The most noted Old Testament translated into Greek is the Septuagint (also known as the LXX). The conventional thought is that the LXX was translated from the Hebrew text by Hellenistic Jews during the period from 275 to 100 BC at Alexandria, Egypt. And, as pointed out by scholars such as Ralph W. Klein, the LXX used a differing Hebrew text and not that of the Masorictic Text type, as reflected in some of the finding among the DSS. The LXX was used by Jerome in producing his Old Testament of the Latin Vulgate used by the Roman Catholic Church, and the LXX remains the official Old Testament of the Greek Orthodox Church. This accounts for the additional books found in the Catholic and Orthodox Churches known as the Apocrypha, because they are contained in the text of the LXX.

The association of the Latin numbers LXX (meaning 70) with the Septuagint comes from the legend concerning the origin of this Greek translation. According to the Letter of Aristeas seventy Jewish scholars were chosen to translate the Law of Moses into Greek so that it could be added to the great library of Ptolemy Philadelphus in Alexandria, Egypt. The letter states that the High Priest in Jerusalem sent 72 scholars to the Egyptian king. The High Priest writes, " In the presence of all the people I selected six elders from each tribe, good men and true, and I have sent them to you with a copy of our law. It will be a kindness, O righteous king, if you will give instruction that as soon as the translation of the law is completed, the men shall be restored again to us in safety." (Letter of Aristeas 2:34-35). Thus six scholars from the twelve tribes number seventy-two (it is to be assumed that the 70 is merely a rounding off of the 72).

One wide-spread myth concerning the LXX is an old story which states that the translators worked on their translation alone and compared their work each morning, only to find that each had translated the passage exactly the same. This, of course, has no historical foundation and some have falsely applied this story to the translators of the King James Bible. However, stories such as this one caused some to claim inspiration for the LXX. Dr. Karlfried Froehlich notes this and writes, " Inspiration was also claimed for the Greek translation of the 'Seventy', which was endorsed by Alexandrian Jewish authorities. In Christian eyes, the legend of the Septuagint's miraculous origin, first told in the Letter of Aristeas, then elaborated by Philo, and further embellished by Christian authors such as Justin Martyr, Irenaeus of Lyons, Tertullian, and Augustine, even rendered the Septuagint superior to the Hebrew original." (The Oxford Companion to the Bible, p. 310).

Even if the story given in the Letter of Aristeas were true, the Greek translation deals only with the first five books of the Old Testament. Most scholars note that there are differences in style and quality of translation within the LXX and assign a much greater time frame than the seventy-two days allotted in the Letter of Aristeas. In his book, Textual Criticism of the Old Testament: The Septuagint after Qumran, Ralph Klein notes, " the Letter of Aristeas is riddled with many historical improbabilities and errors. . .And yet, however legendary and improbable the details, many still believe that some accurate historical facts about the LXX can be distilled from Aristeas: (1) the translation began in the third century BC; (2) Egypt was the place of origin; and (3) the Pentateuch was done first." (p. 2).

Dr. F. F. Bruce correctly points out that, strictly speaking, the LXX deals only with the Law and not the whole Old Testament. Bruce writes, " The Jews might have gone on at a later time to authorize a standard text of the rest of the Septuagint, but . . . lost interest in the Septuagint altogether. With but few exceptions, every manuscript of the Septuagint which has come down to our day was copied and preserved in Christian, not Jewish, circles." (The Books and the Parchments, p.150). This is important to note because the manuscripts which consist of our LXX today date to the third century AD. Although there are fragments which pre-date Christianity and some of the Hebrew DSS agree with the LXX, the majority of manuscripts we have of the LXX date well into the Christian era. And, not all of these agree.

The most noted copy of the LXX is that found in the Hexapla by Origen. Origen produced an Old Testament with six translations paralleled together, called the Hexapla which means sixfold. The fifth column was the LXX. (The columns of the Hexapla were as follows: 1. The Hebrew text. 2. The Hebrew transliterated into Greek. 3. The Greek translation of Aquila. 4. The Greek translation of Symmachus. 5. The LXX. 6. The Greek translation of Theodotion.) However, we do not have Origen's Hexapla (with the exception of a few limited fragments). Sir Frederic Kenyon wrote, " A considerable number of MSS. exist which give information as to Origen's Hexaplaric text and particular passages in the other columns, but these do not go far towards enabling us to recover the LXX text as it existed before Origen; and this remains the greatest problem which confronts the textual student of the Septuagint. Until we can do that, we are not in a position fully to utilize the evidence of the Greek for the recovery of the pre-Masoretic Hebrew." (The Text of the Greek Bible, p.35). In other words, we cannot fully reconstruct Origen's fifth column, let alone a pre-Origenian Septuagint.

Origen's LXX was revised and edited by two of his disciples, Pamphilus and Eusebius. There were additional Greek translations of the Old Testament during this time which were also contained in the Hexapla, such as the work by Aquila and Theodotion. Some scholars believe that the translation produced by Theodotion replaced the LXX in the book of Daniel so that the readings there are really that of Theodotion and not of the LXX. However, others have claimed that this is not the case. Therefore, concerning Origen's Hexapla and the LXX the best scholars can say is that cited by Ernst Wurthwein, " Although no authentic manuscript of the Hexaplaric Septuagint has survived, there are manuscripts which represent the text of Origen more or less closely." (The Text of the Old Testament, p.57). Two such manuscripts which represent the text of Origen are Codex Vaticanus and Codex Sinaiticus, which the student will recall from our study of New Testament textual criticism.