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Septuagint, Linguistic Character of the.

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The language of the Sept., from its close connection with that of the New Test., has been a fruitful source of discussion, and various theories on the subject have been maintained with considerable vehemence. Thus Isaac Vossius maintained that the Alexandrian Jews were studious of Attic Greek. Scaliger used the phrase "Hellenistic tongue;" Salmasius contended for a "Hellenistic Greek," and maintained that the diction or style of the Sept. was not a form of Greek which had its origin in Alexandria, or in other parts where the Macedonian rule had prevailed, but that it was the style of translators, or of authors whose acquaintance with the language was imperfect. It was the Greek of the unlearned, and therefore ἰδιωτικός , or unpolished; it was used to interpret Hebrew ideas and phrases, and thus it was ἑρμηνευτικός, or the language of interpreters. R. Simon used the term "syna gogue Greek" to express a style of Greek which was so full of Hebrew words and Hebraisms as to be scarcely. intelligible to readers who had no knowledge of Hebrew or Chaldee. He illustrates this by the Spanish Jews' translation of the Bible into the Spanish tongue which can be understood only by those who have some knowledge of Hebrew as well as Spanish. Later critics have, however, admitted the existence of an Alexandrian dialect, from which the Sept. has derived some of its features, though these are not its most prominent characteristics. Thus Hody, quoting Crocus, says:

The Greek translators of the Scriptures are to be described as Hebraists, Chaldaists, and. Alexandrists. Their version is full of Hebrew, Chaldee, and Alexandrian words and phrases. They render word for word, and often where a passage is thus translated, the words are Greek, but the Hebrew construction is retained" (De Bibl. Text. Orig. 2, 4, 23).

As the text from which the Alexandrian version was made did not have the vowel-points, it would be very interesting to know how the translators pronounced the Hebrew, and the more so since some critics who delight in hunting after various readings would make the Sept. the standard for the Hebrew text. But here we are at a loss, and all that we know we can only make out from the version itself. Commencing with the alphabet, the pronunciation of the letters is given to us in the Lamentations of Jeremiah, where the verses are arranged alphabetically. The letters of the alphabet, thus commencing the different verses, are expressed fully, as the following scheme will show:

א =῎Αλεφ . ל = Λάμεδ . ב =Βήθ . מ = Μήμ . ג = Γίμελ . נ=Νούν ד =Δάλεθ . ס =Σάμεχ . ה =῎Η . ע =Αἴν . ו=Οὐαῦ . פ = Φῆ . ז =Ζαίν . צ =Τσαδή . ח =῞Ηθ . ק -Κώφ . ט=Τήθ ר = ῾Ρήχς . י = Ι᾿ώδ .. ש=Χσέν . כ = Χάφ ת=Θαῦ

That ו and ת were pronounced wav and tav we may infer from the fact that v is always equivalent to the Hebrew 5, thus לוי=Λευί . From the version itself we see that the letters had the following pronunciation:

א, in itself inaudible (like the Greek spiritus lenis), receives its intonation from the vowel, as אהרן, Ἀαρών; אֵלקנה, Ε᾿λκανά . Sometimes it has the spiritus asper, as אברה, Α῾βραάμ; אליחו, ῾Ηλίας; אלון (Judges 9:37), ῾Ηλών .

ב is β , sometimes φ : יקבאּזאב (Judges 7:25), Ι᾿ακεβζηφ; also υ, רחוב (Joshua 19:30), ῾Ρααῦ;. Sometimes ב is expressed by μβ, as נבח, Νουβᾶ '/; זרובבל, Ζερουμβαβέλ : or by μ alone, as לבנה, Λεμνά; ויבשם (1 Chronicles 7:2), ῾Ιεμασάν

ג is γ, sometimes κ, as נפג, Ναφέκ ; דואג, Δωήκ : also χ, as שרוג, Σερούχ.

ד is δ, but also θ, as מטרד (Genesis 36:39), Ματραϊ v θ . ה is, like א, either inaudible, as הבל, Ἀβέλ; or it has the spiritus asper, as הימן, Αἱμάν . ו is υ, חוה =῎Ευα, לוי=Λενί . Sometimes it is β, as שוה , Σαβύ (Genesis 14:5), and שוע (38:12), Σαβά . Sometimes it is not expressed at all, as ושתי, Ἀστί; ושני (1 Chronicles 6:13), Σανι . ז is ζ, seldom σ as אליפז, Ε᾿λιφάς (Genesis 36; but 1 Chronicles 1, Ε᾿λιφαζ ); very seldom 10, as בוז (Genesis 22:21), Βαύξ.

ח is inaudible at the beginning, middle, and end of a word. Often it is χ , חם, Χάμ; נחור, Ναχώρ; sometimes κ . as טבח (Genesis 22:24), Θαβέκ. ט is τ, seldom δ, as ופוט (Genesis 10:6; 1 Chronicles 1:8), Φούδ ; or δ,'as אליפלט (2 Samuel 5:16; 1 Chronicles 14:5), Ε᾿λιφαλάθ . י is , as יעקב, Ι᾿ακώβ; but it is also I when followed by רי 8 8ש, as ירמיהו, ῾Ιερεμίας .

כ is χ, sometimes κ, as סבתכא (Genesis 10:7), Σαβαθακά ; seldom, γ, as כפתרים (Genesis 10:14), Γαφθωρείμ . ל נ ר are λ ν ρ . מּ is μ, but sometimes is, β as נמרוד, Ναβρώδ; שמלה (1 Chronicles 1:47), Σεβλά . ס שׁ שׂ are σ . ע is inaudible, as עפרון, Ε᾿φρών; or with the spiritus asper, as עשו, ῾Ησαῦ : it is also γ as עמורה, Γόμοῤῥα;"or κ (at the end of the word), as ארבע (Genesis 23:2), Ἀρβόκ . פ is φ, sometimes π, as צלפחד, Σαλπαάδ . צ is σ, seldom ζ, as עווֹ (Genesis 10:23; Genesis 22:21), Οὔζ . ק is κ, sometimes χ, as קטורה (Genesis 25:1), Χεττουρά; חקופא (Nehemiah 7:53), Ἀχιφά : seldom γ, as חלק (Numbers 26:30), Χελέγ . ת is θ, sometimes τ , as תחש, Τοχός; גתר, Γατέρ . A greater difficulty we have in fixing the pronunciation according to our vowel-points, but in general the following rules may be laid down:

Kamets ( ) is a, as אָדָם Αδάμ; חָם, Χάμ . Pattach () is a, as אֲהִרֹן, Αὰρών . Tsere () = η : אשֵׂר, Ἀσήρ ; ישראֵל, Ι᾿σραήλ . Segol ()= ε, as אֲבַימֶלֶךְ, Ἀβιμελέχ .

Cholem (וֹ = ω : יעקֹב, Ι᾿ακώβ ; יוֹס, Ι᾿ωσήφ . Kamets chatuph ()= o, as גָלְיִת :, Γολιάθ. Long chirek ( י ) = ι or ει : עֲנָמַים, Ἀναμίμ, μείμ; מָכַיר, Μαχίρ, είρ . Short chirek (.) = ι or υ, the latter very seldom: פְלַשְׁתַי, Φυλιστεῖμ; שַמעון, Συμεών. Shurek (וּ )= ου : לוּד, Λούδ; יְבוּס, Ι᾿εβούς . Kibbuts () = ο : בֻּקַי, Βοκκί; יְפֻנֶה, ῎Ιεφοννή .

This may be regarded as a most general outline for the vowels; for a closer examination, upon which we cannot here enter, will show that these principles are not always carried out. As to Sheva, its pronunciation is governed by the following vowel; thus פְעוֹר is Φογώρ ; רְחוֹב, ῾Ροόβ;

פְלַשְׁתַים, Φυλιστίμ ; שְׁפטְיָה, Σαφατία; סִבְתְכָא , . Σαβαθακά i.' This vocalization exercises also its influence upon the vowel preceding the Sheva; thus בַלְעָ is Βαλαάμ; מַבְשָׂם = Μαβασάμ, etc. Dagesh lene is not expressed in the Sept., but the dagesh forte usually is, as צַלָּה, Σελλά; מנשה, Μανασσῆ; and it is also found, where the Hebrew text has no dagesh, as רבקה = ῾Ρεβέκκα . Sometimes the dagesh forte of the Hebrew is not expressed at all, as חֻשָּׁם, Α῾σώμ; הִכְּסֻלוֹת (Joshua 19:18), Χασαλώθ ..

With these preliminary remarks we have paved our way for the manner in which grammar has been used by the translators of the Sept.; but here the difficulty is greater still, for the translators, as can be seen from their mode of translating, had not the language, but the translation, of the Scripture in view, and this must account for many grammatical peculiarities which we find so often in the Alexandrian version. Thus e.g. the present is very often used for the perfect, especially in λέγω 'and ὁράω , as in Genesis 15:2, אבר ויאמר, λέγει δὲ Α῾βραάμ; Genesis 37:29, והנה אין יוס, καὶ οὐχ ὁρᾶ '/ Ι᾿ωσήφ , or the infinitive before a definite verb is expressed by a participle or a noun. The active is often exchanged for the passive, or vice versa, as (Genesis 12:15) וִתֻקִח האשה, καὶ εἰσήγαγον .. Leaving aside all further remarks on these points as not exactly belonging to our object, we now come to the subject at issue, as to the linguistic peculiarities. Here we notice

1. Unusual formations of words and verbs, viz.:

ἃβρα , a favorite slave, Exodus 2:5. αιχμαλωτιζειν, to make a prisoner, Ezekiel 12:3. ἄκαν, a thorn, 2 Kings 14:9. ὰλγηρός , sorrowful, Jeremiah 10:9. ὰμφιάζεσθαι, to put round about, Job 29:14. ἀμφίασις, a garment, Job 22:6. ἀναθεματίζειν , to devote to destruction, Deuteronomy 13:15. ἀποκιδαροῦν , to strip the head of, Leviticus 10:6. ἀποπεμπτοῦν, to take up the fifth part, Genesis 41:34. ἀσβόλη, soot, Lamentations 4:8. βουνίζειν , to accumulate, Ruth 2:14. γλωσσόκομον, a chest, 2 Chronicles 24:8. γρηγορειν , to watch, Nehemiah 7:3. διαρτᾶν, to deceive, Numbers 23:19. ἔκθεμα , an edict, Esther 8:17. ἐκτοκίζειν, to put on interest, Deuteronomy 23:10. ἐντομίς , a cutting, Leviticus 19:28. εὐδοκεῖν, to approve, Leviticus 26:41. θεριστρον , a veil, Song of Solomon 5:7. καταχωρίζειν, to enter in a register, 1 Chronicles 27:24. λυτρών , a sewer, 2 Kings 10:27. μαγειρεῖον, a kitchen, Ezekiel 46:23. μαγειρισσα , a female cook, 1 Samuel 8:13. μακροηερεύειν, to live long, Deuteronomy 5:33. μανδόη , a coat of mail, 1 Samuel 17:38. πρωτοτοκεύειν, to appoint as first born, Deuteronomy 21:16. πρωτοτόκια , the birthright, Genesis 25:32. ῥώξ, a grape, Isaiah 65:8. σαββατίζειν, to rest, Exodus 16:30. σισοη, the corner of the head, Leviticus 19:27. σκεπεινός, covered, Nehemiah 4:13. σκηνοπηγία, Feast of Tabernacles, Deuteronomy 16:16. τελίσκειν , to complete, Deuteronomy 23:18. φυλακίσσα, a keeper, Song of Solomon 1:6.

2. New meanings of words:

ἀγχιστεύω , to redeem, Ezra 2:62. ἄθυτον , abominable, Leviticus 19:7. ἀπό = bir, Genesis 48:10. διαφωνεῖν, to be missing, Numbers 31:49. μετριάζειν , to be sick, Nehemiah 2:2.

3. An abstract used collectively:

αὶχμαλωσία , the captive, Ezekiel 11:25. διασπορά, living here and there, Psalms 47:2. ἐξουθένημα , despised, Psalms 22:6. ἱεράτευμα, priesthood, Exodus 19:6.

4. Peculiar forms of words, as ἀγαθώτατος, Genesis 47:6. ἀγαθώτερος , Judges 15:2. ἀπεκτάγκατε, Numbers 16:41. ἁρπᾶ '/, Leviticus 19:13. εἴποισαν, Psalm 34:25. ἐλθάτω, Esther 5:4. ἐπρονόμευσαμεν , Deuteronomy 3:7. ἐφάγοσαν, Psalm 77:29. ἔφυγαν, 2 Samuel 10:14. ἑώρακαν , Deuteronomy 11:7. ἤλθοσαν, Psalms 78:1. ἴδοισαν Job 21:20. ἴδοσαν , Deuteronomy 7:19. καμμύειν, Isaiah 6:10. κατείπαντες , Numbers 14:37. κεκατήρανται, Numbers 22:6. κεκράξαντες , Exodus 22:23. κλίβανος = κρίβανος, Genesis 15:17. μαχαίρῃ , Exodus 15:9. παρέστηκαν, Isaiah 5:29. ποιήσαισαν , Deuteronomy 1:44. πραθήσεται, Ezekiel 48:14. φαγούμεθα , Genesis 3:2.

5. Syntactic peculiarities, as

ἀθωὸς ἀπό, καθαρός ἀπό, Genesis 8. ἁμαρτάνειν ἀπό , Leviticus 5:15. ἁμαρτάνειν ἐν, Leviticus 4:14. ἁμαρτάνειν ἔναντι , Leviticus 4:2. ἁμαρατάνειν περί, Leviticus 5:5. ἁμαρτάνειν τινί , Judges 11:27. ἀναμνησθῆαί τι, Exodus 23:13. ἐξέρχεσθαί τι, Exodus 9:29. ἐξιλάσκεσθαί τινι , Ezekiel 16:63. εὐδοκεῖν τι, Ecclesiastes 9:7. καταρᾶσθαί τινα, Genesis 5:29. οὶκτείρειν ἀπό τινος , Jeremiah 13:14. οὶκτείρειν τινά, Psalms 4:2. φείδεσθαί τινα , Job 16:5. φείδεσθαί τινι, Job 7:11.

6. To these we may add:

The construction of ἔρχεσθαι and similar verbs with the infinitive, as ἀπῆλθε φαγεῖν καὶ πιεῖν, Nehemiah 8:12; κατέβη λούσασθαι , Exodus 2:5. The vocative is expressed by the article, as σῶσόν με θεός μον, Psalms 3:7

τίς is used as a relative, as μόνον τοῦτο τὸ ἱμάτιον ... ἐν τίνι κοιμηθήσεται, Exodus 22:27; καὶ ἣξει τίνος αὐτοῦ οἰκία , Leviticus 14:35.

The relative is connected with ἐάν , as πᾶν σκεῦος ὀστράκινον εὶς ὲὰν πέση ἀπό τούτων ἔνδον, ὅσα ἐὰν ἔνδον ὰκάθαρτα ἔσταί,, Leviticus 40:33; ἐν ἀγρῷ ου ἐὰν ῃς ἐκεῖ ... καὶ ὄψομαι ὅτι ἐὰν , 1 Samuel 19:3; ἄνθρωπος ... τινὶ ἐὰν ἐν αὐτῷ μῶμος, Leviticus 21:17. The connection with ἐν instead of εὶς, as πορεύσομαι ἐν πύλαις ἄδου, Isaiah 38:10; ἄξει ἐν κρίσει , Ecclesiastes 12:14. The connection of infinitives, as ευρου χάριν ἐν ὀφθαλμοῖς σου τοῦ ἐπιγνῶναί με,, Ruth 2:10; πόλις αὕτη ἐγγὺς τοῦ καταφυγεῖν με ἐκεῖ, Genesis 19:20; ἤγγισαν αἱ ἡμέραι Ι᾿σραὴλ τοῦ αποθανεῖν , Genesis 47:29; ἔστη τοῦ τίκτειν, Genesis 29:35; ) ην αὐτῶν τὰ ὑπάρχοντα πολλὰ τοῦ οἰκεῖν ἃμα ., Genesis 36:7; ἠμβλύνθησαν οί ὀφθαλμοί αὐτοῦ τοῦ ὁρᾶ '/ ν , Genesis 27:1.

7. Very prominent also are the Egyptian words which we find in the Sept.; and which betray the origin of the translation. The following are the most remarkable:

ἀλήθεια , truth, the rendering of תמים (Thummim, or perfections), in Exodus 28:26; Leviticus 8:8; and Deuteronomy 33:8. According to AEliau, ἀλήθεια was the name given to an image of sapphire stone, which was hung by a golden chain round the neck of the oldest and highest in rank of the Egyptian priests, who also held the office of judge. This was to denote the truth or justice with which he was to decide the cases which were brought before him. Hence it is supposed that the use of it for the Thummim of the high priest was derived; yet not without regard to the meaning of truth, as expressing the faithfulness and righteousness of God. The word ῎Απις (Apis, the sacred bull of the Egyptians) occurs in Jeremiah 46 [26], 15: Διατί ἔφυγεν ... ῎Απις μόσχς ἐκλεκτός σου (" Why is Apis, thy chosen calf, fled?"), where it is put as a paraphrase upon אבירי thy valiant ones," in the prophecy of the desolation of Egypt by the armies of Nebuchadnezzar. ἀρτάβη was a measure which is mentioned by Herodotus as being used in Egypt and Persia. It is put for the "homer" in Isaiah 5:10, and it also occurs in Daniel 13:3 (History of Bel and the Dragon).

ἄχει, or ἄχι, is an Egyptian word for the papyrus, or some other reed or growth of the marshes. It occurs both in the Hebrew and Sept. of Genesis 41:2; Isaiah 19:7-8. It is also found in Ecclesiastes 40:16.

γένεσις, as applied to the "creation" of the world, was traced by Hody to Egyptian philosophy. But it seems rather to be derived from the תולדות, or genealogical narratives, of which the first book of the Pentateuch is composed.

ζύθος was a drink made from barley in Egypt, mentioned by Herodotus and Diodorus Siculus. It is found in the Sept. version of Isaiah 19:10, where it seems that שכר (strong drink) was read instead of שכר (merchandise). θήρα is found in Psalms 132:16, "I will abundantly bless her provision." Jerome said that it was an Egyptian word for corn; and Hesychius mentions ἀθηρά as a decoction of milk and corn employed by the Egyptians perhaps the medicine athara of which Pliny speaks. The Heb. ציד is, however, rendered θήρα (venison) in Genesis 25:27.

ἱππόδρομος is used to denote a measurement of space in Genesis 35:19; Genesis 48:7. Jerome seems to have been perplexed by its introduction in these passages. Hody conjectures that the use of the word was suggested by the hippodrome which was constructed by Ptolemy Lagus at Alexandria, and was the scene of the events recorded in the 3d book of Maccabees. Thus the "hippodrome of Ephrath" signifies a certain distance from Bethlehem, which was nearly the interval between the goals of the Egyptian racecourse.

The word κόνδυ , used for a cup, in Genesis 44, Isaiah 51, is of Persian origin.

κόσυμβος , a headband or fringed garment, the wearer of which is called κοσυμβωτός (Exodus 28; Isaiah 3), was an Egyptian ornament. νομός, in Isaiah 19:2, is not to be read νομός, "law," but has the sense of "province," or "district," Egypt being divided into νόμοί, governed by νομάρχαι , or prefects. In this sense it occurs in 1 Maccabees 10:30.

οἴφι , was supposed by Jerome to be the Hebrew ephah; but Hesychius states that it was an Egyptian measure containing four χοίνικες (Numbers 28:5; Judges 6:19).

πάπειρος, or πάπυρος , occurs in some of the Greek texts in Exodus 2:3, the Egyptian paper reed, which was the material of the ark in which the parents of Moses concealed him. It was also called βίβλος, and hence the "vessels of bulrushes" in Isaiah 18:2 are called ἐπιστολαὶ βιβλίναι ,.

παστοφόριον is used in the Sept. for the chambers and treasures adjoining the Temple inhabited by the priests and Levites (1 Chronicles 9:26; 1 Chronicles 9:33; Ezekiel 40:18, etc.). They παστοφόροι are mentioned by Clemens Alexandrinus as a class of priests among the Egyptians.

Ραιφάν , in Amos 5:26, was an Egyptian name for the sun god, or the king of heaven. It is put for כיון, Chiun.

σινδών, in Judges 14:12-13, was a fringed garment of fine linen which was made in Egypt.

στίβη , or στίμη, a dark purple or black, with which the guilty city of Jerusalem anoints her face to conceal her deformity (Jeremiah 4:30). This is traced to στίμμις, a word of Egyptian origin.

σχοίνος , in Psalms 139:2, "Thou hast searched my path," etc., was a word which, according to Herodotus, represented a measure of space or distance of sixty stadia.

ψονθομφανήχ , in Genesis 41:45, answers to the Heb. Zaphlath Paaneah. The latter is supposed to be an Egyptian word, signifying "the food of the living;" but Josephus and Origen ascribed to it the sense of "discoverer of secrets," or "one to whom the future is revealed." Hody supposed that ψονθομφανήχ also had this sense in the later Egyptian; but Jerome explains it to be the "Savior, or Deliverer, of the world."

8. Another feature of this version is the many Hebrew and Chaldee expressions, as ἀπφώθ, Jeremiah 52:19. μαωζαίμ , Daniel 11:38. ἀριήλ, 1 Chronicles 11:22. ναγέβ , Ezekiel 20:46. ἀριώθ, 2 Kings 4:39. νέβελ, Hosea 3:2. Δαρόμ , Ezekiel 20:46. οὐλαμούζ, Genesis 28:19. Ε᾿σεφίμ, 1 Chronicles 26:17. ξαθμέν , 1 Kings 19:4. ζακχῶν, 1 Chronicles 28:11. σαβέκ, Genesis 22:13. Copyright Statement
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Bibliography Information
McClintock, John. Strong, James. Entry for 'Septuagint, Linguistic Character of the.'. Cyclopedia of Biblical, Theological and Ecclesiastical Literature. https://www.studylight.org/​encyclopedias/​eng/​tce/​s/septuagint-linguistic-character-of-the.html. Harper & Brothers. New York. 1870.
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