The Work of three Trinity Western University (TWU) scholars will be a key element of a major new translation project, which is being launched March 17 at a TWU symposium.
A TWU press release is promising that “top biblical scholars from across North America” will be present at the symposium. Several of the people involved in the translation will make presentations on what TWU is calling “the Bible used by the Apostles.” The Bible in question is the Old Testament translation known as the Septuagint; it was commonly used in Jesus’ time, and portions of it are quoted in the New Testament.
The symposium will launch The Psalms, the first completed book of the new English translation of the Septuagint; and Invitation to the Septuagint, by American scholar Karen Jobes and Moises Silva. In addition, it will feature a display of a facsimile of Codex Vaticanus, a newly acquired ancient manuscript.
“This event marks a new chapter in the history of biblical scholarship,” asserts TWU religious studies professor Peter Flint, one of the translators. “The translation will give us glimpses into how the Apostles and the early church used and understood the scriptures.”
Flint, one of the directors of TWU’s Dead Sea Scrolls Institute, was one of the translators of the bestselling Dead Sea Scrolls Bible — the first English translation of the biblical documents found in the caves of Qumran, at the Dead Sea in Palestine.
The Septuagint was the earliest translation of the Jewish scriptures. It was a Greek translation of all the canonical books of the Old Testament, as well as various texts now considered ‘apocryphal’ — i.e. of uncertain origin and authority.
The work began in Alexandria in the early part of the 3rd century BC; the canonical books were all translated by the end of the 2nd century BC; the apocryphal books were finished by the 1st century AD. The Septuagint was the basis for the Latin Vulgate translation, done by St. Jerome in 382, and still used by the Roman Catholic church. The new project is the first translation of Greek Old Testament manuscripts since the mid-19th century.
Flint will be translating the book of Numbers for the new Septuagint. He and approximately 30 other scholars, from North America, Asia, Europe and South Africa, are working from manuscripts dated to within a few centuries of Christ. Two other TWU scholars are involved: Rob Hiebert, of Associated Canadian Theological Schools (ACTS) is currently working on Genesis; and Larry Perkins, also affiliated with ACTS, is translating Exodus. The entire project will likely take five years.
“There are dozens of translations of the Hebrew Bible into English,” says Flint, “but there is only one translation of the Greek Bible into English that is freely available — and it was translated over 150 years ago. The fact that the Apostles Paul, Peter and James — and all of the gospels of Matthew, Mark and Luke — quote the Greek Bible, makes a modern translation fundamental to our understanding of scripture.”
“The development of scripture was an unfolding process,” says Hiebert. It is still unfolding, he says, as evidence is gathered from manuscripts that have been discovered since the 19th century English translation from the Greek documents. Portions of the Septuagint are now used in some Bible translations, to clarify verses that were unclear in various Hebrew translations.
“The aim of the symposium,” he says, “is to look at the scriptures in some of their earliest forms — and what the study of the Septuagint confirms is that God has faithfully transmitted his word down through the centuries. The Septuagint is opening up new windows in our understanding of the Old Testament, how it was put together, and how it was interpreted.”
The symposium will feature five presentations: Albert Pietersma, of the University of Toronto, will give an overview of the new English Septuagint; Jobes will speak about the translation’s relevance for the contemporary church; Flint will speak about the Septuagint’s relationship to the Dead Sea Scrolls; Hiebert will discuss the Septuagint as a cultural document; and Perkins will demonstrate the connections between the Septuagint and the New Testament.
“This conference is aimed at pastors, students and people who want to know more about God and his word,” says Flint. “We think it is a good time to hold a conference… People are beginning to understand the importance of the Septuagint as the Bible of the early church. We believe that the time of the Septuagint has come for today’s church.”
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