Tuesday, December 19, 2017

When God Spoke Greek: The LXX and the Making of the Christian Bible by Timothy Michael Law (OUP 2013)

When God Spoke Greek: The LXX and the Making of the Christian Bible by Timothy Michael Law (OUP 2013) explains the origins of the Septuagint and how these texts became Christian Scripture.
A wonderful presentation by the author can be viewed here:


The LXX consists of a variety of texts including translations from Hebrew texts themselves as well as compositions in Greek (e.g. books of the Maccabees, and the Wisdom of Solomon). The Latin number 70 derives from the letter of Aristeas identifying 70 or 72 translators who worked on the first translation. Here's a good English translation of the LXX.

It's not possible to understand the NT without the LXX. Most of the citations of Hebrew Scripture in the NT come from the LXX. Mark 7: 6-7, for example, applies the LXX text of Isaiah 29:13, not the Hebrew, to argue that because people were obsessed with human tradition and teachings, they were unable to worship truly. Hebrew Isaiah 29:13 argues that people were prevented from true worship because they sought to follow formal aspects of religion only, "and their worship of me is a human commandment learned by rote.."

Luke 4:18 shows Jesus reading from the scroll of Isaiah to declare that his ministry is to proclaim "recovery of sight to the blind" (LXX Isaiah 61:1), a reference that is absent from the Hebrew. This language is picked up in the description of Jesus' healing ministry in Luke 7:22.

Paul specifically relies on e.g. the LXX of Isaiah in Romans in many places such as 2:24, "Because of you, my name is continually blasphemed among all the nations," in which a pointed accusation against Israel from Isaiah is used to make a prophetic judgment by Paul for the rejection of the people of Israel since they continue to reject Christ.

Use of the intensive verb eisakouw, hear, listen, attend to (prayer or petition) in the NT e.g. at Lk 1, 13; Acts 10:31 may well be influenced by the extensive use of the verb in the LXX Psalm texts.

In the urban expansion of Jesus' followers in a Greek-speaking world, it is the Greek version of Hebrew Scriptures that is the important vehicle for proclamation of the faith.


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