The traditional term for the translations of the Hebrew Bible into Greek. Meaning “seventy” and often abbreviated by the Roman numeral LXX, it is derived from the second‐century BCE legend that, at the request of Ptolemy II (285–246 BCE), seventy‐two elders of Israel translated the Hebrew Bible into Greek in seventy‐two days in Alexandria in Egypt. Most scholars accept the substance of the legend, that the earliest Greek versions of the Bible were created in the third century in Egypt for Greek‐speaking Jews. The earliest manuscripts of the Septuagint are from Qumran and are dated to the second century BCE. The relationship between the Greek and Hebrew textual traditions was complicated and fluid, with frequent revision of the Greek to bring it closer to the Hebrew as the latter developed.

The Septuagint includes a number of writings not found in the traditional Hebrew canon, some translations from Hebrew or Aramaic originals and others composed in Greek. These become the Apocrypha, accepted by some Christian churches as canonical but not part of the Bible for Jews and Protestants.

The Septuagint was the primary form of the Bible for Hellenized Jewish communities and thus was that used by most early Christians. When the Bible is quoted in the New Testament, it is almost always from the Septuagint version, which elevated its status for Christian theologians.

See also Translations, article on Ancient Languages


Michael D. Coogan