unlikely that they were either more extensive in range or more important in character. At the same time it is clear both from internal and external evidence that the archetype from which our MSS. are descended was far from being a perfect representative of the original text. For a comparison of the different parallel passages which occur in the Old Testament (e.g. 1 and 2 Samuel, 1 and 2 Kings, and 1 and 2 Chronicles; 2 Kings xviii. 13-xx. 19 and Isaiah xxxvi.-xxxix; 2 Sam. xxii. and Ps. xviii.; Ps. xiv. and liii., &c.) reveals many variations which are obviously due to textual corruption, while there are many passages which in their present form are either ungrammatical, or inconsistent with the context or with other passages. Externally also the ancient versions, especially the Septuagint, frequently exhibit variations from the Hebrew which are not only intrinsically more probable, but often explain the difficulties presented by the Massoretic text. Our estimate of the value of these variant readings, moreover, is considerably heightened when we consider that the MSS. on which the versions are based are older by several centuries than those from which the Massoretic text was derived; hence the text which they presuppose has no slight claim to be regarded as an important witness for the original Hebrew. “But the use of the ancient versions” (to quote Prof. Driver) “is not always such a simple matter as might be inferred.... In the use of the ancient versions for the purposes of textual criticism there are three precautions which must always be observed; we must reasonably assure ourselves that we possess the version itself in its original integrity; we must eliminate such variants as have the appearance of originating merely with the translator; the remainder, which will be those that are due to a difference of text in the MS. (or MSS.) used by the translator, we must then compare carefully, in the light of the considerations just stated, with the existing Hebrew text, in order to determine on which side the superiority lies.”
Versions.—In point of age the Samaritan Pentateuch furnishes the earliest external witness to the Hebrew text. It is not a version, but merely that text of the Pentateuch which has been preserved by the Samaritan community since the time Samaritan. of Nehemiah (Neh. xiii. 23-31), i.e. about 432 B.C. It is written in the Samaritan script, which is closely allied to the old Hebrew as opposed to the later “square” character. We further possess a Samaritan Targum of the Pentateuch written in the Samaritan dialect, a variety of western Aramaic, and also an Arabic translation of the five books of the law; the latter dating perhaps from the 11th century A.D. or earlier. The Samaritan Pentateuch agrees with the Septuagint version in many passages, but its chief importance lies in the proof which it affords as to the substantial agreement of our present text of the Pentateuch, apart from certain intentional changes, with that which was promulgated by Ezra. Its value for critical purposes is considerably discounted by the late date of the MSS., upon which the printed text is based.
The Targums, or Aramaic paraphrases of the books of the Old Testament (see Targum), date from the time when Hebrew had become superseded by Aramaic as the language spoken by the Jews, i.e. during the period immediately preceding Aramaic. the Christian era. In their written form, however, the earlier Targums, viz. those on the Pentateuch and the prophetical books, cannot be earlier than the 4th or 5th century A.D. Since they were designed to meet the needs of the people and had a directly edificatory aim, they are naturally characterized by expansion and paraphrase, and thus afford invaluable illustrations of the methods of Jewish interpretation and of the development of Jewish thought. The text which they exhibit is virtually identical with the Massoretic text.
The earliest among the versions as well as the most important for the textual criticism of the Old Testament is the Septuagint. This version probably arose out of the needs of the Greek-speaking Jews of Alexandria in the 3rd century B.C. Septuagint. According to tradition the law was translated into Greek during the reign of Ptolemy Philadelphus (284-247 B.C.), and, though the form (viz. the Letter of Aristeas) in which this tradition has come down to us cannot be regarded as historical, yet it seems to have preserved correctly both the date and the locality of the version. The name Septuagint, strictly speaking, only applies to the translation of the Pentateuch, but it was afterwards extended to include the other books of the Old Testament as they were translated. That the interval which elapsed before the Prophets and the Hagiographa were also translated was no great one is shown by the prologue to Sirach which speaks of “the Law, the Prophets and the rest of the books,” as already current in a translation by 132 B.C. The date at which the various books were combined into a single work is not known, but the existence of the Septuagint as a whole may be assumed for the 1st century A.D., at which period the Greek version was universally accepted by the Jews of the Dispersion as Scripture, and from them passed on to the Christian Church.
The position of the Septuagint, however, as the official Greek representative of the Old Testament did not long remain unchallenged. The opposition, as might be expected, came from the side of the Jews, and was due partly to the Versions of Aquila, Symmachus, Theodotion. controversial use which was made of the version by the Christians, but chiefly to the fact that it was not sufficiently in agreement with the standard Hebrew text established by Rabbi Aqiba and his school. Hence arose in the 2nd century A.D. the three new versions of Aquila, Symmachus and Theodotion. Aquila was a Jewish proselyte of Pontus, and since he was a disciple of Rabbi Aqiba (d. A.D. 135), and (according to another Talmudic account) also of Rabbi Eliezer and Rabbi Joshua, the immediate predecessors of Aqiba, his version may be assigned to the first half of the 2nd century. It is characterized by extreme literalness, and clearly reflects the peculiar system of exegesis which was then in vogue among the Jewish rabbis. Its slavish adherence to the original caused the new translation to be received with favour by the Hellenistic Jews, among whom it quickly superseded the older Septuagint. For what remains of this version, which owing to its character is of the greatest value to the textual critic, we have until recently been indebted to Origen’s Hexapla (see below); for, though Jerome mentions a secunda editio, no MS. of Aquila’s translation has survived. Fragments, however, of two codices were discovered (1897) in the genizah at Cairo, which illustrate more fully the peculiar features of this version.
The accounts given of Theodotion are somewhat conflicting. Both Irenaeus and Epiphanius describe him as a Jewish proselyte, but while the former calls him an Ephesian and mentions his translation before that of Aquila, the latter states that he was a native of Pontus and a follower of Marcion, and further assigns his work to the reign of Commodus (A.D. 180-192); others, according to Jerome, describe him as an Ebionite. On the whole it is probable that Irenaeus has preserved the most trustworthy account. Theodotion’s version differs from those of Aquila and Symmachus in that it was not an independent translation, but rather a revision of the Septuagint on the basis of the current Hebrew text. He retained, however, those passages of which there was no Hebrew equivalent, and added translations of the Hebrew where the latter was not represented in the Septuagint. A peculiar feature of his translation is his excessive use of transliteration, but, apart from this, his work has many points of contact with the Septuagint, which it closely resembles in style; hence it is not surprising to find that later MSS. of the Septuagint have been largely influenced by Theodotion’s translation. In the case of the book of Daniel, as we learn from Jerome (praefatio in Dan.), the translation of Theodotion was definitely adopted by the Church, and is accordingly found in the place of the original Septuagint in all MSS. and editions. It is interesting to note in this connexion that renderings which agree in the most remarkable manner with Theodotion’s version of Daniel are found not only in writers of the 2nd century but also in the New Testament. The most probable explanation of this phenomenon is that these renderings are derived from an early Greek translation, differing from the Septuagint proper, but closely allied to that which Theodotion used as the basis of his revision.
Symmachus, according to Eusebius and Jerome, was an Ebionite; Epiphanius represents him (very improbably) as a Samaritan who became a Jewish proselyte. He is not mentioned by Irenaeus and his date is uncertain, but probably his work is to be assigned to the
- Text of the Books of Samuel, pp. xxxix. f.
- According to Josephus (Ant. xi. 7. 8) the temple on Mt. Gerizim was set up by Manasseh in the reign of Darius Codomannus, i.e. about 332 B.C. It is possible that he is correct in placing the building of the temple at the later date, but probably he errs in connecting it with the secession of Manasseh, which, according to Nehemiah, occurred a century earlier; it has been suggested that he has confused Darius Codomannus with his predecessor, Darius Nothus.
- e.g. Ex. xx. 17, 19 ff.; Num. xx. f.; Deut. xxvii. 4.
- 1 Kings xx. 7-17; 2 Kings xxiii. 12-17, ed. by Mr (now Professor) F. C. Burkitt in Fragments of the Books of Kings according to the Translation of Aquila (Cambridge, 1897), and Ps. xc. 6-13; xci. 4-10, and parts of Ps. xxiii. by Dr C. Taylor in Sayings of the Jewish Fathers (2nd ed., 1897).
- On the question of Theodotion’s date, Schürer (Geschichte des jüdischen Volkes, Bd. iii. p. 324) argues very plausibly for his priority to Aquila on the grounds, (1) that Irenaeus mentions him before Aquila, and (2) that, after Aquila’s version had been adopted by the Greek Jews, a work such as that of Theodotion would have been somewhat superfluous. Theodotion’s work, he suggests, formed the first stage towards the establishment of a Greek version which should correspond more closely with the Hebrew. Moreover, this theory affords the simplest explanation of its disappearance from Jewish tradition.
- Only one MS. of the Septuagint version of Daniel has survived, the Codex Chisianus.