The Septuagint – What is it?

The Septuagint (often abbreviated LXX) is the translation of the Hebrew Bible or Old Testament into Greek. The Greek word "Septuagint" is derived from the Latin word for 70 based on the tradition that 70 Jewish scholars served as the translators of the work (some sources say 72 scholars).

The Septuagint was first translated in the third to second centuries BC in Alexandria, Egypt. The reason for the translation was based upon the widespread usage of the Greek language in areas where Jewish adherents lived, especially in the flourishing region of Northern Egypt. By the time the Septuagint was translated, it is believed the majority of Jews no longer spoke Hebrew, but rather Aramaic or, in Alexandria, the Greek language.

Several facts regarding the Septuagint are of importance to students of the Bible. First, the Septuagint marked the first major translation of a religious text from one language to another. Until this point, the Hebrew Bible had remained in its original languages of Hebrew and Aramaic, or had only been translated in small portions. The Septuagint, however, involved a large team of Jewish leaders approved by their community to provide a common translation into another language.

Second, many of the New Testament quotes of the Old Testament are from the Septuagint. This demonstrates that the Septuagint enjoyed widespread usage by the time of the first century AD when the New Testament's books were originally written.

Third, the translation of the Septuagint two or three hundred years before the events of the New Testament reveals that the content of the Old Testament had been completed and collected prior to this time. The many Old Testament prophecies regarding Jesus as the Messiah and other New Testament events were fulfilled long after the Old Testament had been completed, affirming the supernatural nature of God's Word to reveal future events.

Fourth, the Septuagint has served as a helpful tool to biblical scholars in both Old and New Testament textual studies. For example, in the Old Testament, wording of the original Hebrew text that may be unclear or uncertain is better understood when comparing it with the Septuagint.

While the Septuagint is not inspired as the original text of Scripture is, the Septuagint marked an important time in the history of the Hebrew Bible that helped many to understand God's Word in ways that have often influenced the development of the New Testament text.

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