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005 Kernels of Wheat – God’s First Popular Bible Translation

Show Notes for Kernels of Wheat Episode 005: The Septuagint (LXX)

Teaching and Bible study notes by Jim Kerwin

Picture of a bust of Alexander the Great

Copy of a bust of Alexander the Great displayed in the Louvre (not to be confused with Glen Steinson)

Interview on Stewardship Weekly

Among those leaving comments this week was Glen Steinson of the Stewardship Weekly podcast.  Glen interviewed me for Stewardship Weekly, episode 13: Jim Kerwin Introduces Us to the God ‘E37.’

Two Bible Study Pointers to Help in “Rightly Dividing the Word”:

  1. You can’t know the whole counsel of God if you don’t read the whole counsel of God. That means one of the disciplines in which you should engage as a disciple is to read the Bible regularly, cover to cover.
  2. When you find an Old Testament quote in the New Testament, go back and read the quote in context in the Old Testament. Often the speaker or the writer is assuming that his original audience is familiar with the passage, and that they are making more “truth connections” as a result.  But for those of you who do this, how do you account for the fact that sometimes the New Testament quote seems very different from the Old Testament passage?

God’s Sovereignty in His First Popular Bible Translation

God showed through prophecy how the international landscape would change over a 500-year period.

  • Nebuchadnezzar’s Dream: The giant statue (Daniel 2, esp. vv.26-45)
    • Golden Head – Babylonian Empire (vv.36-38)
    • Arms & chest of silver – Medo-Persian Empire (v.39a)
    • Belly & thighs of brass – Empire of Alexander the Great and his generals (v.39b)
    • Roman Empire (v.40)
  • The Beasts of Daniel’s Vision (Daniel 8)
    • No beast representing the Babylonian Empire, because it was already “history.”
    • The two-horned ram – the Medo-Persian Empire (8:3,4,20)
    • The one-horned ram moving eastward – Alexander the Great’s conquest of the Persian Empire (vv.5-8, 21-22)
      • Single horn represents Alexander himself
      • Four horns represent the four generals who carved up his empire.

How History Actually Played Out

Map of the Persian Empire

Map of the Persian Empire (Click on map image to view the map at full size.)

  •  As the OT closes – Medo-Persian Empire (550 – 330 BC); during this time:
  • Belshazzar’s Feast (Daniel 5) — Babylonian Empire falls to the Medes and Persians
  • Last part of the book of Daniel, including the lion’s den (Daniel 6)
  • Other Bible events during this period:
    • The return of the Jews to Judea – Ezra, Nehemiah
    • The prophetic ministries of Haggai, Zechariah, Malachi
    • Book of Esther
  • Map of the Persian Invasions of Greece

    Map of the Persian Invasions of Greece 490 bc, 480 bc (Click on the image to see the map at full size.)

    Invasions of Greece:

    • King Darius I, “amphibious landing” – Battle of Marathon – 490 BC; showed that the “invincible Persians” could be defeated.
    • Invasion of 480 BC under Xerxes:
      • The “300” at the Battle of Thermopylae
      • Large portion of the Persian fleet lost in a storm
      • Athens sacked and burned
      • Famous naval battle of Salamis (under the leadership of Themistocles)
      • 479 BC – on the same day:
        • Land battle of Plataea – Persian defeat
        • Naval battle of Mycale – Persian defeat
  • God raised up the Macedonian Greek conqueror, Alexander the Great (356-323 BC)
    • Began his conquest of the Persian Empire in 334 BC – at the age of 21!
    • In four short years, he conquered the entire Persian Empire, covering all of what we now call Turkey, Syria, Lebanon, Israel, Jordan, Egypt, Libya, Iraq, and Iran.
    • Map showing the Conquests and Empire of Alexander the Great

      Conquests and Empire of Alexander the Great (Click on the map image to see the map at full size.)

      In five more years, he managed to subdue the areas we call Afghanistan, Pakistan, and even western India.

    • Never defeated in battle, yet always outnumber­ed by his enemies
    • Died in 323 BC, somewhat short of his 33rd birthday.Empire divided among four of his generals (the four horns):
      • One ruled over Macedon and Greece
      • One ruled over what we now call Turkey
      • Seleucus Nicator ruled over the vast eastern portion of the empire– Seleucid Kingdom
      • Ptolemy ruled over Egypt & north Africa.  (About 300 years later, the last ruler in the Ptolemaic line was the famed Cleopatra.)
    • The confusing prophetic goings-on in Daniel 11-12 depict the ongoing wars between the Seleucid rulers and the Ptolemies.

The Hellenization of the Empire

  • Hellenization comes from Hellas, the Greek name for the territory we now call Greece. (No, it has nothing to do with the word hell.)  If you prefer a made-up, but more utilitarian, name, you could call it “Greek-ification.”
  • Greek became the lingua franca of every place Alexander had conquered, even after the Romans had conquered Greece, Palestine, Egypt, etc.
    • Trade/commerce
    • Higher education
  • Wasn’t Latin the language of Rome? Yes, but the Romans had:
    • Greek tutors / Greek slaves as tutors
    • Sent children to Greece for education
    • Caesar Augustus’s derisive comment about Herod the Great’s murders of his various wives and sons was a quip made in Greek, because of how close two words sound in Greek: “I would rather be Herod’s huos than his huios.”  (“I’d rather be Herod’s pig than his son.”  Because Herod was “the King of the Jews,” he couldn’t eat pork of any sort, so his swine were safe!)
  • The placard over the cross of Jesus was tri-lingual, written in Hebrew (i.e., Aramaic), Greek, and Latin.
    • John, whose mother-tongue was Aramaic, puts “Hebrew” first in the list (John 19:20).
    • Luke, an educated Greek speaker, puts Greek first in the list (Luke 23:38).

 What does all this have to do with Bible translations?

  • God prepared a world with a common Greek language, and He knew that this “new world” would need a Greek Bible.
  • Translation: The Septuagint = 70 = “LXX” (Roman numerals for “70”)
  • Place: Alexandria, Egypt (founded by you-know-who).
    • The greatest international library in the world for centuries. Founded either by Ptolemy I or II in the century leading up to 200 BC.
    • Large Jewish population
    • Probably where Joseph took Jesus and Mary when they fled from Herod in Matthew 2
  • Task: Translate the Hebrew Bible (what we now call the Old Testament) into Greek
  • The scholars: 70 men; parallel found in Numbers 11:16-30
  • The result: By the time the first Gospel evangelists went out into the civilized world outside of Judea, there were Greek copies of the Scriptures all over the Roman world, in the synagogues of Greek-speaking Jews, and in the libraries of very wealthy individuals.

    Picture of the Greek version of Psalm 1 from the Septuagint

    Psalm 1 in Greek, from the LXX/Septuagint (Click on the image to see it full size.)

God had paved the way for people like the Bereans to hear the Good News and “search the Scriptures daily” to see “whether these things were so” (Acts 17:11).

For next week: Walking in the Light!


We look forward to hearing from you. Use the “Leave a Comment” section below or drop us an e-mail.

More teaching by Jim Kerwin and others can be found on the Finest of the Wheat website.

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