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The History of the Septuagint and Christians

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  • b_coxus
    Greetings. I m new to the list, so I apologize if this subject has been covered before. I was not able to find anything by doing a search. I have had a hard
    Message 1 of 3 , Jul 11, 2002
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      Greetings. I'm new to the list, so I apologize if this subject has
      been covered before. I was not able to find anything by doing a search.

      I have had a hard time finding any good, detailed information on when,
      how, and why Christians stopped using the Septuagint as their Old
      Testament and began using the Hebrew Text instead.

      Can anyone give of brief history of when, how, and why this change
      took place so that, today, our English Bibles are based on the Hebrew
      text and not the Septuagint on which the early Christians based much
      of their theology?

      A list of any relevant books with VERY detailed information about the
      history of this change would be highly appreciated as well.

      Thanks,
      Bryan Cox
    • jamtata
      ... when, ... Hebrew ... Bryan: This response will hopefully serve the dual purpose of offering you some information on your question as well as testing my
      Message 2 of 3 , Jul 25, 2002
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        --- In lxx@y..., "b_coxus" <bccox99@a...> wrote:
        > I have had a hard time finding any good, detailed information on
        when,
        > how, and why Christians stopped using the Septuagint as their Old
        > Testament and began using the Hebrew Text instead.
        >
        > Can anyone give of brief history of when, how, and why this change
        > took place so that, today, our English Bibles are based on the
        Hebrew
        > text and not the Septuagint on which the early Christians based much
        > of their theology?

        Bryan:

        This response will hopefully serve the dual purpose of offering you
        some information on your question as well as testing my email
        settings. I stopped receiving messages from the list a couple of
        months ago. I think I have fixed it now and will use this response to
        test it.

        Here are the basics of the change by Christians from the LXX to the
        Hebrew text of the Bible. First, let me mention that the switch is
        largely a Western phenomenon: Eastern Orthodox Christians continue to
        use the LXX text in both worship and study. This is not to say that
        they completely ignore the Hebrew text of the Scriptures, just that
        the "change" with which you are concerned needs is of a different
        character in the East. Certainly there is much greater awareness of,
        and engagement with, the Hebrew text in modern times than there was
        in antiquity in the East, so there has been something of a "change."
        But it is of a quite different character than the change that
        occurred in the West.

        The Western change traces, in large part, to Jerome. His work with
        translation of the Greek text of the Scriptures into Latin led him to
        believe the LXX to be an inadequate translation of its base text. His
        subsequent study of Hebrew seems to have confirmed him in that
        suspicion. He thus deemed a translation of Scripture from Hebrew into
        Latin to be more expedient - thus, the Vulgate. As you may know, the
        Vulgate was the official - indeed the *only* Bible in the West for
        centuries. Thus, the West effectively dispensed with the LXX some 15
        centuries ago. It has been using, in worship and in study, the Hebrew
        text (in Latin translation) since the time of Jerome. I will simply
        observe here as well that there are LXX influences in the Vulgate, so
        it is not - as probably no translation can be - a "pure" witness to
        the Hebrew text used by Jerome.

        The rise of the Protestant Reformation in the late Middle Ages marks
        another stage in the "change" observed in the West. Among the
        allegedly extraneous elements the Reformers presumed the Roman
        Catholic Church had burdened Christianity with was the Vulgate, the
        text of which - being in Latin - was incomprehensible to the majority
        of Christians of the West of that age. The Reformers took as central
        to their mission rendering of the Scripture into the vernacular. For
        this, they chose to translate into the common tongue, not the
        Vulgate, but the Hebrew text which, presumably, formed its base. Of
        course they used, not the text that Jerome had used, but the
        Masoretic Text (MT). Exactly what the differences are between
        Jerome's exemplar and the MT is the subject for another discussion,
        but it is probably safe to say that the differences are very minor.

        The trend of the Reformers continues into the modern day such that
        all major Bible translations are based on Hebrew texts, though the
        LXX does, often enough, play some role in clarifying a difficult
        reading. There are currently efforts under way to translate the LXX
        among Eastern Orthodox circles, and a text(s?) of the Psalter has
        been produced and is in wide use liturgically.

        This gives some basic background regarding your question. Perhaps
        later I'll try and get some bibliographical refs to you, but I hope
        that, for now, this will be of some help.

        Sincerely, James
      • Bryan C. Cox
        James, Thanks very much! This confirms my speculation with details. I look forward to and bibliographic references you have the chance to post. Bryan Cox
        Message 3 of 3 , Jul 25, 2002
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          James,

          Thanks very much! This confirms my speculation with details. I look
          forward to and bibliographic references you have the chance to post.

          Bryan Cox
          Plano, TX
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