Origen’s Old Testament Text:
The Transmission History of the
Septuagint to the Third Century C.E.
Origen is still commemorated eighteen hundred years after his birth, and one of the many reasons is the Hexapla that he composed — his monumental work striving toward exactness in the text of the Old Testament Scriptures.1 As Charles Bigg has noted, Origen was perhaps “the first who distinctly saw that for the theologian, whatever may be [the] immediate object, controversy, edification, or doctrine, the prime necessity is a sound text.”2 Though Origen may have been the first Christian, he was not, as Bigg suggested, “the first” to
1. That is, the Jewish translation of their Scriptures into Greek, the Septuagint, which the early Christian church accepted. “Old Testament” is used predominantly in this article insofar as it reflects Origen’s position and denotes the wider canon of Scripture. For the most recent comprehensive study of the Septuagint, see S. Jellicoe, The Septuagint and Modern Study (Oxford: Clarendon, 1968); this supplements, rather than replaces, the still valuable 1902 work by H. B. Swete, An Introduction to the Old Testament in Greek (rev. by R. R. Ottley; New York: Ktav, 1968). For a highly useful study concerning the relationship of the Septuagint to the Hebrew Bible and the use of it in OT textual criticism, see E. Tov, The Text-Critical Use of the Septuagint in Biblical Research (Jerusalem Biblical Studies 3; Jerusalem: Simor, 1981). For bibliography on the Septuagint, see S. P. Brock, C. T. Fritsch, and S. Jellicoe, eds., A Classified Bibliography of the Septuagint (ALGHJ 6; Leiden: Brill, 1973); for subsequent bibliography, see the “Record of Work” in the annual Bulletin of the International Organization for Septuagint and Cognate Studies.
2. Cited by Jellicoe (Septuagint, 101) from The Origins of Christianity, ed. T. B. Strong (Oxford: Clarendon, 1909) 423.