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Greek Versions

GREEK VERSIONS. 1. The first and most famous of the Greek versions of the OT, and the only one to survive in its entirety, is the Septuagint or “Version of the Seventy.” This is the version most frequently quoted in the NT, for it became the Bible of the Hellenistic Jews, as the Vulgate became the Bible of the Latin world. The Vulgate was, in fact, in direct succession, being a translation of the Septuagint. Legend has gathered around so remarkable an achievement of translation, but it is possible to disengage some essential facts. It seems certain that the Septuagint was published in the time of Ptolemy II Philadelphus (295-247 b.c.), the golden age of Greek Alexandria. The city was always remarkable for its large colony of Jews, and the production of the Greek version of the Scriptures was probably a nationalistic gesture, designed to demonstrate, in what was becoming the world’s second language, the worth of Jewish literature. It is doubtful whether the suggestion emanated from the king himself, interested though he was in all literature. The story of the seventy-two elders sent from Jerusalem, and the seventy-two days taken to complete the work, is legend. The Septuagint is written in the common dialect, but tinged by Hebraisms. The quality of the language and style varies, but on the whole the Greek is odd and undistinguished. It prompts knotty questions of criticism. The Dead Sea Scrolls have provided some solutions, as, for example, that the Septuagint followed an older Hebrew text than that which survived in the traditional OT.

2. The acceptance of the Septuagint as the Bible of Greek-speaking Christianity prompted orthodox Jewry to produce its own version distinct from it; hence the version of Aquila of Hadrian’s day (a.d. 117-38). This version, of which only fragments exist, was in the worst “translation Greek,” which followed slavishly the Hebrew forms and syntax.

3. Theodotian, an Ephesian of the second century and an Ebionite Christian, produced a version that could be described as a revision of the Septuagint. It found favor with the Christian community and was a freer translation than that of Aquila.

3. Symmachus produced, perhaps at the end of the second century, a Greek version that appears to have been the best of all the translations, a rendering into idiomatic Greek.

Bibliography: E. Nestle, Introduction to the Textual Criticism of the Greek New Testament, 1901; C. R. Gregory, Canon and Text of the New Testament, 1967; B. M. Metzger, The Text of the New Testament, 1968, and Manuscripts of the Greek Bible, 1981.——EMB


International Standard Bible Encyclopedia (1915)

See Septuagint; Versions.