When God Spoke Greek: The Septuagint and the Making of the Christian Bible

When God Spoke Greek: The Septuagint and the Making of the Christian Bible

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By (author) Timothy Michael Law

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  • Publisher: Oxford University Press Inc
  • Format: Paperback | 240 pages
  • Dimensions: 152mm x 231mm x 18mm | 227g
  • Publication date: 15 August 2013
  • Publication City/Country: New York
  • ISBN 10: 0199781729
  • ISBN 13: 9780199781720
  • Sales rank: 121,588

Product description

How did the New Testament writers and the earliest Christians come to adopt the Jewish scriptures as their first Old Testament? And why are our modern Bibles related more to the Rabbinic Hebrew Bible than to the Greek Bible of the early Church? The Septuagint, the name given to the translation of the Hebrew scriptures between the third century BC and the second century AD, played a central role in the Bible's history. Many of the Hebrew scriptures were still evolving when they were translated into Greek, and these Greek translations, along with several new Greek writings, became Holy Scripture in the early Church. Yet, gradually the Septuagint lost its place at the heart of Western Christianity. At the end of the fourth century, one of antiquity's brightest minds rejected the Septuagint in favor of the Bible of the rabbis. After Jerome, the Septuagint never regained the position it once had. Timothy Michael Law recounts the story of the Septuagint's origins, its relationship to the Hebrew Bible, and the adoption and abandonment of the first Christian Old Testament.

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Author information

Timothy Michael Law is Publisher and Editor-in-Chief of The Marginalia Review of Books. He was a British Academy Postdoctoral Fellow in the University of Oxford from 2009-2012 and is Alexander von Humboldt Fellow in the Georg-August-Universitat Gottingen, Germany until 2014. He has published more than two-dozen articles and is author or editor of several books, including the forthcoming Oxford Handbook of the Septuagint (with Alison Salvesen), and the ongoing OUP series, The Apocrypha in the History of Interpretation (with David Lincicum). He also writes at timothymichaellaw.com.

Review quote

"Law has succeeded in a rare and difficult task: providing a clear narrative retelling of the development of an ancient text. Of course, like anyone else, he is an interpreter of history rather than an objective observer, but Law presents a story where scholarly backbone and narrative flesh cohere... Law convincingly demonstrates the central role the Septuagint played in the New Testament and the early church. The church's understanding of Scripture is undernourished when the Septuagint is ignored or relegated to peripheral status." --David Gundersen, Boyce College Southern Baptist Theological Seminary "[A] fresh perspective...[Law] brilliantly turns accepted wisdom about the nature of biblical text on its head...[He is] aware that good history is a solvent for lazy and often harmful promulgations...[He writes] with an implicit moral purpose." --London Review of Books "It is a gripping tale, beautifully told, and should be of profound interest to any reader of the Jewish or Christian Bible Timothy Michael Law has written the first introduction to the LXX that can be read by people outside the guild. It is a remarkable book, full of fascinating detail that I cannot evoke in a short review, a book that tells a rich story that no reader of the Bible can afford to ignore." --Los Angeles Review of Books An ambitious, accessible, and intelligent survey of the context, composition, and contributions of the Septuagint to Christian Scripture and theology. This is a fine introduction to an underappreciated subject...Recommended. --CHOICE "A splendid work...I haven't found any book so interesting and enjoyable in years." --Sir Fergus Millar, Camden Professor of Ancient History (Emeritus), Oxford, and Fellow of the British Academy "When churchgoers and church watchers wonder about the origins of Christian theology, questions about the Septuagint's importance for the New Testament and patristic era do not dominate their concerns. Law laments this lack of attention and enthusiastically explains the Septuagint s history, its significance for early Christian writers, and the reasons it all but disappeared from theological discourse in the Christian West." --The Christian Century "Strong and engaging... Law's argument for the Septuagint's return as an authoritative text is persuasive and dissenters will be hard-pressed to deny it a place" --Freedom in Orthodoxy "An original thinker, Timothy Michael Law portrays the birth, development, and theological impact of the Septuagint on Christianity and western civilization, and analyzes in a fascinating way the Septuagint as a creation in its own right and not only as a translation. This innovative study, incorporating the very latest research, is meant for the scholar and learned reader alike." --Emanuel Tov, J.L. Magnes Professor of Bible, the Hebrew University "Law overturns the assumptions of most Christians about their sacred scripture. He points out that the Greek text of the Septuagint was the early Church's Bible, that it predates the Hebrew Scripture now commonly accepted, and that it presents plural traditions of ancient Hebrew biblical texts, many now lost to us. Fundamentalists will find these unpalatable truths; others will find that Law points to new delights in their reading of scripture." --Diarmaid N.J. MacCulloch, Professor of the History of the Church, Oxford University "Law provides a thorough, readable introduction to the Septuagint's formation, distinctiveness, impact upon the New Testament writers, and ongoing life in the Christian Church. Law boldly challenges us to reckon with the theological implications of multiple 'Old Testaments' informing early Judaism and Christianity and to consider the Septuagint afresh as Christian Scripture. We cannot afford to ignore the testimony this book offers." --David A. deSilva, Trustees' Distinguished Professor, Ashland Theological Seminary "[Law writes] to acquaint interested non-specialists with the importance of the Septuagint. They are wooed effectively with warm-hearted argument... [The] narrative argument brings the biblical and patristic periods together in a way which may help many who are learning the subject primarily from a biblical angle. It shows once again, for those who may not realize it, how fundamental the Septuagint has been for Christianity. The author's lively apologetic and polemic are not always the same as guidance for non-specialists, but his particular target audience is a vital one for biblical and ancient Jewish studies. May the book stir many who come to these fields." --Journal of Jewish Studies "When God Spoke Greek succeeds in remaining accessible to the educated reader whilst satisfying the scholarly expectations of the professional biblical scholar. Law is to be commended on an impressive achievement." --SOTS Book List 2014 "Reading Law's book is a bit like reading the biography of someone you once knew, but not well. It is full of information you never suspected was true... Law's vivid re-creation of the Greco-Roman world into which the Septuagint was born and of the culture it helped shape is more than readable. It is fascinating." --Theological Studies "...[A] good and lively read... intended to convey Law's sense of the importance of the Septuagint, to enthuse and to inspire readers to explore the subject further, and its accessibility and entertaining style achieve this aim very well." --Journal of Theological Studies "...[O]ne of those rare volumes which successfully communicates a fascinating general overview fully grounded in serious academic research... Law's manifesto calls for the Academy to return to the study of the Septuagint as the great document of the rise of Christianity, and the Church to re-engage with the Septuagint as part of its Biblical inheritance... NETS and Law would together be a perfect introduction to the Bible which shaped Western culture and the Christian Church." --The Oxonian Review "...I love this book. Laws' insights into the Septuagint and differing translations, mistranslations, and thematical development was engaging. He also makes strong points about the value of the Septuagint for the Church today. It's hard to understand some of the exegetical nuances in the New Testament without a knowledge of the Septuagint. It was the Bible (a term Law might not use) of the NT and early Church. Pastors and exegetes would do well in prizing the Septuagint and valuing its contribution to our theology." --Grace For Sinners Blog "Overall When God Spoke Greek is engaging and easy to read--yet still stimulating. Law is a master of his material, and that his knowledge and insight goes deeper even that what is conained on these pages is evident." --Words on the Word Blog "...Law has written a clear historical account of how the Septuagint became the authoritative OT Scripture of the early church." --Themelios

Table of contents

Table of Contents ; 1 Why this Book? ; 2 When the World Became Greek ; 3 Was There a Bible before the Bible? ; 4 The First Bible Translators ; 5 Gog and his Not-so-Merry Grasshoppers ; 6 Bird Droppings, Stoned Elephants, and Exploding Dragons ; 7 E Pluribus Unum ; 8 The Septuagint behind the New Testament ; 9 The Septuagint in the New Testament ; 10 The New Old Testament ; 11 God's Word for the Church ; 12 The Man of Steel and the Man who Worshipped the Sun ; 13 The Man with the Burning Hand vs. the Man with the Honeyed Sword ; 14 A Postscript ; Notes ; Index