Debtor (Ron) on Hebrew Translations

Ian Hutchesson mc2499 at
Fri Nov 5 19:09:41 EST 1999

It would be more useful to have some of the argumentation for many of the
positions glossed in this post, but I fear that much of it is
"conventional" wisdom and not so much based on hard fact. I will try to
respond to some of the contents anyway.

>No definite date known as to when the other Books were translated, but by
132 B. C. Ben
>Sira's grandson mentions them in the prologue to his translation.

But was this actually Ben Sira's grandson or just a literary convention?
There is an interesting mistake regarding the Ptolemaic ruler of the era,
Euergetes, for, although the introduction talks of the thirty-eighth year
of this ruler, he only ruled for thirty-three years. Does this reflect
someone who was actually writing at the time claimed? It may hve been a
scribal mistake. It may have been written long after the time attributed to
the work.

> a. Chronicles mentioned by Eupolemus (middle of Second Century  B. C.);

As the books of Chronicles aren't to be found in the DSS -- and kings gets
a pretty poor showing -- I think that it is only guesswork that Eupolemus's
source was the books we now call Chronicles. This latter work claims to
have used prior works. Didn't Eupolemus use such works as well?

> b. Aristeas, the historian, quotes Job;

He doesn't to my knowledge actually quote Job, but shows acquaitance with
the contents of the work, especially that version which has provided the
LXX version. However, we don't know what his source was.

> c. Footnote to the Greek Esther shows it was in circulation before the
end of the
>second century b. c.

"In the fourth year of the reign of Ptolemy and Cleopatra, Dositheus, who
said that he was a priest and a Levite, and his son Ptolemy brought to
Egypt the preceding Letter about Purim, which they said was authentic and
had been translated by Lysimachus son of Ptolemy, one of the residents of

This, the epilogue of the Greek version of Esther, is what is referred to.
But to use this as a dating of the text seems to me to be ingenuous. What
may have been the norm for the period about supplying a source for a work
doesn't necessarily make it fact. The first letter attached to the
beginning of 2Macc seems to be a fake. I have my doubts about the
introduction to Ben Sira. Aristeas is not tenable historically. So, why
should we follow this little effort?

> d. The Septuagint Psalter is quoted in 1 Macc. 7:17.

And when was 1Macc translated into Greek?


Josephus in his introduction to his Antiquities of the Jews writes that at
the time of the high priest Eleazar, the torah was translated (he later
gives the Aristeas story in his text). We don't know, incidentally, in what
state the torah was at that time. However the interesting thing he goes on
to say is that, because only the torah had been translated, he felt the
obligation to supply a readable version to his audience, ie to this
historian who had the best access imaginable to all sorts of texts
including pseudepigraphical, apocryphal, OT/HB, and classical history,
there were no Greek non-torah texts to save him the effort. This of course
is only what he says. He may merely not have known about such Greek texts,
though he had spent time in Egypt.

>Also, most of modern Christians only are aware of the post Christ LXXs,
those starting
>with the Acquilla.
>Please note I am not saying we should only use the LXX any more than I am
saying we
>should use only the MT.  I feel we should use them both.  Debtor (Ron Pound).
>Gleanings from
>The Jewish Encyclopedia, Funk and Wagnalls, and Ktav edition.
>Article:  Bible Translations, pps. 185-187.
>These Notes furnish some information about the LXX and its influence upon
the Jewish
>people and their reactions to it.  Some of these notes are of particular
importance also
>to the four early Greek Translations.  Jewish scholars translated the
Hebrew Canon into
>other languages, but that is another subject.  We should note, however,
the influence of
>the Jews upon the changing of the King James Translation and in bringing
forth the
>Revised Version.  This is hinted at in the section dealing with American
>1) Jewish translations were made for those who had gradually lost the
ancient national
>language and needed the Scriptures, both in Private and Public life, in
another language
>which they understood;  p. 185.

This is guesswork. Over 80% of the Dead Sea Scrolls were in Hebrew. Many of
them new texts.

>2) The old Language was driven out first by Aramaic, then by Greek and
lastly by Arabic;
>3) Portions of Daniel and Ezra were written in Aramaic;

The Aramaic in these texts was fake Persian Chancelry Aramaic. (There's an
article by Giovanni Garbini on the Aramaic of these works on my website: 

>4) Cannot tell whether these portions were originally written in Aramaic
or translated
>out of the Hebrew into Aramaic;

It should be pretty obvious to anyone who thought about it. Look at Dan2:4
which "drops into" Aramaic when the Chaldeans spoke to the king, but then
the narrative continues in Aramaic after the speech is finished. There is
no real logic to this, other than someone decided to translate this section
into Aramaic, because we are dealing with a non-Hebrew situation in which
Aramaic might have been used. As I said above the indications of the
Aramaic are that the writer was trying to give the impression of an archaic
form of the language but didn't know that form.

>5) Hebrew remained the Sacred and Literary language, it was not the common
language of
>the common people;

This theory has been blown wide open by the Dead Sea Scrolls, which were
written mainly in an until now unknown dialect of Hebrew which was very
much alive -- one doesn't write new texts in a dead language, one needs a
listening audience for one's texts.

>6) In the Second Century before Christ it became necessary for a
"meturgeman" to
>translate the weekly Pentateuch and prophetic lessons for the common
people, which were
>read in the synagogue, p. 185.

What are the historical sources for this dating? If common people didn't
understand Hebrew then why were contracts and bills of sales written in
Hebrew at the time of Shim'on ben Kocheba? One doesn't sign something they
don't understand.

>7) The Targums did not date from the time of Ezra because they were
written in a
>West-Aramaic dialect, p. 185.

As Ezra was not finished until after Josephus's time, what can one say here?

>8) Berliner's Onkelos; p. 7 and Friedmann's Akylos and Onkelos; page 58
are incorrect,
>p. 185.
>9) The religious leaders kept God's Word from the people because:
> a. Authorities of the Synagogue did not willingly allow such transactions
to be written
> b. They felt this would be putting a premium upon ignorance of the  text;
> c. The Biblical word would be in danger by permitting only one verse to
be read and
>translated at a time as in the case of the Law, p. 185.
> d. Certain passages were never to be translated publicly, p. 185; Gen.
35:22; Ex.
>32:21-25; Numbers 6:23-26; Lev. 18:21; Meg. 4:10; Berliner, page 217;
>Monatsschfirst, xliv, p. 185.
>10) Passages found in the Pseudo-Jonathan and in the Midrashim are for
Private use, p.
>11) No written copy of the Targum was for public use; p. 185; though
copies could be
>made for private usages;
>12) Pros and Cons about a Targum for Job's Book,  p. 185.
>13) There was not a Greek copy of Job but one written in the old Hebrew
Script, p. 185.
>14) A Targum is largely a paraphrase representing the rabbinical tradition
regarding the
>meaning of a text, p. 185.
>15) Samaritan version of the Pentateuch was written in the West-Aramaic
dialect that
>Samaritans spoke at one time; p. 185.
>16) Samaritan Pentateuch cannot be dated;

Maybe not, but there are texts amongst the DSS that show Samaritan text
forms in preference to either MT or LXX.

>17) Kohn believes Origen's Hexapla refers to a Greek Translation of the
>version made in Egypt;
>18) The London Polyglot served for the basis of H. Petermann and K.
Vollers' Samaritan
>Characters and A. Brull's Hebrew, p. 185.
>19) M. Heidenheim's edition in Hebrew is highly criticized, p. 185.
>20) The influence of Hellenism; p. 185.
> a. The settlement of large numbers of Jews in various parts of the Greek
> b. the Hellenization of Palestine;
> c. Presence of Jews in Jerusalem from all countries; p. 185; esp. those
under Greek
> d. These factors caused the Rabbis to treat the Question more liberally,
p. 185.
>21) Forbidden to read the Megillah in Aramaic or any other non-Hebrew
language except
>for the foreign Jews in Jerusalem;

Bit like the necessity to use the Vulgate.

>22) Another tradition held that it was permitted to write the Biblical
books in any
>language though R. Simon Ben Gamalie would restrict this to the Greek;
>23) After careful examination it was found that the Pentateuch could be
>translated only into Greek;
>24) Greek was freely used in the Great Synagogue, p. 185;
>25) Jewish and Christian testimony as to Greek letters engraven upon the
Chest in the
>Temple in which the Shekels were kept, p. 185.
>26) In Asia minor no Megillah could be found written in Hebrew during this
>27) The weekly lessons of the Law and Prophets in Alexandria were read in
Greek; p.
>28) No translation on the same level as the original Hebrew, p. 185;
>29) During about the second century of the Christian era a different view
>among the Jews; page 186:
> a. Note that before Christ, the Jews translated the Scriptures in other
> b. After Christ, the Scriptures should not go into other languages;

It might be truer that after the Jewish War with the control of the
religion passing clearly into the hands of the Pharisaic tradition, such
restrictions were imposed, bringing a type of Palestinian orthodoxy to

>30) The day in which the Law was translated into Greek was as unfortunate
for the Jews
>as that day in the Golden Calf was made; p. 186.
>31) To teach Jewish children Greek was forbidden; p. 186.
>32) It was all right to teach Jewish girls Greek as an accomplishment;
>33) This was caused by the rise of the Christian church which used the
Bible only in the
>Septuagint Version; p. 186.

But when did this start? If Josephus is correct about non-torah texts then
we are dealing with some time after his death.

>34) The Septuagint is the oldest and most important of all the versions
made by the Jews
>into other languages; p. 186.
>35) It is a monument of the Greek spoken by the large and important Jewish
>living then at Alexandria, p. 186.
>36) The Egyptian Papyri, according to Mahaffy and Deissmann, shows a close
>between the Papyri and the Septuagint, p. 186.
>37) The Egyptian Papyri have reinstated Aristeas (about 200 B. C.) in the
opinion of
>Scholars; p. 186.

?? There is at least one anachronism in the Aristeas text regarding
Demetrius Phalerius who was already dead at the time given as context for
the Aristeas letter.

>38) Aristeas' letter to Philocrates gives the background of the LXX;

If you mean by LXX, some form of torah in Greek then OK, otherwise this
statement is  unjustifiable.

>39) It is now believed that even though he may have been mistaken in some
points his
>facts in general are worthy of credence, p. 186.

That's nice.

>40) The Greek translation of the Pentateuch was at the time of
Philadelphus,  the second
>Ptolemy (about 285-247 B. C.); p. 186, Note that this was the Pentateuch

That's the story.

>41) The King encouraged the Septuagint and the Alexanderian Jews welcomed it;

What? If Aristeas is tenable then maybe the library at Alexandria got a
copy of some form of the torah. The rest is conjecture.

To quote from the intro to Aristeas in the Charlesworth Pseudepigraphic
collection, "The majority of the views is in favor of c.150--100 B.C. In
deciding which conjecture is preferable, we first have to decide on the
occasion (and purpose) of the work." Note that it is only conjecture and
that the text could have been written as late as the first century.

>42) Gratz's opinion that it was translated during the reign of Philometor
(181-146 B.
>C.) stands alone, p. 186.

That's not my opinion. (Facts are more useful than opinions.)

>43) The Jewish community was losing its Hebrew through the demands of
everyday life,
>p. 186.

But when exactly?

>44) No definite date known as to when the other Books were translated, but
by 132 B. C.
>Ben Sira's grandson mentions them in the prologue to his translation.
> a. Chronicles mentioned by Eupolemus (middle of Second Century  B. C.);
> b. Aristeas, the historian, quotes Job;
> c. Footnote to the Greek Esther shows it was in circulation before the
end of the
>second century b. c.
> d. The Septuagint Plaster is quoted in 1 Macc. 7:17.
>45) The whole Bible (Old Testament) was translated before the Christian
era, p. 186,
>Sweet's Introduction, chapter 1.

There is no evidence for this.

>46) The large numbers of Greek speaking communities in Palestine, Syria,
>Asia Minor and Northern Africa, must have facilitated the spread of the
LXX into all
>these regions, p. 186.

Just like the large numbers of non-Latin speaking Christians facilitated
the spread of non-Latin rites throughout western Europe during the middle
ages and even later.

>47) The Quotations from the Old Testament found in the New Testament are
in the main
>taken from the Septuagint, p. 186.

When did they write the NT? The first Christian father who seems to know a
lot of NT content i Justin Martyr (circa 160 CE).

>48) Even where the citation is only indirect the influence from the LXX is
clearly seen;
>49) The undoubted influence of the LXX upon the Peshitta, the Syriac
>50) The composite make up of the LXX:
> a. Pentateuch adheres most closely to the original;
> b. Daniel shows the influence of the Jewish Midrash the most; p. 186.
>51) At times the Septuagint shows a complete ignorance of the Hebrew
text, p. 186.

But does it show a complete ignorance of the Hebrew LXX text tradition (as
seen in the DSS)?

>52) The translators made the LXX from a Codex which differed widely in
places from the
>text crystallized by the Masorah, p. 186.

Again, at Qumran there was quite a mixture of text traditions. Though there
was a tendency towards MT there were also traces of Samaritan and LXX type
traditions (in Hebrew). The MT was put together later than the writing of
the individual parts, so there was time for a standardization, probably
after the imposition of orthodoxy.

>53) The LXX's influence upon the Greek-speaking Jews was great;
>54) The Septuagint became the Canonical Greek Bible, as Luther's the
German and the King
>James, the English Bible; p. 186;
>55) The LXX is the version used by the Hellenistic Jewish writers; Philo,
and Josephus;
>p. 186.

One has trouble seeing just exactly what Philo had access to. He knows the
torah and a few other books, but can you make any conclusions on the little
he gives of those other works?

Josephus, working on his own words, didn't have non-torah literature in Greek.

>56) The LXX is the source for the Book of Wisdom, the translation of Ben
Sira, and the
>Jewish Sibyllines;
>57) Philo based his citations from the LXX, though he had no scruples
about  modifying
>them or citing them with much freedom;

One often works on memory. Now, was Philo's source the LXX text or was it
from the LXX Hebrew text tradition?

>58) The LXX became the Old Testament of the Christian Church, p. 186.


>59) 2 things rendered the Septuagint unwelcome to the Jews in the Long  Run;
>a. Its divergence from the accepted text, afterwards called the Masoretic
>was too evident; it could not serve as a basis for theological discussion
or for
>homiletic interpretation, page 186.

To put this in perspective. There was quite a divergence of traditions in
the Hebrew text as shown in the DSS. One can imagine that Javneh (and other
institutionalisations) of Judaism was an attempt to pick up the pieces
after the disaster and get back to business. The major players in this
re-establishment of the religion were the Pharisees and their heirs. This
move provided the opportunity to impose a standard version of the text,
meaning that all the flavours seen at Qumran went.

Obviously the Aristeas story is a legend. The text base was not that of the
main stream text which was prevalent at Qumran. One would expect the basic
text for such a translation, if provided by the Jerusalem temple would be
the prevalent text. As the LXX is not based on such a text, one must
conclude that the Aristeas story is not based on fact.

> b. The New Faith, Christianity, adopted the LXX as the Sacred
Scriptures, p. 186.
>60) Because of these 2 facts, a revision in the sense of the canonical
Jewish Text was
>necessary, p. 186.

But we are in the third century at this stage.

>61) Aquilla, a proselyte, made the first revision sometime during the
reign of Hadrian,
>117-138, A. D. p. 186.
>62) He was a student of Rabbi Akiba and embodied in his revision the
principles of the
>strictest liberal interpretation of the text, p. 186;
>63) "certainly his translation is pedantic, and its Greek in uncouth,: p.
186, D.Q.
>64) Its goal was to reproduce the Hebrew text word for word;

There is no reason to suspect that a text that is a more "literal"
rendering is later than one that is looser. The opposite is more likely.
But then the source editions were different and the aims were also probably

I give up here. There is just too much to comment on.



>65) Because of this, the Hebrew speaking Jews looked favorably upon it;
>66) It was received where the Hebrew language was still understood;
>67) Its popularity covered from Origen's days down to the fourth and fifth
>68) From Aquilla a few fragments have come down to us;
>69) There are also many citation made by Christian writers from Origen's
>70) In the middle of the Sixth Century a section of the Jews in Byzantium
wished to read
>the Sabbath lectures in Greek as well as Hebrew, but the Rabbis and
Authorities desired
>that only Hebrew should be read,  p. 186;
>71) The Emperor Justinian issued an "novella" in which it was expressly
stated that "the
>Hebrews are allowed to read the Holy Writ in their synagogues in the Greek
language, p.
>72) He advised them to use either the LXX or Acquilla.
>73) The third Translation into the Greek was Thedotion's translation.  His
version of
>Daniel entirely displaced the LXX's version of Daniel and in other
portions his
>translations are occasionally found in ordinary Septuagint manuscripts;
>74) Theodotion made a second revision of the LXX, p. 187.
>75) He may have been a native of Ephesus who may have lived toward the end
of the second
>century and is often referred to as a convert to Judaism;
>76) His revision also is said to be in the nature of a recurrence to the
Hebrew text, p.
>77) Theodotion avoided Acquilla's "pedantry" and his Greek gives us a
readable text;
>78) No reason is known (among the Jewish writers) as to why Theodotion's
>replaced LXX's Daniel, p. 187;
>79) Symmachus made a third translation of the LXX,  n.d. who wished to
smooth down
>Acquilla's un-Grecian Greek by the use of both the LXX and Theodotion.  He
seemed to be
>the best stylist of all;
>80) Epiphanius claims he was a Samaritan who converted to Judaism while
Eusebius and
>Jerome made him out to be an Ebionite; p. 187.
>1) The Jews produced four O. T. Translations into Greek; (Note Horne's
>classifications of these in his Introduction)
>  a. The LXX or Septuagint, the Alexanderian Version;
>  b. The Aquallia Version, made by a convert to Judaism;
>  c. Theodotion's Translation, this was a second attempt to  upgrade the
LXX, his
>version of Daniel replaced the two former versions of Daniel, and the
>d. Symmachus's Version, was an effort at trying to smooth down Acquilla's
>Greek, by relying upon the LXX and Theodotion; He seems to have been a
Samaritan who
>converted to Judaism first then became an Ebionite.
>  e. The Jews welcomed the LXX and then, following Christ's coming, did
everything they
>could to prevent their Hebrew Cannon from ever again being translated into
>f. Two factors caused the new Jewish attitude toward the LXX:
>1) The New Faith (Christianity) received it as their Old Testament as
inspired by God;
>2) It was too different from the new Jewish Text, the Masoritic Text;
>  g. The modern Christian attitude toward the LXX is almost as the older
Jewish attitude
>toward the LXX following Christ's first coming.  It is just the opposite
as the attitude
>of the first Christians up until the Latin version replaced it in the
Western World in
>the second century.
>  h. The Jewish attitude before and after Christ's coming in the flesh,
and the rules
>and traditions against the LXX and the Greek language and culture after
the first coming
>of Christ,are important epics in the history of Judaism, the history of
Christianity and
>the history of the LXX and Textual  Criticism.
>i. This article updates the origin of the Targums by showing that they were
>written in an Western-Aramaic dialect, which makes it closer to Christ's
first coming
>than before believed.

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