Glossary of Terms



Harper’s Bible Dictionary

edited by Paul J. Achtemier (San Francisco: Harper and Row, 1985)

You are strongly recommended to add to your library the excellent revised edition of Harper's Bible Dictionary titled, The Harper Collins Bible Dictionary, Revised Edition [book review], edited by Paul J. Achtemeier, with the Society of Biblical Literature (NY: Harper Collins, 1996). It is currently the best one-volume Bible dictionary in English, and it is available at Border's Books, Christian Science Reading Rooms,, or

Septuagint, the Greek translation of the Hebrew OT that began in the third century b.c. in Alexandria, Egypt. The name Septuagint comes from the Greek word for ‘seventy’ (hence the symbol LXX, 70 in Roman numerals) and refers to the seventy-two Jewish translators brought to Egypt by Ptolemy II Philadelphus (285-246 b.c.) to translate the Pentateuch, according to the legendary account in the Letter of Aristeas. The translations of the books of the OT differ in style, accuracy, and substance, indicating that there was no single original translation into Greek. Manuscripts found at Qumran among the Dead Sea Scrolls and other early manuscripts and quotations from the Septuagint in ancient writings all indicate that revisions were constantly being made to the Septuagint. In addition, Hebrew manuscripts found at Qumran differ from the standard Hebrew text (the Masoretic Text) but agree with some of the Greek renderings in the Septuagint. Thus the Septuagint often witnesses to a Hebrew manuscript tradition different from and earlier than the Masoretic Text and so is valuable in solving textual difficulties. The Septuagint sometimes has a different order within books and a shorter or longer version of a book. For example, Jeremiah is one-eighth shorter in Greek and may derive from a Hebrew version earlier than the one presently in the Hebrew Bible; the order of the materials in Psalms and Proverbs differs from the Hebrew texts; and Joshua has many additions, omissions, and changes. Finally, several later Greek translations were made (Aquila, Theodotion, Lucian) and parts of these have found their way into the Septuagint.


Harper’s Bible Commentary

edited by James Luther Mays (New York: Harper and Row, 1988)

THE SEPTUAGINT. Greek-speaking Jews, especially in Egypt, had a translation, made from the third century b.c. onwards; it was called Septuagint (LXX) from the tale that seventy translators were engaged in the work. The books in Greek eventually included not only all that is now in the Hebrew Bible but a number of other books and longer texts of some (e.g., the Additions to Daniel, etc.). Some of these were translated from Hebrew or Aramaic and others were original writings in Greek but in biblical style. It is disputed whether all these materials counted as the Bible of Alexandrian Judaism; perhaps, as elsewhere, the question is a meaningless one. The Alexandrian interpreter Philo commented on the Pentateuch in detail but quoted other books little. The mere act of translation into another language meant that the exact verbal form of the original could not be preserved; but the legend of the (almost miraculously assisted) translation seemed to argue that the translation was as divinely inspired as the original had been and therefore fully authoritative. This was significant for Christianity, where the exact verbal form of the LXX was at times used for proof of doctrine even when it differed from the Hebrew. The LXX often differed in sense from the Hebrew (Masoretic) text, because it was made from a different text or an earlier edition, or misread the Hebrew, or through its translation technique. Both before and after the origin of Christianity steps were taken to revise the Greek and bring it closer to the Hebrew as it was now accepted; finally Jewish preference passed to these newer versions and back to the use of the Hebrew itself. The LXX was thus transmitted to us through Christian channels as the OT of the Greek church, and its books were those that were canonical in that church. Thus most, though not necessarily all, of Hebrew Scripture was already in Greek translation when Christianity began, and so were some books later considered apocryphal. The NT commonly cites the wording of the LXX but sometimes follows other versions.

Oxford Dictionary of the Bible

by W.R.F. Browning (NY: Oxford University Press, 1996)

Septuagint. Denoted by the symbol LXX, and taking the name from the legend that this translation into Greek of the Hebrew OT was undertaken at Alexandria by seventy (or seventy-two) Jewish scholars in as many days. The work was done in the time of Ptolemy II Philadelphus (285-246 BCE), but there were repeated revisions and also further translatioins (of Aquila, Theodotion, and Lucian). The LXX is a valuable check on the accuracy of the official Masoretic Hebrew text, which has also undergone revisions. There are 2nd-cent. BCE MSS fragments of the LXX among the Dead Sea scrolls. The LXX became the Bible of the early Christians; it included some books not contained in the Hebrew (the Apocrypha) while other books (e.g., Jeremiah) were shorter than in the Hebrew.

The Oxford Companion to the Bible

edited by Bruce M. Metzger and Michael D. Coogan (NY: Oxford University Press, 1993)

Septuagint. The traditional term for the translations of the Hebrew Bible into Greek. Meaning "seventy" and often abbreviated by the Roman numeral LXX, it is derived from the second-century BCE legend that, at the request of Ptolemy II (285-246 BCE), seventy-two elders of Israel translated the Hebrew Bible into Greek in seventy-two days in Alexandreia in Egypt. Most scholars accept the substance of the legend, that the earliest Greek versions of the Bible were created in the third century in Egypt for Greek-speaking Jews. The earliest manuscripts of the Septuagint are from the Qumran and are dated to the second century BCE. The relationship between the Greek and Hebrew textual tradition was complicated and fluid, with frequent revision of the Greek to bring it closer to the Hebrew as the latter developed.

The Septuagint includes a number of writings not found in the traditional Hebrew canon, some translations from Hebrew or Aramaic originals and others composed in Greek. These became the Apocrypha, accepted by some Christians churches as canonical but not part of the the Bible for Jews and Protestants.

The Septuagint was the primary form of the Bible for Hellenized Jewish communities and thus was that used by most early Christians. When the Bible is quoted in the New Testament, it is almost always quoted from the Septuagint version, which elevated its status for Christian theologians.


Topical index of terms
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