Aleteia logoAleteia logo
Aleteia
Thursday 04 March |
Saint of the Day: St. Casimir
home iconSpirituality
line break icon

What is the Septuagint and why is it important?

Philip Kosloski - published on 09/03/19

The Greek translation of the Old Testament has a unique history and was highly favored by early Christians.

Roughly 200 years before the birth of Jesus, a Greek translation of the Hebrew scriptures was developed that became widely accepted as a legitimate (even inspired) translation.

Tradition relates how King Ptolemy II of Egypt established a vast library at Alexandria. Yet, it wasn’t complete, and he wanted to have a copy of the Hebrew scriptures in it. Ptolemy then sent representatives to Jerusalem and invited Jewish elders to prepare a new Greek translation of the text. Seventy-two elders, six from each of the 12 tribes of Israel, arrived in Egypt to fulfill the request.

They were led to the solitary island of Pharos, where at the end of 72 days, their work was completed. King Ptolemy was pleased at the result and placed it in his library.

Another tradition adds that the translators were all put in separate rooms and told to produce their own separate text. When the task was completed the translators compared them all and it was discovered that each one was miraculously identical to the others.


septuagint

Read more:
Where did the Bible come from?

The result later became known as the Septuagint (from the Greek word for 70) and was especially popular among Greek-speaking Jews during the centuries that followed. Many of these Jews converted to Christianity, and as a result the Septuagint became a primary source for the Gospel writers and many other early Christians. A few centuries later when formulating the official canon of Scripture, the Catholic Church looked to the Septuagint to discern which books to retain.

While the above story of the Septuagint’s formation is regarded by modern biblical scholars as a legend with no real historical basis, the location and time-frame of the translation is generally regarded as true.

According to the Catholic Encyclopediait is most likely that “Alexandrian Jews, making use of the translated Pentateuch in their liturgical reunions, should desire to read the remaining books also and hence should gradually have translated all of them into Greek, which had become their maternal language; this would be so much the more likely as their knowledge of Hebrew was diminishing daily.”

Whatever the origin of the Greek text, its ancient character is still highly valued, and biblical translators will often consult the Septuagint to better understand a particular passage.




Read more:
The Book of Sirach is the only “signed” book in the Old Testament


SAINT JEROME

Read more:
How many times has the Bible been translated?

*Update: This article has been updated to remove partial inaccuracies.

Tags:
BibleChurch History
Support Aleteia!

If you’re reading this article, it’s thanks to the generosity of people like you, who have made Aleteia possible.

Here are some numbers:

  • 20 million users around the world read Aleteia.org every month
  • Aleteia is published every day in seven languages: English, French, Italian, Spanish, Portuguese, Polish, and Slovenian
  • Each month, readers view more than 50 million pages
  • Nearly 4 million people follow Aleteia on social media
  • Each month, we publish 2,450 articles and around 40 videos
  • We have 60 full time staff and approximately 400 collaborators (writers, translators, photographers, etc.)

As you can imagine, these numbers represent a lot of work. We need you.

Support Aleteia with as little as $1. It only takes a minute. Thank you!

Daily prayer
And today we celebrate...




Top 10
1
Jacques Fesch
Brother Silas Henderson, SDS
Meet the Death Row prisoner who discovered a ...
2
SEARCHNG PURSE
Cerith Gardiner
12 Things every Catholic woman should have in her purse
3
PADRE PIO
Philip Kosloski
Padre Pio’s favorite prayer of petition
4
MADONNA
V. M. Traverso
The 9 oldest images of Mary
5
LUXOR FILM FESTIVAL
Zoe Romanowsky
20-year-old filmmaker wins award for powerful 1-minute film about...
6
CELEBRITY MARRIAGES
Cerith Gardiner
10 Celebrities whose marriages have stood the test of time
7
SAINT JOSEPH AND CHILD JESUS
Philip Kosloski
10 Things you should know about St. Joseph
See More
Newsletter
Get Aleteia delivered to your inbox. Subscribe here.