Is the Greek of the Septuagint the Same as the Greek of the New Testament?

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The Septuagint (LXX) is a translation of the Hebrew scriptures and was made for the Jewish community, not Christians. The vocabulary is Greek and the syntax Hebrew. There is a Semitic influence in the vocabulary of the LXX.

The great scholar Henry Barclay Swete argued “the manner of the LXX. is not Greek and does not even aim at being so. It is that of a book written by men of Semitic descent, who have carried their habits of thought into their adopted tongue. The translators write Greek largely as they doubtless spoke it; they possess a plentiful vocabulary and are at no loss for a word, but they are almost indifferent to idiom and seem to have no sense of rhythm. Hebrew constructions and Semitic arrangements of the words are at times employed, even when not directly suggested by the original.” – Henry Barclay Swete, An Introduction to the Old Testament in Greek, 2nd ed. (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1914; repr., Peabody, MA: Hendrickson, 1989), 299.

The New Testament is not a translation and is written for Christians who have the ransom sacrifice of Jesus Christ. Third, The Greek of the NT is 180 years to 310 years removed from the Greek of the Septuagint. Then, you have the common expressions “the language of the LXX” or “biblical Greek,” which is extremely misleading. The Septuagint is truly a collection of documents, which was produced by a mixture of translators who had different skill levels who worked over a long period (280-150 B.C.E). Then you have the large number of versions that came later, Kaige-Theodotion, Aquila, and Symmachus, etc. Then, you have the copyists who took liberties. The LXX is Jewish Hellenistic Greek. But the NT is also to a degree Jewish Hellenistic Greek because the 27 books were written by Jews shortly after the Hellenistic era (331 – 31 B.C.E.), that is 45-98 C.E. (A.D.)

When we have a word of recent invention, and particularly when it is used for the first time by the author, etymology is very important. However, a word that has been around for a long time, especially if it is a common word, needs primarily a synchronic analysis with consideration from diachronic.

Below we are going to take a deep dive into the Greek of the Septuagint (LXX). If you do not know Greek, simply keep scrolling and read the English meditatively, trying to extrapolate what is being meant and take away what you can.

The Reading Culture of Early Christianity From Spoken Words to Sacred Texts 400,000 Textual Variants 02

To Continue This Study – Henry Barclay Swete

The Greek of the Septuagint

  1. No thorough treatment of the Greek idiom of the LXX. is known to exist. Two ancient treatises upon the dialect of Alexandria, by Irenaeus (Minutius Pacatus) and Demetrius Ixion, have unhappily disappeared. In modern times the ground has been broken by Sturz and Thiersch, and within the last few years Deissmann has used the recently discovered papyri of Egypt to illustrate the connotation or the form of a number of Septuagint nouns and verbs. Much has also been done by Dr H. A. A. Kennedy and the Abbé J. Viteau in the way of determining the relation of Septuagint Greek to the classical and later usage, and to the Greek of the N.T.; and the N.T. grammars of Winer-Moulton, Winer-Schmiedel, and Blass contain incidental references to the linguistic characteristics of the Alexandrian version. But a separate grammar of the Greek Old Testament was long a real want, and the time has now come for attempting to supply it. Biblical scholars have now at their disposal a store of trustworthy materials in the Oxford Concordance, and the larger Cambridge Septuagint will supply an accurate and sufficient textual guide. On the basis of these two works it ought to be possible for the workers of the twentieth century to prepare a satisfactory grammar and lexicon. Meanwhile in this chapter nothing more can be attempted than to set before the beginner some of the linguistic problems presented by the Greek of the Septuagint, and to point out the chief features which distinguish it from other forms of the language.
  2. The student who enters upon this subject with some knowledge of the Greek New Testament must begin by reminding himself of the different conditions under which the two parts of the Greek Bible were produced. The Greek Old Testament was not like the New Testament the work of a single generation, nor are its books as homogeneous in their general character. The Septuagint is a collection of translations interspersed with original Greek works, the translations belonging partly to the third century B.C.E., partly to the second and first, and the original works chiefly to the end of this period. Even in the case of the Pentateuch, we are not at liberty to assume that the translators worked at the same time or under the same circumstances. These considerations complicate our inquiry and lead us to expect in the LXX. great varieties of manner and language. In the earlier work, we shall meet with the colloquial Greek which the Jews learned to speak shortly after their settlement in Egypt. Later translations will approximate to the literary style of the second century, except in cases where this tendency has been kept in check by a desire to follow the manner of the older books. Lastly, in the original writings, many of which are relatively late, and in which the writers were free from the limitations that beset the translator, the Greek will be nearly identical with that which was written by the Jewish-Alexandrian historians and philosophers of the time.
  3. We begin by investigating the literary conditions under which both the translators and the writers lived at Alexandria.

In the middle of the second century B.C.E. Polybius found Alexandria inhabited by three races, the native Egyptians, who occupied the site of the old seaport Rhacôtis, the mercenary class (τὸ μισθοφορικόν), who may be roughly identified with the Jews, and the Greeks of the Brucheion, a mixed multitude claiming Hellenic descent and wedded to Hellenic traditions (εἰ μιγάδες, Ἕλληνες ὁμοῦ ἀνέκαθεν ἦσαν, καὶ ἐμέμνηντο τοῦ κοινοῦ τῶν Ἑλλήνων ἔθους). This fusion of various elements in the Greek population of the city must have existed from the first. The original colony was largely made up of the veterans of Alexander’s Macedonian army, volunteers from every part of Greece, and mercenaries from the Greek colonies of Asia Minor, and from Syria. Even in the villages of the Fayûm, as we now know, by the side of the Macedonians there were settlers from Libya, Caria, Thrace, Illyria, and even Italy, and Alexandria presented without doubt a similar medley of Hellenic types. Each class brought with it a dialect or idiom of its own. The Macedonian dialect, e.g., is said to have been marked by certain phonetic changes3, and the use of barbarous terms such as ἀδή = οὐρανός, βεθύ = ἀήρ, δανός = θάνατος, and of Greek words in unusual senses, as παρεμβολή, ‘camp,’ ῥύμη, street. Some of these passed into the speech of Alexandria, and with them were echoes of the older dialects—Doric, Ionic, Aeolic—and other less known local varieties of Greek. A mongrel patois, ἡ Ἀλεξανδρέων διάλεκτος, as it was called in the title of the treatise of Demetrius Ixion, arose out of this confusion of tongues.

No monument of the Alexandrian ‘dialect’ remains, unless we may seek it in the earlier books of the Alexandrian Greek Bible. We have indeed another source from which light is thrown on the popular Greek of Egypt under the earlier Ptolemies. A series of epistolary and testamentary papyri has recently been recovered from the Fayûm, and given to the world under the auspices of the Royal Irish Academy; similar collections have been published by Drs Grenfell and Hunt4. The Greek of these documents is singularly free from dialectic forms, owing perhaps to local circumstances, as Professor Mahaffy suggests; but the vocabulary has, in common with the LXX., many striking words and forms, some of which are rare elsewhere.

The following list has been formed from the indices to the Flinders Petrie collection: ἀναδενδράς, ἀναφάλακρος, ἀναφάλαντος, ἀρχισωματοφύλαξ, ἀρχιτεκτονεῖν, ἄχυρον, βασίλισσα, γένημα, διῶρυξ, ἐπιγονή, ἐργοδιώκτης, εὐίλατος, ἐφιδεῖν, ἐφιορκεῖν, θέριστρον, ὀλιγοψυχεῖν, ὀχύρωμα, ὀψώνιον, παιδίον, παραδεῖξαι, παρεπίδημος, περιδέξιον, περιοδεύειν, πράκτωρ, πρεσβύτεροι, στενοχωρεῖν, χῶμα. The Berlin papyri yield many other such words, e.g. ἀναμέτρησις, γλύμμα, δικαίωμα, ἱεροψάλτης, ἱματισμός, καταλοχισμός, κτηνοτρόφος, μισοπονηρία, ὁλοσχερής, συμπλήρωσις, ὑπομνηματισμός.

The following letter of the time of Philadelphus will serve to shew the style of these documents, and at the same time the use in them of certain Septuagint words. It is addressed by the foremen (δεκάταρχοι) of a gang engaged in a stone quarry to the engineer of the works (ἀρχιτέκτων):

Κλέωνι χαίρειν. οἱ δεκάταρχοι τῶν ἐλευθέρ[ων] λατόμων ἀδικούμεθα· τὰ γὰρ ὁμολογηθέντα ὑπὸ Ἀπολλωνίου τοῦ διοικητοῦ οὐθὲν γίνεται ἡμῖν, ἔχει δὲ τὴν γραφὴν Διότιμος. σπούδασον οὖν ἵνα καθὰ ἐξειλήφαμεν ἤδη, ὑπὸ Διονυσίου καὶ Διοτίμου χρηματισθῇ ἡμῖν, καὶ μὴ τὰ ἔργα ἐνλειφθῇ, καθὰ καὶ ἔμπροσθεν ἐγένετο. ἐὰν γὰρ αἴσθωνται οἱ ἐργαζόμενοι οὐθὲν ἡμᾶς εἰληφότας τὸν σιδηρὸν ἐνέχυρα θήσουσιν.

  1. Simultaneously with the growth of the colloquial mixed dialect, a deliberate attempt was made at Alexandria to revive the glories of classical Greek. The first Ptolemy, who had been the companion of Alexander’s early days, retained throughout his life a passion for literature and learning. Prompted, perhaps, by Demetrius of Phalerum, Soter founded at Alexandria the famous Museum, with its cloisters and lecture rooms and dining hall where scholars lived a common life under a warden appointed by the King. To Soter is also attributed the establishment of the great library which is said to have contained 400,000 MSS. Under his successor, the Museum and Library became a center of literary activity, and the age to which the inception of the Greek Bible is usually ascribed produced Aratus, Callimachus, Herondas, Lycophron, and Theocritus. There is however no reason to suppose that the Jewish translators were officially connected with the Museum, or that the classical revival under Soter and Philadelphus affected them directly. Such traces of a literary style as we find in the Greek Pentateuch are probably due not to the influence of the scholars of the Royal Library, but to the traditions of Greek writing which had floated down from the classical period and were already shaping themselves under altered conditions into a type of Greek which became the common property of the new Hellenism.
  2. The later Greek, the κοινὴ or Ἑλληνικὴ διάλεκτος—the dialect in general use among Greek-speaking peoples from the fourth century onwards—was based on Attic Greek, but embraced elements drawn from all Hellenic dialects. It was the literary language of the cosmopolitan Hellas created by the genius of Alexander. The change had begun indeed before Alexander. Even Xenophon allows himself to make free use of words of provincial origin, and to employ Attic words with a new connotation, and the writings of Aristotle mark the opening of a new era in the history of the Greek language2. But the golden age of the κοινή begins in the second century with Polybius (c. B.C.E. 145), and extends a century or two beyond the Christian era, producing such writers as Diodorus Siculus (B.C.E. 40), Strabo (C.E. 10), Plutarch C.E. 90), and Pausanias (C.E. 160). The language used by the writers of the Greek Diaspora may be regarded as belonging to a subsection of an early stage of the κοινή, although, since the time of Scaliger, it has been distinguished from the latter by the term ‘Hellenistic.’ A ‘Hellenist’ is properly a foreigner who affects Greek manners and speaks the Greek tongue. Thus the Jewish Greek spoken in Palestine was ‘Hellenistic’ in the strictest sense. The word is often used to describe the Greek of such thoroughly Hellenised writers as Philo and Josephus, and the post-apostolic teachers of the ancient Church; but it is applied with special appropriateness to the Alexandrian Bible and the writings of the New Testament, which approach most nearly to the colloquial Greek of Alexandria and Palestine.
  3. Such were the local types of Greek upon which the Jewish translators of the O.T. would naturally mould their work. While the colloquial Greek of Alexandria was their chief resource, they were also influenced, in a less degree, by the rise of the later literary style which was afterwards known as the κοινή.

We are now prepared to begin our examination of the vocabulary and grammar of the Alexandrian Bible, and we may commence by testing the vocabulary in the translated books. Let us select for this purpose the first three chapters of Exodus, 1 Kingdoms, 2 Chronicles, Proverbs, and Jeremiah, books which are, perhaps, fairly representative of the translation as a whole. Reading these contexts in the Cambridge manual edition, and underlining words which are not to be found in the Greek prose of the best period, we obtain the following results. In Exod. 1–3 there are 19 such words; in 1 Regn. 1–3, 31; in 2 Chron. 1–3, 27; in Prov. 1–3, 16; in Jer. 1–3, 34; making a total of 135 later words in 15 chapters, or nine to a chapter. Of these words 52—considerably more than a third—appear to be peculiar to the LXX., or to have been used there for the first time in extant literature.

The following are the Septuagintal words observed in the above-named passages. Verbs: ἀνδριοῦν, δευτεροῦν, διοδεύειν, ἐνευλογεῖσθαι, ἐξολεθρεύειν, ἐξουθενεῖ, εὐοδοῦν, κατακληρονομεῖν, κατασκοπεύειν, κατεμβλέπειν, κατοδυνᾷν, ὀλεθρεύειν, ὀρθοτομεῖν, ὀρθρίζειν, πνευματοφορεῖσθαι, πτωχίζειν, σκοπεύειν, συνεδριάζειν, τριετίζειν, τροφεύειν, φιλεχθρᾷν. Nouns: ἀγάπη, ἀσυνθεσία, ἀσφαλτόπισσα, βδέλυγμα, γένημα, δόμα, ἐργοδιώκτης, θλιμμός, καταπέτασμα, κρίμα, λατόμος, μέθυσμα, ὁλοκαύτωμα, ὁλοκαύτωσις, ὀρόφωμα, παντοκράτωρ, προσήλυτος, πρόσκομμα, ῥοίσκος, σύντριμμα. Foreign words (a) with Greek terminations: ἅβρα, θῖβις, σίκλος· (b) transliterated: αἰλάμ, δαβείρ, ἐφοὺδ βάρ, νέβελ, ἐλωὲ σαβαώθ, οἰφι, σερσέρεθ, χερουβείμ.

A similar experiment has been made by Dr H. A. A. Kennedy in reference to one of the books of the Pentateuch. Of 110 late words and forms observed in Deut. 1–10 he found that 66 belonged to Biblical Greek, 16 of these being peculiar to the LXX.; of 313 such words in the entire book, 152 proved to be Biblical, and 36 peculiar to the Old Testament; nearly half belonged to the κοινή, and more than a fourth had been used by the writers of tragedy and comedy.

A complete list of the late words in the LXX. is still a desideratum. Lists which have been made for the N.T. shew that out of 950 post-Aristotelian words about 314—just under one third—occur also in the Greek O.T. But the writers of the N.T. have taken over only a part—perhaps a relatively small part—of the vocabulary of the LXX. As Dr T. K. Abbott has pointed out, Psalm 50 (51) alone yields four important words (ἀγαθύνειν, ἀκουτίζειν, ἀνόμημα, ἀνταναιρεῖν) which find no place in the N.T. This fact is suggestive, for the Psalm is doctrinally important, and the words are such as would have lent themselves readily to N.T. use.

The following LXX. words are condemned by Phrynichus as non-Attic: αἰχμαλωτίζεσθαι, ἀποτάσσεσθαι, βασίλισσα, βουνός, βρέχειν (in the sense of ὕειν), γρηγορεῖν, ἐλεύσεσθαι, ἐξάδελφος, κατόρθωμα, μεγιστάν, μέθυσος, οἰκοδομή, παιδίσκη, πάπυρος, παρεμβολή, πεποίθησις, πλῆξαι, ῥάπισμα, ῥύμη, σκορπίζεσθαι, σύσσημον. Some of these words are said to be provincialisms; e.g. βουνός is Sicilian, σκορπίζεσθαι is Ionic, παρεμβολή and ῥύμη are Macedonian.

As our knowledge of Alexandrian Greek increases, it may be that the greater part of the words which have been regarded as peculiar to the LXX. will prove to belong to the usage of Egyptian Greek. Deissmann has already shown that many well-known Septuagintal words find a place in the Greek papyri of the Ptolemaic period, and therefore presumably belonged to the language of business and conversation at Alexandria. Thus γογγύζειν occurs in a papyrus of 241–239 B.C.E.; ἐργοδιώκτης, 255 B.C.E.; παρεπίδημος, 225 B.C.E.; forms such as ἦλθα, ἐπήλθοσαν, γέγοναν, οἶδες, can be quoted from the papyri passim; ἀναστρέφεσθαι and ἀναστροφή in an ethical sense, λειτουργεῖν in reference to the service of a deity, περιτέμνεσθαι of circumcision, πρεσβύτερος of an official, are shewn to have been in use in Egypt under the Ptolemies. In many cases however words receive a new connotation, when they pass into Biblical Greek and come into contact with Hebrew associations. As examples the following may suffice: ἄγγελος, γραμματεύς, διάβολος, εἴδωλον, ἔθνη, ἐκκλησία, παντοκράτωρ, πεντηκοστή, προσήλυτος, χριστός.

The forms of many words have undergone a change since the age of classical Greek. A few specimens may be given from the pages of Phrynichus:

Attic Greek.

Greek of the LXX.

Attic Greek.

Greek of the LXX.








μόκλος (MSS.)

ἄχρι, μέχρι

ἄχρις, μέχρις

νεοσσός, -σία

νοσσός, -σία



































English Bible Versions King James Bible KING JAMES BIBLE II
  1. But the vocabulary of the LXX. is not its most characteristic feature. With no other vocabulary than that of the Alexandrian translators, it might be possible to produce a fairly good piece of Greek prose in the style of the later prose writers. It is in its manner, in the construction of the sentences and the disposition of the words, that the Greek of the LXX. is unique, and not only or chiefly in its lexical eccentricities. This may perhaps be brought home to the student most effectually by a comparison of the Greek Bible with two great Hellenistic writers of the first century C.E. (a) In the works of Philo we have a cultured Hellenist’s commentary on the earlier books of the LXX., and as he quotes his text verbatim, the student can discern at a glance the gulf which divides its simple manner, half Semitic, half colloquial, from the easy command of idiomatic Greek manifested by the Alexandrian exegete. We will give two brief specimens.

Philo de opif. mundi 7: φησὶ δʼ ὡς ἐν ἀρχῇ ἐποίησεν ὁ θεὸς τὸν οὐρανὸν καὶ τὴν γῆν, τὴν ἀρχὴν παραλαμβάνων, οὐχ ὡς οἴονταί τινες τὴν κατὰ χρόνον· χρόνος γὰρ οὐκ ἦν πρὸ κόσμου, ἀλλʼ ἢ σὺν αὐτῷ γέγονεν ἢ μετʼ αὐτόν· ἐπεὶ γὰρ διάστημα τῆς τοῦ κόσμου κινήσεώς ἐστιν ὁ χρόνος, προτέρα δὲ τοῦ κινουμένου κίνησις οὐκ ἂν γένοιτο, ἀλλʼ ἀναγκαῖον αὐτὴν ἢ ὕστερον ἢ ἅμα συνίστασθαι, ἀναγκαῖον ἄρα καὶ τὸν χρόνον ἢ ἰσήλικα κόσμου γεγονέναι ἢ νεώτερον ἐκεινου· πρεσβύτερον δʼ ἀποφαίνεσθαι τολμᾷν ἀφιλόσοφον. De migr. Abrahami 39: ἐὰν μέντοι σκοπούμενος μὴ ῥᾳδίως καταλαμβάνῃς ἃ ζητεῖς, ἐπίμενε μὴ κάμνων. οὗ χάριν ὁ φιλομαθὴς τοῦ τόπου Συχὲμ ἐνείληπται, μεταληφθὲν δὲ τοὔνομα Συχὲμ ὠμίασις καλεῖται, πόνου σύμβολον, ἐπειδὴ τοῖς μέρεσι τούτοις ἀχθοφορεῖν ἔθος, ὡς καὶ αὐτὸς ἑτέρωθι μέμνηται λέγων ἐπί τινος ἀθλητοῦ τοῦτον τὸν τρόπον Ὑπέθηκε τὸν ὦμον εἰς τὸ πονεῖν, καὶ ἐγένετο ἀνὴρ γεωργός. ὥστε μηδέποτε, ὦ διάνοια, μαλακισθεῖσα ὀκλάσῃς, ἀλλὰ κἄν τι δοκῇ δυσθεώρητον εἶναι, τὸ ἐν σαυτῇ βλέπον διανοίξασα διάκυψον εἴσω.

(b) Josephus is not a commentator, but a historian who uses the LXX. as an authority, and states the facts in his own words. We will contrast a few passages of the Greek Bible with the corresponding contexts in the Antiquities.

Exod. 2:2–4.

Joseph. ant. ii. 9. 4.

ἐσκέπασαν αὐτὸ μῆνας τρεῖς … ἔλαβεν αὐτῷ ἡ μήτηρ αὐτοῦ θῖβιν, καὶ κατέχρισεν αὐτὴν ἀσφαλτοπίσσῃ καὶ ἐνέβαλεν τὸ παιδίον εἰς αὐτήν … καὶ κατεσκόπευεν ἡ ἀδελφὴ αὐτοῦ μακρόθεν μαθεῖν τί τὸ ἀποβησόμενον αὐτῷ.

τρεῖς μὲν μῆνας παρʼ αὐτοῖς τρέφουσι λανθάνοντες … μηχανῶνται πλέγμα βίβλινον. ἔπειτα χρίσαντες ἀσφάλτῳ. ἐντιθέασι τὸ παιδίον … Μαριάμη δὲ τοῦ παιδὸς ἀδελφὴ. ἀντιπαρεξῄει φερόμενον ὅποι χωρήσει ὀψομένη τὸ πλέγμα.

1 Regn. 1:1–4.

Joseph. ant. v.10. 2.

ἄνθρωπος ἦν ἐξ Ἁρμαθάιμ. ἐξ ὄρους Ἐφράιμ. καὶ τούτῳ δύο γυναῖκες· ὄνομα τῇ μιᾷ Ἅννα καὶ τῇ μιᾷ Φεννάνα. καὶ ἦν τῇ Φεννάνα παιδία, καὶ τῇ Ἅννᾳ οὐκ ἦν παιδίον. πλὴν ὅτι τὴν Ἅνναν ἠγάπα Ἐλκανὰ ὑπὲρ ταύτην.

ἀνὴρ τῶν ἐν μέσῳ πολιτῶν τῆς Ἐφράμου κληρουχίας Ῥαμαθὰν πόλιν κατοικῶν ἐγάμει δύο γυναῖκας Ἅνναν τε καὶ Φεννάναν. ἐκ δὲ ταύτης καὶ παῖδες αὐτῷ γίνονται, τὴν δὲ ἑτέραν ἄτεκνον οὖσαν ἀγαπῶν διετέλει.

2 Chron. 3:1–2.

Joseph. ant. viii. 3. 1.

καὶ ἤρξατο Σαλωμὼν τοῦ οἰκοδομεῖν τὸν οἶκον Κυρίου … καὶ ἤρξατο οἰκοδομὴ ἐν τῷ μηνὶ τῷ δευτέρῳ ἐν τῷ ἔτει τῷ τετάρτῳ τῆς βασιλείας αὐτοῦ.

τῆς δὲ οἰκοδομίας τοῦ ναοῦ Σολομὼν ἤρξατο τέταρτον ἔτος ἤδη τῆς βασιλείας ἔχων μηνὶ δευτέρῳ.

Isa. 39:6–7.


Joseph. ant. x. 2. 2.


ἰδοὺ ἡμέραι ἔρχονται καὶ λήμψονται πάντα τὰ ἐν τῷ οἴκ ῳ σου καὶ … εἰς Βαβυλῶνα ἥξει … καὶ ἀπὸ τῶν τέκνων σου ὧν γεννήσεις λήμψονται, καὶ ποιήσουσιν σπάδοντας ἐν τῷ οἴκῳ τοῦ βασιλέως τῶν Βαβυλωνίων.

ἴσθι οὐ μετʼ ὀλίγον χρόνον εἰς Βαβυλῶνά σου τοῦτον μετατεθησόμενον τὸν πλοῦτον καὶ τοὺς ἐκγόνους εὐνουχισθησομένους καὶ ἀπολέσαντας τὸ ἄνδρας εἶναι, τῷ Βαβυλωνίῳ δουλεύσοντας βασιλεῖ.

Josephus, it will be seen, has rewritten each passage, and in doing so, has not only modified the vocabulary but revolutionized the style. On turning from the left hand to the right hand column we pass from a literal translation of Semitic texts to an imitation of classical Greek. But the contrast is not entirely due to the circumstance that the passages taken from the Septuagint are translations, while the Antiquities is an original work. Translations, however faithful, may be in the manner of the language into which they render their original. But the manner of the LXX. is not Greek and does not even aim at being so. It is that of a book written by men of Semitic descent, who have carried their habits of thought into their adopted tongue. The translators write Greek largely as they doubtless spoke it; they possess a plentiful vocabulary and are at no loss for a word, but they are almost indifferent to idiom and seem to have no sense of rhythm. Hebrew constructions and Semitic arrangements of the words are at times employed, even when not directly suggested by the original. These remarks apply especially to the earlier books, but they are true to a great extent in regard to the translations of the second century; the manner of the older translations naturally became a standard to which later translators thought it right to conform themselves. Thus the grandson of Jesus son of Sirach writes his prologue in the literary style of the Alexandrian Jews of the time of Euergetes, but in the body of the work he drops into the Biblical manner, and his translation differs little in general character from that of the Greek version of Proverbs.

4th ed. MISREPRESENTING JESUS The Complete Guide to Bible Translation-2
  1. From the general view of the subject we proceed to a detailed account of some of the more characteristic features of the language of the LXX. They fall under three heads—orthography, accidence, syntax. Under the second head a full list of examples from the Pentateuch will be given, with the view of familiarising the beginner with the vocabulary of the earlier books.
  2. Orthography

In the best MSS. of the LXX. as of the N.T. a large number of peculiar spellings occur, of which only a part can be assigned to itacism and other forms of clerical error. In many of the instances where the great uncial MSS. of the Greek Bible persistently depart from the ordinary orthography they have the support of inscriptions contemporary with the translators, and it is manifest that we have before us specimens of a system which was prevalent at Alexandria and other centres of Greek life2 during the third and second centuries before Christ

To a considerable extent the orthography of the MSS. is the same in the LXX. and the N.T. The student may find ample information with regard to the N.T. in the Notes on Orthography appended to Westcott and Hort’s Introduction, and in the best N. T. grammars (Ph. Buttmann, Winer-Moulton, Winer-Schmiedel, Blass). But even in MSS. which like אBAC originally contained the whole of the Greek Scriptures, the Greek Old Testament possesses an orthography which is in part peculiar to itself, and certain features which are common to both Old and New Testaments are found with greater frequency and with a wider application in the LXX. than in the N.T. The reader of the Cambridge manual LXX. who is interested in this question, can readily work out the details from the apparatus criticus, and more especially from the appendix, where he will find all the spellings of the uncial MSS. employed which were not thought worthy of a place in the footnotes to the text. For those to whom orthography is of little interest the specimens given below will probably suffice.

Consonants. Assimilation neglected in compounds: ἐνγαστρίμυθος, συνκατακληρονομεῖν, συνσεισμός, ἐνκαίνια, ἐνχειρίδιον. Assimilation where there is no composition: ἐμ μέσῳ, ἐγ γαστρί. Use of ν ἐφελκυστικόν before consonants (omission is rare, except in a few cases such as πᾶσι before the art.); use of the final ς in ἄχρις, μέχρις, οὕτως, ἄντικρυς. Retention of the μ in fut. and aor. pass. of λαμβάνειν (λήμψομαι, ἐλήμφθην), and in words formed from it, e.g. πρόσλημψις. Οὐθείς, μηθείς (see p. 297, note) for οὐδείς, μηδείς. Γ dropped in the middle of a word between vowels, as κρανή, ὀλίος, φεύειν (especially in cod. א). ‘P not doubled in compounds, e.g. ἐπιραντίζειν, κολοβόρις, κατάρακτος, and reduplicated in the augment (ῥεραντισμένος); σσ for ττ in ἐλάσσων, ἥσσων, and ρσ for ρρ in ἄρσην, θαρσεῖν. In some verbal forms consonants are doubled, e.g. βέννειν, κτέννειν, χύννειν. Rough and smooth consonants are occasionally exchanged, e.g. κύθρα (1 Regn. 2:14, B) for χύτρα.

Vowels. Ει for ι in syllables where ι is long, e.g. Semitic words such as Λευεί, Λευείτης, Δαυείδ, Σειών, and Greek words as τραπεζείτης, γείνεσθαι, γεινώσκειν. Also (perhaps by itacism) in innumerable instances of ῐ: e.g. ὅρειον, ἀληθεινός, ἀδικεία, κρεινεῖν. I for ει, e.g. τίχος, λιτουργεῖν, ἀλίφειν, ἄλιμμα, κατελίφθην, παράδιγμα, δανίζειν, ὀφιλέτης, αἴγιος, and esp. in nouns in -εία, -εια, e.g. ἀπωλία, ἐνδία, παιδία, Σαμαρία, στρατία, and those in εῖον, as δάνιον, εἰδώλιον. A for ε, as ἐραυνᾷν; ε for α, as ἐκαθερίσθην, μιερός, τεσσεράκοντα. Omission of a syllable consisting of ι, as in πεῖν, ταμεῖον. Prefixing of a vowel, as in ἐχθές.

Breathings. Rough breathing for smooth: e.g. οὐχ ὁλίγος, ἐφʼ ἑλπίδι, ἔφιδε, οὐχ εἱσακούσομαι (Jer. 7:16), καθʼ ὁφθαλμούς (Ezech. 20:14). Similarly we find ἅλσος, ἁλώπηξ, ἑνιαυτός Dt. 15:20 (Nestle, Septuagintastudien i. p. 19, ii. pp. 12, 13, 20 f.). Smooth breathing for rough: οὐκ ἔνεκεν (2 Regn. 7:12), οὐκ ὐπάρχει (Job 38:26, A).

Abnormal spellings such as these occur on every page of an uncial MS. of the LXX. and sometimes cause great perplexity to an editor of the text. So far as they correctly represent the written or spoken Greek of the period, their retention is, generally speaking, desirable. In some cases the MSS. are unanimous, or each MS. is fairly persistent in its practice; in others, the spelling fluctuates considerably. The Cambridge manual LXX. usually adopts a spelling which is persistently given by the MS. whose text it prints, and on the same principle follows the fluctuations of its MS. where they are of any special interest. But the whole question of orthography is far from having reached a settlement.

  1. Accidence. We will deal with (i.) the formation of words, (ii.) the declension of nouns, (iii.) the conjugation of verbs.

(i.) Formation of words

(a) Words formed by termination:

Verbs. In -οῦν from nouns in -ος: ἀμαυροῦν, ἀποδεκατοῦν, ἀπολυτροῦν, ἀποτυφλοῦν, ἀσφαλτοῦν, διαβιοῦν, ἐκτυποῦν, ἐλαττονοῦν, ἐπιδιπλοῦν, ἐπιπεμπτοῦν, ἐρυθροδανοῦν, εὐοδοῦν, θανατοῦν, καταχρυσοῦν, κυροῦν, παλαιοῦν, παραζηλοῦν, περικυκλοῦν, συγκυροῦν. In -ίζειν, -άζειν, -ιάζειν, -ύζειν: ἁγιάζειν, αἱρετίζειν, ἀκουτίζειν, ἀναβιβάζειν, ἀναθεματίζειν, ἀπογαλακτίζειν, αὐγάζειν, ἀφαγνίζειν, ἀφανίζειν, ἀφορίζειν, βαδίζειν, γελοιάζειν, γρύζειν, δανίζειν, διαγογγύζειν, διασκεδάζειν, διασκορπίζειν, διαχωρίζειν, ἐκθερίζειν, ἐκκλησιάζειν, ἐκμυελίζειν, ἐκσπερματίζειν, ἐκτοκίζειν, ἐνταφιάζειν, ἐνυπνιάζειν, ἐνωτίζεσθαι, ἐξεικονίζειν, ἐξετάζειν, ἐξοπλίζειν, ἐξορκίζειν, ἐπικλύζειν, ἐπιραντίζειν, ἐπισκιάζειν, ἐπιστοιβάζειν, ἐπιφημίζειν, θυσιάζειν, καταβιάζειν, κατασκιάζειν, κατασοφίζειν, κληδονίζειν, καμίζειν, κουφίζειν, λεπίζειν, λευκαθίζειν, μακαρίζειν, μελίζειν, οἰωνίζειν, ὀνυχίζειν, ὀπτάζειν, ὀρθρίζειν, παραδειγματίζειν, παραδοξάζειν, παραλογίζειν, περιασπίζειν, περιονυχίζειν, περιραντίζειν, πλεονάζειν, πολυχρονίζειν, προσεγγίζειν, προσοχθίζειν, σαββατίζειν, σκεπάζειν, σπερματίζειν, στηρίζειν, στοχάζειν, συμποδίζειν, συναθροίζειν, συνοικίζειν, σφακελίζειν, σχολάζειν, τειχίζειν, φαυλίζειν, φλογίζειν, χλωρίζειν, χρονίζειν, ψωμίζειν.

In -εύειν: ἀγχιστεύειν, διοδεύειν, ἐξολεθρεύειν, ἱερατεύειν, καταδυναστεύειν, κατακυριεύειν,. καταφυτεύειν, κατοχεύειν, μεταλλεύειν, προφητεύειν, πρωτοτοκεύειν, στρατοπεδεύειν, τροφεύειν, ὑδρεύειν.

Nouns. In -μα, from verbs: ἁγίασμα, ἅγνισμα, ἀδίκημα, αἴνιγμα, ἄλλαγμα, ἀνάστεμα, ἀνόμημα, ἀνταπόδομα, ἀπόδομα, ἀσέβημα, αὔγασμα, ἀφαίρεμα, βδέλυγμα, διήγημα, δικαίωμα, διόρυγμα, διχοτόμημα, δόμα, ἐγκατάλιμμα, ἔδεσμα, ἐκκόλαμμα, ἐκτύπωμα, ἐπίθεμα, ἐπικάλυμμα, ἐπιτήδευμα, ἕψεμα, ἡμίσευμα, θήρευμα, θυμίαμα, θυσίασμα, ἱεράτευμα, κάρπωμα, κατάκαυμα, καταπέτασμα, καύχημα, κλέμμα, λέπισμα, ὁλοκαύτωμα, ὅραμα, ὀφείλημα, ὀχύρωμα, παράδειγμα, παράθεμα, παράρυμα, περίθεμα, περίψωμα, προσόχθισμα, πρόσταγμα, πρωτογένημα, στερέωμα, συνάντημα, συνκάλυμμα, σύστεμα, τάγμα, τίμημα, τόξευμα, φαλάκρωμα, φύλαγμα, φύραμα, χόρτασμα, χώνευμα.

In -μός, from verbs: ἀφανισμός, γογγυσμός, ἐνδελεχισμός, ἐνπορισμός, ἐξιλασμός, ἐπισιτισμός, ἱματισμός, καθαρισμός, μηρυκισμός, οἰωνισμός, ὁρισμός, ὁρκισμός, παροξυσμός, πειρασμός, σταθμός, στεναγμός, φραγμός, χωρισμός.

In -σις, from verbs: ἀναίρεσις, ἀνάμνησις, ἀποκιδάρωσις, ἄφεσις, βεβαίωσις, γόγγυσις, γύμνωσις, δήλωσις, διάβασις, διασάφησις, ἐκδίκησις, ἔκστασις, ἔκχυσις, ἐπερώτησις, κατακάρπωσις, κατάλειψις, κατάσχεσις, κατοίκησις, ὁλοκάρπωσις, ὁλοκαύτωσις, ὁμοίωσις, πλήρωσις, πόρευσις, πρᾶσις, σύγκρασις, συνάντησις, συντίμησις, σύστασις, ταπείνωσις, ὑπερόρασις, ὑπέροψις, ὑπόστασις, φαῦσις, χαράκωσις, χήρευσις.

In -ή, from verbs: ἀλοιφή, ἀναζυγή, ἀποσκευή, ἀποστολή, ἀποστροφή, ἁφή, διασκευή, δοχή, ἐκτριβή, ἐντολή, ἐπαγωγή, ἐπισκοπή, καταφυγή, ὁλκή, παραβολή, προνομή, προφυλακή, συναγωγή, τροπή.

In -τής, from verbs (m.): αἰνιγματιστής, ἐνταφιαστής, ἐξηγητής, ἐπιθυμητής, ἑρμηνευτής, πολεμιστής, ῥαφιδευτής, σκιπαστής, σχολαστής.

Adjectives. In -ινος: δειλινός, δερμάτινος, καρύινος, ὀστράκινος, πράσινος, στυράκινος, φλόγινος.

In -ιος: ἐνιαύσιος, ὁμομήτριος, πολυχρόνιος, ὑποχείριος.

In -ικός: ἀρσενικός, εἰρηνικός, λαμπηνικός, λειτουργικός, λιθουργικός, μυρεψικός, πατρικός, ποικιλτικός, πολεμικός, προφασιστικός.

In -τος: ἀκατασκεύαστος, ἁλυσιδωτός, ἀόρατος, ἀπερικάθαρτος, ἐπικατάρατος, εὐλογητός, λαξευτός, μισθωτός, ὀνομαστός, πλεοναστός, φορολογιστός.

(b) Words formed by composition:

Verbs compunded with two prepositions: ἀνθυφαιρεῖν, ἀνταποδοῦναι, ἀποκαθιστᾷν, ἐνκαταλείπειν, ἐνπεριπατεῖν, ἐξαναστέλλειν, ἐπισυνιστᾷν, κατεμβλέπειν, παρεμβάλλειν, συναναλαμβάνειν, συναναστρέφεσθαι, συναπολλύειν, συνεκπολεμοῦν, συνεπακολουθεῖν, συνεπισκέπτειν, συνκατακληρονομεῖν, συνπαραλαμβάνειν, συνπροπέμπειν.

Nouns. Compounded with nouns: ἀσφαλτόπισσα, δασύπους, ἑτερόζυγος, καμηλοπάρδαλις, κολοβόρις, μακροήμερος, μακροχρόνιος, μικρόθυμος, ὁλόκληρος, ὁλοπόρφυρος, πολυέλεος, πολυχρόνιος, σκληροτράχηλος, χοιρογρύλλιον.

Compounded with a prefix or preposition: ἀντιπρόσωπος, Ἀντιλίβανος, ἀρχιδεσμοφύλαξ, ἀρχιδεσμώτης, ἀρχιερεύς, ἀρχιμάγειρος, ἀρχιοινοχόος, ἀρχισιτοποιός, ἐπίπεμπτος, εὐπρόσωπος, κατάλοιπος, κατάξηρος, παράλιος, παρεπίδημος, περιδέξιον, περίλυπος, περίοικος, περίχωρος, ὕπανδρος, ὑπερμήκης.

Compounded with a verb stem, and forming a fresh noun or a verb: ἀνεμοφθόρος, γλωσσότμητος, ἐργοδιώκτης, θανατηφόρος, θηριάλωτος, θηρόβρωτος, ἱπποδρόμος, ἰσχνόφωνος, κτηνοτρόφος, νυμφαγωγός, σιτοποιός, σφυροκόπος, τελεσφόρος, χαροποιός, διχοτομεῖν, ζωογονεῖν, κλοποφορεῖν, κρεανομεῖν, λιθοβολεῖν, λιμαγχονεῖν, νευροκοπεῖν, ὀρνιθοσκοπεῖν, συμβολοκοπεῖν, τεκνοποιεῖν, ψωραγριᾷν

(ii.) Declension of nouns

Declension 1. Nouns in -ρᾰ, -υῖα, form gen. in ης, dat. ῃ, μαχαίρῃ, μαχαίρης Gen. 27:40, Exod. 15:9 (“vielfach bei A, bes. in Jerem.,” W.-Schm.), κυνομυίης Exod. 8:17, ἐπιβεβηκυίης 1 Regn. 25:20.

Declension 2. Certain nouns in -οῦς end also in -ος, e.g. χείμαρρος, ἀδελφιδός. The Attic form in -εώς disappears; e.g. λαός and ναός are written for λεώς and νεώς—the latter however occurs in 2 Macc. (A). Nouns in -αρχος pass occasionally into the first declension, e.g. τοπάρχης Gen. 41:34, κωμάρχης Esth. 2:3, γενεσιάρχης Sap. 13:3 ὀστέον usu. contr. in nom. acc., uncontr. in gen. dat.

Declension 3. Uncontracted forms are frequent, as βαθέα Job 12:22, πήχεων, χειλέων, and in the plural nom. and acc. of neuters in -ας, as κέρατα, πέρατα. Γῆρας makes gen. γήρους dat. γήρει. Metaplasmus occurs in some words, e.g. δύο, δυσί, πᾶν with masc. noun, πύλη, πύλεσιν (3 Regn. 22:11, A), σάββατα, σάββασιν, τέσσαρες, τεσσάροις, χείρ, χεῖραν Acc. in -αν for -α, νύκταν Exod. 13:21, τίναν Nah. 3:19, and freq. in א and A.

Proper nouns. Many are mere transliterations and indeclinable, e.g. Ἀδάμ, Ἀβραάμ, Ἰωσήφ, Σαμουήλ, Δαυείδ, Ἀχαάβ, Ἠλειού, Ἐλεισαῖε, Δανιήλ. On the other hand some well-known names receive Greek terminations and are declined, as Μωυσῆς or Μωσῆς, Ἰησοῦς, Ἑζεκίας, Ἠσαίας, Ἰερεμίας; while some are found in both forms, e.g. we have both Ἠλειού and Ἠλ(ε)ίας, Μανασσή and Μανασσῆς, Σολομών indecl. and Σολομών gen. -μῶνος or -μῶντος. But in the translated books the indeclinable forms prevail, and there is no appearance of the forms Ἄβραμος, Ἰσράηλος, Ἰώσηπος, which are familiar to the reader of Josephus. In the case of local names transliteration is usual, e.g. Ἰερουσαλήμ, Βηθλέεμ, Βαιθήλ, Σειών. A few however have Greek terminations, as Σαμάρεια or Σαμαρία, Ἰόρδανος, and some names of foreign localities are Hellenised, as Βαβυλών, Συρία, ἡ ἐρυθρὰ θάλασσα, Ἰδουμαία, Αἴγυπτος, and the two Egyptian towns Ἡρώων πόλις (Gen. 46:28), Ἡλίου πόλις (Exod. 1:11). The declension of the Hellenised names presents some irregularities; thus we find Μωυσῆς, -σῆ, -σεῖ, -σῆν· Ἰησοῦς, -σοῦ, -σοῖ, -σοῦν· Μανασσῆς, -σῆ.


(iii.) Conjugation of verbs

Augments. Doubled, as in κεκατήρανται Num. 22:6, 24:9, ἀπεκατέστησεν Gen. 23:16, παρεσυνεβλήθη Ps. 48:13, 21 (A). Prefixed to prepositions, e.g. ἐπρονόμευσαν Num. 21:1, Deut. 2:35, ἐπροφήτευσαν Num. 11:25 f., ἠνωτίσαντο 2 Esdr. 19:30 (B). Lengthened, as ἤμελλον Sap. 18:4, ἠβουλόμην Isa. 1:29, 13:9, ἠδυνήθην, ἠδυνάσθην, 2 Chr. 20:37, Jer. 5:4. Omitted, as in ἀνέθη Jud. 8:3, ἀφέθη Isa. 33:24, αὐτάρκησεν Deut. 32:10, ἐξολόθρευεν 1 Chr. 21:15, ἴδεν Gen. 1:4, κατορθώθη 2 Chr. 35:10.

Tenses and Persons. (1) Verbs in -ω. New presents, as ἀμφιάζω, γρηγορῶ, βέννω, κτέννω. Futures and aorists with reduplication: κεκράξομαι (Job 6:5), ἐκέκραξα (Num. 11:2), ἐπεποίθησα (Jud. 9:26 A); cf. ἐκέκραγον, Isa. 6:3. Contracted futures in -ῶ from -άσω: ἐργᾷ Gen. 4:2, ἁρπᾷ Lev. 19:13, ἐκδικᾶται Deut. 32:43, ἐγκαυχᾷ Ps. 51:3, συμβιβᾷ Isa. 40:13, ἀποδοκιμῶ Jer. 38 (31):37. Futures (and aor.) with short vowels, πονέσω, Isa. 19:10. Irregular futures: ἔδομαι, φάγομαι, χεῶ (Exod. 4:9). Second aor. forms with termination in -α: εἴδαμεν 1 Regn. 10:14, ἔφυγαν 2 Regn. 10:14, ἐφάγαμεν 2 Regn. 19:42, ἐλθάτω Esth. 5:4. Person endings: 2nd p. s. pres. pass. or middle in -σαι: πίεσαι, φάγεσαι (Ezech. 13:18, Ruth 2:9, 14), ἀπεξενοῦσαι 3 Regn. 14:6. 3rd p. pl. imperf. and aor. act. in -οσαν: ἐγεννῶσαν Gen. 6:4, ἤλθοσαν Exod. 15:27, κατελίποσαν Exod. 16:24, κατενοοῦσαν Exod. 33:8, ἠνομοῦσαν Ezech. 22:11; cf. the opt. αἰνέσαισαν Gen. 49:8, ἔλθοισαν Deut. 33:16. 3rd p. pl. aor. mid. in -εντο: ἐπελάθεντο Jud. 3:7 (A), Hos. 13:6 (B), Jer. 18:15 (B*A), &c. 3rd p. pl. perf. act. in -αν: ἑώρακαν Deut. 11:7; πέποιθαν, Judith 7:10. 2nd p. s. 1st aor. and perf. act. in -ες; ἀπέσταλκες Exod. 5:22; ἔδωκες, 2 Esdr. 19:10, Ezech. 16:21. (2) Verbs in -μι. From εἰμί we have ἤμην, ἦσθα. From κάθημαι, κάθου Ps. 109 (110):1. From ἵστημι, ἑστηκέναι, ἑστηκώς. From δίδωμι, ἐδίδετο Exod. 5:13 (A), Jer. 12:17; δοῖ, Ps. 41:3 (B), 2 Regn. 3:39 (A).

III. Syntax

Many of the irregularities which fall under this head are due to the influence of the Hebrew text or of Semitic habits of thought. These will be treated in the next section. In this place we shall limit ourselves to constructions which appear to be characteristic of the Greek idiom used by the translators.

Cases and Numbers. Nom. for voc., e.g. ὁ θεός for θεέ, Ps. 21:2, esp. in the phrase Κύριε ὁ θεός; θυγάτηρ = θύγατερ, Ruth 2:2, 22, 3:1, &c. Disuse of the Dual.

Comparison. Use of a preposition with the positive for the comparative, e.g. μέγας παρὰ πάντας, Exod. 18:11; ἀγαθὸς ὑπὲρ δέκα, 1 Regn. 1:8.

Numerals. Ἑπτά = ἑπτάκις, Gen. 4:24. Omission of καί when numbers are coupled, e.g. δέκα δύο, δέκα ἕξ, δέκα πέντε, &c.

Verbs. Relative rarity of the optative mood, and disappearance of that mood in dependent clauses. Periphrasis with εἰμί, e.g. πεποιθὼς ἔσομαι, 2 Regn. 22:3; ἴσθι πεποιθώς, Prov. 3:5. Indicative with ἄν: imperf. and aor., ὅταν εἰσήρχετο, Gen. 38:9; ὅτον ἐπῆρεν, Exod. 7:11; ὅταν κατέβη, Num. 11:9; ἡνίκα ἂν εἰσεπορεύετο, Jud. 6:3; ἐὰν ἔσπειραν, Jud. 6:2. Coordination of indicative with conjunctive: Exod. 8:8 ἐξαποστελῶ αὐτούς, καὶ θύσωσι, Lev. 6:2 ψυχὴ ἐὰν ἁμάρτῃ καὶ … παρίδῃ … καὶ ψεύσηται, ἢ ἠδίκησεν … ἢ εὗρεν … καὶ ψεύσηται … καὶ ὀμόσῃ κτλ. Use of infinitive, with or without the article, to express object, purpose, subject, or result; e.g. (a) ἐζήτει ἀνελεῖν, Exod. 2:15: ἤρξατο τοῦ οἰκοδομεῖν, 2 Chr. 3:1; (b) παραγίνεται βοηθῆναι, 2 Regn. 8:5; ἀπέστειλεν τοῦ ἰδεῖν, Gen. 8:7; (c) συνέβη κρεμασθῆναι, Gen. 41:13; τὸ προσκολλᾶσθαι ἀγαθόν Ps. 72:28; (d) ὁ θεὸς ἐγὼ τοῦ θανατῶσαι καὶ ζωοποιῆσαι, 4 Regn. 5:7.

Connexion of the sentence. Use of gen. abs. in reference to the subject of the verb: e.g. πορευομένου σου … ὅρα, Exod. 4:21. Anacoluthon: ἰδὼν δὲ Φαραὼ … ἐβαρύνθη ἡ καρδία Φαραώ, Exod. 9:7. Use of the finite verb where the classical language prefers to employ a participle.

  1. Besides the non-classical forms and constructions which may fairly be placed to the credit of Alexandrian Greek, the translated books of the Greek Bible naturally exhibit a large number of irregularities which are of Semitic origin. The following are examples.

(a) Lexical

  1. Transliterations, and Greek words formed from the Hebrew or Aramaic.
  2. Words coined or adopted to express Semitic ideas, as ἀκροβυστία, ἀναθεματίζειν, ὁλοκαύτωμα, σκανδαλίζειν, σπλαγχνίζειν.
  3. Phrases answering to the Hebrew idiom: e.g. ἄρτον φαγεῖν = אָכַל לֶחֶם, ἔλεος ποιεῖν μετά τινος = עָשָׂה חֶסֶד עִם, ἐνώπιον τοῦ κυρίου = לִפְנֵי־יְהוָֹה, ζητεῖν ψυχήν = בִּקֵּשׁ נֶפֶשׁ, θυσία σωτηρίου = זֶבַח שְׁלָמִים, λαμβάνειν πρόσωπον = נָשָׂא פָנִים, πᾶσα σάρξ = כָּל־בָּשָׂר, υἱὸς τεσσεράκοντα καὶ ἑνὸς ἐνιαυτῶν = בֶּן־אַרְבָּעִים וְאַחַת שָׁנָח.
  4. Words with a new connotation: ἅγιος, ἁμαρτωλός, ἀρετή, ἀφόρισμα, ἄφρων, διάβολος, διαθήκη, δικαιοσύνη, ἐκκλησία, ἐλεημοσύνη, ἐξιλασμός, καρδόα, Κύριος or ὁ κύριος, λειτουργεῖν, ματαιότης, ὁσιότης, πειράζειν, προφήτης, πτωχός, σάρξ, φυγαδευτήριον.

(b) Grammatical

Nouns. Repeated to express distribution, e.g. ἄνθρωπος ἄνθρωπος = אִישׁ אִישׁ, Num. 9:10; ἔθνη ἔθνη = גּוי גּוֹי, 4 Regn. 17:29. Similarly δύο δύο, Gen. 6:19; κατὰ μικρὸν μικρόν (AF), Exod. 23:30. Emphatic adverbs also are occasionally doubled after the Hebrew manner, as σφόδρα σφόδρα, Exod. 1:12, Ezech. 9:9; cf. σφόδρα σφοδρῶς, Gen. 7:19 (A).

Pronouns. Otiose use, e.g. Gen. 30:1 τελευτήσω ἐγώ (מֵתָה אָנֹכִי); Exod. 2:14 σὺ θέλεις (אַתָּה אֹמֵר); Exod. 36:4 αὐτός, αὐτοί. To Semitic influence is also due the wearisome iteration of the oblique cases of personal pronouns answering to the Hebrew suffixes, e.g. Jer. 2:26 αὐτοὶ καὶ οἱ βασιλεῖς αὐτῶν καὶ οἱ ἄρχοντες αὐτῶν καὶ οἱ ἱερεῖς αὐτῶν καὶ οἱ προφῆται αὐτῶν. The fem. αὕτη is occasionally used for τοῦτο after the manner of the Heb. זֹאת, as in Gen. 35:17, 27, 36:1, Ps. 117 (118):23; see Driver on 1 Sam. 4:7. To the circumstance that the Hebrew relative is indeclinable we owe the pleonastic use of the pronoun after the Greek relative in such passages as Gen. 28:13, ἐφʼ ἧς … ἐπʼ αὐτῆς (אֲשֶׁר … עָלֶיהָ); Deut. 1:22 διʼ ἧς … ἐν αὐτῇ (אֲשֶׁר … בָּהּ); Prov. 3:15 ὧν … αὐτῶν. A similar redundancy occurs with relative adverbs: Deut. 9:28, ὅθεν … ἐκεῖθεν (אֲשֶׁר … מִשָּׁם); 2 Chr. 1:3, οὗ … ἐκεῖ.

Verbs. The following Hebraisms may be specially noted. Various phrases used to represent the Heb. inf. abs. when prefixed to a finite verb, e.g. Exod. 3:7, ἰδὼν ἴδον (רָאֹה רָאִיתִי); Deut. 31:18, ἀποστροφῇ ἀποστρέψω (הַסְתֵּר אַסְתִּיר); also the Heb. idiom וַיֹּסֶף לְ: e.g. Exod. 14:3, οὐ προσθήσεσθε ἔτι ἰδεῖν, 1 Regn. 3:6 προσέθετο καὶ ἐκάλεσεν (cf. v. 8 προσέθ. καλέσαι, Job 29:1 προσθεὶς εἶπεν (וַיֹּסֶף … וַיּאמַר). Constructions with prepositions contrary to the Greek idiom: βδελύσσεσθαι ἀπό (מִפְּנֵי), Exod. 1:12; φείδεσθαι ἐπί, Deut. 7:16; ἐπερωτᾷν ἐν Κυρίῳ, (שָׁאַל בַּיהוָֹה), 1 Regn. 10:22; εὐδοκεῖν ἐν or ἐπί (חָפֵץ בְּ). Hebrew forms of adjuration as 1 Regn. 3:14 εἰ (אִם) ἐξιλασθήσεται, ib. 17 τάδε ποιήσει σοι ὁ θεός, ἐάν … A question standing for the expression of a wish: Num. 11:29 καὶ τίς δῴη πάντα τὸν λαὸν Κυρίου …; Ps. 52 (53):6 τίς δώσει ἐκ Σειὼν τὸ σωτήριον τοῦ Ἰσραήλ; Ἐγώ εἰμι followed by an ind. (Jud. 6:18 ἐγώ εἰμι καθίσομαι, 2 Regn. 2:2 ἐγώ εἰμι πορεύσομαι)—a construction limited in B to Judges, Ruth, 2–4 Regn. Periphrases such as ἔσομαι διδόναι (Tob. 5:15, BA). Pleonastic use of λέγων = לֵאמוֹר, often solœcistically: e.g. Gen. 15:1 ἐγενήθη ῥῆμα Κυρίου … λέγων, 45:16 διεβοήθη ἡ φωνὴ … λέγοντες.

Particles. Pleonastic use of καί and δέ, (1) in an apodosis, e.g. Num. 15:14, ἐὰν … προσγένηται, …, καὶ ποιήσει κάρπωμα; Prov. 1:28, ἔσται ὅταν … ἐγὼ δέ …; (2) after a participle: Num. 21:11, καὶ ἐξάραντες … καὶ παρενέβαλον. Use of καί in a coordinated clause, where a dependent clause might have been expected; e.g. Num. 35:2, συντάξεις τοῖς υἱοῖς Ἰσραήλ, καὶ δώσουσιν κτλ.

Prepositions. See under Verbs. Peculiar uses of the Heb. prepositions are often reflected in the Greek; e.g. 1 Regn. 1:24, ἀνέβη ἐ ν μόσχῳ (בְּפָרִים); Lev. 21:10, ὁ μέγας ἀπὸ τῶν ἀδελφῶν αὐτοῦ (הַגָּדוֹל מֵאֶחָיו). A number of new prepositions or prepositional phrases are used to express the Hebrew לִפְנֵי, e.g. ἔναντι, ἀπέναντι, κατέναντι, ἐνώπιον, κατενώπιον, ἀπό, ἐπί, πρό, προσώπου. Similarly ὀπίσω represents אַחֲרֵי; ἐν μέσῳ, ἀνὰ μέσον, διὰ μέσου = בְּתוֹךְ, ἀπὸ (ἐκ) μέσου = מִתּוֹךְ; διὰ χειρός, εἰς χεῖρας, ἐκ χειρός = מִיַּד, בְּיַד; ὁδόν = דֶּרֶךְ. The use of σύν to express the prefix אֵת, which is characteristic of Aquila, occurs in codex A six times in 3 Regn., once in Esther (where it probably came from the Hexapla), and frequently in Ecclesiastes, where even cod. B shews this peculiarity, e.g. Eccl. 2:17 ἐμίσησα σὺν τὴν ζωήν (אֶת־הַחַיִּים).

  1. Both the vocabulary and the syntax of the LXX. exhibit remarkable affinities with the modern language. Mr Geldart (Modern Greek Language, p. 101 f.) urges the study of modern Greek upon Biblical students on the ground that “the Greek of the present day affords a better commentary on the language of the LXX. and of the N.T. than the writings of contemporary historians, rhetoricians, grammarians and philosophers.” He adds: “The phraseology of the LXX. is modern to an extent which is quite marvellous … let me mention a few well-known words common to the LXX. and modern Greek: ἐπισκέπτομαι, ἀποκρίνομαι, ἐπιστρέφω, προσκυνῶ, ἐνώπιον, πρόσκομμα, πειράζω, ἀκολουθῶ, κοιμῶμαι, ὅλος, κατοικῶ, καθέζομαι, καθίζω, τὰ ἱμάτια, ὑπάγω … The Greek of the N.T.… is by no means so vulgar, so merely a vernacular, as that of the LXX.” This estimate is perhaps overdone; certainly there are considerations which suggest caution in the use of modern Greek usage as a key to the meaning of the LXX. But the general similarity of the Alexandrian vocabulary and, to a less extent, of the Alexandrian syntax to those of the spoken language indicates a common affinity to the old colloquial Greek, which ultimately triumphed over the classical standards. That the resemblance is less marked in the case of the New Testament is due to the different circumstances under which it was written. Bilingual Palestinian writers of the first century naturally possessed a more limited vocabulary and employed a more chastened style than Alexandrian translators of the time of Philadelphus and Euergetes, who had been born in the heart of a great Greek city teeming with a cosmopolitan population.
  2. Some of the non-canonical books of the Greek Old Testament, which were either (a) loosely translated or paraphrased from a Hebrew original, or (b) originally written in Greek, need separate treatment in regard to their lexical and grammatical character. Such are (a) 1 Esdras, Daniel (LXX.), (b) Wisdom, 2–4 Maccabees.

The lexicography of the ‘Apocrypha’ has been separately treated by C. A. Wahl (Clavis libr. V. T. apocryphorum philologica, Leipzig, 1853), and with the help of the Oxford Concordance it may be studied independently. But, for the sake of the student who has not the necessary leisure to examine the subject in detail, it is desirable to notice here the more conspicuous words in each of the books referred to above.

1 Esdras.

  • ἀκολούθως = κατά, dat. (2 Esdr., 2 Macc.)
  • ἀναγνώστης = γραμματεύς, 2 Esdr.
  • ἀναμφισβητήτως
  • ἀναπλήρωσις (Dan.)
  • ἀνιεροῦν (3 Macc.)
  • ἀντίγραφον (Esth., Ep.-Jer., 1, 2 Macc.)
  • ἀντιπαρατάσσειν
  • ἀπονοεῖσθαι (2 Macc.)
  • ἀποσημαίνειν
  • ἀποστατίς (2 Esdr.)
  • βιβλιοφυλάκιον
  • δημαγωγεῖν, -γία
  • διαδημα (Esth., Sap., Isa., 2, 4 Macc.)
  • δογματίζειν (Esth., Dan., 2, 3 Macc.)
  • δυσσέβεια, -βημα (2 Macc.)
  • εἰδωλεῖον (Dan., 1 Macc.)
  • ἐμφυσιοῦν
  • ἐπακουστός
  • ἐπιδόξως
  • ἐπισπεύδειν (Esth. 1, Prov. 1)
  • ἐρωμένη, ἡ (cod. B)
  • εὐθαρσής (1, 2 Macc.)
  • εὐπρεπῶς (Sap.)
  • εὐφυής (Sap., 2 Macc.)
  • ἱερόδουλος
  • ἱεροψάλτης
  • ἱστορεῖν
  • καταλοχισμός (1, 2 Chr.)
  • κολακεύειν (Job1, Sap.1)
  • λῃστεύειν
  • λωποδυτεῖν
  • μανιάκη (Dan.)
  • μεγαλειότης
  • μεριδαρχία
  • μεταγενέστερος
  • ὀνοματογραφία
  • ὁρκωμοσία (Ez.)
  • πειθαρχεῖν (Jer., Dan.)
  • προκαθηγεῖσθαι (cod. B)
  • προπομπή
  • προσκεφάλαιον (Ez.)
  • συνβραβεύειν
  • σωματοφύλαξ (Judith, 2 Macc.)
  • ὑπομνηματίζειν
  • φορολογία (1 Macc.)
  • χαμαιπετής
  • χάσκειν
  • χρηματιστήριον
  • χρυσοχάλινος (2 Macc.)
  • Daniel.
  • ἀποθαυμάζειν (Sir.)
  • ἀποτυμπανίζειν (3 Macc.)
  • ἀρχιεύνουχος
  • ἀρχιπατριώτης (Jos.1)
  • δαμάζειν
  • δημεύειν
  • διαμελίζειν
  • διάπυρος (3 Macc.)
  • διοικητής (2 Esdr., Tob.)
  • ἐγκύκλιος
  • ἐποργίζεσθαι (2 Macc.)
  • ἑστιατορία (4 Regn.)
  • εὐκαταφρόνητος
  • εὐσήμως
  • θερμασία (Jer.1)
  • κηλιδοῦσθαι (Jer.)
  • κονίαμα
  • κοπανίζειν (3 Regn.)
  • μανιάκης (1 Esdr.1)
  • μεγαλειότης (1 Esdr., Jer.1)
  • πρόσοψις (2 Macc.)
  • σαμβύκη
  • σοφιστής (Exod.1)
  • συναλοᾷν
  • συνμολύνεσθαι
  • σύριγξ
  • ὕπατος
  • ὑπεραινετός
  • ὑπερένδοξος
  • ὑπερμεγεθής (1 Chr.)
  • ὑπερυψοῦν (Ps.)
  • ὑπερφερής
  • φιλόσοφος (4 Macc.)


This book contains an unusually large vocabulary, consisting in great part of compound words. The following list, taken from c. 1–6, will suffice to shew its lexical character*.

  • ἀγερωχία (2, 3 Macc.)
  • ἀδιάπτωτος
  • ἀθανασία (4 Macc.)
  • ἀκαταμάχητος
  • ἀκηλίδωτος (Ps. 1)
  • ἀκοίμητος
  • ἀλαζονεύεσθαι (Ps. 1)
  • ἀμάραντος
  • ἀμόλυντος
  • ἀναποδισμός
  • ἀνεκλιπής
  • ἀνεξικακία
  • ἀνυπόκριτος
  • ἀπήμαντος
  • ἀπολογία
  • ἀπότομος, ἀποτόμως
  • ἀτέλεστος
  • ἀτίμητος (3 Macc.)
  • αὐτοσχεδίως
  • ἀφθόνως
  • βασκανία (4 Macc.)
  • δεκαμηνιαῖος
  • διορθωτής
  • δύσχρηστος (Isa.)
  • ἐπισφαλῶς
  • ἐπιτήδειος (1 Chr., 1–3 Macc.)
  • ἐπιφημίζειν (Deut.)
  • ἐργατεία
  • εὐκλεής (Jer.)
  • εὔκυκλος
  • εὐμορφία (3 Macc.)
  • εὔστοχος
  • θυμήρης
  • ἰδιότης (3 Macc.)
  • κακοπραγία
  • κακότεχνος
  • καταδαπανᾷν
  • κατάλυπος
  • κατάχρεως
  • μακρόβιος (Isa.)
  • μονοήμερος
  • ὁμοιοπαθής (4 Macc.)
  • ὁπλοποιεῖν
  • παράδοξος (Judith, Sir., 2, 4 Macc.)
  • παραμύθιον
  • πολύγονος (4 Macc.)
  • πομπεύειν
  • πρωτόπλαστος
  • στεφανηφορεῖν
  • συγγνωστός
  • συλλογισμός (Ex.)
  • τεκμήριον (3 Macc.)
  • φιλάνθρωπος
  • χρησιμεύειν (Sir.)

In 2–4 Maccabees the reader finds himself at length face to face with the full richness of the Alexandrian literary style, as it was written by cultured Hellenists of the second and first centuries B.C.E. The writers, especially the writer of 4 Maccabees, may be said to revel in the use of compound words, many of which may have been of their own coinage. Specimens follow.

2 Maccabees.

  • ἀγορανομία
  • ἀκαριαῖος
  • ἀκρόπολις
  • ἀκρωτηριάζειν
  • ἀλλοφυλισμός
  • ἀναλημπτέος
  • ἀπευθανατίζειν
  • ἀρχηγενέτης
  • ἀσυλία
  • αὐθαίρετος
  • βαρβαροῦν
  • δειλανδριᾷν
  • δευτερολογεῖν
  • διάσταλσις
  • δοξικός
  • δυσπέτημα
  • ἐπευλαβεῖσθαι
  • εὐαπάντητος
  • θεομαχεῖν
  • θωρακισμός
  • κατευθεκτεῖν
  • λεληθότως
  • λιτανεία
  • ὁπλολογεῖν
  • πατρῷος
  • πολεμοτροφεῖν
  • πολυπραγμονεῖν
  • προσαναλέγεσθαι
  • προσυπομιμνήσκειν
  • σπλαγχνισμός
  • συμμισοπονηρεῖν
  • συνεκκεντεῖν
  • τερατοποιός
  • ψυχαγωγία
  • 3 Maccabees.
  • ἀλογιστία
  • ἀμνησικακία
  • ἀνείκαστος
  • ἀνεπίστρεπτος
  • ἀνέφικτος
  • ἀσινής
  • βαρυηχής
  • βυθοτρεφής
  • γραφικός
  • δημοτελής
  • δικαιοκρίτης
  • δυσαίακτος
  • εὐκατάλλακτος
  • κισσόφυλλον
  • λαογραφία
  • λιβανοῦν
  • μεγαλοκράτωρ
  • μεγαλομερής
  • μιεροφαγία
  • μίσυβρις
  • νεανικός
  • πανόδυρτος
  • παραναγινώσκειν
  • πολύδακρυς
  • προκατασκιροῦν
  • σιδηρόδεσμος
  • ὑπομαστιαῖος
  • ὑπόφρικος
  • φοβεροειδής
  • χαρτηρία
  • χειρονομία
  • ψυχουλκεῖν
  • 4 Maccabees.
  • αἱμοβόρος
  • ἀναμοχλεύειν
  • ἀποσκυθίζειν
  • ἀρθρεμβόλος
  • ἀσθενόψυχος
  • ἀσυρής
  • αὐτοδέσποτος
  • γαλακτοποιεῖν
  • γαλακτοτροφία
  • εἰδωλόθυτος
  • ἐναγκάλισμα
  • ἐναποσφραγίζειν
  • ἐπιρωγολογεῖσθαι
  • ἑπταμήτωρ
  • εὐλογιστία
  • θανατηφόρος
  • ἱεροπρεπής
  • ἰσόπαλις
  • καλλίπαις
  • κηρογονία
  • μαλακοψυχεῖν
  • ξιφηφόρος
  • ὀροφοιτεῖν
  • παθοκρατεῖσθαι, -τία
  • παιδοχαρακτήρ
  • πηδαλιουχεῖν
  • προσεπικατατείνειν
  • συμπάθεια
  • συναγελάζειν
  • φιλομήτωρ
  • φιλοστοργία
  • φωταγωγεῖν

In the style of the originally Greek books there is little to remind us of the Semitic origin of the writers. The Wisdom of Solomon follows generally the parallelisms of Hebrew poetry, and its language is molded to some extent by the LXX. of the Psalms and of Proverbs. In 2–4 Maccabees the influence of the canonical books appears in the retention of transliterated names such as Ἀβραάμ, Ἰσραήλ, Δανιήλ. But Ἰερουσαλήμ has become Ἰεροσόλυμα, and Eleazar is usually Ἐλεάζαρος. Of Hebrew constructions or modes of thought, there is only an occasional instance, whilst it is obvious that the writers lose no opportunity of exhibiting their skill in the literary style of contemporary Alexandrian Greek.



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