin name, which means ‘’70 interpreters.’’ The Septuagint was widely used during the time of Paul the Apostle and Jesus since most Jews couldn’t read Hebrew. Therefore it is quoted more often than the original Hebrew Scriptures in the New Testament. The first 5 books of the Tanakh, known as Pentateuch or Torah, were translated during the mid-third century BCE while the Jewish scholars worked on the other books during the second century BCE. It was presumably translated for the Jews living in Egypt, where Greek was widely used in the region.


According to Jewish legend, King Ptolemy II Philadelphus requested 72 Jewish scholars to work on Septuagint so that it can be added in the Library of Alexandria. It was translated by 6 scholars from each of the 12 tribes of Israel. The above narrative is mentioned in the pseudepigraphic letter to Philocrates by Aristeas and is repeated by Titus Flavius Josephus and Philo Judaeus, among other sources. The exact date when the Torah was translated during the third century BCE is supported by numerous factors, including citations from the second century BCE. After Tora was translated, the other books were translated over the next 3 centuries. The translation process was finished by 132BCE. The Septuagint was written in Koine Greek; however, other parts of the scriptures have Semiticisms based on Aramaic and Hebrew. Other books like Proverbs and Daniel have a strong Greek influence.

Jewish Use

Josephus and Philo considered the Septuagint to be equal to the Hebrew Bible. Various manuscripts from the Septuagint were among the Dead Sea Scrolls discovery and were believed to have been in use among the Jewish communities during that period. Various factors forced the Jews to abandon the Septuagint from the second century. The first Gentile Christians used it since it was the only Greek version of the Hebrew Scriptures, and most non-Jewish Christians couldn’t read Hebrew. The Jews used Aramaic or Hebrew Targum manuscripts that were translated by Masoretes and various Aramaic translations like those of Rabbi-Yonathan ben Uziel and Onkelos. The Septuagint started losing Jewish sanction after people discovered the differences between the Hebrew scripture and the Septuagint. Even the Greek-speaking Jews preferred the Jewish versions of the scripture in Greek over the Septuagint like the Aquila.

Christian Use

The Early-Christian churches used Greek Scriptures because the common language the Roman Empire was Greek, and the language of the Syriac church was Aramaic. The connection between the apostolic usage of the Hebrew and Septuagint texts is very complicated. The apostles used both the Hebrew and Septuagint scripts when writing the books in the New Testament. Some of the texts that are found only in the Hebrew Bible and not the Septuagint include John 7:38, John 19:37, and Matthew 2:15, among others. The Orthodoxy Catholic Church still prefers using the Septuagint as their basis for translating the Old Testament. The orthodoxy Catholic Church still uses the untranslated version of the Septuagint in places where the liturgical language is Greek.


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