Jeremiah in Greek

By Admin | Jeremiah

Aug 31

The Septuagint

The book of Jeremiah was originally written in the Hebrew language and what we read of Jeremiah in our English Bibles is mostly translated from this Hebrew version.  However, the Old Testament was also translated into common Greek about 250 years before Christ, so it included a version of Jeremiah in Greek.

This translation of the Old Testament is called the “Septuagint” because it is said that the translation was made by seventy men (or maybe 72!) and “septuagint” means seventy in Latin.  This also is the source of the abbreviation “LXX” – seventy in Roman numerals – which is commonly used for the Septuagint.[1]

As you would expect from a translation, the Hebrew and Septuagint (LXX) versions of Jeremiah are mostly very similar but they are also different in some significant ways.[2]

Overall, the Septuagint version shows signs that someone tried to put parts of the book in more chronological order – particularly the last few chapters of prophecy (Jeremiah 46-51).  These were probably delivered in or before the 4th year of Jehoiakim, and the LXX inserts them in the middle of chapter 25.  Thus to find a chapter in the LXX from chapter 26 onward, just add 7.  There are a few extra changes also, but this is the basic picture.

In a little more detail, here are the differences in the arrangement of these chapters:

  • Hebrew Ch 25 (first half) -> LXX Ch 25
  • Hebrew Ch 46 -> LXX Ch 26
  • Hebrew Ch 50 -> LXX Ch 27
  • Hebrew Ch 51 -> LXX Ch 28
  • Hebrew Ch 47 -> LXX Ch 29
  • Hebrew Ch 49 -> LXX Ch 30
  • Hebrew Ch 48 -> LXX Ch 31
  • Hebrew Ch 25 (second half) -> LXX Ch 32

From the web page referred to below, we can get a list of the significant (larger) omissions from the LXX translation of Jeremiah.  Some of them are interesting to note:

Passage Comments
Jeremiah 8:10-12 quite similar to Jeremiah 6:12-15
Jeremiah 10:6-8,10 speaks of God’s greatness
Jeremiah 11:7-8 God’s command for obedience ignored
Jeremiah 17:1-4 Jeremiah 17:3-4 similar to Jeremiah 15:13-14
Jeremiah 29:16-20 Jeremiah 29:16-18 similar to Jeremiah 24:8-10, Jeremiah 29:19 to Jeremiah 25:4 and Jeremiah 29:20b to Jeremiah 24:5b
Jeremiah 30:10-11 similar to Jeremiah 46:27-28
Jeremiah 33:14-26 Jeremiah 33:14-16 is similar to Jeremiah 23:4-6 and Jeremiah 33:25-26 to Jeremiah 31:35-36
Jeremiah 39:4-13 Jeremiah 39:4-7 similar to 2 Kings 25:4-7
Jeremiah 48:45-46 judgement on Moab
Jeremiah 51:44d-49a judgement on Babylon (some similarity with other verses in Jeremiah 51)
Jeremiah 52:2-3 very similar to 2 Kings 24:19-20
Jeremiah 52:27c-30 Jeremiah 52:27c very similar to 2 Kings 25:21

 

Most of the omissions in the LXX are passages that are replicated elsewhere in Jeremiah, or are at least very similar to other passages in Jeremiah.  Maybe the translators at that time followed the same train of thought as many translators today – if the passage is duplicated, it must be the result of a copying error or “enhancement”.  However, if we accept God as the author of the Bible, repeated text should not be a complete surprise, and definitely not an automatic reason for exclusion.  Just look at Isaiah 2:2-4 and Micah 4:1-3.  They are almost identical and were even written at a very similar time.  Repetition makes us sit up and take notice when we come across it.

While the differences, particularly the omissions, are interesting to think about, the massive majority of the Septuagint version of Jeremiah is very similar to the Hebrew version.  Although the two translations became separate documents so long ago and have been copied hundreds or thousands of times since, the differences between them are still very small, given the size of the book of Jeremiah – the largest book in the Bible.[3]

Yet again, this gives us reason to be confident that the Bible has been accurately copied through the twenty-six centuries that have passed since the book of Jeremiah was written.

 


Notes:

[1] For more information about the Septuagint, see Wikipedia (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Septuagint).

[2] A summary of the differences between the Hebrew and Greek versions of Jeremiah is shown here: https://www.ccel.org/bible/brenton/Jeremiah/appendix.html.

[3] By word count in Hebrew (http://overviewbible.com/word-counts-books-of-bible/).

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