The Church in Ancient Society: From Galilee to Gregory the Great

By Henry Chadwick | Go to book overview

4 The Hebrew Scriptures in the Church

The Septuagint

To meet the religious needs of Greek-speaking Jews of the Dispersion no longer comfortably familiar with Hebrew, a Greek version of the Pentateuch or five books of Moses was made at Alexandria in the third century bc during the reign of Ptolemy Philadelphus (284-246). Ptolemy ruled not only over Egypt but also over Judaea and had numerous Jews in his army; Egypt had a substantial Jewish population. It was claimed with probability that Ptolemy granted his patronage to the project of translation. The Greek Pentateuch became diffused beyond Alexandria among the synagogues of the Mediterranean world. In time the prophets and other writings of synagogue usage were added to the translation. The Pentateuch retained pride of place.

Probably late in the second century bc a propagandist on behalf of Judaism composed a fictitious panegyric on the origins of the Greek Pentateuch entitled the Letter of Aristeas. This claimed sacrosanct status for the version, produced in seventy-two days by seventy-two translators, so that it was superior to rival versions and in no need of correction or improvement. That just such a corrected text was made is certain from a Greek manuscript of the Twelve 'minor' Prophets found among the Dead Sea Scrolls, and from the use of the same form of text in Justin. Probably Aristeas had in view not only correctors of the Septuagint but also ultra-conservatives who thought no sacred text translatable without dangerous loss. Some said the Septuagint was a sin like the worship of the golden calf.

Alexandrian Jews liked to assert their presence in the city and the supremacy of monotheism against polytheism, though the Septuagint was careful to warn against scorning the religions of others (Exod. 22: 27; Deut. 7: 25). The Jews of Alexandria had an annual festival to celebrate the achievement of translation. Philo regarded the translators as divinely inspired, and this estimate became transmitted to many early Christian writers. This was the Christian Bible for both Greeks and Latins, the Bible of

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The Church in Ancient Society: From Galilee to Gregory the Great
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • The Church in Ancient Society iii
  • Prefatory Note vi
  • Contents vii
  • Abbreviations ix
  • Introduction 1
  • 1: The First Followers of Jesus 5
  • 2: The Jewish Matrix 13
  • 3: Jews and Christians Survive Rome's Crushing of Revolts 21
  • 4: The Hebrew Scriptures in the Church 27
  • 5: Interpreting Scripture 32
  • 6: Apostles and Evangelists 43
  • 7: Women Among Jesus' Followers 53
  • 8: 'Barnabas', Jewish Christianity, Trouble at Corinth 56
  • 9: Ignatius of Antioch 65
  • 10: Didache 84
  • 11: Marcion 89
  • 12: Justin 93
  • 13: Irenaeus of Lyon 100
  • 14: The New Testament Text 108
  • 15: Celsus: A Platonist Attack 110
  • 16: Montanism: Perpetua 114
  • 17: Tertullian, Minucius Felix 118
  • 18: Clement of Alexandria 124
  • 19: Julius Africanus 130
  • 20: Hippolytus and Liturgy 132
  • 21: Origen 135
  • 22: Cyprian of Carthage 145
  • 23: Dionysius of Alexandria 161
  • 24: Paul of Samosata 166
  • 25: Mani 170
  • 26: Plotinus, Porphyry 173
  • 27: Diocletian and the Great Persecution; Rise of Constantine 176
  • 28: Constantine 190
  • 29: The Seeds of Reaction 201
  • 30: The Church at Prayer 212
  • 31: Athanasius, Marcellus, and the Gathering Storm 226
  • 32: A Fiasco at Serdica 240
  • 33: Religious Division 254
  • 34: Athanasius' Return 260
  • 35: Constantius' Double Council of Unity 279
  • 36: Julian and the Church 295
  • 37: Damasus, Siricius, Papal Authority, Synesius of Cyrene 314
  • 38: Basil of Caesarea (Cappadocia) 331
  • 39: Ambrose 348
  • 40: Ambrosiaster 379
  • 41: Donatism 382
  • 42: Monks: The Ascetic Life 394
  • 43: Messalians 411
  • 44: Schism at Antioch 415
  • 45: Jerome and Rufinus 433
  • 46: Pelagius, Caelestius, and the Roman See in Gaul and North Africa 446
  • 47: Julian of Eclanum 464
  • 48: Augustine 473
  • 49: John Chrysostom 479
  • 50: Innocent I and John Chrysostom's Honour 499
  • 51: The Christological Debate, I 515
  • 52: The Christological Debate, Ii 538
  • 53: The Christological Debate, Iii 557
  • 54: The Aftermath of the Council of Chalcedon 592
  • 55: Justinian, Origen, and the 'Three Chapters' 612
  • 56: The Ancient Oriental Churches 628
  • 57: The Church and the Barbarian Invasions in the West 633
  • 58: Pope Gregory the Great (590-604) 658
  • 59: Worship After Constantine 675
  • 60: Pilgrims 684
  • 61: Penance 688
  • Further Reading 694
  • Dates of Roman Emperors 714
  • Index 721
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