The Septuagint, the Greek translation of the Hebrew Old Testament, was the ‘Bible’ of the early Christian Church. This is a comprehensive introduction to the issues surrounding the translation and development of the Septuagint. Professor Hengel first traces the history of the Septuagint. He explores the controversial discussion between Jews and Christians regarding its reliability, examining particularly the views of the church fathers relating to its authority, its inspiration, and its canon.
“In other words, from the outset the Seventy have greater weight than a single translator like Jerome.” (Page 52)
“The Septuagint is not only a unique linguistic monument without analogy in the Greek literature of antiquity (no other work of this scale was translated into Greek from a foreign language), but it also constitutes the first complete and pre-Christian ‘commentary’ to the Old Testament. For every translation is an interpretation, and the LXX, as the first rendering of the writings of the Hebrew Bible into the Greek lingua franca, is this in an especial way. It was both the bible of primitive Christianity and the early church until well into the second century, and later it was the ‘Old Testament’ of the Greek church. Also, it fundamentally formed the theological language of oldest Christianity and, moreover, assisted in changing and leaving its mark on the spiritual world of late Antiquity.” (Page xi)
“On the basis of this complicated situation, the question presents itself: how did it come about that the collection of Jewish writings in the Greek language, significantly larger than the scope of the Hebrew Bible, become, under the designation ‘the Seventy’, the authoritative ‘Holy Scriptures’ of the Old Testament in the Christian church?” (Page 22)
“‘At Qumran only a very small number of texts was found that were closely related to the original text of the LXX (less than five per cent of the biblical texts). The Hebrew scrolls from which the LXX was translated in Egypt have not been found in Qumran.’” (Page 84)
“The basic study of so-called ‘Hellenistic Judaism’ of the understanding of early Christianity in the truest sense of the word, should begin with the Septuagint and not with Philo of Alexandria.” (Page xii)
Martin Hengel (1926–2009) was emeritus professor of New Testament and early Judaism at the University of Tübingen. He specialized in early Christianity and the origins of Christianity.
Hengel began studying theology in 1947 in Tübingen before moving to the University of Heidelberg in 1949. He eventually earned his Ph.D. in 1959 from the University of Tübingen.
Hengel’s works include Studies in Early Christology, Crucifixion: In the Ancient World and the Folly of the Message of the Cross, and The Septuagint as Christian Scripture: Its Prehistory and the Problem of its Canon.