Translation of the Seventy

History, Reception, and Contemporary Use of the Septuagint

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Pub Date 01 Aug 2021 | Archive Date Not set

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As 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 Jews believed this translation was itself inspired Scripture, even more significantly, the authors of what would later be called the New Testament relied on this translation as they quoted Scripture. Then in the centuries that followed, many Christians argued that God had provided the Septuagint as the church’s Old Testament. But what about all the differences between the Septuagint and the Hebrew Bible? And what about the extra books of the Septuagint—the so-called Apocrypha or deuterocanonical literature? 

Written with students in mind, Translation of the Seventy explores each of these issues, with a particular 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.

As 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 Jews believed...

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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.

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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.

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