The Greek Bible or Septuagint was one of the first attempts to gather, translate, and arrange the books of the Bible into what it looks like today. The Septuagint came from the Latin word ‘septuaginta’ which means seventy, representing the seventy (or seventy-two) scholars or elders who translated the Jewish scriptures to Koine Greek. This occurred around 280 BC according to the Bible Timeline with World History.
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The original Septuagint initially contained the only first five books of the Bible that were attributed to Moses (Pentateuch). However, by the 2nd century AD, all of the books were included. The content varied from one community to another; some early manuscripts contained all the books of the Hebrew canon, plus apocryphal and pseudepigraphical. While others left some of that out.
The Septuagint was unable to escape revisions which began as early as 1st century BC. But there were many reliable primary sources for the Septuagint, which include the Dead Sea Scrolls, the papyrus scrolls from Egypt, the earliest Christian manuscripts, and the first Bibles.
I. The Dead Sea Scrolls were written between the 2nd century BC and the 2nd century AD. They contained fragments of Deuteronomy, Leviticus, Exodus, Letter of Jeremiah, and Minor Prophets. These fragments were revised to improve and conform the Greek translation with the Hebrew text.
II. The Egyptian papyrus scrolls contained much of Deuteronomy, as well as fragments of Genesis and Job which date back to the 2nd century BC to 1st century AD. They were also included in Egyptian burials along with Greek works such as the Iliad.
III. The Earliest Christian manuscripts dated from the 3rd century AD. One of the most important was the pre-Origenic papyri. These manuscripts contained fragments of the books of Ezekiel, Esther, and Daniel.
IV. The first Bibles or the major uncials (text written using capital letters). These first Bibles contained both Old and New Testaments and includes the Codex Vaticanus (B), Codex Sinaiticus (S), and Codex Alexandrinus (A).
The Codex Vaticanus (B) was created in 4th century AD and contained an almost complete copy of the Septuagint except for some fragments of Maccabees, Prayer of Manasseh, Genesis, and Psalms. The texts were written either in Rome, Asia Minor, or Egypt. They can be found today in the Vatican archives.
The Sinai Bible or Codex Sinaiticus was written almost at the same time as the Codex Vaticanus during the 4th century BC. It was preserved and discovered thousands of years later in the Monastery of Saint Catherine on Mount Sinai. It included some apocryphal books that were not included in the Hebrew Bible including:
* 2 Esdras
* 1 & 4 Maccabees
The old and modern arrangements of the books were different from each other, and the texts were heavily corrected. Some leaves of the book are now housed in Leipzig University (43 leaves) and the British Library (347 leaves).
Another book that contained a majority of the Septuagint was the Codex Alexandrinus (A) created in the 5th century AD. It was named after the great library of Alexandria in Egypt, which was destroyed in 642 AD and had 773 pages, including the New Testament.
The early Carthaginian Christian writers, Tertullian, and Cyprian used the Latin version of the Septuagint in their works. However, it was later replaced by the Latin Vulgate translated by Jerome. The Copts of Egypt used the Septuagint as scripture in 3rd century AD.
Decker, Rodney J. Reading Koine Greek: An Introduction and Integrated Workbook. Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Academi c, 2015
Dines, Jennifer M., and Michael A. Knibb. The Septuagint. London: T & T Clark, 2004
Picture By Abraham Meir Habermann, 1901-1980 – http://archive.org/details/scrollsfromdeser00habeuoft, Public Domain, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=19883960
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