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It would seem, then, that we cannot, without further data, rely on our present text of the Septuagint, taken as a whole. If that text had become corrupted by the time of Origen, if his labours only made matters worse, if we have at present only scanty materials for ascertaining the earlier text before the time of Origen, it would certainly appear as though we are still in want of that first requisite, which every document of authority ought to possess, namely, a substantial guarantee for its genuine
We no longer have it as the translators wrote it; at least it cannot be shown that we have.
Does it follow that the Septuagintal text is without value? By no means. There have been disturbing forces at work on its general surface; but enough remains to show us, at least, the nature of its terminology, of its phraseology, of its grammatical constructions. These forces have, no doubt, often dislocated the text, but they have not destroyed it. We cannot rely upon it (independently of other considerations) as the authoritative rendering for such and such a passage in the Hebrew text; but we can rely upon it to show what were the influences brought to bear upon the Greek language by being placed in contact with Hebrew forms of thought and diction; we can rely upon it as giving in a general way the sense of the Hebrew Scriptures: nay, we can go further, and say that the Septuagint version is in many chapters a very literal translation from the Hebrew, and that its divergences from the Hebrew can often be explained by a different vowel-pointing of the original, or by a different punctuation. Moreover, the Septuagint still remains full of words and constructions all closely related to, or rather identical with, those employed by the writers of the New Testament. Have we, or are we likely to have, the means of arriving at a purer form of text than that which we at present possess? It will be our endeavour to furnish some answer to this question in the course of this article. And first we propose to lay before our readers a brief outline of the history of the Septuagintal text, under the guidance of Professor Tischendorf, from whose Prolegomena prefixed to his last edition of the Septuagint (that one named at the head of this article), we have drawn the greater part of the following remarks, and to whom we here (once for all) gratefully acknowledge our obligations :
1. THE PROBABLE DATE OF THE SEPTUAGINT VERSION.For arriving at the probable date when this version was made, we have the following notices, which have been selected from other evidence :-
1. There is extant a letter of Aristeas addressed to his brother
Philocrates. Aristeas, it appears, was one of the body-guard to Ptolemy II., called Philadelphus, who reigned B.c. 284 (or -5) to 246 (or -7). According to this letter, Demetrius Phalereus, the Royal librarian of his day at Alexandria, suggested to the king, that the laws of the Jewς (των Ιουδαίων νόμιμα) should be translated into Greek. In consequence of the librarian's suggestion, which appears to have been graciously received by the king's majesty, a letter was addressed to the high priest Eleazar, who eventually sent down to Egypt seventy-two persons, six from each tribe. According to the letter (or legend), these seventy-two translators were themselves translated to the island of Pharus, where they finished their translation of the Pentateuch in seventy-two days.
2. According to Clemens Alexandrinus and Eusebius, Aristobulus, a Jewish philosopher, a cotemporary of Ptolemy VI., called Philometer (his reign lasted from B.c.181 to 146, but he was a mere child at his accession), mentions the translation of the law as having been made in the time of Ptolemy Philadelphus.?
3. Two centuries later, Philo Judaus, born about A.D. 1,3 says that the translators, on their arrival, were examined by the king as to their capability and readiness; that they were sent over to Pharus in order to be in perfect seclusion ; that there, remote from men, and in the presence of nature only, they offered up their prayers, and in answer to their prayers they were enabled to give the identically same renderings in Greek for the Hebrew original. So wonderful was this result, that (says Philo) the Greeks who know Chaldee, and the Chaldees who know Greek, pay the same veneration to the translation as to the original, considering the authors of the translation rather as persons inspired than as translators. A festival was yearly held at Pharus to commemorate the making of the translation, and it was attended not only by Jews, but by crowds of other people besides (παμπληθείς έτεροι).
4. Josephus, born A.D. 37, takes his account of the making of the Greek translation from the letter of Aristeas, whom he calls 'Aplotaios.
1 See Hody de Bibl. text. origin. Oxford, 1705. Fol. pp. i–xxxvi. The letter of Ptolemy to Eleazar is at p. vi. ; of Eleazar to Ptolemy at p. vii.
2 Clem. Al. Strom. i. p. 410. Eusebius, Præp. Ev. ix. 6, xiii. 12. The words of Aristobulus, quoted by Eusebius, are ή δε όλη ερμηνεία των διά του νόμου πάντων επί του προσαγορευθέντος Φιλαδέλφου βασιλέως. 3 A. D. 20. Smith's Dict.
καθάπερ ενθουσιώντες προεφήτευον, ουκ άλλα άλλοι, τα δ' αυτά πάντες ονόματα και ρήματα, ώσπερ υποβολέως εκάστοις αοράτως ενηχούντος. De Vit. Mosis, Lib. ΙΙ. (Tom. ii. pp. 139, 140, Ed. Mangey.)
5 καθάπερ αδελφάς, μάλλον δ' ώς μίαν και την αυτήν έν τε τοις πράγμασι και τους ονόμασι τεθήκασι και προσκυνούσιν, ουχ, ερμηνείς εκείνους, αλλ' ιεροφάντας και προφήτας προσαγορεύοντες. 1bid. 6 Ant. xii. II. 1-15.
5. Justin Martyr, who died between A.D. 165 and 171, says that the number of the translators was seventy; that they were shut up in seventy distinct cells, of which he had himself seen the ruins in Pharus; that they were strictly prohibited from all intercourse with each other; and that (working separately) they produced exactly the same translation—to the great astonishment of the king. But, according to Justin, the translation embraced the writings not only of Moses, but of the other prophets. And he appeals to Philo and Josephus in confirmation of his statements.
6. Passing over the testimony of Irenæus, and many more who might be cited, we come to Epiphanius, who died a.d. 402. According to him there were seventy-two translators, but they were to translate in couples, one couple taking Genesis, and so on. Thirty-six cells were provided, one for each couple: they worked from early dawn to evening, when they were rowed in thirty-six boats to dine (or sup) with King Ptolemy. Two servants were allowed to each couple, and their cells were lighted from above. Thus the twenty-seven books of the Old Testament (reducible by a different arrangement to twentytwo, the number of letters in the Hebrew alphabet) were completed.'
7. The testimony of S. Jerome may be given in his own words, from his preface to Genesis. “ Nescio quis primus auctor LXX cellulas Alexandriæ mendacio suo exstruxerit, quibus divisi eadem scriptitarint quum Aristeas ejusdem Ptolemæi ÚTrepao Tiotos et multo post tempore Josephus nihil tale retulerint, sed in una basilica congregatos contulisse scribant, non prophetasse. Aliud est enim varem, aliud interpretem esse: ibi spiritus ventura prædicit, hic eruditio et verborum copia ea quæ intellegit transfert.” Again, S. Jerome is against the opinion of those who assert that the whole of the Old Testament was translated by the Seventy. Quamquam et Aristeas et Josephus et omnis schola Judæorum quinque tantum libros Moysis a LXX translatos asserant.” (Comm. in Ezech. V.)
8. Two testimonies may be added from Hebrew sources. In the Babylonian Talmud mention is made (Megill. 9) of the seventy-two elders, who were shut up in as many cells by order of King Ptolemy, of their translating the Pentateuch, and of their exact agreement in the translation : in fitteen places they are said to have departed from the sacred text. In the Jeru
1 Cohort. ad Græcos, 13, which begins el dé tis páokou την Μωσ και των άλλων προφητών τους Ελλήνων γεγράφθαι γράμμασι κ. τ. λ. So in Apol. Ι. 31, he mentions τας βίβλους των προφητειών, but unfortunately makes Ptolemy send τω των Ιουδαίων τότε βασιλεύοντι Ηρώδη. (!)
De Mens. et Pond. III. A-C, p. 161.
salem Talmud mention is made (Megill. 6) of the translation, but nothing is said of King Ptolemy, nothing about the number of the translators, or of the cells, nor is it stated that the translation was confined to the Pentateuch. But in the thirteen places in which, according to this authority, the translators are said to have departed from the Hebrew text, it is to be noted that the citations are all of them made from the Pentateuch."
In the endeavour to come to a probable conclusion from the above scattered notices, it may be observed that the letter of Aristeas (on which so much depends), though it was received with unquestioning faith for more than fifteen centuries (as for instance by S. Jerome himself), is now generally admitted to be not genuine. Its genuineness was first called in question by Ludovicus de Vivis,' and its spuriousness seems to be fairly established by Humfry Hody, formerly Regius Professor of Greek in the University of Oxford ; 8 and the general, though not the universal, consent seems to have relegated to the province of legend the number of the translators, their being shut up
in cells, and their inspiration in the work of translation.
The letter, however, of Aristeas, if it do not state what is true, may perhaps point to what is true. There are, for instance, some grounds for thinking that the tradition is right in assigning the commencement of the translation, i.e. the translation of the Pentateuch, to the reign of Ptolemy Philadelphus. There is on this point a very general consent among ancient writers, and it is likely that whenever the work of translating the Holy Scriptures was taken in hand the Pentateuch would have the very first place.
The long captivity of the Jews, who were brought down into Egypt by Ptolemy I., surnamed Soter, the reputed son of
1 The Mishna or text of the oral law (which was considered as the interpretation of the written law) is supposed to have been reduced to writing A.D. 190 or 220. The Gemara (or commentary) in the Babylonian Talmud was begun A.D. 427 and completed A.D. 500. The date of the Gemara in the Jerusalem Talmud is variously put at 230, 270, 370, A.D. but was certainly prior to the Babylonian Talmud. The Amsterdam edition of the latter (1763) occupies eighteen volumes folio (!), the Mishna (Amst. 1698) six volumes folio. 2 In his commentary on Aug. de Civ. xviii. 42. (Basle, 1522.)
3 First in a treatise against the story of Aristeas (Oxford, 1685), afterwards more fully in a work on the original texts of the Bible (Oxford, 1705), a work which still remains the great repertory for Septuagintal lore. The Oxford edition of the LXX. (1848) was, we believe, prepared by the late learned Regius Professor of Greek, Dr. Gaisford.
4. For the genuineness of the letter of Aristeas, Mr. Grinfield refers to the • Vindication' (London,1736), the 'Apologia Sententiæ Patrum,' appended to the LXX. edition of Daniel (Rome, 1772), Gregory's History of the LXX. (London, 1664). See' Apol. for the Septuagint,' Appendix, No.4, p. 148. Professor Tischendorf refers to a learned work, in four volumes, by Constantine Oiconomos (Athens, 1854). NO. ('XX.-N.S.
Lagus (Ptolemy died B.c. 283), might render them desirous of having a Greek version of their Scriptures; and the well-known fondness of the Ptolemies for Greek literature would render them favourably disposed to such a desire, and might lead them to concur in giving it effect.
Again, in the prologue to the Wisdom of Jesus, son of Sirach, the translator (who was grandson to the author of that book) states that he (the translator) was in Egypt in the thirty-eighth year in the time of King Euergetes; and he seems to imply that there was existing at that time a Greek translation of all the Old
Testament. Now there were two Ptolemies who bore the surname of Energetes. Ptolemy (III.) Euergetes I. reigned B.C. 247—222, or twenty-five years. Ptolemy (VII.) Euergetes II. (called also Dúo kwv) assumed the regal title s.c. 170, and died 117. If the thirty-eighth year named in the prologue is to be reckoned from the accession of the Euergetes there mentioned, then that Euergetes must be Euergetes II., and the date when the translator of the Wisdom of Siracides was in Egypt must have been s.c. 132. At this time, then, it would seem that the whole of the Old Testament Scriptures had been translated into Greek. But if the thirty-eighth year refer to some other starting point of time, and if also the first Euergetes be the one intended in the prologue, then the translation of the Old Testament into Greek must have been completed at an earlier date, say B.C. 220.
Again, from the last sentence in the Book of Esther (LXX.), it would appear that the translation of that book must have been made in or before the fourth year of Ptolemy and Cleopatra."
1 ου μόνον δε ταύτα, αλλά και αυτός ο νόμος, και αι προφητείαι, και τα λοιπά των βιβλίων ου μικράν έχει την διαφοράν εν εαυτοίς λεγόμενα. 'Εν γάρ τώ ογδόω και τριακοστω έτει επί του Ευεργέτου βασιλέως παραγενηθείς εις Αίγυπτον, κ.τ.λ.
The taita refers to the writings of the grandfather, translated by the grandson : èv autois is explained by ‘EBpaïoti in the sentence before; and the translator is pointing out the difference betwee the original and the translation. The question is, What translation ? His own translation of his grandfather's work into Greek would seem to indicate that he was speaking of a Greek translation of the Hebrew Scriptures. His mention of Egypt points to the same conclusion. Greek would be the language current among the Jews settled in that country.
2 Thus' according to this mode of computation, his death took place in the fifty-fourth year of his reign.' Smith's Dict.
3 Such an interpretation of éní is justified by 1 Mc. xiii. 42, xiv. 27; Hagg. i. 1, ii. 1; Zach. i. 7, vii. 1. Polybius visited Egypt about the same time.
4 Esth. x. 3 (p. 1092, Oxford edit. 1843). "ETOUS TETáptov Bao Aeúovtos Itoλεμαίου και Κλεοπάτρας, εισήνεγκε Δοσίθεος, ός έφη είναι ιερεύς και Λευίτης, και Πτολεμαίος ο υιός αυτού, την προκειμένην επιστολής των Φρουραι, ήν έφασαν είναι και ήρμηνευκέναι Λυσίμαχον Πτολεμαίου, τον εν Ιερουσαλήμ. Schleusner renders clonveyke, in lucem protulit ac publicarit. Fritzsche renders, Brachte herein, herbei, näml. nach Aegypten : ČT LOTOAÚv probably refers to the writing of Mordecai, Esth. ix. 26 (LXX.), so virtually implies the whole book. Esth. ix. 20. It would seem, then, that the translation of such a document into Greek had become a matter of necessity.