Q: #178. What is the Septuagint?
A: During the intertestamental period, the 400 “silent” years between the Old and New Testament, when nothing was written for the Canon of the Bible, King Ptolomy II reigned in Alexandria, Egypt from (285-246 B.C.). A large number of Jews also lived in Alexandria during this time, having begun to settle there several generations earlier after Alexander the Great (356-323 B.C.) ruled.
Because Greek was the language spoken in Egypt at that time, many of these Jews had lost their ability to speak or read their native Hebrew language over the years, including the Old Testament scriptures which were written in Hebrew. (Remember that the Old Testament was written in Hebrew, while the New Testament was written in Greek.) Because of this, and because King Ptolomy II wanted to add the Old Testament to his VAST library collection (the Library at Alexandria was the largest and most most famous in the world), he requested that 70 (possibly 72) Jewish scholars come to Alexandria to translate the Old Testament from Hebrew into Greek.
Most believe that this work began between (280-250 B.C.), starting with the Pentateuch (first 5 books of the Old Testament), with the rest of the Old Testament being finished around (200-150 B.C.). They translated the Old Testament using what was known as “Koine” Greek or common Greek as opposed to several other more formal and classical types of Greek. The result of their work was the oldest translation of the Old Testament in the world.
The Septuagint (Latin- Septuaginta for 70) is also known as the LXX. The reason for this is that LXX is the Roman Numerals for 70, standing for the number of scholars who did the translating.
Many scholars teach that the Septuagint was widely used during New Testament times, and that the vast majority of quotations made from the Old Testament by writers of the New Testament were made from the Septuagint.
It should be noted that while the Septuagint did contain all of the Old Testament books, it also included a number of Apocryphal books as well.
A minority of critics believe that the Septuagint was not written at all.