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A New English Translation of the Septuagint

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A New English Translation of the Septuagint

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A New English Translation of the Septuagint
By Albert Pietersma and Benjamin G. Wright
Oxford University Press, (2007)
ISBN-10: 0195289757
ISBN-13: 978-0195289756

Reviewed by Israel Drazin - April 1, 2010

This is an excellent translation of the Septuagint, the first translation of the Hebrew Bible, rendered into Greek.

There are essentially two approaches to understanding the Septuagint. The first, the general consensus among academics today, is that there was an original Torah that no longer exists. Academics call this lost Torah the "Ur-Torah," or original Torah. According to these academics, three different strands of Judaism copied the Ur-Torah before it was lost, making changes to its wording for various reasons, such as to use it to prove their conception of Judaism, or to add clarity, or because of simple errors or misunderstandings. According to this approach, the Septuagint is one version of the original lost Torah, the Samaritan Bible is a second, and the current Hebrew text, called the Masoretic Text, is the third.

The third version is named the Masoretic Text because early scholars, called Masorites (from the word masorah, meaning traditional), worked on the text to ensure that it was what they considered the correct original divine text from the past. The Masorites lived and worked during the first millennium of the Common Era. Different Masoretic versions, with very slight variations, existed as late as the twelfth century. The great Jewish philosopher and codifier Moses Maimonides (1138-1204) examined them and decided which was correct, and his decision was generally accepted. There are still very minor differences in texts today.

The second view, the view of many traditional believers, is that the Masoretic Text is the original Torah, although it contains some errors; the Septuagint and Samaritan Bible inserted changes into this original text intentionally to meet the needs of the groups who were using the two altered versions. They are thus changes to the Masoretic Text, not changes to an Ur-Torah.

This book is important whichever view one accepts because of the antiquity of the Septuagint.


Dr. Israel Drazin is the author of seventeen books, including a series of five volumes on the Aramaic translation of the Hebrew Bible, which he co-authors with Dr. Stanley M. Wagner, and a series of four books on the twelfth century philosopher Moses Maimonides. The Orthodox Union (OU) and Yeshiva University publish weekly chapters of Drazin and Wagner's book Let's Study Onkelos on www.ou.org/torah and on www.yutorah@yutorah.org. His website is http://booksnthoughts.com.

The views expressed in this review/article are those of the author, and do not necessarily reflect the views of The Jewish Eye.
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