The translation of the "Septuagint" Bible

The translation into Romanian of the Greek text of the Scripture is a scientific project of a special importance realized by a group of young Romanian philologists, coordinated by The New Europe College ruled by Mr. Andrei Plesu, with the support of ANONIMVL Foundation.

The project, which began in 2002, shall last 4 -5 years and intends to be a modern translation (updated from the philological, historical and theological point of view) of the old Greek text (the “Septuagint”), offering the Romanian public a useful work instrument in the exegetic plan, such as the Bible of the  Saint Synod in the liturgical plan. The authors of this initiative do not wish to enter into competition or disjunction with the Romanian Orthodox Church, through such work. Therefore, to be in compliance with the doctrine, they shall appeal to the competence and blessing of the Church.

The supporters of the project: Andrei Plesu, Rector of the New Europe College.

Supervisors of the edition: Cristian Badilita, Francisca Baltaceanu, Monica Brosteanu in collaboration with Ioan-Florin Florescu, Priest

The team of translators (classicists, specialists in the study of the Bible and patristicians): Cristian Badilita, Smaranda Badilita, Francisca Baltaceanu, Monica Brosteanu, Florica Bechet, Gheorghe Ceausescu, Ioana Costa, Marius Cruceru, Stefania Ferchedau, Cristian Gaspar, Theodor Georgescu, Maria Gorea, Alexandra Moraru, Mihai Moraru, Eugen Munteanu, Catalin Partenie, Ion Patrulescu, Vladimir Peterca, Cristina Rogobete etc.

What does "Septuagint" represent?

The "Septuagint" is the Greek version of the first five books of the Hebrew Bible, respectively of the Pentateuch. After that, the denomination extended on all of the books of the Old Testament. The legend, sent to us by the Letter of Aristeas and by Philon from Alexandria goes that such translation was the joint work of seventy or, according to a different variant, of seventy two wise Jews, six of each tribe and that it was made in Alexandria, in the third century B.C., under the rule of Ptolomaeus the Second (285-247). The purpose of the translation is not known exactly (probably in order to substitute the forgetfulness of the Hebrew language by the Jews of the Diaspora). According to another hypothesis, Ptolomaeus himself allegedly was the one who took the initiative, wishing to know the code of laws of an important community in Egypt, as the Jewish community was. 

Such translation must not be isolated from the social, cultural, political context of the age. It forms a chapter – it is true a privileged one, since it is about the Holly Book itself – from the rich Jewish – Hellenistic literature which includes, among others, the work of Philon from Alexandria, the Letter of Aristeas, The Psalms of Solomon, the sibylline oracles, the chronicles of Flavius Josephus etc. Until the beginning of the Christian age, the Jews used the Septuagint without any suspicions. Its categorical rejection appears at the same time with the occurrence of the Christianity. In the first century A.D. the rabbis establish the dogma of the Hebrew Bible,  different from the version offered by the Septuagint (the famous "council" from Iamnia). The hostility between the two religions — Jewish and Christian — has as a consequence the multiplication of the translations as close as possible to the Jewish original, as intended replies to the version of the Septuagint. We know the most important subsequent translations from Hexapla drawn up by Origen, a kind of synopsis for the Old Christian Testament (abbreviated form: OT).

Hexapla provided in parallel, on six columns, the following versions of OT: 1) Hebrew; 2) Hebrew in Greek characters; 3) the version of Aquila; 4) the version of Symmachus; 5) the Septuagint; 6) the review of Theodotion. Therefore, as Alfred Rahlfs affirms, Origen had arranged in a “decreasing” order the versions of OT, decreasing from the Hebrew original (a language which he knew only in part), through the ad verbum translations (of Aquila and Simmachus) and up to more free translations (the Septuagint and Theodotion, which is in fact a review of the Septuagint). After the Origen, the Septuagint had two more reviews: the one of the Presbyterian Lucian, the founder of the exegetic school in Antiohia and of the Palestinian Pamphilus, a disciple of Origen and master of Eusebius of Caesarea. The two reviews express the theological and hermeneutic views of two totally different schools. The review of Lucian intends to "clarify" all of the obscure issues; the review of Pamphilus is more "esoteric" (keeping the obscurities, interpreted as such by Origen). The most important complete modern editions of the Greek text are: H. B. Swete, The Old Testament in Greek according to the Septuagint, Cambridge, 1889-1894; A. Rahlfs, The Septuagint, 1926 (often republished). A new critical edition is in progress at Göttingen.

Development of the Project

  • The translation shall be performed according to the edition established by Rahlfs.
  • It will take into consideration the latest researches / discoveries in the Septuagint domain, the Romanian team of translators staying always in touch with the French group coordinated by Marguerite Harl.
  • They will choose a precise, philological translation into a modern Romanian language, without archaisms. These requirements do not exclude the literary nature of the translation. Although wellcome, the esthetic dimension shall always be subordinated to the philological preciseness, clarity and theological accuracy. The translation generally addresses to the current Romanian readers, without any partisanship of confessional nature. Such translation intends exclusively to be a grounded act of culture and professionalism.
  • In the first stage, the books shall be grouped, (for example, the Pentateuch in two big volumes), with well informed introductions referring exactly to its subject, not exceeding 20 pages each. The introductions may be drafted by a person other than the translator. The majority shall be taken, with the approval of the respective authors, from La Bible d'Alexandrie, summarized.
  • Three types of notes (minimal) are proposed: a) philological (on the Greek text and referring to the discrepancies between the masoretic (Hebrew) text and the Greek one (of the Septuagint); b) historical notes (including realia); c) patristic notes (offering the perspective of the Founders of the Church on the Septuagint).
  • Each translation shall be read and approved by the supervisors of the edition, strictly observing their competences: Francisca Băltăceanu, confronting the masoretic version and establishing/verifying the related notes; Cristian Bădiliţă, verifying /establishing the notes referring to the patristic tradition and the stylistic coherence of the translation.
  • The results of the translation shall be debated during two annual reunions of the group.
  • The translation shall be published by Polirom Publishing House in Iaşi.