Karen H. Jobes and Moisés Silva. Invitation to the Septuagint. Grand Rapids: Baker, 2000. Pp. 352. US $29.99. ISBN: 0-8010-2235-5, 1-84227-061-3.


1.Karen H. Jobes and Moisés Silva have co-authored a book which is intended to serve as an introduction to the field of Septuagint studies. Jobes states in her preface:

This book is intended to be a relatively brief and inviting introduction for the student who has no prior knowledge of the Septuagint. It aims to introduce both the history and current state of scholarly discussion by presenting the terminology, foundational concepts, and major issues in Septuagint studies. Nevertheless, those interested in pursuing the technical use of the Septuagint in textual criticism and biblical studies will also find resources here to further their understanding. If successful, this book will serve as a bridge to the more sophisticated literature produced by scholars working in the field [9-10].

2. Jobes' purpose statement, quoted above, is ambitious. In one and the same book the authors intend to provide an introduction for those with no prior knowledge of the LXX, plus some reading material on textual criticism of LXX and MT, as well as a bridge to the scholarly literature on the LXX. The book does appear to fulfill all three objectives.

3. To follow this discussion one must first see the general plan of the book. It is broken into three parts. Part 1 is intended for readers of all levels. Part 2 contains some challenging material. Part 3 has a mixture of light and heavy subject matter. The back matter contains the normal indexes plus a short glossary. The remainder of this review will highlight some noteworthy chapters and topics.

Table of Contents

Map of the Hellenistic Period
Timeline of the Hellenistic Period

Introduction: Why Study the Septuagint?

Part 1: The History of the Septuagint
   1.    The Origin of the Septuagint and Other Greek Versions
   2.    The Transmission of the Septuagint
   3.    The Septuagint in Modern Times
   4.    The Septuagint as a Translation

Part 2: The Septuagint in Biblical Studies
   5.    The Language of the Septuagint
   6.    Establishing the Text of the Septuagint
   7.    Using the Septuagint for the Textual Criticism of the Hebrew Bible
   8.    The Judean Desert Discoveries and Septuagint Studies
   9.    Septuagint and New Testament
  10.    Interpreting the Septuagint

Part 3: The Current State of Septuagint Studies
  11.    Our Predecessors: Septuagint Scholars of a Previous Generation
  12.    Current Studies in Linguistic Research
  13.    Reconstructing the History of the Text
  14.    Theological Development in the Hellenistic Age

   A.    Major Organizations and Research Projects
   B.    Reference Works
   C.    Glossary
   D.    Differences in Versification between English Versions and the Septuagint


LXX and Textual Criticism

4. Reading through the entire book one cannot avoid noticing the topical prominence of textual criticism. Five full chapters (2, 6, 7, 8, and 13) are given to this topic. There are also significant sections of several other chapters with a similar focus. Textual criticism is a major theme throughout the entire book.

5. In chapter six the authors at several points seem to be writing bits and pieces of an introduction to textual criticism. The purpose of this is to show how the canons of textual criticism are applied to the special problems of the LXX and MT. Jobes' purpose statement defines the first target reader as "the student who has no prior knowledge of the Septuagint." She does not state that the student will have no prior knowledge of textual criticism. Chapter seven contains material that is very similar in detail and difficulty to E. Tov's writings on the same topic (cf. Tov 1997). The fragmentary introductory material in chapter six is not going to prepare a student with no prior knowledge of textual criticism for the material in the following chapter.

6. Chapter seven introduces an array of complex questions surrounding the use of the LXX for textual criticism of the Hebrew Bible (HB). There are some scholars who view the MT as nothing more than one resource for reconstructing an eclectic text of the HB. Within this school of thought the LXX or some other ancient version might be given as much weight for a given textual variant as the MT. Another school of thought uses the MT, more specifically the Leningrad Codex (L), as the foundation, the text against which every thing else is tested and measured. The LXX serves here as a secondary and inferior source to shed light on problems in L. There are several intermediate approaches which complicate this picture considerably.

7. Jobes and Silva lay down several principles to govern a moderate eclectic approach. Foremost is the notion that each OT book needs independent analysis. The quality of L is different for each book and can even vary significantly within a book. Furthermore the problems associated with the LXX mss are very different when you compare a book like Genesis to a book like Daniel. After giving a brief account of several other guidelines the authors send the reader off to do some reading in Tov (Tov 1997).

8. The heart of chapter seven is the illustration from 3 Reigns (1 Kings) 2:1-5. In this extended example the authors present in some detail the manifold complexity of using the LXX to reconstruct the HB. The authors inform their readers that this example will require close reading and that their effort will be repaid with a fuller appreciation of the problems attending on this sort of research.

9. Questions related to the language of the LXX are taken up in chapters five and twelve. The two main issues discussed are lexicography and syntax. LXX lexicography has some methodological ambiguities which revolve around what significance is accorded to the Hebrew word being translated. One school of thought places more weight on the Hebrew word and the other school places more emphasis on the contemporary Hellenistic usage. Quantitative syntax analysis is shown as a tool to address problems like the relationship between the text of Daniel OG and Theodotion's version.

10. In chapter eight we find several illustrations of how the mss from Qumran can be brought to bear on problems related to the text of the LXX. A fragment of Leviticus in 4Q119 reads <grc>eqn[os]</grc> in Lev. 26:12 instead of <grc>laos</grc>. Jobes and Silva point out that <grc>eqnos</grc> and <grc>laos</grc> have a significant semantic overlap but that there is a notable tendency in mss like Codex Vaticanus to avoid the use of <grc>eqnos</grc> in reference to Israel as a chosen people. Tov is cited as claiming that the use of <grc>eqnos</grc> to distinguish the gentiles from Israel is a characteristic present in the later mss, like Vaticanus, but absent from the Old Greek (OG).

11. If we take a look at Leviticus in Rahlfs (Codex Vaticanus), <grc>eqnos</grc> is used for the gentile nations in contexts where Israel is being contrasted with the gentiles. Lev. 26:12 probably falls into this category. However, <grc>eqnos</grc> is also used sometimes for Israel (e.g., Lev. 19:16).

12. Jobes and Silva note an exchange of views on the <grc>eqn[os]</grc> reading in 4Q119 between J. W. Wevers and E. Ulrich. Wevers did not adopt this reading in his Göttingen edition of Leviticus (Wevers, ed. 1986). However, his notes on the Greek text of Leviticus (Wevers 1997: 443) seem to indicate that E. Ulrich has subsequently influenced his thinking on this issue. This example illustrates the difficulties involved with evaluating textual variants, even by specialists in the field.

13. After finishing Part 2, new students of the LXX will be gasping for breath. The authors provide a short reprieve in chapter 11, where they give brief biographical sketches of some major LXX scholars from the 19th and early 20th centuries. The names include Tischendorf, Hatch, Lagarde, Rahlfs, Swete, and J. A. Montgomery. This is the only chapter after Part 1 that will be easy reading for the new student of the LXX.

14. The previous comments show a few samples intended to give the general flavor of this book. Jobes and Silva have provided a serviceable introduction to the academic discipline of Septuagint studies. Readers who are not in need of an introduction will find in Part 2 a useful framework for exploring some of the more difficult issues related to the text of the Old Testament.

© TC: A Journal of Biblical Textual Criticism, 2001.


Tov, Emanuel 1997. The Text-Critical Use of the Septuagint in Biblical Research. 2nd ed. Jerusalem Biblical Studies, no. 3. Jerusalem: Simor.

Wevers, John William, ed. 1986. Leviticus. Septuaginta: Vetus Testamentum Graecum, vol. 2.2. Göttingen: Vandenhoeck & Ruprecht.

Wevers, John William 1997. Notes on the Greek Text of Leviticus. Society of Biblical Literature Septuagint and Cognate Studies, no. 44. Atlanta: Scholars Press.

Clayton Stirling Bartholomew
Three Tree Point
P.O. Box 255
Seahurst WA 98062