The Septuagint, an ancient translation of the Old Testament into Greek, holds tremendous value for biblical scholars. The term “Septuagint” is derived from the Latin word for 70, a reference to the original team of 70 (or 72) translators, and is often abbreviated LXX, for the Roman numeral for 70. As a collection, it tends to denote all of the books of the Hebrew Bible, along with particular Deuterocanonical and Apocryphal books (considered non-canonical by Protestants). Generally believed to have been begun in the 3rd century BC and completed in the first or second century AD, the LXX predates the earliest complete manuscript of the Hebrew Old Testament by nearly a thousand years.
Biblical scholars use the Septuagint to assist their study of both the Old and New Testaments, because the LXX uses Greek that is similar to the New Testament. In an interview with his publisher, Hendrickson, William Ross describes this relationship: "although it is incorrect and potentially misleading to say that the Septuagint was 'the Bible' of the New Testament authors, it is certainly true that versions of Israel’s scriptures in Greek were of paramount importance within the Jewish and early Christian communities in first-century Palestine and beyond. So the more we read that Greek version (broadly considered, 'the Septuagint'), the better prepared we are to understand the theological and textual context of the authors of the biblical and para-biblical literature."
The LXX proves valuable as it reveals how its translators understood Old Testament texts. The messianic prophecy in the Hebrew text of Isaiah 7:14 uses the term 'almah, which generally refers to a young woman. However, the Septuagint translators chose the Greek term parthenos, a more specific word that refers to a virgin. The Gospel of Matthew (1:23) uses the Septuagint text word-for-word in association with the birth of Jesus.
Gregory R Lanier and William A Ross, both of Reformed Theological Seminary, which has campuses across America, have provided a valuable resource in the two-volume Septuaginta: A Reader’s Edition. While there have been numerous editions of a printed text of the Reader’s Edition saves the user valuable time. Typically, scholars learn Greek vocabulary by prioritising the words that occur most often, and then proceeding to the ones that occur less often. This Reader’s Edition indicates the meaning of every word that occurs 100 times or fewer in the Septuagint (or 30 times or fewer in the New Testament) in a footnote, saving the reader the need to be constantly flipping through the Greek dictionary.
Lanier and Ross also provide a glossary in the back of each volume defining the common words not listed in footnotes. Any difficult or unusual forms of words are also explained in a footnote, again saving the reader valuable time.
Septuaginta: A Reader’s Edition is easy and straightforward to use. For texts that have differing manuscript traditions (such as Judges and Daniel), the editors provide both on facing pages so that the user can compare them easily.
The time-saving nature of the reader’s edition will encourage many to read through the text of the LXX and it is likely to become the standard text that many scholars will keep within reach. Lanier and Ross worked on the Reader’s Edition largely during their time at Tyndale House. Their labour of love will allow more rigorous biblical scholarship to be produced in less time.
Daniel K Eng is a PhD candidate at the University of Cambridge and a resident at Tyndale House