Septuagint, The (LXX)

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The Septuagint is the Greek translation of the Old Testament produced in Egypt.1 The Old Testament was originally written in Hebrew. It was during the reign of Ptolemy Philadelphus (285-246 B.C.) that the Pentateuch, the first five books of the Bible, were translated into Greek. Jewish tradition says that he wanted "a translated copy of the Hebrew law for his famous library at Alexandria."2 Shortly afterwards the rest of the Old Testament was also translated. This translation was done by approximately 70 Jewish scholars (some say it was 72). Hence, the Septuagint is known by the letters LXX, the Roman numerals for seventy.

"The LXX is of significance because of its inclusion of the see Apocrypha, which has historically important documents, especially 1 Maccabees; its contribution to understanding the literary history of postbiblical Judaism; its demonstration of the theological and ethical outlook of Alexandrian Judaism; and its contribution to Old Testament textual criticism."3

The Septuagint was widely used and even quoted in the New Testament.  The Greek translation also includes the apocryphal books: Tobit, Judith, 1 and 2 Maccabees, Wisdom of Solomon, Sirach (also known as Ecclesiasticus), and Baruch. These were written between the closing of the Old Testament canon which was accomplished with the book of Malachi around 400 BC and the first book of the New Testament written in the first century.  These books, however, are not considered Scripture but were included in the translation since they contain valuable historical information.

The reason the Hebrew Old Testament was translated into the Greek was due to the work of Alexander the great who had conquered much of the Mediterranean area and made Greek the common language. Since many Jews were living in various countries in the Mediterranean area, and did not speak Hebrew, a Greek Old Testament was necessary. Hence, the Septuagint translation.

  • 1. Myers, Allen C. The Eerdmans Bible Dictionary. Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans, 1987, Septuagint
  • 2. Cross, F. L., and Elizabeth A. Livingstone, eds. The Oxford Dictionary of the Christian Church. Oxford; New York: Oxford University Press, 2005.
  • 3. ibid.

About The Author

Matt Slick is the President and Founder of the Christian Apologetics and Research Ministry.