Bible Review 5:4, August 1989

Mission To Alexandria

Truth and legend about the creation of the Septuagint, the first Bible translation

By Leonard J. Greenspoon

It often comes as a surprise to laypeople to learn that ancient copies of the Bible vary, sometimes in minor ways, but sometimes, also, in important ways. Variation exists between any two manuscripts of the Bible, even when they are written in the same language. But apart from minor variations among ancient manuscripts, when all the evidence from antiquity is compared, two important traditions of the biblical text emerge. They are the Masoretic text and the Septuagint. The Masoretic text (MT, for short) is the Hebrew text as standardized by Jewish scribes in the tenth century A.D. Although our oldest extant copy of the MT is about a hundred years later, the texts these scribes worked with were obviously much older than the tenth century A.D. and were directly linked to still earlier texts, as we now know from the Dead Sea Scrolls.

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