When Was the Septuagint Written? A Comprehensive Guide

when was the septuagint written
by CJ McDaniel // July 15  

The Septuagint is one of the world’s best-known ancient religious texts, an early Greek translation of the Hebrew Bible, and the date of creation is unknown and was long been debated. Scholars and historians alike have speculated when or if its design took place, and this work became de facto Old Testament for Christian churches worldwide, becoming de facto Old Testament for both cultures as it became de facto Old Testament for the latter. This article will delve into its origins, analyze any difficulties surrounding its composition date, and assess its influence on religious scholarship and culture today.

Translating the Pentateuch

Back to the 3rd century BCE when Jewish scholars in Alexandria translated the five books of Moses, known as the Pentateuch, into Greek for more accessible Hellenistic Jewish communities to access Septuagint can be traced. Under King Ptolemy II Philadelphus’ patronage, this endeavor may have taken place, lasting well into the 1st century CE as work continued translating subsequent books well past the completion of Pentateuch translation despite shifting dates due to divergent sources; numerous contentious dates continue surrounding its completion today.

Factors Affecting Dating of Septuagint (Prophets’ Books of Egypt and Syria).

Locating an accurate translation of the Septuagint is a complex task due to all the diverse elements that contribute to its creation, such as different styles and materials used during translation by individual translators during this lengthy process. Some books, such as Daniel, display distinct types and possible revisions that further confuse matters. Another element that confounds dating is the existence of other Greek translations; Aquila, Symmachus, and Theodotion all contributed different renditions of Hebrew Bible material into Greek, making identifying authentic Septuagint materials difficult. Additionally, medieval copies and codices containing the Septuagint add another level of complexity regarding scribal errors, omissions, and deliberate changes – rendering definitive dating challenging to ascertain and sparking considerable debate among scholars.

Exploring the Impact and Relevance of Septuagint in Theology and Culture

Despite its intricacies and debates surrounding its translation date, the Septuagint remains one of the cornerstones of religious literature history. The impact is seen by many in how early Christians used and integrated the Greek translation with later Christian translations such as St. Jerome’s Latin Vulgate translation of Scripture. The Septuagint is a vital resource for scholars and theologians as they dissect its translation choices, giving insight into religious texts, cultures, and contexts at that time. Furthermore, Jewish studies scholars use its influence as a lens through which to view the multidimensionality of Hebrew Bible interpretation and transmission history.

Its dating remains contentious and multi-dimensional. However, Jews should notice Septuagint’s legacy. Jews cannot deny Septuagint’s influence on religious scholarship and culture; spanning multiple centuries and through many translations, from impacting translation practices across centuries to providing insights into ancient sacred texts, it plays an integral part. While scholars debate its origins and formation, it will likely remain significant to Jewish and Christian audiences for years.

Differences in Dating Preference and Differing Theories

Scholars offer various theories when trying to date the Septuagint accurately. One such theory suggests using The Letter of Aristeas from the 2nd or 3rd Century BCE, written during Hellenism’s second or third century BCE Ptolemaic Period as proof for dating the Septuagint as a whole as well as translating of Pentateuch at this period – not for dating the entire Hebrew Bible itself!

Dead Sea Scroll fragments possessing Greek text provide key evidence regarding the dating of the Septuagint. Dating between the 2nd century BCE and the 1st century CE were translated before the common era, these Greek fragments suggest some books, such as Job; yet whether these fragments constitute attempts at translation from Hebrew Bible or revisions of existing Septuagint literature remains uncertain.

Early Jewish authors such as Philo of Alexandria (20 BCE to 50 CE) and Josephus (37-100 CE) often referenced the Septuagint, providing us with another essential clue as they used much of it during 1st Century CE use; at the same time it revealed some books like Chronicles had yet been translated; therefore many scholars believe its translation occurred between 3rd Century BCE to 1st Century CE.

Early Christian Authors Make Use of the Septuagint

As part of early Christian Church life, Church Father’s writings provide evidence for Septuagint’s use and influence. Notable authors like Justin Martyr (100-165), Irenaeus (130-202), Clement of Alexandria (155-215 CE), and Origen (1842-253 CE) frequently used Septuagint texts within their theological works and exegeses substantiating its existence by 2nd and 3rd century CE authors such as them.

Modern Translations and Its Lasting Legacy

The Septuagint remains influential today through its influence on subsequent Bible translations and modern biblical scholarship. For instance, different translations like the New Revised Standard Version (NRSV) and the New English Translation of the Septuagint (NETS) often consult it to understand variant Scripture readings.

Revamping the internal structure of the Septuagint text, scholars now study its variants and unique readings as part of a comparative exercise between it and the Masoretic Text (MT) and Samaritan Pentateuch texts. Thus it provides textual critics and scholars an essential resource for developing more profound insight into Hebrew Bible’s development and transmission over time.

Dated the entire composition of the Septuagint is an inherently complex endeavor that may never reach consensus among scholars, yet its contributions are widely recognized and celebrated across multiple fields, including biblical studies, linguistics, and theology – not to mention being used as the cornerstone for numerous translations and interpretations; its legacy will live long into future religious scholarship and culture studies.

Other Common Questions Related to When Was The Septuagint Written

Q. What Is the Septuagint? A: The Septuagint is the original Greek translation of the Old Testament Scriptures written in Hebrew.

Q. Who Translated the Septuagint? A: A group of Jewish scholars translated it according to tradition.

Q: When was the Septuagint written? A: Its composition began around 300 BC – roughly 200-300 years before Christ lived and taught his ministry on earth.

Q: Why was the Septuagint Written? A: Its primary objective was to offer an authoritative Greek version of Hebrew Scriptures for use by Jewish communities living in Alexandria, Egypt.

Q: In what language was the Septuagint written? A: It was composed in Greek.

Q: How Many Books Does the Septuagint Contain? A: The Septuagint contains 46 Old Testament books covering everything found within the Hebrew Bible.

Question: How Does the Septuagint Differ From the Hebrew Bible? A: It contains additional books as well as variations to some passages’ wording.

Q: Was the Septuagint widely accepted among Jews? A: While only sometimes adopted among Jewish communities, many individuals found great value and satisfaction from using and understanding its content.

Q: How did the Septuagint impact Christianity? A: It immensely influenced early Christian development as its version of the Old Testament was the one most frequently employed by early believers.

Q: Is the Septuagint still used today? A: It remains widely employed within Eastern Orthodox communities today as it provides them with their source texts for worship services and rituals.

Q: Who translated the Septuagint? A: According to tradition, 72 Jewish scholars translated it.

Q. Where was the Septuagint translated? A: For translation purposes, Alexandria in Egypt was used.

Q: Which ancient versions of the Old Testament exist today? A: Aside from its traditional version in English and its translation into other ancient versions such as Samaritan Pentateuch and Targums versions are other ancient translations, such as Latin Vulgate versions available today.

Q: Was the Septuagint the first translation of the Old Testament into Aramaic or other languages? A: No. There had already been previous attempts.

Q: Have any complete manuscripts of the Septuagint been preserved from when it was composed? A: Unfortunately not. Although ancient fragments and partial manuscripts exist today, they provide insights into their contents.


The Septuagint is an important and influential ancient translation of Hebrew scriptures into Greek. Though its precise origin and development remain shrouded in mystery and speculation, scholars generally agree that it likely originated in Alexandria in the third century BCE. Early evidence for the Septuagint comes from Jewish texts like The Letter of Aristeas, which details its translation by seventy-two scholars and describes their process in depth. Other early witnesses include Dead Sea Scroll manuscripts and New Testament translations as they document its widespread influence within ancient Jewish and Christian communities.

Although of great historical and literary importance, its source and development remain controversial among scholars. Some have contended that its translation occurred over an extended period by multiple translators, while others maintain it was produced all at once by one author or group. Much discussion has also been regarding how well its text resembles its Hebrew source, and any influence Greek philosophical and literary traditions may have had upon its language and style.

However, the Septuagint remains an invaluable and fascinating document for scholars and lay readers. Its impact on Judaism and Christianity cannot be overstated: providing later generations with a shared language and cultural background for future generations of Jews and Christians was truly monumental. Additionally, its translation history offers fascinating insights into ancient world translation practices and Hellenistic period cultural diversity – reminding us all that ancient texts remain relevant today – making its legacy worth remembering, and its ongoing impact in contemporary scholarship and cultural discussion!

About the Author

CJ grew up admiring books. His family owned a small bookstore throughout his early childhood, and he would spend weekends flipping through book after book, always sure to read the ones that looked the most interesting. Not much has changed since then, except now some of those interesting books he picks off the shelf were designed by his company!