Translating History: TWU and ACTS now North America’s Hub for Septuagint Studies

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Trinity Western University announces the establishment of the Septuagint Institute, making it the central location for Septuagint research, translation and publication projects in North America. The Septuagint is the earlist Greek translation of the Bible.

The Septuagint, the earliest Greek translation of the Old Testament and the Bible of the early Christian church, was one of the key religious texts in the third century B.C. and it's soon to have a high profile in western Canada.

On Sept. 17, Vancouver's Trinity Western University launches the Septuagint Institute, a hub for Septuagint research, translation, and publication projects.

Even prior to the official inauguration, the Institute has received national support. Until recently, the place to go for Septuagint studies in Canada was the University of Toronto. Now two Toronto professors—among the world's foremost authorities on the Septuagint—are donating their personal libraries to the next generation of researchers in ancient Greek texts at TWU and ACTS, making Langley a flagship for such scholarship in not only in Canada, but in North America. One of the Toronto Septuagintalists, Professor Albert Pietersma, will be giving a lecture at the Institute's inauguration. Other speakers will include Professor Emanuel Tov of the Hebrew University of Jerusalem, also a Septuagint specialist and the Editor-in-Chief of the recently completed Dead Sea Scrolls publication project, and ACTS Professor Robert Hiebert, Ph.D., Director of the new Septuagint Institute.

“The launch of the Septuagint Institute is a truly historic event,” says Hiebert, “not only for our campus, but also for Canadian and international biblical scholarship. This new research centre is the only one of its kind in North America, which makes it vital since the Septuagint is such an important part of Jewish and Christian history in the Graeco-Roman period.”

Hiebert—who reads Greek, Hebrew, Aramaic, Syriac, and Latin, as well as German and French—has spent much of his academic career to date in Septuagint research. He and three other TWU and ACTS professors have recently completed translating portions of the Septuagint into English. These specialists are part of an international team of more than thirty scholars working on the entire corpus of the Greek Jewish Scriptures. It is the first such English version in 160 years. Called the New English Translation of the Septuagint (NETS), the text reflects both the wealth of manuscript evidence that has been brought to light since the 19th century and, of course, current English idiom. The complete translation is scheduled for publication in 2006 (Oxford University Press), though provisional editions of more than twenty Septuagint books are now accessible online (

Hiebert says that knowledge of the differences between the Hebrew Old Testament and the Greek Septuagint contributes to an understanding of the Bible's transmission and interpretation history.

“One example involves the description of Enoch in the book of Genesis,” he says. “The Hebrew Bible reports that he walked with God, while the Septuagint states interpretatively that he was well pleasing to God, which is precisely how the New Testament puts it.”

Citing instances in which the Septuagint of Genesis reflects cultural shifts, he mentions the story of Rebekah's betrothal. The Hebrew text says that the gifts she received included a nose ring, but the Septuagint reads earrings “because nose rings weren't part of the fashion scene in third century B.C. Alexandria, Egypt where the translation likely took place.”

SI is expected to complement TWU's already established Dead Sea Scrolls Institute (DSSI) which was established in 1995.

“Having the Dead Sea Scrolls and Septuagint Institutes at the same university makes a lot of sense,” says Hiebert. “Both Hebrew and Greek texts provide important parts of the picture of how the Bible came about and, in fact, often represent distinctive vantage points from which that picture may be viewed. Yet some very interesting convergences also become evident as one investigates those textual histories.”

“We have people qualified in both areas,” he continues. “The creation of the DSSI was an intentional move by the university from the outset, but the idea for the SI really began to develop once we started to notice how many people with expertise in Septuagint research had found their way to this campus. When you consider how much the University of Toronto's Septuagint Studies program accomplished with only two experts in the field while we have four, it gets really exciting.”

Those in the Greater Vancouver area are invited to attend the official Septuagint Institute inauguration on September 17, 2005 from 9:00 a.m. to 12:00 noon at TWU in the Northwest Auditorium. Contact: (604) 513-2121 x.3866;


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Keela Keeping
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