Lost in Translation

The Septuagint is the earliest Greek translation of the Hebrew Bible.

It is called the Septuagint and in some circles is known simply as LXX. But for the benefit of those unfamiliar with the peculiar sounding term, the Septuagint is the earliest Greek translation of the Hebrew Bible.

The Septuagint Institute at Trinity Western University is dedicated to the study of this anthology of ancient texts. Created to promote research on the Septuagint, the Institute involves the largest group of specialists in this field of research at any academic institution in the country: Dr. Rob Hiebert, Dr. Larry Perkins, Dr. Dirk Büchner and Dr. Peter Flint.

From September 18-20, the Septuagint Institute will host a gathering of some of the world's most prominent biblical scholars who will discuss the results of their research on the Septuagint. The conference marks a special occasion as well for the four Trinity Western University scholars as it will be an opportunity to celebrate, together with other experts, the recent publication by Oxford University Press of A New English Translation of the Septuagint.

Dr. Rob Hiebert, Director of the Septuagint Institute, says, "This conference marks the culmination of a great deal of work regarding the translation of the Septuagint. Our entire team here at the Institute was involved in writing introductions to, and in doing the translations of, the first four books of the Bible. Specifically, I was responsible for Genesis, Dr. Perkins for Exodus, Dr. Büchner for Leviticus, and Dr. Flint for Numbers. We will also be writing commentaries on the books we translated."

There are some significant differences between the text of the Greek Septuagint and that of the Hebrew Bible that make studying them inherently interesting. For example, the ordering of chapters in the book of Jeremiah and even Jeremiah's book length are different in these two versions. Furthermore, the book of Job in the Septuagint is one-sixth shorter than what is written in the Hebrew Bible, the Greek book of Esther is two-thirds longer than its Hebrew counterpart, and there are double Greek texts of books like Judges and Daniel. These realities raise important questions about the reasons for such differences and about which currently available texts bring us closer to the work of the original biblical authors.

When asked why this kind of research captivates him, Hiebert replies, "The Septuagint is a fascinating and important body of literature to study because it is the product of what is likely the first major translation project involving religious literature in history. It is also the first translation of the Hebrew Bible into another language, and it provides us with insight into the Hellenistic Jewish community's understanding of its Scriptures in the three centuries before the time of Jesus."

He continues, "We know that the Septuagint was the ‘Old Testament' of the early Church because the majority of the quotations of the Jewish Scriptures in the Greek New Testament come from the Septuagint. And when the biblical author spoke in 2 Timothy 3:16 of inspired Scripture, the Septuagint would have had as good a claim as any Bible version at the time to be included in that characterization."

The theme of the September 2008 conference is "Septuagint Translation(s): Retrospect and Prospect." The roster of invited speakers from across Europe and North America includes Albert Pietersma (University of Toronto), Benjamin Wright (Lehigh University, Pennsylvania), Jan Joosten (Université Marc Bloch, France), Wolfgang Kraus (University of the Saarland, Germany), Alison Salvesen (Oxford University), Melvin Peters (Duke University, North Carolina), and Cameron Boyd-Taylor (University of Cambridge).

For more information regarding the Septuagint Institute at TWU, visit the website at www.septuagint.ca

Event At A Glance

What: International Septuagint Conference & Canadian launch of A New English Translation of the Septuagint.
Where: Trinity Western University, Northwest Auditorium - 7600 Glover Road, Langley, BC.
When: September 18-20, 2008
Cost: $125.00 for the full conference including lunches
(single day and student rates available - please inquire)
Contact: Loren Warkentin Tel: 604-513-2121 ext 3866, Fax: 604-513-8511,
Email: loren.warkentin@twu.ca

Trinity Western University, in Langley, B.C. is an independent Christian liberal arts and sciences university enrolling approximately 4000 students. TWU offers undergraduate degrees in 40 major areas of study ranging from biotechnology, education, nursing, theatre and music, to psychology, communications and biblical studies. TWU's 16 graduate degree programs include counseling psychology, business, theology and leadership, and the university offers interdisciplinary studies in English, philosophy and history. TWU holds Canada Research Chairs in Biblical Studies, Biology, and Interpretation, Religion & Culture.


Last Updated: 2008-09-02
Author: Erin Mussolum