Tuesday, June 20, 2006

Pre-Septuagintal OT translations

The Letter of Aristeas 314 and Aristobulus (C3-2 BC) in Eusebius' Praeparatio Evangelica 13.12 seem to assert that there were Greek translations of parts of the Pentateuch prior to the Septuagint. Is it possible that we have the remains of any aspects of those earlier translations in our current Septuagints? How early could they be?


  1. A reference like this from Aristeas is hard to take serious, but it would be (at least) a tiny notch in favour of Kahle's Targumic theory, since he saw the Letter as standardising one translation over the many. I'm not sure if Wevers has anything on this in his Text History volumes, but it would be something interesting to trace. But an interesting spin on the question would be: could any of the evidence noted as 'pre-Hexaplaric' recensional activity (such as found at Qumran in 4QLXXNum, etc.) point instead to a pre-Septuagint translational activity?

    I wouldn't think we could go too far back from the 3rd cent date of the LXX?????

  2. Of course one of the problems with the Aristobulus quotation is that it occurs in the context of claims that Greeks (e.g. Socrates, Plato) borrowed from Hebrews. To some extent the claimed existence of pre-LXX translations was necessary to make the theory of Greek borrowing plausible (Philo and Josephus were also not averse to suggesting that the best Greek ideas came from the Hebrews).

    Nevertheless if Eusebius is reliably quoting Aristobulus, he is sufficiently early to suggest that the appearance of translation activity in the first part of the third century was not entirely sudden.

  3. There is distinct evidence of a 4th-century translation of part of Daniel into Greek, at least orally:

    And when the Book of Daniel was showed him wherein Daniel declared that one of the Greeks should destroy the empire of the Persians, he supposed that himself was the person intended.
    --Antiquities of the Jews Book XI, 7:5