The LXX doesn’t exist

. . . that’s what I learned at the tea break this morning; the LXX is a social construct which never existed – especially not in the first century. The “seventy” used to refer to the 70 translators (plural); more recently it became singular referring to “the book.” Ralf’s Rahlfs is a social construction. A similar dynamic happened with the apocrypha. Check out your original KJV; it’s the the Old testament, the New Testament, and Apocrypha (no the.)

Manuscript evidence also shows that the the NT writers couldn’t possibly be quoting from the “LXX.” There are lots of lots of other interesting implications. Very fun discussion. Stay tuned for a forthcoming book.

And all that from the question, “What do you want to write on after your next book on Syriac lexicography?”

UDATE: I’ve written a much more on this issue at  – Still no LXX.

11 thoughts on “The LXX doesn’t exist

  1. […] The Bible doesn’t exist? Tag: Apocrypha, Bible, First Testament — doug @ 7:31 pm According to Ben Byerly […]

  2. Peter Kirk says:

    You must have a good point, from Jim West’s reaction. I tend to agree that in the 1st century there was no specific collection known as the LXX, just a variety of Greek translations. Verbal parallels between the NT and Rahlfs’ LXX are just as likely to be LXX copying NT as vice versa. Indeed that is certainly true of the over-long Psalm 13:3 LXX which is copied from Romans 3.

  3. Ben says:

    Thanks Peter. It was just a quick post-tea break thought. I didn’t expect it to get so much press.

    Here’s what I commented on Jim’s blog basically restating your comment.

    Can you help with the textual evidence of a pre-NT “collection” that we can comfortably call “the LXX”? I think you will run into problems of scope and inclusion. (I think Doug – link in comment #1 – gets at that too; he just goes further.)

    If I understood PW right (and I butchered his tea-time conversation pretty well), he is saying that NT writers were likely using Greek translations of certain writings, but we no longer have those translations. We have clear evidence of Greek manuscripts of Scripture predating the NT, but to conceive of them as a “the LXX” even a as we know it (even a proto-Ralf) is clearly anachronistic.

  4. Peter Kirk says:

    Well, I certainly won’t claim to know more on this than PW (who remembers my name from when he supported me with WBT, but we never met even though he and you are now an hour away from me). But your summary of what he said ties up with the impression I had gained over the years.

  5. Ben says:

    He’s a pretty incredible individual. He’s got one of those sticky brains that seems to remember everything, and he is extremely kind and generous.

  6. […] concerning the dating of the Septuagint that was started by Ben Byerly in a post called, “The LXX doesn’t exist,” and Jim West’s response called “The Madness of Good King […]

  7. Jim says:

    Hi Ben,

    again, I recommend you take a look at Mogens Muller’s work on the LXX. Google him and you’ll discover several pieces worth your time. And he will disabuse you (and Peter too, if he takes the time to check it out) of any misapprehension on the subject.

  8. Peter Kirk says:

    Jim, do you think he will disabuse Peter W as well? Or don’t you think that he has answers for this Muller’s arguments, which I won’t take the time to check out?

  9. Jim says:

    the fact that you aren’t willing to read muller says it all.

  10. […] on a tea break conversation I had with Peter Williams, the warden here at Tyndale House – The LXX doesn’t exist. Let me begin by saying that I didn’t even begin to fairly represent Williams’s […]

  11. Peter Kirk says:

    Jim, if like Ben I was sitting in a theological library much of the day I would check out Muller briefly. As it is, I would have to travel to some such library, in fact Tyndale House an hour away from my home is about the nearest, at significant cost in money and time which I am not prepared to expend on this matter of peripheral interest to me.

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