Cover Image: Translation of the Seventy

Translation of the Seventy

Pub Date:   |   Archive Date:

Member Reviews

This book is a good scholarly accounting of what the Septuagint is and how it was used by the New Testament authors and the early Church Fathers. Primarily, this last part looks at Origen, Jerome, and Augustine. Although I have only a minimal amount of Greek (one 3 hour class in seminary), most of this book was still accessible to me. That said, those with even more Greek would definitely be able to glean more. I wouldn't recommend it to the casual reader, but it would certainly make an excellent addition to a syllabus bibliography for any Biblical Greek class.

Key thought: "The main point is that the Septuagint is not a thing, it is an idea." p50.
Was this review helpful?
By far the highest quality introduction to the Septuagint now available.  

The author begins with a statement which he will spend the rest of the book to explain: early Christians used a Greek translation known as the Septuagint.  He begins with an extremely accessible introduction to the basics of textual criticism, defining the Septuagint (LXX) and the problems with that definition, the stories told about how the LXX came to be, and then how scholars now think the LXX came to be.  He then grapples with how Jesus and the Apostles and their associates referred to the Hebrew Bible in the NT and shows how they most often use the LXX but will make reference to the MT or some other form of the Greek text, and it cannot be conclusively demonstrated that there are compelling theological reasons to insist on the use of the LXX without denying that the LXX proved important to Jesus and the Apostles.

The last portion of the book traces the use and defense of the LXX throughout patristic literature: he demonstrates how the earliest Christians assumed the LXX faithfully represented the MT until Origen put forth the text critical work and showed all the variations involved.  He discusses Jerome's use of the LXX and attempt to exhort Christians toward the "true Hebrew"; he showed how Augustine's ultimately preferred method of dealing with LXX/MT variations was to try to find how both were inspired and both could be profitably read.  

In conclusion the author speaks highly of the value of the LXX while still affirming the fact it is a translation, and thus by necessity always pointing to something else, notably, the original Hebrew witness.  

He provides plenty of examples from the texts to demonstrate what he is saying.  This is far and away the most comprehensive yet accessible introduction to the LXX I have seen - and that is quite a feat and accomplishment.

Highly recommended for anyone who has any interest in the Hebrew Bible.
Was this review helpful?
I must say from the outset that I did not finish this books through time constraints, however that which I did read deserves a favourable review. E Gallagher deserves something of an award for tackling this massive subject. I learned so much from his brilliant research and the pure readability of this book considering the subject matter. The description more than accurately describes the subject and he writes with complete empathy and respect for the topic. I can certainly recommend this book for the student and layperson alike. It is written in a very approachable manner. My grateful thanks to Netgalley, the publishers and the Author for a copy.
Was this review helpful?
A great reference about the early Bible and its translation. The history of a text is an inherently fascinating issue, especially one as old as the Bible, and the author does a good job of making this understandable for generalists, though they will want to have a grasp of the Bible. While not well suited to my institution, it's a valuable reference for a certain type of reader.
Was this review helpful?
I know nothing about the Septuagint, so I picked this out of curiosity. And there sure was a lot of information in this book! I'm not sure I'm the targeted audience: I did pick up some interesting facts and gained knowledge about the Septuagint, but this was drowned in many details that just weren't interesting to me. I would recommend this book to anyone who really wants to grow their already existing knowledge about the Septuagint, as it seems very thorough!
Was this review helpful?
A readable and thorough analysis of the claim that ‘the (Greek) Septuagint was the first Christian bible.’ The book should be of interest to anyone interested in the origins and contents of the bible.

Early Christianity thrived in a Greek speaking world. The New Testament was written in Greek and the first Christians read an Old Testament which was also written in Greek (Septuagint). This leads to the question: is it right to say that the Septuagint was what the Earliest Christians thought of as the ‘correct’ Old Testament?

The author shows that although modern readers can buy a book called a Septuagint, it is not clear that such a book existed in the ancient world. One version of the ancient Septuagint contained just the first five books of the bible (the Torah or Pentateuch). Other versions contained the Jewish (Hebrew) Canon, and others included the Deuterocanonical books. 

This means that people should not argue from early Church approval of “the Septuagint,” to an approval of a particular version of the Septuagint Old Testament, such as the Protestant 39 book, or Catholic 46 book, or Orthodox 49 book version. The author insists that ‘not a single Greek manuscript of the first thousand years corresponds to any of those specific versions of the Old Testament (Kindle 28%).

A further set of issues arises because the text of the Greek Septuagint differs from the text of the Hebrew Masoretic bible, which modern translators tend to prefer as their text for the Old Testament.

The New Testament sometimes prefers the Septuagint version of a text. For example, Jesus quotes Septuagint Psalm 8.3 at Mat 21.16 ‘Out of the mouths of children you have prepared praise…’ The Hebrew version uses the word ‘strength’ instead of praise, so it does not fit the context. 

But there are also instances where the New Testament prefers the Hebrew Masoretic text. For example Hosea 11.1 is quoted when Jesus’s family return from Egypt after Herod’s persecution: ‘Out of Egypt I have called my son.’ But the Septuagint states ‘Out of Egypt I recalled his children,’ so the Masoretic version is preferred in that context. 

An analysis of St Paul also shows that around a third of his quotes seem to be neither Septuagint, nor Masoretic (Kindle 42%).

What this seems to show is that some of the earliest Christians did not have an ‘either/or’ mentality insisting upon a single version of the Old Testament as ‘correct.’

Recent discoveries at Qumram show the wisdom of such an approach, as some biblical texts did in fact exist in divergent versions. For example there is a short and a long version of Jeremiah, both of which can be found at Qumram. The short version went into the Septuagint and the Long version went into the Hebrew Masoretic bible. Can either version be said to be solely ‘correct’ or should both versions be considered as equally inspired scripture? 

This question becomes all the more significant when the author suggests that at the time of Jesus, up to half the books of the Old Testament may have existed with alternative versions (Kindle 35%). If this is so, then it has implications for modern Christianity and the occasional tendency to write-off the Septuagint as just a ‘bad translation.’ 

But what are Christians to do when the Septuagint and Masoretic text seem to make divergent factual claims. For example, St Augustine raised the question of Jonah 3.4 which in the Masoretic text says that there are 40 days until Ninevah will be destroyed. But in the Septuagint it says that there are three days. They cannot both be literally true. So Augustine argued that there is a spiritual sense in which they can both be true.

Issues like these are sensitively and thoughtfully explored throughout the book, with a textual and historical analysis of the reception of textual versions of the bible in the early Christian era.

Overall, the book is an interesting read for both non-experts and biblical scholars.

These comments are based on a free ‘Advanced Review Copy’ of the text.
Was this review helpful?
What a great book! In this volume, Gallagher analyzes the problems and myths associated with the LXX translation of the Hebrew Bible and how it became lionized to a literal fault in the early Christian church. The first of the three sections is easily accessible to readers with no background in biblical history. The second section is easily accessible if you've read the Hebrew Bible recently. And the third section is accessible if you have a background in the difficulties in translating another language and/or the rivalries of the early Christian Church fathers (Jerome, etc.). I'm not a biblical scholar but I am an interested reader, I've read the Tanakh  (JPS version) recently, as well as the Apocrypha, and I have done a bit of translation work. On that basis I found Translating the Seventy fascinating and compelling reading. If I had to wish for anything more, it would be for Gallagher to interrogate the early Church fathers' antisemitism more stringently. He does give several citations of blatant prejudice, but it's important for students to realize how those biases in the patristic sources affect later interpretations of the source text -- including systemic refusal among the Christian hierarchy to allow/approve a corrected translation of the Old Testament. 

In sum, excellent scholarship. I had trouble putting this down.
Was this review helpful?
A deep, engaging dive-in into the depths of the Septuagint and early Christianity. 

The Septuagint is the first Greek translation of the Old Testament. Edmon L.Gallagher refutes almost every word in this common knowledge in his book 'The Translation of the Seventy: History, Reception, and the Contemporary Use of the Septuagint.' The Septuagint started to gain the close attention of the scholars only a century and a half ago but already proved to be a rich ground for researchers. Vocabulary, theology and the text are the three influential factors, making the Septuagint essential for studying the New Testament and early Christianity.  Variant readings between the LXX ('Seventy, as the Septuagint is often called) and the Hebrew text help trace the formation of the crucial Christian doctrines (for example, Mary's virginity). 

Starting with the myth of the Septuagint's creation in the 3rd century BCE, the author follows the history of the LXX through the early centuries of Christianity. He meticulously documents the changes in the legend itself and the legend's perception by historians and church fathers. 

The book's target audience is equally beginners who know nothing about the LXX and the advanced students with a deep knowledge of the Bible, Hebrew, and Greek. Thus, the chapters provide the general historical overview with clarifying word-by-word/passage-by-passage examples of the changes in different variations of the LXX or between the LXX and the Hebrew text. This combination, good in nature, can be confusing because examples require a knowledgeable audience, and a general reader gets lost in the details. 

The handy bonus is the list of places where a student can find (or purchase) the Septuagint. All in all, the research is the perfect textbook for the students - a little bit difficult for understanding by a typical reader. 

I received an advance review copy for free, and I am leaving this review voluntarily.
Was this review helpful?
Translation of the Seventy
History, Reception, and Contemporary Use of the Septuagint
by Edmon L. Gallagher
Pub Date 01 Aug 2021 |
 Abilene Christian University Press & Leafwood Publishers,  Abilene Christian University Press
 Christian  |  History  |  Religion & Spirituality 


I am reviewing a copy of Translation of the Seventy through Abilene Christian University Press & Leafwood Publishers,and NetGalley:



The story goes a few centuries before the birth of Jesus, seventy Jewish sages produced a Greek translation of the Hebrew Scriptures at the request of an Egyptian king.   While some believed that this translation was inspired by Scripture even more significantly, the authors of what would later be called the New Testament relied on this translation as they quoted Scripture.   In the centuries that followed many Christians argued that God had provided the Septuagint as the church’s Old Testament.   But what about the many differences between the Septuagint and the Hebrew Bible?    And what about the extra books of the Septuagint the so-called Apocrypha or deuterocanonical literature?



Translation of the Seventy is written with students in mind and the book has a primary focus on the role of the Septuagint in early Christianity.   This fresh analysis of the New Testament’s use of the Septuagint and the complex reception of this translation in the first four centuries of Christian history will lead scholars, students, and general readers to a renewed appreciation for this first biblical translation.




I give Translation of the Seventy five out of five stars!



Happy Reading!
Was this review helpful?
I found this to be an interesting presentation of material with which I was somewhat familiar. Here the authors takes me as a reader into new territory and expands my understanding of the Bible and its journey as a core faith text.
Was this review helpful?
This is a scholastic text that primarily appeals to readers with at least a passing interest in early judo-christian texts, specifically the text known as the Septuagint that became the foundation of the Christian Old Testament in the Early Church.  “This book introduces the Septuagint and explores how early Christians made use of it.”  What may be surprising to some readers is the evidence supporting the variety/plurality of sacred text and the challenges inherent to translation and transmission across the ages.  This was apparently illustrated early in Christian patristic commentaries from Origen, Jerome and Augustine amongst others.  What was surprising to me is the evidence that the New Testament makes references to the [expanded] Septuagint (LXX), the Masoretic Text (MT) and other unknown texts and even points to an evolution of sorts where the texts may have influenced each other, depending on the message/tradition the redactor/scribe wished to convey/support. Through-out the book, the author charts a nuanced middle ground, from which I gained a much better understanding of how the Christian Bible developed.

<spoiler>
Section I: Starting Points
1: Start: Introducing the LXX
2: Story: What the Ancient Jews Thought about LXX Origins
3: Origins: What Modern Scholars Think about LXX Origins

Section II: Canon and Text in Early Judaism and Earliest Christianity
4: Canon: The Influence of the LXX on the Size of the Bible
5: Text: Textual Pluralism in Ancient Judaism
6: Apostles: The LXX in the New Testament

Section III: The Text of the Septuagint among the Fathers
7: Varietas: Patristic Textual Criticism on the LXX 
8: Theory: The Relationships between the LXX and the Hebrew Bible in Early Christian Thought
9: Jerome: The Use and Abuse of the LXX according to Jerome
10: Augustine’s Theory of Two Inspired Biblical Texts

Epilogue: The LXX for Modern Christians
Author Index
Subject Index
Scripture and Ancient Source Index</spoiler>

I was given this free advance reader copy (ARC) ebook at my request and have voluntarily left this review.
#TranslationoftheSeventy #NetGalley.
Was this review helpful?
This was a very interesting work of scholarship. I would highly recommend this origin piece on the Seventy to any biblical scholar or other students of the Bible.
Was this review helpful?
This entire book unpacks, qualifies, and wrestles with the statement "the first Christian Bible was the Septuagint." The Septuagint is basically the Greek translation of the Old Testament.

Chapters
Section I Starting Points
1. Start: Introducing the LXX
2. Story: What Ancient Jews thought about LXX Origins
3. Origins: What Modern Scholars Think about LXX Origins

Section II: Canon and Text in Early Judaism and Earliest Christianity
4. Canon: The Influence of the LXX on the Size of the Bible
5. Text: Textual Pluralism in Ancient Judaism
6. Apostles: The LXX in the New Testament

Section 3: The Text of the Septuagint among the Fathers
7. Varietas: Patristic Textual Criticism on the LXX
8. Theory: The Relationship between the LXX and the Hebrew Bible in Early Christian Thought
9. Jerome: the Use and Abuse of the LXX according to Jerome
10. Augustine: Augustine's Theory of Two Inspired Biblical Texts

The book is interesting in that he attempts "to both write for students who know nothing about the Septuagint and as a contribution to scholarship on the Septuagint." The book certainly appears to do both, but that makes its appeal somewhat goofy. Those who know little about the Septuagint, like me, will enjoy the first section, find the second section more difficult, and then drown in confusion in the third.

The book reads more like a college, or grad school textbook. Those more academically minded will find a lot of value. I think the average lay person who is interested in the Septuagint may appreciate the first half of the book, but will find it more difficult as it goes on. The academic will probably enjoy all of it.

The book is well researched and packs a lot of content in its 300ish pages. I learned a great deal and I barely scratched the surface since there was much of the book I did not fully understand. It should especially be appreciated by Septuagint scholars.
Was this review helpful?