The Septuagint

The Septuagint is the Jewish Alexandrian Greek translation of the Hebrew texts from the third to the first century BCE that contains extra books that were not in the Hebrew Bible.  There were supposedly 72 Jewish Greek scholars who translated the Hebrew Bible into Greek, so that it became known at the Greek Old Testament.  This Greek text was probably the scripture readings that the early Christians used, since they wrote in Greek.

What is the Bible?

The Bible is the most published book of all time.  A Latin Vulgate copy of the Bible was one of the first books printed on the original German Guttenberg Press in the fifteenth century in 1440.  The Bible has been translated into virtually every human language.  What a strange great literary work, or more precisely a series of books, that has had a profound effect on the world.  In fact, most of the great works of Western European civilization assume some biblical knowledge.  The Bible serves as the source book or “Word of God” for over two billion people living today.  Thus, the Bible is often considered “the book of books”.

Against Elam (Jer 49:34-49:35)

“The word of Yahweh

Came to the prophet Jeremiah

Concerning Elam,

At the beginning

Of the reign

Of King Zedekiah

Of Judah.

Thus says Yahweh of hosts!

‘I am going to break

The bow of Elam,

The mainstay of their might.’”

Elam was an ancient pre-Persian society, east of Babylon, in what is now present day Iran. There is very little mention of Elam in the biblical works. From the text, this oracle can be dated to the beginning of the reign of King Zedekiah (598-597 BCE) of Judah. Whether this was an attack of the king of Babylon or a hint at the later Persian attack is not clear. Yahweh was going to break the bow of Elam because the Elamites were famous for their strong use of the bow and arrow. Although most of the preceding parts of this chapter were translated as chapter 30 in the Greek Septuagint, this section on Elam was translated as chapter 25, not chapter 30 or chapter 49 as here.

Purim in Egypt (Greek text only)

“In the fourth year of the reign of Ptolemy and Cleopatra, Dositheus, who said that he was a priest and a Levite, and his son Ptolemy brought to Egypt the preceding Letter about Purim, which they said was authentic. It had been translated by Lysimachus son of Ptolemy, one of the residents of Jerusalem.”

In a curious note, this book or a letter about Purim was brought to Egypt. The time frame is very clear, during the reign of Ptolemy. However, the question is which Ptolemy? The original Ptolemy was a Macedonian guard of Alexander the Great who was the governor of Egypt in 323 BCE. He later declared himself king and thus established a Ptolemaic dynasty that lasted until 47 BCE. There were a number of kings and queens named Ptolemy and Cleopatra. The first mention of them would be Ptolemy V and Cleopatra I from (202-181 BCE). This would put this translation around the year 198 BCE, right in the middle of the Greek Septuagint work from around 250-132 BCE. We do not know anything about Dositheus but he may have been a Jewish Levite priest. There are 3 or 4 famous people with the name of Lysimachus in Egypt. If it was the son of one of the Ptolemy kings, he might have died around 181 BCE, as the brother of Ptolemy V, it would be a good fit for this translation.