LXX and the common Greek reader


Puritan Board Junior
My understanding of the LXX is limited. A few things I do understand:

- There is not "The" Septuagint--what we have is a best guess on what was the Septuagint (I can submit to being wrong here), Origen's Hexapla being one of our chief sources
- Its faithfulness to the Hebrew strongly varies
- The apostles quoted it, and the early church used it

The LXX really varies in its quality. The Pentateuch is highly accurate. The Writings are wooden. Job is a bit longer(?) and has an added ending. Jeremiah is missing extensive passages. Psalms has a count of 151 (there is no way that last one is an original Psalm!). Esther has an added prayer.

Yet who would doubt that it was serviceable? The apostles quote it. The early church no doubt used it. And unlike us, they can't so quickly get together an LXX 2.0 committee and update the translation so quickly as we can today. There wasn't the easy possibility of examining manuscripts like we do today.

What, practically, are we supposed to learn from this?

I'd rather avoid textual critical debates here, but I suppose my desire is to understand that while ALL Scripture is breathed by God, use for teaching, reproof, correction, training in righteousness, not one jot or tittle disappears, yet the Lord has considered such situations to be suitable in their times and places.

But then, the church was not universally agreed until late 300's on the final Table of Contents for the New Testament, so perhaps lessons for today are rather limited, unless you are in an overseas situation where the Word is coming to new regions?

Jeri Tanner

Staff member
I certainly don’t have much of anything scholarly to offer (ok, nothing!) but this quote from Reverend Winzer may be intriguing: “On the LXX reading of Ps. 40:6, allegedly quoted in Heb. 10:5, it is somewhat noteworthy that the 17th century John Owen and the 21st century Commentary on the NT use of the OT by Beale and Carson happen to agree as to the scribal correction of certain Greek texts which force the mss. of Ps. 40:5 to conform to the apostle's citation.”

A PB search of LXX with MW in the “by” field brings up a lot of good discussion about it.


Puritanboard Amanuensis
You are correct. There is no one pure mss of the LXX. Like every other mss tradition in human history, the reality of textual criticism applies.

The apostles used it, but not exclusively. And in any case, they didn't walk around Palestine with a blue hardback LXX, since nothing like that existed (see above point).

It is very important, though. The vocab illustrates how Greek words were used in that time period, and its value as such is inestimable.

There is silliness on both sides. RCC and EO apologists say it was the Bible the apostles used. That's obviously false. Hyper-KJV only types will say Origen invented (or maybe Origen didn't even exist).

Taylor Sexton

Puritan Board Senior
What, practically, are we supposed to learn from this?
For me it is the idea that there is no perfect translation of Scripture. This sounds trivial, but it is actually a real struggle to accept, particularly among two groups of people: 1) fundamentalists and 2) those who have been trained in the original languages.

In the first group, you have people who will push a certain translation of Scripture as the perfect and pristine translation of God's Word in English. These people tend to make Bible translation use a matter of orthodoxy, and thus are very dangerous.

The second group is, honestly, where I fall. I have told many folks that learning Greek and Hebrew, for all its blessed benefits, actually proved to be quite frustrating in one particular result. Ever since learning the languages, I have become increasingly bothered and annoyed by something in every translation of Scripture. And, being a little OCD, it is sometimes extremely frustrating. I am intimately aware of individual flaws found in many major particular English translations of Scripture. It has actually often proved to be a hindrance to reading Scripture worshipfully.

So, it is very helpful for many of us to be reminded that no perfect translation of Scripture exists. :)


Staff member
Several things to note. 1. Origen's Hexapla is far more of a hindrance than a help in determining the original form of the LXX. 2. There are many theories about Jeremiah, and why the LXX Jeremiah is about 1/7 shorter. The theory I hold as most likely is that Jeremiah himself wrote one version of his book when he was down in Egypt for the Israelites down there. Then he wrote a fuller version (which winds up being the canonical version) when he was in Babylon. The Dead Sea Scrolls have Hebrew fragments of Jeremiah that support both the LXX and the MT readings. So there was most likely a different Hebrew Vorlage for the LXX than there was for the MT. 3. As for the NT authors, they quote the LXX more often than the MT. I did a paper on Hebrews, examining every single instance of quotation and/or allusion. There were fewer than five instances where Paul (I think Paul wrote Hebrews, but that is a whole 'nuther discussion) quoted the MT in such a way that it did not agree with the LXX. The vast majority of quotations either agree precisely with the LXX or differ only in very minor ways. I wouldn't say that the LXX was the Bible of the NT authors. I would say that they quoted from either, meaning they translated the MT into Greek themselves on occasion, but when the LXX aligned well enough with the MT, they usually just quoted the LXX.


Staff member
Thomas, that would depend on what you mean by authoritative. If you mean, would it have the same canonical authority as the MT? I would say no. Of course, there are the deuterocanonical books also to consider in this question. The LXX is a translation. As a translation, it would, theoretically, have the same authority as any other translation would. However, the LXX can be valuable in text criticism as being a witness to a different Hebrew Vorlage at times. But that would be a distinct question from canonical authority.


Puritan Board Senior
Does the LXX that is used by the Greek Church accurately reflect the Greek Old Testament text that Saint Paul and the first and second century Church would have been familiar with?


Staff member
If the Greek church uses, say, Rahlf's or the Gottingen LXX, they would basically have the Greek OT text that Paul and the NT used often.

Charles Johnson

Puritan Board Freshman
The Greek church uses the 1904 patriarchal text, which is a 1904 standardization by synodical decree of the Greek bible in both testaments. It's perfectly fine as a NT Byzantine-type text, and I don't imagine the quality of the LXX portions differs radically.