The Septuagint and the Cultural World of the Translators


The Septuagint—a collection of Jewish writings dating roughly from the last three centuries BCE and encompassing both works translated from Hebrew and Aramaic and works originally composed in Greek—is an important corpus. It is the form in which the Hebrew scriptures first came to the attention of the wider world and a fundamental document to understand Hellenistic Judaism. It eventually became the “Old Testament” of the early church. 

The translation of the Hebrew Scriptures involved momentous changes. Translation can be viewed as a process of cultural exchange: with the creation of the Septuagint, new concepts and ideas entered the Hellenistic world; but at the same time, the Greek language and culture transformed the content of Israel’s writing into something different. 

The research unit aims to recover processes of cultural exchange reflected in the Septuagint. The Septuagint’s words, expressions, and stylistic usages are like so many windows on to the thought world of the translators, seeking to situate themselves as Jews in a Hellenistic context, struggling to preserve what they perceived to be unique in their Jewish heritage while also accepting what they came to value in Greek thought and culture.



Septuagint, Greek Language, Papyrology, Translation Studies


Romina Vergari
University of Florence

Anna Angelini
University of Zurich

Member Area

Syracuse 2023 Call for Papers

Re-thinking Septuagint’s Origins: A Socio-Linguistic Approach 


The discussion on the reasons which gave impulse to the translation of the Torah in Greek has found, so far, no consensus among scholars. 


Different hypotheses have been put forward, suggesting a Greek, a Jewish or a mixed initiative behind such an enterprise, depending on the reliability granted to the story told in the main ancient text which deals with the origins of the translation, namely the so-called Letter of Aristeas


Since the last assessment provided by Sylvie Honigman’s monograph (The Septuagint and Homeric Scholarship in Alexandria, Brill, 2003), this question has been almost completely left aside in Septuagint research, while studies on several linguistic and editorial aspects of the translation have proliferated. 


The goal of this panel is to readdress the question concerning the origins on the Septuagint on fresh methodological grounds. Shifting the focus “away” from the witness provided by the Letter of Aristeas, the discussion will build upon the work done in the 20 past years in the field of the language of the Septuagint and will draw from the methodology of Sociolinguistics and Sociology of Language applied to ancient texts. The discussion will address the following aspects: 


1. From the translators’ profile to the social setting: how and to which extent is possible to infer from the translation itself information on the social context in which the translation might have taken place? 

2. Septuagint, bilingualism, and diglossia: it is possible to reconstruct the linguistic identity of translators starting from the Septuagint texts? What can the language of the Septuagint tell us about the community to which its translators belonged? 

3. Transmitting, editing, and translating ancient Jewish texts: which is the place of the Septuagint within the larger background of the scribal practices of the Second Temple Period? 

4. From the Greek Pentateuch to the Septuagint: which social and historical dynamics lead to the completion of the translation? 


The unit will include invited speakers as well as an open call for papers.