Old Testament Authentication – Septuagint (LXX)

Arguably, the greatest military commander who ever lived was Alexander the Great. He had a slight but muscular build, dirty blond hair, one eye was green and the other more brownish. He was of average height, maybe even a little shorter. He was from Macedonia (northern part of today’s Greece).

Alexander took the throne of his father Philip II, after his father had been murdered by a member of his bodyguard at his own daughter’s wedding. The year was 336 BC and he was but 20 years of age. Thirteen years later – his empire stretched thousands of miles to the east (from Greece and Egypt in the West to India and Pakistan in the East).

Hellenization of the World

  • Greek Army was away from home fighting for more than a decade
  • Soldiers were encouraged to settle in the conquered lands
  • Garrisons stayed in major cities along trade routes
  • Troops intermarried with locals
  • As a result, the Greek language quickly became the common man’s language (or “Lingua Franca”) or everyone’s 2nd Language
  • Even those not  conquered learned Greek in order to trade
  • Greek art, politics, poetry, literature, music, philosophy (emphasis on learning and science) began to permeate numerous cultures
  • Many cultural barriers that previously existed, began to slowly erode away

Hellas is the name Greeks call their own country (just like Germans call Germany, Deutschland). Koine Greek became like English is today – the language of business and popular culture. This enabled the Gospel to go out quickly and be understood by many. Again, this is the why the New Testament is written largely in Greek.

When the Jews translated the Hebrew Bible in Alexandria, Egypt (250 BC) they did so into Greek because it was the language everyone spoke (and frankly, most younger Jews no longer spoke Hebrew or Aramaic).

We have found over 70 cities across the Middle East that have the name of Alexander or Alexandria. Islamabad (capital city of Pakistan) was called Alexandria at one point, as was Kandahar in Afghanistan (can almost see it in name). There were no statue depictions of Buddha until the Greeks went into India. This is how much influence Hellenization had on the world leading up to the time of Christ.

After Alexander the Great conquered most of the Middle Eastern world, the area became Hellenized – i.e. heavily influenced by Greek culture and language. Most Jews outside of Palestine (and for that matter, most people) spoke Greek by the 3rd Century BC. The Jewish leadership convened a meeting of 70 Jewish scribes in @ 250BC to translate the Scriptures into Greek down in Alexandria, Egypt. We have copies of the LXX dating back as far as 150BC.

The Comparison

Septuagint compared with the Masoretic Text:

There is roughly 95 % agreement between the text sets:

Septuagint scholars say @ 22,000 verses out of the 23,145 verses are virtually identical in translation

Most discrepancies are owing to:

  • Substitution of similar words that have minimal impact on verse meaning
  • Difficulty in translating idioms from one language / culture to the next

Noteworthy discrepancies are:

  • Septuagint (LXX) reorders the 6th and the 8th Commandments flipping Exodus 20: 13 with Exodus 20: 15
  • LXX adds Cain spoke some words while slaying Abel
  • LXX leaves out a few passages in Job, reorders a few passages in Jeremiah, and adds a few in Esther
  • LXX numbers the Psalms differently
  • Genesis 5 and the age of the Patriarchs

Similar word discrepancies:
Isaiah 36: 11 – “speak not to us in the Jews’ language, in the ears of the “people” (versus “men” as used in LXX) that are on the wall”

Idiomatic expressions:

  • Psalm 47:10 in the MT reads “The shields of the earth belong to God”.
  • The LXX reads “To God are the mighty ones of the earth.”
  • The metaphor “shields” would not have made much sense to a Greek speaker; thus the words “mighty ones” are substituted in order to retain the original meaning.

What’s the Point?

None of the more noteworthy discrepancies change the essence of the text or doctrine! When you compare the Septuagint with the Masoretic Text and with the other documents that serve as the basis for Bible translations today, they are virtually identical!