How We Got Our Bible–Translations


It’s been a long road from the original scriptures in Hebrew and Greek to the Bibles we hold in our hands today. The story of Bible translations is long but interesting.


One of the most important Bible translations ever made was the translation of the Hebrew Old Testament into Greek. Around 250 B.C. 72 elders, six from each of the 12 tribes, were selected to meet in Alexandria to translate the Old Testament. For some reason the original number of 72 has been rounded down to 70 – Septuagint, its Latin name. In the city there was a large Jewish population, so a translation from Hebrew to Greek would have been needed.


First the Pentateuch was translated and then the other books over an unknown period of time. Scholars are certain that before the time of Jesus the entire Old Testament was accessible in Greek. The Septuagint presents many problems – was there one early Greek version or several? Or were there various editions of it? There are numerous textual variations between the Septuagint in the Hebrew text, but the great majority of these are minor.


The influence of the Septuagint has been great. It gave us the names of several of the books (Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers, and Deuteronomy), it grouped the books into law/history/poetry/prophets, it subdivided 1 and 2 Samuel, 1 and 2 Kings, and so forth. For a while it was the only Bible for the early Christian church. It was the text most often quoted by the apostles and writers of the New Testament. Many New Testament terms and phrases come right out of the Septuagint, including words like apostle, atonement, covenant, faith, forgiveness, glory, law, peace, redemption, righteousness, and truth.