International Septuagint (a) Day (Late)

As has been noted on various blogs (see list at the end of this post), yesterday was International Septuagint Day.  Kevin Edgecomb gives a wonderfully terse summary of the LXX saying:

[T]he Septuagint is an umbrella term for the first widespread Greek translations of the Hebrew Bible and related books. In more technical usage, the term Septuagint applies only to the Pentateuch, the Books of Moses, which were traditionally translated in Alexandria at the behest of Ptolemy II Philadephus by a group of seventy or seventy-two Jewish translators.

This reminded me of the first place that I ever read the tradition associated with the production of the Septuagint, in the Gemara of Tractate Megillah 9a-9b.  The following is from the Soncino English translation of the Babylonian Talmud:

I must say therefore, ‘Scrolls of the Scripture may be written in any language, and our Rabbis permitted them to be written in Greek’. They permitted! This would imply that the First Tanna forbade it! What I must say therefore is, ‘Our Rabbis permitted them to be written only in Greek’. And it goes on to state, ‘R. Judah said: When our teachers permitted Greek, they permitted it only for a scroll of the Torah’. This was on account of the incident related in connection with King Ptolemy, as it has been taught: ‘It is related of King Ptolemy that he brought together seventy-two elders and placed them in seventy-two [separate] rooms, without telling them why he had brought them together, and he went in to each one of them and said to him, translate for me the Torah of Moses your master. God then prompted each one of them and they all conceived the same idea and wrote for him, God created in the beginning, I shall make man in image and likeness, And he finished on the sixth day,and rested on the seventh day, Male and female he created him [but they did not write ‘created them’], Come let me descend and confound their tongues, And Sarah laughed among her relatives; For in their anger they slew an ox and in their wrath they digged up a stall; And Moses took his wife and his children, and made them ride on a carrier of men; And the abode of the children of Israel which they stayed in Egypt and in other lands was four hundred years, And he sent the elect of the children of Israel; And against the elect of the children of Israel he put not forth his and; I have taken not one valuable of theirs; Which the Lord thy God distributed to give light to all the peoples; And he went and served other gods which I commanded should not be served. They also wrote for him ‘the beast with small legs’ and they did not write ‘the hare’, because the name of Ptolemy’s wife was hare, lest he should say, The Jews have jibed at me and put the name of my wife in the Torah. (b. Meg. 9a-9b)*

Other International Septuagint Day related posts:


* It is also interesting to note how central a role this particular tractate plays in Jewish anti-missionary polemics.  The argument runs along these lines: ‘The Talmud records the original readings of 15 passages in the Septuagint yet modern versions of this Greek translation have become so corrupted that they only preserve 2 of the 15 original readings.’  I’ve heard and read this argument from no less an anti-missionary than Rabbi Tovia Singer, director of Outreach Judaism. I’ve also heard it in private correspondance with a Jewish acquaintence from Brooklyn, NY.


8 thoughts on “International Septuagint (a) Day (Late)

  1. Logos Bible Software has begun working on the Göttingen LXX. This version will be morphologically tagged, and the apparati will be linked directly to the primary sources.

    I thought you might be interested!

    Göttingen Septuagint

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