Question: How you would answer a friend who is asking you why you are bothering to study the Septuagint? Of what value is the study of the Septuagint for a faithful Christian who is seeking to know God better?
The Septuagint is the Bible Jesus and the Apostles read. In Christianity, we believe in the authority of the Bible as the written word of God, that words matter, and that the word of God matters. While the Bible is God’s word in human words, it is divinely inspired. The Septuagint (also LXX for 70 because tradition holds that the original portion, the Torah (or the Pentateuch) was written by 70 men -but in time it refers to the whole Old Testament) is the translation of the Hebrew and Aramaic portion of the Bible (the Old Testament) into koine Greek, the same language the New Testament is written in. Koine Greek was the common language of the time, similar to how English is today.
Engaging in textual criticism and the study of the Septuagint is a reflection of this concern for the authority of the word, that words matter, and that God’s word matters. Some time before Christ, a man named Aristeas wrote a “letter” detailing the account of how and why the Septuagint came to be. While in part it was to have a copy of “the Law of the Jews” in the Library at Alexandria, written in a language people could read, in time, it came to be understood as divinely inspired and on par with the Hebrew Scriptures as the word of God. It became the word of God for Greek speaking Jews and later, the early church. In time both the Hebrew text and the Septuagint were held to be the divinely inspired word of God and gives support to what have as “the Bible” today. As an example, the Old Testament in Eastern Orthodox Bible today is based on the Septuagint. Additionally, the Septuagint gives us access to versions of the Jewish Scriptures that would have been familiar to most Christians outside Judea and that were clearly known to and used by several of the NT authors, famously the author of Hebrews (several of whose exegetical points are sustained by the LXX but not the MT, our “go to” text for the Hebrew Bible).
Study of the LXX and its history, in effect, compels us to worship. It helps us know the miracle we hold in our hands today that we call the Bible. Studying the LXX reveals the missional heart of God to adapt to cultures and situations; to keep his word, and be sure his word is in a language that can reach the whole world. This is why we should bother studying the Septuagint and how such study helps us know and love God.