The Use of the Septuagint in New Testament Research

By Mellon, Brad F. | Journal of the Evangelical Theological Society, December 2004 | Go to article overview

The Use of the Septuagint in New Testament Research


Mellon, Brad F., Journal of the Evangelical Theological Society


The Use of the Septuagint in New Testament Research. By R. Timothy McLay. Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 2003, xiv + 207 pp., $30.00.

To what extent did the Septuagint influence NT theology? R. Timothy McLay explores this and other questions in his book, The Use of the Septuagint in New Testament Research. In the introduction he delineates the pertinent terminology associated with his study, such as "Septuagint," "Old Greek" (OG), "Masoretic Text" (MT), "Hebrew Bible," and "Greek Hebrew Scriptures." He then proceeds toward his main goal of examining the impact of the LXX on the NT, while looking at the use of Scripture in the NT generally, translation technique, and the origin and development of the LXX along the way.

McLay offers this volume because of the dearth of literature that provides a framework for understanding the influence of the LXX on the development of the NT. He also gives a target audience: "There are many scholars and students who might profit from a text devoted to The Use of the Septuagint in New Testament Research. Thus, this volume will attempt to address the needs of both of these audiences without neglecting either" (p. 4). In my view, a study that emphasizes LXX influence on the NT writings is most welcome. The subject has certainly been neglected, especially in light of the high percentage of agreement between OT citations in the NT and the Greek Hebrew Scriptures. Likewise, I would applaud McLay's interest in writing not only to fellow biblical scholars, but also to seminarians.

Theological students, however, might become confused at various points in the discussion because of a need for greater clarity. Students with limited background in LXX studies may find it difficult to follow certain sections of the book, although referencing the works listed in the bibliography would be helpful in this regard. Some of the discussions become quite involved and depend on an understanding of technical terms, so that readers with limited knowledge and exposure would benefit from further explanation. An example is on p. 129 where McLay argues against a unified Aaige-Theodotion recension. Not only is this subject fairly advanced for the average theological student, it is exacerbated by a proclivity for lengthy sentences that can make reading with comprehension more difficult.

Another place where McLay could have added further explanation is in his definition and use of OG. He rightly says that OG is the "original translation" or "oldest recoverable form" of the Greek text of a particular book, and he mentions the critical editions being published in the Göttingen Septuaginta series. He proceeds to give the "OG" text for a passage in Amos (cited in Acts 15) without adding any further discussion, apparently assuming the text found in the Göttingen series (?). A more adequate explanation designed to help the reader ascertain the Greek text would be welcome, especially one that includes some discussion of differences from book to book (cf. Moisés Suva, Biblical Words and Their Meaning [2d ed.; Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1994] 68-71).

Equally technical and potentially confusing for students are the seven steps for "Analyzing a Citation" on pp. 133-34. Certainly if one were to read these steps carefully and follow them rigorously, they might produce some helpful results. The point here is that the method could perhaps be presented more simply and with greater clarity for seminarians and others possessing a limited background in LXX study.

McLay's statement about textual pluriformity in the first century, however, is in my view the most likely scenario and is a helpful insight to students and scholars alike. It makes sense based on the evidence we have that a number of variant readings existed in both the Hebrew Bible and the I.

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