Septuagint manuscripts

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LXXVTS 10a, a papyrus fragment from Nahal Hever scroll
including Habakkuk 2:19, 20
dated to between 50 BC and 50 AD.[citation needed]

The Septuagint, the ancient (first centuries BC) Alexandrian translation of Jewish scriptures into Koine Greek exists in various manuscript versions.[1][2][3][4][5]


Manuscripts are generally numbered according to Alfred Rahlfs' Verzeichnis der griechischen Handschriften des Alten Testaments (1914). The oldest manuscripts of the Septuagint include 2nd century BC fragments of Leviticus and Deuteronomy (Rahlfs nos. 801, 819, and 957), and 1st century BC fragments of Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers, Deuteronomy, and the Minor Prophets (Rahlfs nos. 802, 803, 805, 848, 942, and 943).

Manuscripts of the Septuagint:

The four Great uncial codices of the Codex Sinaiticus (S), Codex Vaticanus (B), Codex Alexandrinus (A), and Codex Ephraemi Rescriptus (C), are the most complete, and there are hundreds of other manuscripts that have a few variant readings that are useful for tracing the development of the text.

Dead Sea scrolls manuscripts[edit]

Since 1948 more Septuagint manuscripts from the Dead Sea scrolls have become available: Examples of extant manuscripts include:

  • 4Q119 (4Q LXXLeva)
  • 4Q120 (4Q LXXLevb) – the sole fragment with Greek IAO to represent the Hebrew tetragrammaton.
  • 4Q121 (4Q LXXNum)
  • 4Q122 (4Q LXXDeut)
  • 7Q1 (7Q LXXEx)
  • 7Q2 (7Q LXXEpJer)

Aquila, Symmachus and Theodotion[edit]

Later Jewish revisions and recensions of the Greek against the Hebrew are well attested (though only fragments of them survive into the present time), the most famous of which include "the Three": Aquila (AD 128), Symmachus and Theodotion. These three, to varying degrees, are more literal renderings of their contemporary Hebrew scriptures as compared to the Old Greek. Some modern scholars consider one or more of the three to be totally new Greek versions of the Hebrew Bible.[6]

Treatment of the Tetragrammaton in Septuagint manuscripts[edit]

Older Jewish manuscripts of the Septuagint often had the letters YHWH or a space, within the Greek text.

The Tetragrammaton in Paleo-Hebrew (10th century BC to 135 AD), Aramaic alphabet (10th century BC to 4th century AD) and modern Hebrew scripts.
Main article: Septuagint

The title "Old Testament", traditionally credited to Tertullian, is a term variably denoting the Hebrew Bible, especially those books comprising the first half of the Christian Bible canon. The earliest translation of the Old Testament into Koine Greek is called the Septuagint, which continues to be the official version of the Old Testament used within the Eastern Orthodox Church. The Septuagint translation was completed prior to the birth of Jesus. He and the Apostles quoted extensively from it. This is no surprise, since the New Testament was itself most likely written in Greek (see Aramaic primacy for the counterargument); and the earliest surviving New Testament manuscripts are written in Greek.

Greek Septuagint manuscripts with Greek Kyrios[edit]

The majority of extant manuscripts include Kyrios.[7][8] Other Jewish Greek texts of the period - including those of Philo - do have kyrios ("LORD") when rendering the tetragrammaton YHWH into Greek, the same as all extant manuscripts of the New Testament. Josephus uses despotes. Some manuscripts have both, such as Aquila 2 Kings 23:34 found at Geniza, which has both YHWH then later Kyrios.[9]

Greek Septuagint manuscripts with Hebrew YHWH[edit]

Some Septuagint manuscripts render it 𐤉𐤄𐤅𐤄 (Paleo-Hebrew script, which borrows from the Phoenician alphabet); and still other variations are evidenced in early Greek OT manuscripts.[citation needed][10] One version containing 𐤉𐤄𐤅𐤄 is that of Aquila of Sinope.[11] Jerome mentions that some Septuagint manuscripts contain the Hebrew letters YHWH (Prologus Galeatus), he also comments (Letter 25 to Marcellus) that this Hebrew could mislead some Greek readers to read YHWH as "Pipi" (ΠΙΠΙ), since the letters YHWH (read right to left) look like Pi Iota Pi Iota (read left to right) in Greek.[12] Papyrus Fouad 266 is an example of this kind of text, though the original scribe left a space, and a second scribe filled it in later.[13] Hanhart (1978) and Pietersma (1984) regard this space for YHWH as a later reaction to earlier use of Kyrios in earlier copies of the Septuagint.

Fragments of ancient Greek manuscripts of the Hebrew Bible (Old Testament) that include God's personal name יהוה (the Tetragrammaton) have been discovered during recent decades. They were produced by pre-Christian Jewish copyists and by post-Christian Jewish redactors in order to improve the then available Greek translations of the Hebrew Biblical text. At that time, the textual standard for Greek speaking Christians was the LXX version.

Greek Septuagint manuscripts with spaces for YHWH[edit]

Some copies of the Greek Old Testament dating from the latter part of intertestamental period, translated from lost Hebrew exemplars, contain lacunae wherever the Tetragrammaton occurred in the Hebrew.

The Qumran Leviticus fragment with Greek IAO[edit]

Only one manuscript renders the Tetragrammaton with ιαω. This was discovered in the Dead Sea scrolls. This manuscript may appear to go against the usual practice of reading "Lord" (Hebrew Adonai, Greek Kyrios) for YHWH. Otherwise IAO is only found on Jewish magical inscriptions - indicating that IAO was taboo.[citation needed]


Some copies of the Greek Old Testament from the later centuries BC, which are translated from Hebrew texts, leave a blank space, or four dots, where the Tetragrammaton occurs in the Hebrew. One fragment of Leviticus (4Q LXXLevb) among the Dead Sea scrolls represents the divine name by "ΙΑΩ" (IAO). Some others use Phoenician he.pngPhoenician waw.pngPhoenician he.pngPhoenician yodh.png; and other variations are evidenced in early manuscripts.[14] A notable version using Phoenician he.pngPhoenician waw.pngPhoenician he.pngPhoenician yodh.png is the version by Aquila of Sinope.[15]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Sidney Jellicoe, The Septuagint and modern study, 1968, pp. 175, Ch. VII: "For the manuscripts the familiar threefold classification into (1) Uncials, (2) Cursives, and (3) Papyri and Fragments has been adopted, although (see p. 176, n. 1, infra) it is not entirely"
  2. ^ Wolfgang Kraus, R. Glenn Wooden, Septuagint research: issues and challenges, 2006
  3. ^ Natalio Fernández Marcos, The Septuagint in Context: Introduction to the Greek Version of the Bible, 2000, Ch. 15
  4. ^ Cécile Dogniez, Bibliography of the Septuagint, 1995 [This volume is a successor to "A Classified Bibliography of the Septuagint (Brill, Leiden 1973), by S.P. Brock, C. T. Fritsch and S. Jellicoe, for the literature on the Septuagint published between 1970 and 1993."
  5. ^ Henry Barclay Swete, Henry St. John Thackeray, An Introduction to the Old Testament in Greek: With an Appendix, 1900, reprint 2010, pp. 122, Ch. V: "Manuscripts of the Septuagint".
  6. ^ Compare Dines, who is certain only of Symmachus being a truly new version, with Würthwein, who considers only Theodotion to be a revision, and even then possibly of an earlier non-LXX version.
  7. ^ Philip Schaff. "LORD". New Schaff-Herzog Encyclopedia of Religious Knowledge, Vol. VII: Liutprand - Moralities. p. 21. 
  8. ^ Archibald Thomas Robertson. "10". Word Pictures in the New Testament - Romans. 
  9. ^ David B. Capes, Old Testament Yahweh texts in Paul's Christology, 1992, p. 41
  10. ^ The 'Textual Mechanics' of Early Jewish LXX/OG Papyri and Fragments
  11. ^ Swete's Intro to the OT in Greek, chapter 2.6.5: "The Tetragrammaton is not transliterated, but written in Hebrew letters, and the characters are of the archaic type ([script not available], not יהזה); cf. Orig. in Ps. ii., και εν τοις ακριβεστατοις δε των αντιγραφων Εβραιοις χαρακτηρσιν κειται το ονομα, Εβραικοις δε ου τοις νυν αλλα τοις αρχαιοτατοις — where the 'most exact copies' are doubtless those of Aquila's version, for there is no reason to suppose that any copyists of the Alexandrian version hesitated to write ο κς or κε for יהזה"
  12. ^ Ernst Würthwein, The text of the Old Testament: an introduction to the Biblia Hebraica, 1994, p. 190
  13. ^ Würthwein, p. 190[full citation needed]
  14. ^ See The 'Textual Mechanics' of Early Jewish LXX/OG Papyri and Fragments.
  15. ^ See Swete's Intro to the OT in Greek, chapter 2.6.5: "The Tetragrammaton is not transliterated, but written in Hebrew letters, and the characters are of the archaic type ([script not available], not יהזה); cf. Orig. in Ps. ii., καὶ ἐν τοῖς ἀκριβεστάτοις δὲ τῶν ἀντιγράφων Ἐβραίοις χαρακτῆρσιν κεῖται τὸ ὄνομα, Ἐβραικοῖς δὲ οὐ τοῖς νῦν ἀλλὰ τοῖς ἀρχαιοτάτοις —where the 'most exact copies' are doubtless those of Aquila's version, for there is no reason to suppose that any copyists of the Alexandrian version hesitated to write ο κς or κε for יהזה"