Comparing: Hebrew Bible / Septuagint

The Septuagint and the Hebrew Bible Tradition

The theories of the prehistory of the biblical texts were based largely on the scholar’s intuition from close reading, but there was no tangible proof in the form of textual artifacts in Hebrew. Only one manuscript tradition of the Hebrew scriptures existed, and it matched the Hebrew Bible of modem editions and therefore the modern English translations. In the absence of Hebrew sources to verify their hypotheses, scholars pointed to the ancient versions of the Hebrew Bible. The Greek translation known as the Septuagint was central to the discussion, since numerous passages stood at odds with the Hebrew. Commentators suggested that the Septuagint illuminates a lost part of the history of the formation of the Old Testament, that the Greek translation actually shows us different stages of the Hebrew text long before it reached its final form.

And then suddenly everything changed ... Perhaps the Septuagint translators were not responsible for the differences in the biblical text; maybe they were translating other Hebrew texts after all. For many who had insisted on the authority of the Hebrew Bible, the most uncomfortable realization was that these Hebrew manuscripts appeared to reflect earlier stages of the biblical books. The argument against scholarly reconstructions and hypotheses suddenly lost its breath. Here was real, hold-in-your-hands proof that some biblical books once existed in a different form. Even so, the Septuagint remains foreign to most, including biblical scholars, indeed even Old Testament scholars.