James R. Adair, Jr.

This brief article is an expanded version of the article appeared in the Eerdmans Dictionary of the Bible.

The Hexapla was an important work of biblical criticism, the magnum opus of Origen (185-254). In his discussions with the Jews, Origen became aware of the significant differences between the Hebrew Bible used by the Jews and the Septuagint of Christians. Although he probably began the work while still in Alexandria, he completed it after moving to Caesarea. Most portions of the Hexapla consisted of six columns of parallel texts: (1) the Hebrew text, (2) the Hebrew text transliterated into Greek characters, (3) the Greek version of Aquila, (4) the Greek version of Symmachus, (5) the Septuagint, and (6) the Greek version of Theodotion. In the Septuagint column, Origen marked with an obelus those passages present in Greek but not found in his Hebrew column. When the Septuagint lacked material found in Hebrew, Origen would insert the passage from one of the other Greek columns (which were closer textually to the Hebrew) and mark the insertion with an asterisk. Although the Hexapla in its entirety was apparently never copied, the Septuagint column was copied repeatedly. Unfortunately, many copies omitted Origen's textual marks, thus introducing a significant amount of contamination into the textual tradition of the Septuagint. Only a few fragments of copies of the Hexapla or of its fifth column are extant. One of the most important witnesses to Origen's work is the seventh century Syriac translation of the fifth column--complete with textual marks--attributed to Paul of Tella, known as the Syro-Hexapla.

© James R. Adair, Jr., 1997