Home | Lilith, Adam's first wife | HEBREW MYTHOLOGY | GENESIS 6:1: When the sons of God mate with the daughters of man--JK | Sons of God & Daughters of Men, 2 scholars on | OLD TESTAMENT UNINSPIRED, THE PENTAUTCH--JK | TACITUS ON HEBREW'S ORIGIN and the Jews of his day | Egyptian Account of the Leper's Exodus | Sargon's birth legend and Moses' | NOT OUT OF EGYPT--Prof. Stiebing | CRITICISMS OF OLD TESTAMENT HISTORY | MORE CRITICISMS OF OLD TESTAMENT HISTORY | Old Testament--Sources | THE SAMARITANS | Gensis & Babylonian Creation Myths Compared | MYTH & LEGEND IN THE HELLENISTIC PERIOD--Britannica | The Biblical Date for Creation | PHILISTINES--a 10 page account by a Christian archaeologist


Old Testament--Sources

Enter subhead content here

Enter content here


 Encyclopedia Britannica

Texts and versions

Early versions

Manuscripts and printed editions of the Septuagint

The manuscripts are conveniently classified by papyri uncials (capital letters) and minuscules (cursive script). The papyri fragments run into the hundreds, of varying sizes and importance, ranging from the formative period of the Septuagint through the middle of the 7th century. Two pre-Christian fragments of Deuteronomy from Egypt are of outstanding significance. Although not written on papyrus but on parchment or leather, the fragments from Qumran of Exodus, Leviticus, and Numbers, and the leather scroll of the Minor Prophets from Nahal Hever from the first pre-Christian and post-Christian centuries, deserve special mention among the earliest extant. The most important papyri are those of the Chester Beatty collection, which contains parts of 11 codices preserving fragments of nine Old Testament books. Their dates vary between the 2nd and 4th centuries. During the next 300 years papyri texts multiplied rapidly, and remnants of about 200 are known.

The uncials are all codices written on vellum between the 4th and 10th centuries. The most outstanding are Vaticanus, which is an almost complete 4th-century Old Testament, Sinaiticus, of the same period but less complete, and the practically complete 5th-century Alexandrinus. These three originally contained both Testaments. Many others were partial manuscripts from the beginning. One of the most valuable of these is the Codex Marchalianus of the Prophets written in the 6th century.

The minuscule codices begin to appear in the 9th century. From the 11th to the 16th century they are the only ones found, and nearly 1,500 have been recorded.

The first printed Septuagint was that of the Complutensian Polyglot (1514–17). Since it was not released until 1522, however, the 1518 Aldine Venice edition actually was available first. The standard edition until modern times was that of Pope Sixtus V, 1587. In the 19th and 20th centuries several critical editions have been printed.

Coptic versions

The spread of Christianity among the non-Greek speaking peasant communities of Egypt necessitated the translation of the Scriptures into the native tongue (Coptic). These versions may be considered to be wholly Christian in origin and largely based on the Greek Bible. They also display certain affinities with the Old Latin. Nothing certain is known about the Coptic translations except that they probably antedate the earliest known manuscripts from the end of the 3rd and the beginning of the 4th centuries CE.

The Armenian version

The Armenian version is an expression of a nationalist movement that brought about a separation from the rest of the Church (mid-5th century), the discontinuance of Syriac in Greek worship, and the invention of a national alphabet by St. Mesrob, also called Mashtots (c. 361–439/440). According to tradition, St. Mesrob first translated Proverbs from the Syriac. Existing manuscripts of the official Armenian recension, however, are based on the Hexaplaric Septuagint, though they show some Peshitta (Syriac version) influence. The Armenian Bible is noted for its beauty and accuracy.

The Georgian version

According to Armenian tradition, the Georgian version was also the work of Mesrob, but the Psalter, the oldest part of the Georgian Old Testament, is probably not earlier than the 5th century. Some manuscripts were based upon Greek versions, others upon the Armenian.