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The inter-relationship between various ancient versions of the Old Testament, between ca. 400 BC and AD 600, according to the Encyclopaedia Biblica. Origen's Hexapla, here labelled with the adjectival Hexaplar, is shown as the source of the Codex Sinaiticus (א), Codex Alexandrinus (A) and Codex Vaticanus (B), three of the oldest extant manuscripts of the Greek Old Testament, as well as of two early Syro-Aramaic translations, the Harklean and Palestinian versions.

Hexapla (Ancient Greek: Ἑξαπλᾶ, "sixfold"), also called Origenis Hexaplorum, is a critical edition of the Hebrew Bible in six versions, four of them translated into Greek,[1] preserved only in fragments. It was an immense and complex word-for-word comparison of the original Hebrew Scriptures with the Greek Septuagint translation and with other Greek translations.[2] The term especially and generally applies to the edition of the Old Testament compiled by the theologian and scholar Origen, sometime before AD 240.

Text from the Hexapla showing Proverbs 3.

The subsisting fragments of partial copies have been collected in several editions, that of Frederick Field (1875) being the most fundamental on the basis of Greek and Syrian testimonies. The surviving fragments are now being re-published (with additional materials discovered since Field's edition) by an international group of Septuagint scholars. This work is being carried out as The Hexapla Project[3] under the auspices of the International Organization for Septuagint and Cognate Studies,[4]. and directed by Dr Neil McLynn. The members of the editorial board are: Peter J. Gentry (Louisville, Kentucky and the Septuaginta-Unternehmung, Göttingen), Dr Alison G. Salvesen (Oxford University), and Bas ter Haar Romeny (Leiden University).


Origen with his disciples. Engraved by Jan Luyken, c. 1700

Origen began to study biblical Hebrew in his youth; forced to relocate to Palestine during the persecution of Christianity in Alexandria, he went into biblical textology and by the 240s he commented on virtually all books of the Old and New Testaments. His method of working with the biblical text was described in a message to Sextus Julius Africanus (c. 240) and a commentary on the Gospel of Matthew:

Origen, in his Commentary of the Gospel of Matthew, explained the purpose for creating the Hexapla:

due to discrepancies between the manuscripts of the Old Testament, with God's help, we were able to overcome using the testimony of other editions. This is because these points in the Septuagint, which because of discrepancies found in [other] manuscripts had given occasion for doubt, we have evaluated on the basis of these other editions, and marked with an obelus those places that were missing in the Hebrew text [...] while others have added the asterisk sign where it was apparent that the lessons were not found in the Septuagint; we have added the other, consistent with the text of the Hebrew editions.[5]


Hexapla fragment (Taylor-Schechter 12.182). The text of the Hexapla is the faint text visible in the upper part of the page; the page has been overwritten by a younger Hebrew text (shown upside down in this image).

The text of the Hexapla was organized in the form of six columns representing synchronized versions of the same Old Testament text, which placed side by side were the following:

  1. the Hebrew consonantal text
  2. the Secunda – the Hebrew text transliterated into Greek characters including vowels
  3. the translation by Aquila of Sinope into Greek (2nd century)
  4. the translation by Symmachus the Ebionite into Greek (late 2nd century)
  5. a recension of the Septuagint, with (1) interpolations to indicate where the Hebrew is not represented in the Septuagint (taken mainly from Theodotion's text and marked with asterisks), and (2) indications, using signs called obeloi (singular: obelus), of where words, phrases, or occasionally larger sections in the Septuagint do not reflect any underlying Hebrew
  6. the translation by Theodotion[6] into Greek (mid 2nd century)

At the end of his life Origen prepared a separate work called Tetrapla (a synoptic set of four Greek translations), placing the Septuagint alongside the translations of Symmachus, Aquila and Theodotion.[7] Both Hexapla and Tetrapla are found in Greek manuscripts of the Septuagint, as well as manuscripts of the Syro-hexaplar version. However, in a number of cases, the names of "Hexapla" and "Octapla" (in the Book of Job from the manuscripts of the Syro-Hexapla and the hexaplar Psalms) are also applied to the work of Origen. This caused a discussion in its time about whether these were separate works. According to Eusebius of Caesarea, the Hexapla contained three more translations of the Greek Psalms (Quinta, Sexta and Septima), which, however, have not been preserved (for a total of 9 columns, a so-called Enneapla).[8]

[Origen] was looking for translations that exist in addition to the Seventy and in addition to the generally used translations of Aquila, Simmachus and Theodotion. I do not know from which unknown places, where they lay long ago, he extracted them into the light of God. The owner of them remained unknown to him, and he only said that he had found a copy in Likopol, near Actium, and another - in some other place. In the Hexapla, he, along with four famous translations of the psalms, places not only the fifth, but also the sixth and seventh with notes to one: he found it under Caracalla, the son of the North, in Jericho, in an enormous clay jar (Ancient Greek - πίθος)

— Hist. Eccl., VI, 16

According to Epiphanius, the original Hexapla compiled by Origen had a total of eight columns and included two other anonymous Greek translations, one of which was discovered in wine jars in Jericho during the reign of Caracalla.[9] The so-called "fifth" and "sixth editions" were two other Greek translations supposedly discovered by students outside the towns of Jericho and Nicopolis: these were later added by Origen to his Hexapla to make the Octapla.[10]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Epiphanius' Treatise on Weights and Measures - The Syriac Version (ed. James Elmer Dean), University of Chicago Press 1935, p. 36
  2. ^ Trigg, Joseoph W. - Origen - The Early Church Fathers - 1998, Routledge, London and New York, page 16. Retrieved 31 August 2015.
  3. ^ "Website of the Hexapla Project". Archived from the original on 27 March 2019. Retrieved 13 January 2020.
  4. ^ Website of the International Organization for Septuagint and Cognate Studies
  5. ^ Origen, Commentary on the Gospel according to Matthew, K. Augustyniak, Kraków: WAM 1998, p. 246.
  6. ^ Würthwein, E. (1987). Der Text des Alten Testaments. Stuttgart: Deutsche Bibelgesellschaft. p. 66.
  7. ^ Eusebius, Church History, VI/16:4
  8. ^ Słownik pisarzy antycznych ("Dictionary of Ancient Writers") red. Anna Świderkówna WP Warszawa 1982
  9. ^ Epiphanius' Treatise on Weights and Measures - The Syriac Version (ed. James Elmer Dean), University of Chicago Press 1935, pp. 33–34, 36
  10. ^ Cave, Wm. A complete history of the lives, acts, and martyrdoms of the holy apostles, and the two evangelists, St. Mark and Luke, Vol. II. Wiatt (Philadelphia), 1810. Accessed 6 Feb 2013.


  • Felix Albrecht: Art. Hexapla of Origen, in: The Encyclopedia of the Bible and Its Reception 11, Berlin et al. 2015, cols. 1000–1002.
  • Alison Salvesen (Hrsg.): Origen's hexapla and fragments. Papers presented at the Rich Seminar on the Hexapla, Oxford Centre for Hebrew and Jewish Studies, 25th July – 3rd August 1994 (= Texts and studies in ancient Judaism. Bd. 58). Mohr Siebeck, Tübingen 1998, ISBN 3-16-146575-X.
  • John Daniel Meade, A Critical Edition of the Hexaplaric Fragments of Job 22-42, Origen’s Hexapla: A Critical Edition of the Extant Fragments (Leuven: Peeters, 2020).
  • Erich Klostermann: Analecta zur Septuaginta, Hexapla und Patristik. Leipzig: Deichert, 1895.
  • Frederick Field (ed.): Origenis hexaplorum quae supersunt: sive veterum interpretum Graecorum in totum vetus testamentum fragmenta. Post Flaminium nobilium, Drusium, et Montefalconium, adhibita etiam versione Syro-Hexaplari. 2 vols. Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1875 (vol. 1: Genesis – Esther. Hexapla at the Internet Archive; vol. 2: Hiob – Maleachi. Hexapla at the Internet Archive).
  • Anthony Grafton and Megan Williams, Christianity and the Transformation of the Book: Origen, Eusebius, and the Library of Caesarea. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 2006.
  • John Johnson, Hexapla from the Lexham Bible Dictionary, 2013.
  • Herbermann, Charles, ed. (1913). "Hexapla" . Catholic Encyclopedia. New York: Robert Appleton Company.
  • Jewish Encyclopedia: Origen: His "Hexapla"

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