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This article forms part of the series on the
The Old Testament - Septuagint
or simply "LXX", the Koine Greek version
of the Hebrew Bible.
Pentateuch or "the Law"
1.Genesis | 2.Exodus | 3.Leviticus | 4.Numbers | 5.Deuteronomy
Historical Books
6.Joshua | 7.Judges | 8.Ruth

9.I Kingdoms | 10.II Kingdoms | 11.III Kingdoms | 12.IV Kingdoms
13.I Chronicles | 14.II Chronicles | 15.I Esdras | 16.II Esdras
17.Nehemiah | 18.Tobit | 19.Judith | 20.Esther with additions
21.I Maccabees | 22.II Maccabees | 23.III Maccabees

Books of Wisdom
24.Book of Psalms | 25.Job | 26.Proverbs
27.Ecclesiastes | 28.Song of Solomon
29.Wisdom of Solomon | 30.Wisdom of Sirach
The Prophets
The Minor Prophets, or "The Twelve"

31.Hosea | 32.Amos | 33.Micah | 34.Joel | 35.Obadiah | 36.Jonah
37.Nahum | 38.Habakkuk | 39.Zephania | 40.Haggai | 41.Zachariah

The Major Prophets

43.Isaiah | 44.Jeremiah | 45.Baruch | 46.Lamentations
47.Letter of Jeremiah | 48.Ezekiel | 49.Daniel with additions

IV Maccabees

The "Translation of the Seventy" (from the Greek Ἡ μετάφρασις τῶν Ἑβδομήκοντα), better known as the Septuagint (from the Latin septuaginta or "seventy", also referred to by the Roman numeral for seventy, LXX) originally referred to a 3rd century B.C. translation of the Pentateuch into Koine Greek. By the time of Justin Martyr (+ c. 160), the term has come to refer to the other scriptural and related texts translated from Hebrew and Aramaic into Greek in the next century. It is the basis of the canonical Old Testament of the Orthodox Church.


The earliest extant version of the Old Testament is the translation executed in Alexandria in the third century before the Christian era; this version became known as the Septuagint and more recently, the Alexandrian version.

It was commissioned at the behest of the Egyptian King, Ptolemy, who wished to expand the celebrated library of Alexandria to include the wisdom of all the ancient religions of the world. Because Greek was the language of Alexandria, the Scriptures therefore had to be translated into that language.

The earliest writer who gives an account of the Septuagint version is Aristobulus, a Jewish author who lived at the commencement of the second century B.C. In his Letter of Aristeas, he explains that the version of "the Law into Greek" was completed under the reign of Ptolemy Philadelphus, and that Demetrius Phalerus had been employed about it. Since it is documented that Demetrius Phalerus died at the beginning of the reign of Ptolemy Philadelphus, it has been reasonably inferred that Aristobulus was a witness that the work of translation had been commenced under Ptolemy Soter.

Ptolemy contacted the chief priest, Eleazar, in Jerusalem and asked him to send translators. Six were chosen from each of the twelve tribes of Israel, giving us the commonly accepted number of seventy-two. (Other accounts have the number at seventy or seventy-five.) Only the Torah (the first five books) was translated initially, but eventually other translations (and even compositions) were added to the collection. By the time of our Lord, the Septuagint was the Bible in use by most Hellenistic Jews.

Thus, when the Apostles quote the Jewish Scripture in their own writings, the overwhelmingly dominant source for their wording comes directly from the Septuagint (LXX). Given that the spread of the Gospel was most successful among the Gentiles and Hellenistic Jews, it made sense that the LXX would be the Bible for the early Church. Following in the footsteps of those first generations of Christians, the Orthodox Church continues to regard the LXX as its only canonical text of the Old Testament. There are a number of differences between the canon of the LXX and that of Roman Catholic Church and Protestant Christians, based on differences in translation tradition or doctrine.

Differences with other Christian Canons

The differences with Rome are fairly small and have never been a subject of much contention between the Orthodox and that communion. The canonical lists are essentially the same in content (some of the names are different) but for the following items: The Latin canon does not include I Esdras (though it uses that name for what the Orthodox call II Esdras); there are only 150 Psalms in the Latin canon, while the LXX has 151 (and the Psalms are numbered and divided differently between the two canons, because the modern Latin canon is based on the Hebrew Masoretic Text, though the Vulgate used the Septuagintal Psalm numbering); the Epistle of Jeremiah is a separate book in the LXX, while it is included as part of Baruch for the Latins; and the Latins do not include either III or IV Maccabees. Traditionally, Roman Catholics used the numbering of the Latin Vulgate, which follows the Septuagint. However, since the Second Vatican Council, Roman Catholic publications, including Catholic Bibles and liturgical texts, have used the numbering found in the Masoretic Text.

The differences with the Protestant canon are based on Martin Luther's opinions about the Old Testament. His argument was that St Jerome distinguished the Hebrew Old Testament from the Greek Old Testament and that only the texts in Hebrew should be considered canonical, while the others may be good to read. When he was translating the Old Testament into German, he used the common Hebrew text available at the time, the Masoretic Text (MT), which contains a smaller canon and is based on another manuscript tradition from the LXX. Other reformers followed suit, so the MT is thus also the basis for the Old Testament text of the 17th century Authorized Version in English (the "King James Version"). There are multiple differences between the LXX and MT. The MT lacks the following texts: I Esdras, the portion of II Esdras (which the MT simply calls "Ezra") called the "Prayer of Manasseh," Tobit, Judith, portions of Esther, Wisdom of Solomon, Wisdom of Sirach (Ecclesiasticus), Baruch, the Epistle of Jeremiah, the so-called "additions to Daniel" (The Song of the Three Children, Susanna, and Bel and the Dragon), the 151st Psalm, and all four Maccabees books. The Psalms are also numbered and divided up differently.

Variations with the Masoretic Text (MT)

There are multiple internal variations between the LXX and the MT. The texts read differently in many places. Here follow several examples of differences in wording:

Gen. 4:7 Hast thou not sinned if thou hast brought it rightly, but not rightly divided it? Be still, to thee shall be his submission, and thou shalt rule over him. If thou doest well, shalt thou not be accepted? And if thou doest not well, sin lieth at the door. And unto thee shall be his desire, and thou shalt rule over him.
Gen. 4:13 And Cain said to the Lord God, My crime is too great for me to be forgiven. And Cain said unto the Lord, My punishment is greater than I can bear.
Exodus 21:16/17 He that reviles his father or his mother shall surely die. And he that curseth his father, or his mother, shall surely be put to death.
Psalm 39/40:6 Sacrifice and offering Thou hast not desired, but a body Thou hast prepared for me... Sacrifice and offering thou didst not desire, mine ears has thou opened...

Different Translations of the Septuagint in English

The Septuagint has been translated a few times into English, the first one (though excluding the Apocrypha) being The Holy Bible containing the Old and New Covenant of Charles Thomson in 1808; his translation was later revised and enlarged by C. A. Muses in 1954 under the title The Septuagint Bible. The Thomson's Translation of the Old Covenant is a direct translation of the Greek Septuagint version of the Old Testament into English, rare for its time. The work took 19 years to complete and was originally published in 1808. Lancelot Brenton's The Septuagint version of the Old Testament: according to the Vatican text, translated into English : with the principal various readings of the Alexandrine copy, and a table of comparative chronology was published in 1844 and for most of the time since its publication it has been the only one readily available, and has continually been in print. The creator of the World English Bible, Michael Paul Johnson, has produced a version of Brenton's translation in American English, entitled LXX2012: Septuagint in English 2012.

The Orthodox Study Bible was released in early 2008 with a new translation of the Septuagint based on the Greek text of Alfred Rahlfs Septuaginta, and with reference to the Brenton translation. Thomas Nelson Publishers granted use of the New King James Version text in the places where the translation of the LXX would match that of the Hebrew Masoretic text. This edition includes the New Testament as well, which also uses the New King James Version. It also includes extensive commentary from an Eastern Orthodox perspective.[1] The Eastern / Greek Orthodox Bible (EOB) is an extensive revision and correction of Brenton’s translation. Its language and syntax have been modernized and simplified. It also includes extensive introductory material and footnotes featuring significant inter-LXX and LXX/MT variants. The New English Translation of the Septuagint and the Other Greek Translations Traditionally Included Under that Title (NETS), published in 2007 (with corrections and emendations issued in 2009 and 2014), is a major scholarly translation based on the critical texts available at the time from Gottingen and Rahlfs semi-critical Septuaginta. Kevin Mayhew Publishers has printed the translation by Peter King, SJ, in four volumes (The Pentateuch 2010, The Historical Books 2012, The Wisdom Literature 2008, and The Prophets 2013), which are now available (along with King's translation of the New Testament) as The Bible. King's work, however, is difficult to obtain in the US.

Dead Sea Scrolls

With the discovery of the Dead Sea Scrolls in the mid twentieth century many examples have been recovered of the Old Testament in Hebrew from the time of Christ and the Holy Apostles and earlier. Scholarship during the past half century based upon these Dead Sea discoveries has revealed a close agreement between the LXX and pre-Masoretic Hebrew texts. In a review of some of this scholarship, Hershal Shanks[2] notes that ”…many Hebrew texts [are available] that were the base text for Septuagintal translations…”. Further he notes that what ”…texts like 4QSama show is that the Septuagintal translations are really quite reliable” and ”…gives new authority to the Greek translations against the Masoretic text”. Quoting Frank Moore Cross (a co-author of the book under review), Hershal continues ”We could scarcely hope to find closer agreement between the Old Greek [Septuagintal] tradition and 4QSama than actually is found in our fragments”.

However, Emanuel Tov [3] summarizes the contents of the Dead Sea Scrolls biblical manuscripts with the following percentage breakdown:

  • Qumran-specific texts – 20%
  • Proto-Masoretic texts – 35%
  • Proto-Samaritan texts – 5%
  • Proto-Septuagint texts – 5%
  • Non-Aligned texts – 35%


  2. Hershal Shanks, 4QSama - The Difficult Life of a Dead Sea Scroll, Biblical Archaeology Review, Vol 33 No 3, May/June 2007, pp66-70.
  3. Tov, Emanuel. Textual Criticism of the Hebrew Bible. 2nd Rev. Ed. Fortress Press: Minneapolis, 2001., 114-117.

External links

  • Departing Horeb: The Masoretic Hebrew vs the LXX Part 1 by Eric Jobe. A series of articles on the Masoretic Text and Septuagint from a scholarly perspective. Part 2, Part 3, A Clarification
  • The Orthodox Study Bible page - contains the Septuagint Old Testament using the NKJV as a base text
  • The Septuagint Online - Compiled by Joel Kalvesmaki, Editor in Byzantine Studies at Dumbarton Oaks and convert to Orthodoxy 1993.
  • The Orthodox Study Bible Old Testament Project Website
  • The Septuagint LXX: Greek and English by Sir Lancelot C.L. Brenton
  • Septuagint, Brenton's Edition (omits "deuterocanonical"/"apocryphal" books)
  • The Septuagint, compiled from the Unbound website by Henry Sikkema in 1999 (omits "deuterocanonical"/"apocryphal" books)
  • New English Translation of the Septuagint. It has been released at San Diego, November 19, 2007 by Oxford University Press. Provisional edition online. This project is being carried out under the aegis of The International Organization for Septuagint and Cognate Studies (IOSCS). An international team of more than thirty scholars is working on the entire corpus of the Greek Jewish Scriptures. It is the first such English version in 160 years. Called the New English Translation of the Septuagint (NETS), the text reflects both the wealth of manuscript evidence that has been brought to light since the 19th century and, of course, current English idiom. (Note however, that this project is using the NRSV(1989) version as its English base of referral).
  • "The Eastern Orthodox Bible" - a new translation rather than a revision of another work, dedicated to the recently reposed Archbishop Vsevolod of the (canonical) Ukrainian Orthodox Church in the USA.
  • The KJV Septuagint - translated from the Septuagint edition published by the Orthodox Church of Greece's Apostoliki Diakonia, using the King James Version as a template. Scheduled to be published by St. Innocent Press in 2013, this will be the only English translation to date using an approved ecclesiastical text of the Septuagint.
  • Peter Papoutsis's translation of the Septuagint
  • R. Grant Jones. Notes on The Septuagint.

Church Fathers


  • Septuagint Institute (Trinity Western University, Canada). In 2005 the Septuagint Studies department moved from the University of Toronto to TWU, forming the new Septuagint Institute (SI). The SI complements TWU's already established Dead Sea Scrolls Institute (DSSI), founded in 1995, and together they form North America's new hub of Septuagint research.
  • Septuaginta-Unternehmens Institute in Gottingen, Germany. The Septuaginta-Unternehmen is a special research institute that was founded in 1908 in Göttingen under the auspices of the Göttingen Academy of Sciences. Its purpose was to conduct sound scientific investigation into the Septuagint and to trace the history of evolution of the Septuagint text, on the basis of the mass of manuscript data, and ultimately to establish a text which could be claimed to be for all intents and purposes identical with the Septuagint in its pristine form, a proto-Septuagint.(1) The institute made Göttingen the nerve centre of Septuagint studies. The first director of the Institute, Alfred Rahlfs, published Septuaginta, 2 volume edition in 1935 (Septuagint in Greek). Rahlf's critical edition of the Septuagint for the book of Genesis rests on a foundation of some 140 manuscripts (nine pre-dating the fourth century CE), 10 daughter-versions, plus biblical citations in Greek and Latin literature. However, his two-volume, semi-critical edition Septuaginta has been supplanted by the fully critical Göttingen Septuaginta Vetus Testamentum Graecum, in 23 volumes covering approximately two-thirds of the LXX text, along with a supplementary series.
  • The HEXAPLA Institute. Its purpose is to publish a new critical edition of the fragments of Origen's Hexapla, focusing on the later development of Septuagint tradition.
  • Centre for Septuagint Studies and Textual Criticism. Catholic University of Leuven, Belgium.

See also

Further reading


(Russian Israeli writer Israel Shamir is a Jewish convert to the Greek Orthodox Church of Jerusalem. Arguing for the veracity of the Septuagint over the Masoretic text, he states that there is an urgent need for a distinctly Christian Old Testament in Hebrew; he recommends reconstruction of the Hebrew source of the Septuagint, as a means of witnessing to the Jews today from a truly Christian Hebrew Bible)
(Cambridge University researchers suggest that early Jewry used a Greek version of the Bible in synagogues much longer than previously thought: "Studying a fragment of manuscript kept in Cairo Genizah, a special vaulted room in Cairo's Ben-Ezra Synagogue, the team found that in some places the Jewish community continued to use Greek bibles almost until living memory.")