Comparison of Septuagint with Massoretic Text.

But although many points of detail still remain obscure, we yet know quite enough about the Septuagint to be able to state broadly the relation in which it stands to the Massoretic Hebrew text. And here it is that the great interest and importance of the Septuagint becomes evident. Rightly or wrongly, it is certain that the Septuagint differs from the Massoretic text to a very marked extent. Words and phrases constantly differ; details which depend upon figures and numbers, such as the ages of the patriarchs in the early chapters of Genesis, show great discrepancies; whole verses, and even longer passages, appear in the one text and not in the other; the arrangement of the contents of several books varies very largely. The discrepancies are least in the Pentateuch, the words of which were no doubt held most sacred by all Jews, and so would be less likely to suffer change either in the Hebrew or in the Greek. But in the books of Kingdoms, the Septuagint departs frequently from the Massoretic text; the student of the Variorum Bible may be referred for examples to 1 Kings.iv.1; v.6; x.1; i.1, 15; xiv.24, 41; xv.13; 2 Kings.iv.6-7; xi.23; xvii.3; xx.18, 19; 3 Kings.ii.29; viii.1; .2, 3, 4-24. In the narrative of David and Goliath the variations are especially striking; for the best MSS. of the Septuagint omit 1 Kings.xvii.12-31, 41, 50, 55-58, together with xviii.1-5, 9-11, 17-19, and the rest of the references to Merab. In the book of Job there is good reason to believe that the original text of the Septuagint omitted nearly one-sixth of the whole (see p.82). In Jeremiah the order of the prophecies diners greatly, chapters xlvi.-li. being inserted (in a different order) after chapter xxv.13, while the following passages are altogether omitted: x.6-8, 10; xvii.1-4; xxvii.1, 7, 13, and a great part of 17-22; xxix.16-20; xxi.14-26; xxxix.4-13. Even if we reduce the number of minor variations as much as possible (and very many of them may be due to mistakes on the part of the Septuagint translators, to different methods of supplying the vowels in the Hebrew text, to different divisions of the words of the Hebrew, or to a freedom of translation which amounts to paraphrase), yet these larger discrepancies, the list of which the reader of the Variorum Bible may easily increase for himself, are sufficient to show that the Hebrew text which lay before the authors of the Septuagint differed very considerably from that which the Massoretes have handed down to us. What the explanation of this difference may be, or which of the two texts is generally to be preferred, are questions to which it would be rash, in the present state of our knowledge, to pretend to give a decided answer. Some statement of the case is, however, necessary for those who wish to understand what the evidence for our present Old Testament text really is; but it will be better to postpone the discussion of it until we have completed the list of the versions from which some light upon the question may be expected. Some of them help us to reconstruct the text of the Septuagint; others tell us of the condition of the Hebrew text at dates later than those at which the Samaritan and the Greek versions were made; all in some degree help forward our main purpose - the history of the Hebrew text of the Old Testament.

Chapter V (Part 2):


2. The Septuagint and other Greek Versions.

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Two considerations make the Samaritan version of the Old Testament less important than it would otherwise be. In the first place, it contains only the Pentateuch, and it is just this part of the Old Testament that is best preserved in the Hebrew text, and consequently needs least correction. Secondly, none of the extant copies of it is older than the tenth century, so that they are as far removed from the fountainhead as the Hebrew manuscripts themselves. Neither of these drawbacks applies to the Greek version, of which we have now to speak. It is a complete translation of the Old Testament, containing, indeed, not only the books which now compose our Old Testament, but also those which, after a considerable period of uncertainty, were finally excluded from the Hebrew Canon and now constitute our Apocrypha. Further, it is preserved in several manuscripts of very great age, the earliest, as we shall see presently, going back to the second century after Christ, not to mention a scrap, which is even earlier. In every respect, both textually and historically, the Greek version of the Old Testament is by far the most important of all the ancient translations. On the one hand, it is our chief means of testing the accuracy of the Massoretic Hebrew text, and of correcting it when it is wrong; and, on the other, it has been the Bible of Greek Christendom from the earliest age of Christianity down to this present day. It will consequently require and deserve a somewhat extended notice at our hands.

Origin of the Septuagint.

The first questions to be answered are those that relate to its origin.
When was it made?
Why was it made?
For whom was it made?
Curious as it may seem at first sight, this Greek translation of the Hebrew Bible was made in a land, which was neither Greek nor Hebrew - namely, Egypt. After the submission of Egypt to Alexander the Great, and the introduction of Greek settlers under Ptolemy, his lieutenant, Alexandria became the headquarters alike of the commerce and the literature of the East.  Its population, mainly Greek, included also a large colony of Jews. Greek became the common language of intercourse between people of different nationalities in the East, and the Jews in Egypt learnt, before long, to use it as their native tongue. Hence there arose the necessity of having their Scriptures accessible in Greek; and the answer to this demand was the version known as the Septuagint. The story, which was long current as to its origin, is largely mythical, but it contains a kernel of truth. In a letter purporting to be written by one Aristeas to his brother Philocrates, in the reign of Ptolemy Philadelphus (BC 
285-246), it is said that King Ptolemy, hearing of the Jewish Scriptures, and being urged by his librarian to obtain a copy of them for his great library at Alexandria, sent an embassy (of which the writer of the letter was one) to the high priest at Jerusalem with magnificent presents, begging him to send a copy of the sacred books, with a body of men capable of translating them. Thereupon six translators were selected from each of the twelve tribes and despatched to Alexandria, bearing with them a copy of the Law, written in letters of gold. They were splendidly received by the king, and, after a banquet and public display of their wisdom, set about their task of translation, working separately in the first instance, but afterwards comparing their results, and finally producing the version which was thenceforth known as the Septuagint, or the Version of the Seventy. Later generations improved upon this story, until the legend ran that each of the seventy-two translators was shut up in a separate cell (or by pairs in thirty-six cells) and each produced a translation of the whole Old Testament in exactly seventy-two days; and when their translations were compared it was found that they all agreed precisely with one another, in every word and every phrase, thus proving that their version was directly inspired by God. This, however, is merely an exaggeration of the original story, which itself is now generally believed to be an exaggeration of the real facts, at least in respect of the special and magnificent patronage of Ptolemy. What is true is that the Septuagint version was begun in or about his reign, in Alexandria, and that the Pentateuch was probably translated first. Of this there is confirmation in the fact that the version of Genesis is quoted by a writer in the last quarter of the third century BC. The other books were added later, by different translators and at different times. The style of translation differs so markedly in different books as to prove that the whole Testament cannot have been the work of a single group of translators, while some of the later books, such as Ecclesiasticus, were not even written at the time of which the story speaks.

Its Contents.

The Septuagint version, as finally completed, contains not merely the books which now form our Old Testament, but also those which, since the Reformation, have been placed apart in the Apocrypha.
[It is unfortunate that the Apocrypha is generally omitted from copies of the English Bible. No doubt a little explanation of the nature of the books contained in it is needed by most people, but that information is now easily accessible in many popular handbooks, e.g., in the Rev. G. H. H. Wright's article in the Variorum Aids to the Bible Student. The Variorum Apocrypha, also, by the Rev. C. J. Ball, can be confidently recommended as containing excellent critical and (in the form of "various renderings") explanatory notes. In addition there is the Revised Version of the Apocrypha, which was published in 1895.]
Some of these books (2 Esdras, the additions of Esther, Wisdom, part of Baruch, the Song of the Three Children, 2-4 Maccabees) never existed in Hebrew at all; but the others were originally written in Hebrew and circulated among the Jews (chiefly, it would seem, in their Greek form) for some time on very much the same footing as some of the books which form the section of the Hagiographa (p.33). They never, however, attained the same position of authority, and when the Canon of the Old Testament was finally closed they were left outside. From this point dates their disappearance in their Hebrew form; they ceased to be copied in Hebrew; and so they have come down to us only in the Greek, or in translations made from the Greek. Jerome rejected them from his Latin Bible because they were not extant in Hebrew; but the older Latin translations of them were subsequently incorporated into the Vulgate, and they have remained in the Latin Bible of the Roman Church to the present day. The Septuagint is, however, their real home, and there they take their proper places among the books of the Old Testament. The First Book of Esdras takes precedence of the Book of Ezra, of which it is an alternative version with some additions. After the Book of Nehemiah (which, in conjunction with the canonical Ezra, is called the Second Book of Esdras) come, in the principal manuscript of the Septuagint, the Psalms, Proverbs, Ecclesiastes, Song of Solomon, Job, Wisdom, Ecclesiasticus (or the Wisdom of Sirach), Esther (including the parts now banished to the Apocrypha), Judith, Tobit. Then follow the Prophets; but Jeremiah is succeeded by Baruch, Lamentations, and the Epistle of Jeremiah (= Baruch, chapter vi.), and Daniel is preceded by Susanna and followed by Bel and the Dragon. Finally the Old Testament is concluded by the books of the Maccabees, of which there are, in some of the earliest copies, four instead of only two.
[Luther followed Jerome in rejecting the books that did not form part of the Hebrew Canon, and the English translators followed Luther. The sixth of the Thirty-nine Articles confirms this. The English Apocrypha includes, in addition to the books named above, 2 Esdras (an apocalyptic work, originally written in Greek, or just possibly in Hebrew, but now only known in Latin and other versions, which was included, though not accepted as canonical, in the Latin Vulgate, and thence passed into the English Genevan Bible, and so to the Authorised Version), and the Prayer of Manasses, a work of unknown origin, which is included among hymns attached to the Psalter in the Codex Alexandrinus (see p.67). On the other hand, it does not include 3 and 4 Maccabees. The Song of the Three Children, Susanna, and Bel and the Dragon are parts of the Greek version of Daniel; and "the rest of the book of Esther" is similarly made up of parts of the Greek Esther which do not appear in the Hebrew. The numeration of the books of Esdras is rather confusing. In the Greek Bible 1 and 2 Esdras are alternative versions of Ezra-Nehemiah, 1 Esdras being an expanded version, including part of Chronicles and some other matter, which is now by many believed to represent the original Septuagint, while 2 Esdras is a close representation of the Hebrew text. In the Latin Vulgate 1 Esdras = Ezra, 2 Esdras = Nehemiah, 3 Esdras = the Greek 1 Esdras, and 4 Esdras = the apocalyptic work. In our sixth Article, 3 and 4 Esdras are the same as in the Latin; but in the Authorised and Revised Versions these are called 1 and 2 Esdras, Ezra and Nehemiah appearing under their own names among the canonical books. To avoid confusion, however, the apocalyptic book is generally referred to by scholars as Fourth Esdras rather than Second Esdras.]

Adopted by Greek-speaking Jews and the Christian Church.

When the Septuagint translation was completed, it became at once the Bible of the Greek-speaking Jews, and circulated in Palestine and Asia as well as in Egypt, the home of its birth. At the time of our Lord's life on earth, Greek was the literary language of Palestine, as Aramaic was the spoken language of the common people. Hebrew was known only to the small class of students, headed by the rabbis and the scribes. All the books of the New Testament (with the possible exception of the Gospel of St. Matthew in its original form) were written in Greek; and most of the quotations from the Old Testament which appear in them are taken from the Septuagint version, not from the original Hebrew. As Christianity spread beyond the borders of Palestine, Greek was necessarily the language in which it appealed alike to the Jew and to the Gentile; and when, in speaking to the former, it based its claim on the fulfilment of prophecy, it was in the language of the Septuagint version that the prophecies were quoted. The Christian Church adopted the Septuagint as its own Book of the Old Covenant, and looked to that as its Bible long before it had come to realise that its own writings would take a place beside it as equally sacred Scripture.

Rival Translations in the Second Century.

The result of this appropriation of the Septuagint by the Christian Church was that the Jews cast it off. When the Christians in controversy pressed them with quotations from the Prophets, of which the fulfilment had been found in Jesus Christ, the Jews took refuge in a denial of the accuracy of the Septuagint translation. In the second century of our era this repudiation took form in the production of rival versions. The Hebrew text had been fixed, in the form in which it has come down to us, in the preceding century, and what was now needed was a faithful translation of this into Greek for the use of Greek-speaking Jews.

1. Aquila.

The production of such a translation was the work of AQUILA, who may be identical with the Onkelos to whom is ascribed the principal Targum on the Pentateuch (see p.36). The name is the same, in a Latin dress, and the spirit in which the translation was executed is the same. The version of Aquila is an exceedingly bald and literal rendering of the Hebrew, adhering to the original so closely as to lose most of the Greek idiom, and often falling into obscurity and even nonsense. Aquila is said to have been a disciple of the celebrated Rabbi Akiba, the chief and leader of the extremest anti-Christian Jews at the end of the first century, and his version, which must have been made somewhere about the year 150, became the official Greek translation of the Scriptures in use among the non-Christian Jews. 

2. Theodotion.

Later in the same century another translation was made, upon the opposite side, by THEODOTION(diversely described as a Jewish proselyte or an Ebionite Christian), said to have been a native of Ephesus. Theodotion's translation resembled Aquila's in being based upon the authorised Jewish text of the Old Testament (though retaining the apocryphal additions to the book of Daniel), but was exactly contrary in its treatment of it, being very free in its rendering of the original. It does not seem to have been adopted by the Jews, but it obtained much popularity among Christians, and exercised a considerable influence upon the subsequent history of the Septuagint. Notably was this the case in respect of the books of Daniel and Job. Theodotion's version of Daniel was so much preferred to that of the Septuagint, that it actually took its place in the manuscripts of the Septuagint itself, and the original Septuagint version was until quite recently known only from a single Greek manuscript and a Syriac translation. Within the last few years, however, an early papyrus manuscript of a considerable part of it has been discovered (see p.65). In the case of Job, the Septuagint version did not contain many passages (amounting to about one-sixth of the book in all) which appear in the received or Massoretic text of the Hebrew; and these were supplied in the Septuagint from the version of Theodotion. It is believed by some also that the version of Ezra-Nehemiah known as 2 Esdras is the work of Theodotion, the looser and expanded version of 1 Esdras being the original Septuagint [Josephus certainly used 1 Esdras.]; but this cannot yet be said to be established.  

3. Symmachus.

Yet one other Greek version of the Old Testament remains to be mentioned, that of SYMMACHUS, which was made about the year 200. The special feature of this translation is the literary skill and taste with which the Hebrew phrases of the original are rendered into good and idiomatic Greek. In this respect Symmachus approaches nearer than any of his rivals to the modern conception of a translator's duty; but he had less influence than any of them on the history of the Greek Bible. Curiously enough, he had more influence upon the Latin Bible; for Jerome made considerable use of him in the preparation of the Vulgate.

Revisions of the Septuagint.

1. Origen's Hexapla.

At the beginning of the third century there were thus three Greek versions of the Old Testament in existence, besides the Septuagint itself. The next step, and one of much importance in the history of the Greek text, was taken by the great Alexandrian scholar, ORIGEN, whose life occupies the first half of the third century (AD 186-253). Finding all these various, and often conflicting, versions of the Scriptures existing side by side, he determined to draw them together, and to try to use them for the production of one more perfect version than them all. Accordingly, with that stupendous energy which earned for him the admiration of his contemporaries and of posterity, he set about the colossal work to which was given the name of the Hexapla, or "sixfold" version of the Old Testament Scriptures. In six parallel columns, at each opening of his book, were arrayed the following six different versions:

  1. the Hebrew text then current (substantially identical with the Massoretic text);
  2. the Hebrew text in Greek letters;
  3. the Greek translation of Aquila (placed here as being the nearest to the Hebrew in fidelity);
  4. the translation of Symmachus;
  5. the Septuagint, as revised by Origen himself;
  6. the translation of Theodotion, coming last in the series as being the furthest removed in style from the original.

[In some books (chiefly the poetical ones, it would seem) three other Greek versions were appended. These were obscure translations that Origen had discovered, and their importance seems to have been small. Very little of them has been preserved, and their authors do not seem to have been known to Origen himself. They are simply called the Fifth, Sixth, and Seventh versions.]
The last four columns seem to have existed in a separate form, known as the Tetrapla, or fourfold version, which was probably a later reproduction in handier size of the more important part of Origen's work; but in any case the Hexapla, whether earlier or later, is the complete and authoritative form of it. So huge a work as this (the Old Testament is rarely contained entire in any manuscript in a single version, and this contained it in six) was not likely to be copied as a whole. The original manuscript still existed at Caesarea at the beginning of the seventh century, but it perished shortly afterwards, and of all its columns, except the fifth, no complete representation has come down to us. In 1896, however, a young Italian scholar, now well known as Cardinal Mercati, found a palimpsest fragment at Milan containing the text of eleven Psalms in five of the six columns of the Hexapla, written about the tenth century. The Hebrew column is omitted, but another is added containing isolated various readings, presumably from the other versions referred to above. This gives us a concrete example of what the Hexapla would have looked like, and adds something to our knowledge of the several versions. There is also a fragment at Cambridge, discovered in a "gheniza" (see p.43) at Cairo, containing part of Psalm x in all six columns. 

It is with the fifth column, however, that we are principally concerned, since it contained Origen's edition of the Septuagint, and this edition had a considerable influence on the text of the version in subsequent ages. Unfortunately, Origen's efforts were not directed towards the recovery of the original form of the Septuagint, but at bringing it into harmony with the Hebrew text then current, and to do this he introduced alterations into it with the utmost freedom. At the same time he tried to indicate all such alterations by the use of certain symbols. Passages occurring in the Septuagint which were not found in the Hebrew were marked by an obelus (--); passages occurring in the Hebrew but not in the Septuagint were inserted in the latter from the version of Theodotion, such insertions being marked by an asterisk (※ [Katapi ed: If the asterisk symbol does not reproduce correctly on your browser, it looks like a multiplication symbol with a point (full stop) in each segment.]
or [I cannot reproduce the alternative symbol, but it looks like the asterisk previously described, turned by 45 degrees (a plus symbol with the point in each segment)] ;
a metobelus ([Katapi ed: looks like a T positioned at 135 degrees. View some of these symbols in the margin of CODEX SARRAVIANUS])
in each case marking the end of the passage in question. For Origen's purpose, which was the production of a Greek version corresponding as closely as possible with the Hebrew text as then settled, this procedure was well enough; but for ours, which is the recovery of the original Septuagint text as evidence for what the Hebrew was before the formation of the Massoretic text, it was most unfortunate, since there was a natural tendency for his edition to be copied without the critical symbols, and thus for the additions made by him from Theodotion to appear as part of the genuine and original Septuagint. This has certainly happened in some cases; it is difficult to say with certainty in how many. Fortunately we are not left without some means of discovering these insertions, for in the year 617, shortly before the disappearance of the original manuscript of the Hexapla, Bishop Paulus, of Tella in Mesopotamia, made a Syriac translation of the column containing the Septuagint, copying faithfully into it the critical symbols of Origen; and a copy of part of this, written in the eighth century, is still extant in the Ambrosian library at Milan, containing the Prophets and most of the Hagiographa.
[The Ambrosian MS. contains Job, Psalms, Proverbs, Ecclesiastes, Song of Solomon, and the Prophets. The first volume of this MS. was in existence in 1574, but has since disappeared. On the other hand, fragments of other MSS. have been discovered, and are now in the British Museum, containing Exodus and Ruth complete, and portions of Genesis, Numbers, Deuteronomy, Joshua, Judges, and 3 Kingdoms, while 4 Kingdoms is preserved in a MS. at Paris.]
For the Pentateuch the chief authority is a Greek manuscript at Leiden, written in the fifth century, and known as the Codex Sarravianus (see p.69); and a few other manuscripts exist, likewise containing an Origenian text, some of which will be described below. There are thus fair means for recovering the Septuagint column of Origen's great work. 

The versions of Aquila, Theodotion, and Symmachus have, however, for the most part perished. In 1897, among a quantity of fragments brought to Cambridge from the Cairo "gheniza" mentioned on the previous page, were found three palimpsest leaves which were identified by Dr. F. C. Burkitt as containing the Aquila text of 3 Kingdoms xx.7-17 and 4 Kingdoms xi.11-27, in a hand of the sixth century. One curious feature is that the Divine Name is written in the old Hebrew characters, which for ordinary purposes had gone out of use 600 years before. This confirms an express statement of Origen, which modern scholars had causelessly doubted. Another fragment, containing Ps.xc.(xci.)6b-I3a and xci.(xcii.)3l'-9, apparently from the same MS., was separately edited by Dr. C. Taylor; and a tiny papyrus scrap, containing Gen. i. 1-5, is described below (p.66). Otherwise no continuous manuscripts of any of these versions have survived, except those parts of Theodotion which were incorporated in the received text of the Septuagint; but a very large number of individual readings have been preserved in the margin of Septuagint MSS. (especially the Codex Marchalianus, see p.71), and these have been collected and arranged with great skill and care in the two portly volumes of Dr. Field's edition of the Hexapla, published by the Oxford University Press in 1875. 

Origen's own colossal work went to the ground, but the part of it which was most important in his eyes, and the ultimate object of the whole - the revised text of the Septuagint - survived, and had a most noteworthy influence on the subsequent history of the version. At the beginning of the fourth century we find a sudden crop of new editions of the Septuagint, all more or less affected by his work. Three we know such, and they are of great importance for our present purpose, as we shall see when we come to describe the form in which the Septuagint has come down to us. These three editions are those of

  1. Eusebius,
  2. Lucian,
  3. Hesychius.


New Editions of the Septuagint.

1. EUSEBIUSof Caesarea,

the first great historian of Christianity, with the assistance of his friend Pamphilus, produced Origen's text of the Septuagint (the fifth column of the Hexapla) as an independent edition, with alternative readings from the other versions in the margin.

2. Lucian.

LUCIAN of Samosata, a leading scholar at Antioch, produced another edition, of which the most marked characteristic was his habit, when he found different words or phrases in different copies, to combine them into a composite phrase, and so to preserve both. In the next chapter we shall see reason to believe that a similar course has been followed in the case of the New Testament at some period of its history.

3. Hesychius.

Lucian suffered martyrdom during the persecution of Maximinus, in AD311; and the same fate is believed to have befallen HESYCHIUS, the author of the third edition of the Septuagint during the period of which we are speaking. Of the identification of this version, and of the manuscripts in which it is probably to be found, more will be said below.

These three editions were practically contemporary, and must all have been produced about the year 300. Each circulated in a different region. The edition of Eusebius and Pamphilus was generally used in Palestine; that of Lucian had its home in Antioch, and was also accepted in Constantinople and Asia Minor; while Hesychius was a scholar of Alexandria, and his edition circulated in Egypt.

The Present State of the Septuagint.

After the beginning of the fourth century the Septuagint, so far as we know, underwent no further revision, and it is unnecessary to trace its history beyond this point. In one form or another, and gradually becoming corrupted in all by the errors of copyists, it continued to be, as it is to this day, the Old Testament of the Greek or Eastern Church. We have now to begin at the other end, and ask in what form it has come down to us, and what means we have of ascertaining its original text. And the method of this inquiry must be exactly the same as we have already applied in the case of the Hebrew text, and as we shall again have to apply when we come to the Greek text of the New Testament. We have to ask, primarily, in what manuscripts it has come down to us, what are their age and character, and into what groups they can be divided; and then it will be necessary to ask further whether any light can be thrown upon its history by the translations which have been made from it in ancient times, and by the quotations made from it by the early Christian Fathers.

MSS. of the Septuagint.

We have seen in the last chapter that no copy of the Hebrew Bible now extant was written earlier than the ninth century, while those of the Samaritan Pentateuch only go back to the tenth. The oldest copies of the Greek Bible are, however, of far greater antiquity than this, and take rank as the most venerable, as well as the most valuable, authorities for the Bible text which now survive. The oldest and best of them contain the New Testament as well as the Old, and will have to be described again in greater detail (since the New Testament portion has generally been more minutely studied than the Old) in a subsequent chapter. But a short account of them must be given here.

Classification of MSS: Papyri, Uncials, Minuscules.

It has already been explained in Chapter I that Greek manuscripts fall into three classes: Papyri, Uncials, and Minuscules. The papyri (a class which for practical purposes has only come into existence since the first edition of this book was published) extend from the date at which the books of the Septuagint were first produced to the seventh century of the Christian era, when the Arab conquest of Egypt (in 640) put an end to the export of papyrus from Egypt; though Graeco-Coptic copies of the Scriptures continued to be produced after that date. The vellum uncials cover the period from the fourth to the tenth century, while the minuscules begin in the ninth and go on until the end of the fifteenth century. In the earliest list of Septuagint manuscripts (that of Holmes and Parsons, see p.73) all were comprised in a single numerical series, but the uncials were distinguished by Roman numerals I to , and the minuscules by Arabic numerals from 13 onwards. Modem editors, however, have usually followed the New Testament custom of denoting the uncials by capital letters, and this practice will be followed here. The papyri and minuscules will be given the numbers under which they appear in the list of Rahlfs (now continued by Dr. W. Kappler of Gottingen). It will be convenient, however, to describe the papyri separately, as forming a class by themselves of much earlier date than the vellum minuscules, and, indeed, than most of the vellum uncials.

1. Papyri.

The total number of papyrus fragments, great and small, is now considerable. A list compiled in 1933 by the Rev. P. L. Hedley contained 174 Old Testament items, including vellum fragments from Egypt, and ostraka (inscribed potsherds) as well as papyri; but most of these are small and of very little importance. The few that are of substantial value will now be described. The first two are indicated in the official list by capital letters, the others by Arabic numerals. 

U. British Museum Papyrus 37.

This was the first Biblical papyrus to be discovered, having been acquired by the Museum in 1836 from Dr. Edward Hogg, who stated that it had been discovered among the rubbish of an ancient convent at Thebes. It consists of thirty-two leaves of a papyrus codex of the Psalms, containing the text of Ps. x.(xi.)2-xviii.(xix.)6; xx.(xxi.)14-xxxiv.(xxxv.)6.
[The Hebrew and Greek numerations of the Psalms differ. Psalms ix. and x. of the Hebrew are combined into one Psalm in the Greek; consequently the Greek numbers are one less than the Hebrew numbers (which are those used in our Bible and Prayer Book) as far as Ps.cxlvi. (Hebrew cxlvii.). Psalms cxlvi. and cxlvii. in the Greek are, however, combined into one Psalm in the Hebrew, so that the numeration agrees before the end.]
Written in a sloping hand, probably of the seventh century. Edited by Tischendorf (Monumenta Sacra Inedita, nov.coll.1., 1855), and used by Swete and Rahlfs in their editions. The text belongs to the Upper Egyptian family, with the Sahidic version.  top

X. Freer Greek MS. V

at Washington.
Acquired by Mr. C. L. Freer in 1916 as a mass of cohering fragments, which after skilled treatment and mounting in the library of the University of Michigan were added to the Freer Collection at Washington (see pp.73, 151). The fragments form portions of thirty-three leaves, out of a probable total of forty-eight, of a codex of the Minor Prophets, probably of the later part of the third century. Of Hosea and the first verses of Amos (which follow) only a few letters are preserved; but from Amos i.10 it is continuous (with some local mutilations) to the end of Malachi. Edited by Professor H. A. Sanders of Michigan, with 911. 

905. Oxyrhynchus Papyrus 656,

now in the Bodleian. Parts of four leaves of a codex, containing Gen.xiv.21-23, xv.5-9, xix.32-xx.11, xxiv.28-47, xxvii.32, 33, 40, 41, in a text rather different from any other MS. Early third century.

911. Staatsbibliothek Gr. fol. 66, I, II,

A codex of thirty-two leaves, of which the first and last (the latter being blank) are lost, and the others more or less mutilated. The hand is not a literary one, but such as is found in documents of the early part of the fourth century. The writing is very irregular, and the first nine leaves are in double columns, while the remainder is in single columns with long lines. It contains (with many mutilations) a great part of Genesis as far as xxxv.8, where it breaks off, the title ("Creation of the World") being appended, which shows that the rest of the book must have been contained in another volume. (The codex was no doubt copied from a roll, and Gen.i.-xxxv. is about as much as a single roll would hold.) The text shows many agreements with the two papyri of Genesis described below (961 and 962). Edited by H. A. Sanders and C. Schmidt, with X.

919.Heidelberg Septuagint Papyrus 1.

Twenty-seven leaves, all more or less mutilated, of a codex of the Minor Prophets, written in a large, rough hand of the seventh century, by which time papyrus MSS. were generally poor examples of book production. Contains portions of Zechariah (iv.6-v.1, v.3- vi.2, vi.4-15, vii.10-x.7, xi.5-end) and nearly all Malachi, in a text akin to that of the vellum uncials A and Q,. Edited by A. Deissmann.

952. British Museum Papyrus 2486.

Acquired in 1922. Two conjoint leaves of a codex of which one leaf contains Song of Solomon v.12-vi.10, and the other the Apology of Aristides, chapter xv. The latter is important as confirming the Syriac version of the Apology, as against the rather shortened Greek text preserved in Barlaam and Josaphat. Early fourth century.

957. John Rylands Library, Papyrus Greek 458.

P957: Rylands Papyrus Greek 458

The earliest extant fragment of a Bible MS., consisting of portions of four columns of a roll of papyrus extracted from the cartonnage of a mummy acquired in 1917 by Dr. Rendel Harris.

It is written in a fine book-hand, which can be assigned with confidence to the second century BC, and contains Deut.xi.24-xxiv.3, xxv.1-3, xxvi.12, 17-19, xxviii.31-33. Small though these fragments are, their great age gives them a special interest, and it is noteworthy that they concur with the next earliest extant Septuagint MS. (963, described below) in agreeing with the vellum uncials Θ and A rather than with B. Identified and edited by C. H. Roberts only two years ago (Two Biblical Papyri in the John Rylands Library, Manchester, 1936). See Plate VI.  

961. Chester Beatty Papyrus IV.

The most remarkable discovery of Biblical manuscripts since Tischendorf's finding of the Codex Sinaiticus (see below, p.128) was made about 1930, when Mr. A. Chester Beatty, an American collector of manuscripts resident in London, acquired from a dealer in Egypt a group of papyrus leaves, which on examination proved to be portions of codices of various books of the Greek Bible, ranging from the second to the fourth centuries. Several leaves from the same find were disposed of to other owners, as will be described in their place below. It is these manuscripts that have contributed most to our knowledge alike of book production and of the history of the text of the Greek Bible for the previously obscure period before the great vellum MSS. of the fourth century. The find, which is said to have come from the region of Aphroditopolis, on the right bank of the Nile, about thirty miles above Memphis, and presumably represents the library of some early Christian church, comprised portions of seven MSS. of the Old Testament, three of the New, and one which contained part of the lost Greek original of the book of Enoch and a homily on the Passion by Melito, Bishop of Sardis in the third quarter of the second century. The texts of all the Biblical texts have been edited by the present writer (The Chester Beatty Biblical Papyri, fasc.i.-vii., 1933-37), and full photographic facsimiles by Messrs. Emery Walker are in course of publication. The Enoch text has been edited by Professor Campbell Bonner, of Michigan University, who also has in hand the homily of Melito, which he was the first to identify. The New Testament portion of the collection is described below (pp.125-127). Of the Old Testament MSS. the two first contain large portions of the book of Genesis, which are particularly welcome because the two oldest vellum MSS., the Vaticanus and the Sinaiticus, lack all except a few verses of this book. 961 consists of fifty leaves, all more or less mutilated, out of an original total of sixty-six, written in double columns in a rather large and thick uncial hand of the fourth century. Subject to many mutilations, it contains the text of Gen.ix.1-xliv.22. 

962. Chester Beatty Papyrus V.

Twenty-seven leaves (seventeen of which are nearly perfect) out of an original total of eighty-four, written in a document hand of the second half of the third century, with a single column to the page. Contains (with mutilations) Gen.viii.13-ix.1, xxiv.13-xxv.21, xxx.24-xlvi.33. From the three papyrus MSS. 911, 961, and 962, which show many affinities with one another, we now have substantial evidence for the text of Genesis circulating in Egypt about the end of the third century.

963. Chester Beatty Papyrus VI.

P963: Chaster Beatty Papyrus 6

Portions of fifty leaves (of which twenty-eight are substantially preserved) out of an original total of 108, of a codex containing the books of Numbers and Deuteronomy, 
written in a small and good hand which cannot be later than the middle of the second century, with two columns to the page (see Plate VII). It is thus the earliest extant MS. of the Greek Bible with the exception of the fragment 957, and the earliest example of a papyrus codex at present known. It contains portions of Numbers from v. 12 onwards (principally xxv.-xxxvi.) and of Deut.i.20-.17, xviii.22-end. A few fragments of this MS. are in the possession of the University of Michigan. It is noteworthy that while the text of Numbers is most akin to that of B, in Deuteronomy it is conspicuously not in agreement with B, but rather with G and Θ. 

964. Chester Beatty Papyrus XI.

One complete leaf and one incomplete of a codex of Ecclesiasticus containing Ecclus.xxxvi.28-xxxvii.22, xlvi.6-11, 16-xlvii.2. Written in a large rough hand, probably of the fourth century.  top

965. Chester Beatty Papyrus VII.

Fragments of thirty-three leaves, out of an estimated total of 112, of which the last eight were blank, of a codex of Isaiah, written in a beautiful hand, apparently of the first half of the third century. Two of the leaves are the property of Mr. W. Merton, and several fragments were originally acquired by the University of Michigan, but were courteously ceded to Mr. Chester Beatty. The text of all has been edited together.
It contains scattered fragments between Isa.viii.18-xix.13, xxxviii.14-xlv.5, liv.1-Ix.22, with a few marginal notes in Coptic (a very early example of this writing, without the additional letters which were eventually adopted). 


Chester Beatty Papyrus VIII. Small portions of two leaves of a codex of Jeremiah, containing Jer.iv.30-v.1, 9-14, 23, 24, written probably about the end of the second century. 

967. 968.

Chester Beatty Papyri IX, X. Twenty-nine imperfect leaves of a codex containing the books of Ezekiel, Daniel and Esther. The Daniel leaves were originally described as a separate MS., hence the double numeration. Subsequently an American collector, Mr. John H. Scheide, acquired twenty-one perfect leaves of the Ezekiel portion of the MS., with the page numeration preserved intact. When complete, the manuscript seems to have consisted of 118 leaves, Ezekiel occupying the first half of the codex, and Daniel (including probably Susanna and Bel) and Esther the second, which was written by a different scribe. The date is probably in the first half of the third century. The Chester Beatty leaves (which have lost nearly half their height) contain portions of Ezek.xi.25-xvii.21, Dan.iii.72- viii.27 (chapters v. and vi. follow vii. and viii., and the preserved portion ends at vi.18), Esther ii.20-viii.6; while the Scheide leaves contain Ezek.xix.12-xxxix.29, with gaps of five leaves. The Ezekiel and Esther texts agree markedly with B rather than with A. In Daniel the MS. is remarkable for containing the original Septuagint text, hitherto known only in a single late Greek copy and in a Syriac translation, instead of the version of Theodotion (see p.57 above). The Scheide leaves have been deposited by their owner at the University of Princeton, and have been edited by Professor A. C. Johnson, with the assistance of Dr. H. S. Gehman and Dr. E. H. Kase.  top


Leipzig Papyrus 39. Portions of a roll, about 13 feet 6 inches long, with the Bible text written on the back of a document bearing a date equivalent to AD 338. It may therefore be safely assigned to the later part of the fourth century. Contains, but the first five Psalms are much mutilated. The text is akin to that of U. Edited by C. F. Heinrici (1903). 


British Museum Papyrus 230. Acquired in 1893 with a parcel of papyri from the Fayum. Two columns, apparently of a roll, written about the end of the third century. Contains Ps.xi.(.)7-xiv.(xv.)4. A second hand has marked off the syllables by dots, presumably for singing or reading. On the back is a portion of a speech by Isocrates, similarly marked, which seems to show that the book was used for school instruction. The Psalter text was edited by the present writer inBiblical MSS. in the British Museum (1900.)

2055.Papyrus Societa Italiana 980.

Two leaves of a codex, containing Ps.cxliii.(cxliv.)14-cxlviii.3.    Late third or fourth century. Its text agrees in several instances with that of the corrector of the Codex Sinaiticus known as אCA.  Edited by G. Vitelli (1927).  

Several other small fragments appear to be assignable to the third or fourth century, but they are too small to be of much importance. Among them, however, may be mentioned as a curiosity Amherst Papyrus III, on the back of which are written, in a hand of the first half of the fourth century, the first five verses of Genesis, first in the Septuagint version and then in that of Aquila (see p.56 above), our knowledge of which is thus slightly increased.

2. Vellum Uncials.

Next follow the vellum uncial manuscripts, in the alphabetical order of the letters by which they are commonly indicated, with fuller descriptions of the most important.


(Aleph, the first letter of the Hebrew alphabet) stands for the famous Codex Sinaiticus Codex Sinaiticus(sometimes designated by the letter S), one of the two oldest copies, apart from the papyri just described, of the Greek Bible. The story of the romantic discovery of this manuscript in the last century, when part of it was in the very act of being consumed as fuel, must be reserved for Chapter VIII. For the present it must suffice to say that it was first seen by the great German Biblical scholar, Gonstantine Tischendorf, in 1844, in the monastery of St. Catherine, at Mount Sinai. At his first visit he secured forty-three leaves belonging to the Old Testament, and presented them to his patron, King Frederick Augustus of Saxony, who placed them in the Court Library at Leipzig, where they still remain, with the name of the Codex Friderico-Augustanus. A subsequent visit brought to light 199 more leaves of the Old Testament and the whole of the New Testament; and these ultimately found a home in the Imperial Library at St. Petersburg, until in 1933 the whole MS. was sold by the Soviet Government to the British Museum, where it is now Add.MS.43725. Parts of three more leaves were subsequently discovered in the bindings of other manuscripts in the library of Mount Sinai; these were also acquired for St. Petersburg, where they still remain. The manuscript was written in the fourth century, in a beautiful uncial hand; and it is extremely unfortunate that so much of the Old Testament has been lost. The parts which survive include fragments of Gen.xi., xxiv., and of Num.v., vi., vii.; 1 Chron.ix.27-xix.1-7; 2 Esdras [i.e., canonical Ezra-Nehemiah] ix.9 to end; Esther, Tobit, Judith, 1 Macc., 4 Macc., Isaiah, Jeremiah, Lament.i.1-ii.20, Joel, Obadiah, Jonah, Nahum to Malachi, Psalms, Proverbs, Ecclesiastes, Song of Solomon, Wisdom, Ecclesiasticus, Job. Three different scribes were employed on the writing of it, besides several correctors, the most important of whom were some scholars (indicated by the symbol אCA or אc, b) who seem to have worked on the MS. at Caesarea at the end of the sixth or beginning of the seventh century. In notes in this hand at the end of Esdras and Esther it is stated that the MS. was collated with an exceedingly ancient MS. which itself had been corrected by the martyr Pamphilus and had an autograph note by him, saying that he had corrected it in prison from Origen's own copy of the Hexapla. A facsimile of a page of this beautiful and most valuable manuscript is given in Plate XV.

A. Codex Alexandrinus,

in the British Museum.

Codex AlexandrinusThis was probably written in the first half of the fifth century, and contains the whole Bible, except Gen.xiv.14-17; xv.1-5, 16-19; xvi.6-9; 1 Kingdoms [= 1 Sam.] .18-xiv.9; Ps.xlix.(l.) 20-Ixxix.(Ixxx.)11, and some parts of the New Testament, which have been lost through accidental mutilation. It includes all four books of the Maccabees, for which it is the principal authority. Before the Psalms are placed the Epistle of Athanasius to Marcellinus on the Psalter, and the summary of the contents of the Psalms by Eusebius. At the end of the Psalms is an additional psalm (the 151st), which is found in some other early manuscripts, and a number of canticles, or chants, extracted from other parts of the Bible (for instance, the songs of Moses, in Deut.xx., of Hannah, in 1 Kingdoms ii.1-10, and the Magnificat), which were used in the services of the Church. The apocryphal Psalms of Solomon were originally added at the end of the New Testament, but the leaves containing them have been lost. Two scribes were employed on the Old Testament portion of the MS., one of whom wrote the Octateuch (i.e., Genesis-Ruth), Prophets, Maccabees, and the poetical books Job, Proverbs, Ecclesiastes, Song of Solomon, Wisdom and Ecclesiasticus, and the other the historical books (1-4 Kingdoms, 1-2 Chronicles, Esther, Tobit, Judith, 1-2 Esdras) and Psalms. For the history of the manuscript and a specimen of its writing, see pp.135-138 and Plate XVI.

B. Codex Vaticanus,

in the Vatican Library at Rome.

Codex VaticanusIt contains the whole Bible, written in the fourth century, and is (apart from the papyri) the oldest and generally the best extant copy of the Septuagint. It is nearly perfect, wanting only Gen.i.1-xlvi.28; 2 Kingdoms [=2 Sam.] ii.5-7, 10-13; 27-cxxxvii.(cxxxviii.) 6 of its original contents, so far as the Old Testament is concerned; but the Prayer of Manasses and the books of Maccabees were never included in it. The text of the current editions of the Septuagint are mainly derived from this manuscript.  Its quality differs in different books. In Deuteronomy, Isaiah, Chronicles and 1-2 Esdras, it seems to be inferior to A, but elsewhere on the whole superior. In Judges it has quite a different text, which is found also in the Sahidic version and in Cyril of Alexandria (both, it will be observed, from Egypt, where B was probably written); but in Job it differs from the Sahidic in having the additions from Theodotion made by Origen in his Hexapla. In several books, on the other hand, its text is believed to be pre-Hexaplar. (See pp.138-142 and Plate XVII.) top

C. Codex Ephraemi,

in the National Library at Paris. 

Codex Ephraemi (Palimpsest)(See pp.142, 143 and Plate XVIII.) This is a palimpsest; that is, the original writing has been partially washed or scraped out in order that the vellum might be used again to hold some other work - in this case a theological treatise. The result is that only parts of the original writing can now be read; and, in addition, most of the leaves containing the Old Testament have been lost. The sixty-four leaves which remain contain parts of Job, Proverbs, Ecclesiastes, Wisdom, Ecclesiasticus, and the Song of Solomon, written in the fifth century. 

The manuscripts hitherto mentioned were originally complete Greek Bibles, containing both the Old and the New Testaments. Those that follow do not appear ever to have included the New Testament, and many of them only a portion of the Old.  top

D. The Cotton Genesis.

One of the most lamentable sights in the Manuscript Department of the British Museum is that of the charred remains of many manuscripts of the greatest value which were burnt in the fire among Sir R. Cotton's books in 1731. Perhaps the most valuable of all the volumes then destroyed was this copy of the book of Genesis, written in a fine uncial hand of the fifth century, and adorned with 250 illustrations in a manner evidently derived directly from the ancient Greek style of painting. The remains of this once beautiful manuscript still show the general character of the writing and the miniatures, but in a lamentably shrunken and defaced condition. Fortunately the manuscript had been examined and its text carefully collated by Grabe before the fire; and from this collation its evidence for the text of Genesis is now known. 

E. The Bodleian Genesis,

at Oxford. Written in the tenth century, but, though thus considerably later than the copies hitherto mentioned, it contains a good text. The following passages are wanting, owing to mutilation of the manuscript: Gen.xiv.7-xviii.24, xx.14-xxiv.54. The manuscript at Oxford, which is commonly known as the Bodleian Genesis, ends at xlii.18, but a leaf at Cambridge contains xlii.18-xliv.13, one side of the leaf being written in uncials, like the Oxford leaves, while the other is in minuscules, which shows that it is part of a volume which carries on the text as far as 3 Kingdoms xvi.28. Most of this is at Leningrad, but some portions are lacking, of which the largest (Josh.xxiv.27-end of Ruth) is in the British Museum. It was Tischendorf who disposed of the Oxford, London and Leningrad portions to their respective owners; but the tell-tale leaf which connected the uncial and minuscule portions was kept in his own possession till his death, when it was acquired by Cambridge University and identified by Dr. H. B. Swete and Mr. H. A. Redpath. The minuscule portion has the number 509 (A2 in the large Cambridge Septuagint).  top

F. Codex Ambrosianus,

at Milan. Written in the fifth century, with three columns to the page, and having (what is very unusual in early manuscripts) punctuation, accents, and breathings by the original scribe. It contains Gen.xxxi.15-Josh..12, with many losses, however, from mutilation, and small fragments of Isaiah and Malachi. Its evidence is valuable, and where A and B differ it generally agrees with A.

G. Codex Sarravianus:

Codex Sarravianus130 leaves at Leiden, twenty-two at Paris, and one at Leningrad. A very fine manuscript, probably of the fifth century, though it has sometimes been attributed to the fourth. 

It is written with two columns to the page, and (like the Vatican and Sinaitic MSS. above) has no enlarged initials. It contains portions of the Pentateuch, Joshua and Judges, and its special characteristic is that it contains a Hexaplar text. It is provided with Origen's asterisks and obeli; but, unfortunately, as in all other MSS. of this class, these symbols have been very imperfectly reproduced, so that we cannot depend absolutely on it to recover the text as it was before Origen's additions and alterations. Plate VIII shows (in reduced form) the page containing Deut.xvi.22-xvii.8. Asterisks will be seen in the margins of both columns. That near the bottom of the first column indicates that words corresponding to "and thou hast heard of it" in xvii.4 were not found in the original Greek of the Septuagint, but were inserted by Origen to make it correspond with the Hebrew. Similarly the asterisks in the second column show that in xvii.5 the words "which have committed that wicked thing unto thy gates, even that man or that woman" were not in the original Septuagint, but were inserted by Origen from the Hebrew. Both passages occur in our Authorised Version, which of course follows the Hebrew; but they are not in the best MSS. of the Septuagint, though A and F have the second passage, which is a sign that they have been affected by Hexaplaric influences.  top

H. Codex Petropolitanus,

a palimpsest at Leningrad, of the sixth century; contains portions of the book of Numbers. 

I. A Bodleian MS. of the Psalms

(including, like A, the canticles), of the ninth century. It was wrongly included by Holmes and Parsons among the cursive MSS., and numbered 13. In its margin many readings are given from Aquila, Symmachus, and Theodotion, and from the "fifth" and "seventh" versions (see p.58). 

K. Twenty-two palimpsest leaves at Leipzig,

of the seventh century, containing fragments of Numbers, Deuteronomy, Joshua, and Judges. 

L. The Vienna Genesis:

a splendid MS. at Vienna, written in silver letters upon purple vellum, and adorned with illustrations, which, like those of D, recall the classical style of painting. It is of the fifth or sixth century, and contains portions of the book of Genesis on twenty-four leaves. 

M. Codex Coislinianus,

at Paris: a handsome MS. of the seventh century, containing the earlier books of the Old Testament, from Genesis to 3 Kingdoms viii. 40, though mutilated in places. This MS. belongs to the same class as G, containing a Hexaplar text. 

N. Codex Basiliano-Vaticanus,

at Rome and Venice;
written in sloping uncials of the eighth or ninth century. It consists of two volumes, both of which have, unfortunately, been much mutilated. In their present condition, the first (at Rome) contains from Lev.i.59 to the end of Chronicles (with some lacunas), 1 Esdras i.1-ix.1, 2 Esdras (i.e., the canonical Ezra-Nehemiah) v.10-xvii.3, and Esther; the second (at Venice) begins with Job xxx. 8, and contains the rest of Job, Proverbs, Ecclesiastes, Song of Solomon, Wisdom, Ecclesiasticus, Minor Prophets, Major Prophets, Tobit, Judith, and the four books of the Maccabees. Until quite recently the two volumes were regarded as different MSS., and the second had assigned to it a distinct letter, V, and was entitled Codex Venetus. In conjunction with B, this was used for the Roman edition of the Septuagint, published in 1587, which has been the edition in common use until the appearance of Swete's edition in 1887-94.  The person who examined it for Holmes and Parsons omitted to tell the editors that it was written in uncials, and it consequently appears in their list among the cursives, with the number 23, while its first volume takes its proper place among the uncials.   top

0. Codex Dublinensis Rescriptus,

at Trinity College, Dublin. This is a palimpsest, like C, but consists of only eight leaves, containing portions of Isaiah, written early in the sixth century. Its special value is due to the fact that it was written in Egypt and apparently provides us with information as to the text of the edition by Hesychius, which circulated in that country. 

P. Fragments of Psalms,

at Emmanuel College, Cambridge; originally reckoned by Holmes and Parsons among the cursives, as No. 294, but subsequently placed among the uncials (No. IX).

Q. Codex Marchalianus,

in the Vatican Library at Rome.

Codex MarchalianusThis is a most valuable copy of the Prophets, written in Egypt in the sixth century, in a fine bold uncial hand. 

The editor of this manuscript, Dr. Ceriani, has shown that the text, as originally written, is that of Hesychius; and its value is still further increased by the fact that an almost contemporary hand has added a great number of various readings in the margin from a copy of the Hexaplar text. These marginal readings include the additions made by Origen, generally accompanied by the proper critical marks (the obelus or asterisk), together with readings from Aquila, Symmachus, and Theodotion. Plate IX gives a representation of a page of this manuscript (the whole of which has been published in a photographic facsimile) containing Ezek.v.12-17.
[A papyrus fragment of this same passage, also containing the Hexaplar text and symbols, was acquired in Egypt by Mr. B. P. Grenfell in 1894-5, and is now in the Bodleian Library at Oxford. It was apparently written about the fourth century.]
In the margin will be seen several asterisks, which are repeated in the line itself at the point at which the insertion begins (e.g., lines 6, 10), and before the beginning of each line of the passage affected, while the metobelus, indicating the close of the inserted passage, is represented by a sort of semicolon (e.g.,lines 2, 7). In most cases the name of the version from which the inserted passage was taken is indicated by an initial in the margin, α standing for Aquila (e.g.,line 1), θ for Theodotion (lines 6, 11, 15, 17, 22), and σ or συ for Symmachus. 
Where Hesychius has introduced words on his own account which were not in the original Septuagint, the asterisk indicating such words has been written by the original scribe, and has ample space allowed it in the writing; but the great majority of the critical signs have been added by the reviser, and show that the insertion had already been made by Origen in his Hexaplar text, which Hesychius often followed. The small writing in the margin consists of notes added in the thirteenth century, of no textual importance.  


R. Verona Psalter,

containing both Greek and Latin versions of the Psalms, written in the sixth century. Several canticles are added, as in A, and the 151st Psalm has been supplied by a later hand. The Greek is written in Latin letters. 

T. Zurich Psalter,

in its original state a splendid manuscript, written in silver letters with gold initials upon purple vellum. Several leaves are now missing. The canticles are included. Written in the seventh century, and often agrees with the readings of A in doubtful passages. 


See above, p.62. 

V. Codex Venetus;

see N, above. 

W. Fragments of Psalms,

at Paris, of the ninth century. Included by Holmes and Parsons among the cursives, as No.43.

X. A MS. in the Vatican at Rome,

containing most of Job, of the ninth century. Included by Holmes and Parsons among the cursives, as No.258. 

Y. Codex Taurinensis,

at Turin, of the ninth century, containing the Minor Prophets. 

Za, Zb, 7c, 7d, Ze,

are small fragments of various books, of slight importance. 

Γ Codex Cryptoferratensis,

(Gamma, the third letter of the Greek alphabet, those of the Latin alphabet being now exhausted). 
at Grotta Ferrata, in Italy; 
 fragments of the Prophets, written in the eighth or ninth century. Much of the original writing has been hopelessly obliterated. It is remarkable that most of the Greek manuscripts in the monastery of Grotta Ferrata are palimpsests, showing how scarce vellum was there, and how the literary activity of the monks caused them to use the same sheets twice over, and sometimes even thrice.  top

Δ Fragments of Bel and the Dragon, according to the version of Theodotion

(Delta, the fourth letter of the Greek alphabet). Written in the fifth century, if not earlier; in the Bodleian Library at Oxford. 

Θ Codex Washingtonianus I,

(Theta, the eighth letter of the Greek alphabet). 
in the Freer Collection at Washington, containing the books of Deuteronomy and Joshua, of the sixth century. The quire-numeration shows that it originally included the previous books of the Pentateuch, and Judges and Ruth may have been appended. In text it agrees more with A than with B. The manuscript was acquired in Egypt by Mr. C. L. Freer in 1906, together with 1219 and two New Testament MSS. (see below, pp.149, 151). 

Π Fragments of 4 Maccabees

(Pi, the sixteenth letter of the Greek alphabet). Of the ninth century, at St. Petersburg. 

1219.Codex Washingtonianus II,

in the Freer Collection; 107 fragmentary leaves of a Psalter, of the sixth or seventh century. The last quire, from Ps.cxlii.5 to cli.6, is a later addition, of the ninth century. The earlier part of the codex is particularly incomplete. The text is akin to that of A.  The catalogue above given shows the material now available in the shape of uncial manuscripts.  The most important of them are, no doubt, B, A, and (where it is available) א, and, in their own special departments, G and Q.

3. Minuscules.

The cursive manuscripts of the Septuagint are far too numerous to be described in detail. In the great edition of Holmes and Parsons no less than 280
[Nominally 313. but at least 20 of them (1-13, 27, 43, 156, i88, 190, 258, 294) are really uncials, and several manuscripts are described more than once under different numbers. Thus 33=97=238, 41=42, 56=64, 63=129, 73=237, 89=239,94=131, 109=302,130=144,186=220,221=276,234=311. This reduces the total to 280. Since Holmes and Parsons, however, great additions have been made to the list. The official catalogue, kept formerly by Rahlfs and now by Kappler, includes all MSS. (papyri, uncials, and minuscules) in a single numerical list (incorporating the H. and P. numbers with the necessary revisions). This now extends to 2055, but with some intentional gaps to receive additions. The actual total is about 1560.]
such manuscripts are described, and their various readings quoted. It may be of some interest, however, as showing the amount of evidence available for each part of the Old Testament to indicate which manuscripts contain, in full or in part, each of the chief groups of books. The following 63 MSS. contain the Pentateuch, or part of it: Nos. 14-10, 25, 28-32, 37, 38, 44-47, 52-59, 61, 64, 68, 71-79, 82-85. 105-108, 118, 120-122, 125-136. Fifty-five contain the historical books: 15, 16, i8, 19, 29, 30, 44, 52-59, 63, 64, 68, 70-72, 74-77, 82, 84, 85, 92, 93, 98, 106-108, 118-121, 123, 128, 131, 134, 144,158, 209, 236, 237, 241-249, besides one (No. 62) which contains only the books of Maccabees. The Psalms are preserved in no less than 122 copies - viz.: 21, 39, 55, 65-67, 69, 70, 80, 81, 99-102, 104, 106, 111-115, 140-146, 150-152, 154, 162-187, 189-197, 199-206, 208, 210-219, 222, 223, 225-227, 262-293. The Prophets appear, more or less perfectly, in 62 manuscripts -  viz.: 22-24, 26, 33-36, 40-42, 45, 48, 49, 51, 61, 62, 68, 70, 86-88, 90, 91, 93, 95-97, 104-106, 109, 114, 130, 132, 144, I47-I49, 153, 185, 198, 228-233, 238-240, 301-311. Finally there are 39 manuscripts containing the books of the Hagiographa: 55, 68, 70, 103, 106, 109, 110, 137-139, 147, 155, 157, 159-161, 248-261, 295-300, 307a, 308a.  This classification, it will be observed, applies only to MSS. in the Holmes and Parsons list; but it does not seem worth while to carry it further. The value of the cursives only appears when they can be divided into groups, showing common descent from one or other of the ancient editions of the Septuagint which have been described above. How far this is at present feasible will be shown presently.

Printed Editions.

Such are the manuscripts on which scholars must depend for recovering the genuine text of the Greek Old Testament. It will be useful to describe briefly what has been done in this direction, as showing the kind and the amount of labour which scholars have bestowed on the task of making the text of the Bible as accurate as possible in every point. The first printed edition of the Septuagint was made by the Spaniard Cardinal Ximenes, who combined the Hebrew, Greek, and Latin versions of the Bible in the four volumes known as the Complutensian Polyglot (dated 1514-17, but not actually issued until 1522). His Greek text was mainly based on two late MSS. in the Vatican, now known as 108 and 248. Meanwhile in 1518 the great printer Aldus had issued an edition based on MSS. then at Venice, which accordingly has the honour of being the first printed Septuagint in order of publication. But the most important edition in early times is the Roman, published under the patronage of Pope Sixtus in 1587. This edition, which rests mainly on the great Codex Vaticanus (B), though with many errors and divergences [It has been estimated that the Roman text differs from that of B in over 4000 places.], remained the standard text of the Septuagint until the appearance of Swete's edition, mentioned below. In 1707-28 a very good edition of the Codex Alexandrinus (A), supplemented from other MSS. where A is deficient, was published by the Anglo-Prussian scholar Grabe. But the greatest work on the Septuagint up to quite recent years was that which R. Holmes and J. Parsons produced at Oxford in 1798-1827. In this colossal work the Roman text of 1587 is reprinted without variation, but in the critical notes are given the various readings of no less than 300 manuscripts, as above described. Unfortunately many of these MSS. were very imperfectly examined by the persons employed for the task by the editors, so that much of the work has had to be done over again; but the edition of Holmes and Parsons remains the only complete one which gives a general view of the manuscript evidence, and has been the basis of all study of the Septuagint text since their day. Of later editors it is only necessary to mention Tischendorf, who between 1850 and 1869 produced four editions based on the Roman text, with variants from א, A, and C (seventh edition in 1887, by Dr. Nestle); Field, who edited the remains of the Hexapla in 1875; Lagarde, who in 1883 published an attempt to recover the edition of Lucian, besides many other valuable contributions to the criticism of the Septuagint; and Dr. Swete, of Cambridge, who in 1887-94 produced an edition giving the text of the Septuagint according to the best MS. extant in each part (B, wherever it is available, elsewhere א or A), with all the variants in three or four of the next best manuscripts. This was the first stage in a project envisaging eventual production of a full critical edition, which would replace Holmes and Parsons in the light of all the information accumulated since their day. The editorship of this larger Cambridge edition was entrusted to Dr. A. E. Brooke and Dr. N. McLean, who since 1906 have produced eight parts, containing the Octateuch and the later historical books (1-4 Kingdoms, 1-2 Chronicles, 1-2 Esdras). In this edition the text is the same as that of Swete, but the critical apparatus includes the readings of all the papyri and uncials and a large selection of minuscules, together with all the principal versions and the quotations in the Fathers.  Another large critical edition was planned by the Septuaginta-Kommission of Gottingen, but has been seriously delayed by adverse conditions arising out of the war. The German scholars have wisely devoted their attention primarily to books which are not likely to be reached by the Cambridge editors for some time. The Psalter was published by Rahlfs in 1930-1, and 1 Maccabees by Kappler in 1936; and 2 Maccabees and Isaiah are in preparation. Further, an edition of Genesis, on a reduced scale, was published in 1926; and in 1935 Rahlfs produced a handy edition of the whole Septuagint in two volumes, with a revised text based upon א A B and a short apparatus with variants from these and a few other MSS. As compared with the smaller Cambridge edition, this gives a revised text (instead of merely reprinting the text of a selected MS., right or wrong), but a smaller critical apparatus.

How to Recover the Original Text.

Much has thus been done, yet the work which remains to be done in connection with the text of the Septuagint is still very considerable. One would wish, first of all, to disengage the editions of Eusebius, Lucian, and Hesychius, and thereby to see what was the state of the Septuagint text at the end of the third century. Then we want to go further back, and discover, if possible, what the original text was like when it left the hands of the translators themselves. And when that is done we still have to ask the question which is the ultimate cause of all our interest in the Septuagint?
What does this original text tell us as to the character of the Hebrew text from which it was taken?

Reconstruction of the Three Editions.

For the first part of this inquiry scholars have already collected considerable materials. The manuscripts of the Septuagint, when closely examined, are found to fall into certain groups which point to several different centres of origin; and, chiefly by the evidence afforded by quotations in the writings of the early Fathers whose places of residence we know, it is possible to localise these centres, and thereby to say that one group represents the Antiochian edition of Lucian, and another the Alexandrian edition of Hesychius. 

1. Eusebius.

The most recognisable of the three editions is that of Eusebius and Pamphilus, which in fact reproduced the text fixed by Origen. For this the leading authorities are the Syriac translation by Bishop Paulus ofTella, which contains the Prophets and Hagiographa, with Origen's apparatus of asterisks and obeli; the Codex Sarravianus (G), containing large parts of the Pentateuch, Joshua and Judges; the Codex Coislinianus (M), containing the same books, together with those of Samuel and Kings; the cursive MSS. known as 54 and 75 in the Octateuch, and 86 and 88 in the Prophets; and the copious marginal notes in the Codex Marchalianus (Q), which give Hexaplar readings with an indication of the author (Aquila, Symmachus, or Theodotion) from whom they were taken. 

2. Lucian.

Of the other two editions, the most recognisable is that of Lucian. Certain direct references to it in early writers, and the statement that it was the standard text in Antioch and Constantinople, have enabled modern editors to recognise it in certain extant manuscripts and in the copious Biblical quotations of Chrysostom and Theodoret. The first suggestion to this effect seems to have been made by Dr. Ceriani, of Milan, and it was simultaneously worked out by Field, in the Prolegomena to his Hexapla, and by Lagarde, who produced a text of half the Old Testament (Genesis-Esther) according to this edition, the completion of it being prevented by his lamented death. No uncial MS. contains a Lucianic text, with the exception of the Codex Venetus (V or N). In the books Genesis-Judges it appears in the cursives 19, 108, 118; in the historical books, 19, 36, 62, 82, 93, 108, 118; in the Prophets, 22, 36, 48, 51, 93, 144, 231, 308. The text of the Hagiographa has not yet been investigated. A Lucianic text also appears in the Gothic and old Slavonic versions, and in the first printed edition of the Septuagint - the Complutensian, which was mainly taken from the MS. Known as 108. 

3. Hesychius.

The edition of Hesychius remains, and the identification of this is still involved in some uncertainty. As the edition which circulated in Egypt, it seems likely that it would be found in MSS. written in that country, in the Coptic versions, which were made from the Septuagint for the use of the native Egyptians, and in the writings of the Alexandrian Fathers, such as Cyril. Good authorities differ, however, as to the Greek manuscripts in which this edition is to be looked for. Ceriani assigns to it the Codex Alexandrinus (A), the original text of the Codex Marchalianus (Q,), the Dublin fragments of Isaiah (O), and the cursives 26, 106, 198, 306 (all of the Prophets). The able German professor, Cornill, however, also dealing with MSS. containing the Prophets, finds the Hesychian version in 49, 68, 87, 90, 91, 228, 238, with the Coptic, Ethiopic, Arabic, and Old Latin versions. These are akin to the above-mentioned group represented by A, 26, etc., but have (in his opinion) more of the appearance of an authorised edition, in which marked peculiarities of text, such as there are in A, are not to be expected. The question cannot be solved without further investigation, to which it may be hoped that the large Cambridge edition will considerably contribute.   It will be observed that only a comparatively small number of manuscripts can be definitely assigned to one or other of the ancient editions, and even as to these it has to be remembered that any manuscript may have texts of different character in different books. All manuscripts eventually go back to a period when each book was contained in a separate roll or rolls; and when they were combined into single codices, there could be no guarantee that all the rolls copied into a single codex were of the same textual type. Thus 75, which is Origenian in Deuteronomy, is said to be Lucianic in Genesis; and the papyrus 963 has quite different textual affinities in Numbers and Deuteronomy.

Texts of the Great Uncials.

The majority of the minuscules are later copies containing mixed and corrupt texts, which will be of little use towards the recovery of the original form of the Septuagint. There remain, however, some of the early uncial manuscripts, including the oldest of all, the great Codex Vaticanus (B). Cornill at one time suggested that B was based on the edition of Eusebius, with the omission of all the passages therein marked by asterisks as insertions from the Hebrew; but this view has been abandoned, and it is more probable (as stated by Dr. Hort) that it is akin to the manuscripts which Origen used as the foundation of his Hexapla. Origen would, no doubt, have taken as his basis of operations the best copies of the Septuagint then available; and if B is found to contain a text like that used by Origen, it is a strong testimony in its favour. Hence it is commonly held to be, on the whole, the best and most neutral of all the manuscripts of the Septuagint; and it is a happy accident that it has formed the foundation of the commonly received text - that, namely, of the Roman edition of 1587. It is becoming clear, however, that the character of B is not uniform throughout (see above, p. 68). Between B and A the differences of reading are sometimes very strongly marked, and the divergences have not yet by any means been explained. All conclusions are at present tentative and provisional, and the best scholars are the least positive as to the certainty of their results. Of the other great manuscripts, א seems to contain a text intermediate between A and B, though in the book of Tobit it has a form of the text completely different from both. Ceriani considers that it shows some traces of Hesychian influence. He makes the same claim for C; but of this the fragments are so scanty that it is difficult to arrive at any positive conclusion.

Comparison of Septuagint with Massoretic Text.

But although many points of detail still remain obscure, we yet know quite enough about the Septuagint to be able to state broadly the relation in which it stands to the Massoretic Hebrew text. And here it is that the great interest and importance of the Septuagint becomes evident. Rightly or wrongly, it is certain that the Septuagint differs from the Massoretic text to a very marked extent. Words and phrases constantly differ; details which depend upon figures and numbers, such as the ages of the patriarchs in the early chapters of Genesis, show great discrepancies; whole verses, and even longer passages, appear in the one text and not in the other; the arrangement of the contents of several books varies very largely. The discrepancies are least in the Pentateuch, the words of which were no doubt held most sacred by all Jews, and so would be less likely to suffer change either in the Hebrew or in the Greek. But in the books of Kingdoms, the Septuagint departs frequently from the Massoretic text; the student of the Variorum Bible may be referred for examples to 1 Kings.iv.1; v.6; x.1; i.1, 15; xiv.24, 41; xv.13; 2 Kings.iv.6-7; xi.23; xvii.3; xx.18, 19; 3 Kings.ii.29; viii.1; .2, 3, 4-24. In the narrative of David and Goliath the variations are especially striking; for the best MSS. of the Septuagint omit 1 Kings.xvii.12-31, 41, 50, 55-58, together with xviii.1-5, 9-11, 17-19, and the rest of the references to Merab. In the book of Job there is good reason to believe that the original text of the Septuagint omitted nearly one-sixth of the whole (see p.82). In Jeremiah the order of the prophecies diners greatly, chapters xlvi.-li. being inserted (in a different order) after chapter xxv.13, while the following passages are altogether omitted: x.6-8, 10; xvii.1-4; xxvii.1, 7, 13, and a great part of 17-22; xxix.16-20; xxi.14-26; xxxix.4-13. Even if we reduce the number of minor variations as much as possible (and very many of them may be due to mistakes on the part of the Septuagint translators, to different methods of supplying the vowels in the Hebrew text, to different divisions of the words of the Hebrew, or to a freedom of translation which amounts to paraphrase), yet these larger discrepancies, the list of which the reader of the Variorum Bible may easily increase for himself, are sufficient to show that the Hebrew text which lay before the authors of the Septuagint differed very considerably from that which the Massoretes have handed down to us. What the explanation of this difference may be, or which of the two texts is generally to be preferred, are questions to which it would be rash, in the present state of our knowledge, to pretend to give a decided answer. Some statement of the case is, however, necessary for those who wish to understand what the evidence for our present Old Testament text really is; but it will be better to postpone the discussion of it until we have completed the list of the versions from which some light upon the question may be expected. Some of them help us to reconstruct the text of the Septuagint; others tell us of the condition of the Hebrew text at dates later than those at which the Samaritan and the Greek versions were made; all in some degree help forward our main purpose - the history of the Hebrew text of the Old Testament.