Septuagint - The Hebrew Scriptures in Greek

Septuagint is the name given to a Greek translation of the Hebrew scriptures and other writings. The name Septuagint is from the Latin for seventy it is often abbreviated LXX, the roman numeral representation of 70. The Septuagint has its origin in Alexandria, Egypt and was translated between 300-200 BC. According to an ancient document called the Letter of Aristeas, 70 to 72 Jewish scholars were commissioned during the reign of Ptolemy II Philadelphus (ruled 283 to 246 BC) to carry out the task of translation of the Hebrew Scriptures into Greek. Jewish tradition has it that the 70 scholars only translated the Torah, the books of Moses. The story goes that they were locked in separate rooms so that they could not confer yet they produced identical translations. Our Septuagint today contains much more than the Torah.

Ptolomey was trying to collect all human knowledge and his Idea behind the translation was to give non-Jews a glimpse into Judaism or at least the wisdom of the Jews. We note as well that "Seventy" in Jewish tradition is the number of the foreign nations.  Hence, the translation of the Law into Greek, the lingua franca of the time, whatever the number of scholars involved, is called after 70 as it was translating the Law for the nations.

According to some, there are many and varying versions of the Septuagint and so the term itself is not specific enough to be useful. I cannot argue that point but there is a traditional core and the only questions are the edges. It is clear that some form of the Septuagint was the Bible of the early Christians. In fact, there is a school of thought that because of its popularity with Christians, it fell out of favor with the Jews. The New Testament writers relied heavily on the Septuagint with the majority of Old Testament quotes cited in the New Testament coming from the Septuagint. (Other citations appear to be paraphrased from the Hebrew texts.) The Greek church fathers are also known to have quoted from the Septuagint. Even today, the Eastern Orthodox Church, among others, relies on the Septuagint for its Old Testament. Most modern Bible translations use the Septuagint along side Hebrew manuscripts as their source text and you will often see LXX cited in the footnotes. (Footnotes in the New Testament are necessary because there are places where the Septuagint where its differs from the rendering of the Hebrew text that you will find in the Old Testament of the Bible you are using.) In our English Bibles we get many of our book names from the Septuagint.

What Does It Contain? The Septuagint contains the 39 books of the Protestant Old Testament canon and the Jewish Tanakh, plus some additional books. Protestants call these books the Apocrypha, some of these books are known as the Deuterocanonicals, primarily in Roman Catholic circles. The term "Apocrypha" was coined by the fifth-century biblical scholar Jerome when he was translating the Vulgate. He noted that the Hebrew scriptures were different than the traditional Greek and broke with church tradition by working from the Hebrew for his translation. 

The forward to the book of Sirach, although it is contained in our current Septuagint, gives us insight into the original purpose of the translation. 

Many important truths have been handed down to us through the law, the prophets, and the later authors; and for these the instruction and wisdom of Israel merit praise. Now, those who are familiar with these truths must not only understand them themselves but, as lovers of wisdom, be able, in speech and in writing, to help others less familiar. Such a one was my grandfather, Jesus, who, having devoted himself for a long time to the diligent study of the law, the prophets, and the rest of the books of our ancestors, and having developed a thorough familiarity with them, was moved to write something himself in the nature of instruction and wisdom, in order that those who love wisdom might, by acquainting themselves with what he too had written, make even greater progress in living in conformity with the divine law.


You therefore are now invited to read it in a spirit of attentive good will, with indulgence for any apparent failure on our part, despite earnest efforts, in the interpretation of particular passages. For words spoken originally in Hebrew are not as effective when they are translated into another language. That is true not only of this book but of the law itself, the prophets and the rest of the books, which differ no little when they are read in the original.


I arrived in Egypt in the thirty-eighth year of the reign of King Euergetes, and while there, I found a reproduction of our valuable teaching. I therefore considered myself in duty bound to devote some diligence and industry to the translation of this book. Many sleepless hours of close application have I devoted in the interval to finishing the book for publication, for the benefit of those living abroad who wish to acquire wisdom and are disposed to live their lives according to the standards of the law. (Sirach Introduction NAB) (

We see that the purpose, at least for Sirach's grandson, was to help a Greek audience understand the wisdom of the Jews--not to translate scripture. This following table relates the Septuagint to our modern book names and order. 

The Book of Odes, or simply Odes, is referenced in the table as Ode for the location of the Prayer of Manasseh, which is typically part of the Apocrypha.  Although it is not specifically listed as a separate book, Wikipedia reports that it "is a book of the Bible found only in Eastern Orthodox Bibles" although it is not in my Orthodox Study Bible. The Book of Odes has liturgical use in the Eastern Church.

In addition to Swete, Rahlfs also prepared critical editions of the Septuagint that are referenced in the table. Greek uses letters to represent numbers with alpha (α) having the value of 1, beta (β) 2 and so on. the designation A/ in the table stands for alpha or the number 1 as in the English column that uses the Roman I in stead of the Arabic 1.


Order of Books in the Septuagint
according to Vol. I, II & III of the Greek Old Testament by H.B. Swete (1835-1917)
Adapted from

Greek Greek Transliteration English (Current Usage) Hebrew Transliteration
Γένεσις GENESIS Genesis Bereishis
Ἔξοδος EXODOS Exodus Shemos
Λευϊτικόν LEUITIKON Leviticus Vayikra
Ἀριθμοί ARIQMOI Numbers Bamidbar
Δευτερονόμιον DEUTERONOMION Deuteronomy Devarim
Ἰησοῦς Nαυῆ IHSOUS NAUH Joshua, the son of Nun Yehoshua
Κριταί KRITAI Judges Shoftim
Ῥούθ ROUQ Ruth Ruth
Βασιλειῶν Α BASILEIWN A/ Kings I. (1 Samuel) Shmu'el
Βασιλειῶν Βʹ BASILEIWN B/ Kings II. (2 Samuel)
Βασιλειῶν Γʹ BASILEIWN G/ Kings III. (1 Kings) Melakhim
Βασιλειῶν Δʹ BASILEIWN D/ Kings IV. (2 Kings)
Παραλειπομένων Αʹ PARALEIPOMENWN A Paralipomenon I. (1 Chronicles) Divrei ha-Yamim
Παραλειπομένων Βʹ PARALEIPOMENWN B/ Paralipomenon II. (2 Chronicles)
Ἔσδρας Αʹ ESDRAS A/ Esdras I.  
Ἔσδρας Βʹ ESDRAS B/ Esdras II. (Ezra) Ezra
Νεεμία NEEMIAS Nehemiah (part of 2 Esdras in Swete's)
Ψαλμοί YALMOI Psalms of David Tehillim
Προσευχὴ Μανασσῆ PROSEUXH MANASSH Prayer of Manasseh (Ode 8 in Swete's; Ode 12 in Rahlfs' LXX)  
Παροιμίαι PAROIMIAI Proverbs Mishlei
Ἐκκλησιαστής EKKAHSIASTHS Ecclesiastes Kohelet
Ἆσμα Ἀσμάτων ASMA  Song of Solomon (Canticles) Shir ha-Shirim (Song of Songs)
Ἰώβ IWB Job `Iyyov
Σοφία Σαλoμῶντος SOFIA SALWMWN Wisdom of Solomon  
Σοφία Ἰησοῦ Σειράχ SOFIA SEIRAX Wisdom of the Son of Sirach (Ecclesiasticus)  
Ἐσθήρ ESQHR Esther Esther
Ἰουδίθ IOUDIQ Judith  
Τωβίτ TWBIT Tobit  
The Twelve or the Minor Prophets. The Greek number after the name of the book indicates its position in the volume of the 12.
Ὡσηέ Αʹ WSHE Hosea Hoshea
Ἀμώς Βʹ AMWS Amos Amos
Μιχαίας Γʹ MIXAIAS Micah Mikhah
Ἰωήλ Δʹ IWHL Joel Yo'el
Ὀβδιού Εʹ OBDIOU Obadiah Ovadyah
Ἰωνᾶς Ϛ' IWNAS Jonah Yonah
Ναούμ Ζʹ NAOUM Nahum Nachum
Ἀμβακούμ Ηʹ AMBAKOUM Habakkuk Habaquq
Σοφονίας Θʹ SOFONIAS Zephaniah Tsefania
Ἀγγαῖος Ιʹ AGGAIOS Haggai Haggai
Ζαχαρίας ΙΑʹ ZAXARIAS Zechariah Zekharia
Μαλαχίας ΙΒʹ MALAXIAS Malachi Malakhi
The Prophets and more historical whritings
Ἠσαΐας HSAIAS Isaiah Yeshayahu
Ἱερεμίας IEREMIAS Jeremiah Yirmiyahu
Βαρούχ BAROUX Baruch  
Θρῆνοιv QRHNOI Lamentations of Jeremiah Eikhah
Ἐπιστολή Ιερεμίου EPISTOLH IEREMIOU Epistle of Jeremiah  
Ἰεζεκιήλ IESEKIHL Ezekiel Yehezq'el
Δανιήλ DANIHL Daniel Daniel
TWN TRIWN PAIDWN AINESIS Song of the Three Children  
SWSANNA Susanna  
BHL KAI DRAKWN Bel and the Dragon  
Μακκαβαίων Αʹ MAKKABAIWN A/ I. Maccabees  
Μακκαβαίων Βʹ MAKKABAIWN B/ II. Maccabees  
Μακκαβαίων Γʹ MAKKABAIWN G/ III. Maccabees  
Appearing at the end of various Greek Bibles and MSS.
Μακκαβαίων Δ' Παράρτημα MAKKABAIWN D/ IV. Maccabees  
Ψαλμοί Σαλoμῶντος YALMOI SALWMWN Psalms of Solomon (Gray translation, 1913)  


Notes on the Translators referenced above.


H.B. Swete (1835 – 1917) was an English Biblical scholar. In 1887 he published the first volume of his three voulme edition of the Greek text of the Old Testament, completing the series in 1894.


George Buchanan Gray (1865-1922) an English OT scholar. He produced the translation of Psalms of Solomon referenced above. 


Alfred Rahlfs (29 May 1865 – 8 April 1935) was a German Biblical scholar. He studied Protestant Theology, Philosophy, and Oriental Languages.  Rahlfs edited a preliminary but influential edition of the Septuagint, which appeared in two volumes in the year he died.


Sir Lancelot Charles Lee Brenton (16 February 1807 – 13 June 1862) was a translator of one of only two English translations of the Septuagint. At time of its release, his translation of the Septuagint was the second and the latest English translation available It was first released in 1844. It is avalible here 12/16/15 12/14/15

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