In my previous post I introduced the Septuagint as a book that has changed history. As I noted, the Septuagint is an important textual stream for the Old Testament and is used as such. But probably the biggest significance of the Septuagint on us today and one reason I say that it has changed history is its influence on the New Testament. The Old Testament is quoted throughout the entire New Testament. And all the New Testament books were written in Greek (due to the Hellenization of that world as explained in my previous post). Therefore, when these New Testament writers quote the Old Testament they quote from the Septuagint rather than from the Hebrew Old Testament. It would have been counterproductive to have a book written in Greek with Hebrew quotes in it since very few readers would have been able to understand the quotes. The primary significance for us today then of the Septuagint is how it is used and carried into the New Testament.
The Septuagint use by early Apologists
But this leads us directly to another reason that the Septuagint has changed human history. Its use did not end at the close of the New Testament period. The people who followed in the wake of the apostles also quoted from the Septuagint. These early apologists, as they were called, wrote to both Jewish and pagans alike in the Greco-Roman world. Their writings are extensive. In fact a compilation of the writings from 95 AD – 315 AD (i.e. the end of the apostolic era to Constantine’s edict finally making Christianity legal in the Roman Empire) that are extant, or survived to this day, make a 14 volume encyclopedia set! These writers quoted extensively from both the Septuagint and the New Testament documents. And because the language used was Greek throughout, their readers were brought to clearly see Jesus in the Septuagint Old Testament. In fact these apologists for the gospel did such a good job using the Septuagint to persuade Jewish people to the gospel that the Jews quietly stopped using the Septuagint in the 2nd century – even though it always had been a Jewish work. As an introductory article to a modern Septuagint translation (the EOB) states
“As Christianity began to spread, the Septuagint was used with persuasive effect by Christian apologists – so well, in fact, that in time the Jews of the dispersion replaced it with newer works.” EOB Rick Grant Jones (p64)
These apologists also used the Septuagint to write to their pagan contemporaries. In fact some of their writings were directed straight to the Roman Emperors of their day so confident were they of the reasonableness of the gospel.
And their writings had an effect. Gradually their main contentions started to circulate and gain a hearing. Over a few generations educated thinkers were persuaded so that in time the course of the Greco-Roman world changed – and human history changed. The Septuagint was foundational to this change.
Session Six – Following the lead of these apologists
My hope in Session Six is to capture some of what these people saw and to follow some of their arguments. Session Six is now completed and all content is uploaded. I invite you to follow some of the greater deliberations that were discussed and argued in the decades following the New Testament apostolic period. And like their readers you can consider for yourself whether you agree or come to other conclusions. That is part of the richness in considering the gospel. This introductory article is a good place to start.