The universal language of the Roman Empire was Greek. It was vital, especially in the commercial, cultural, and educational worlds of that day. The Jewish scholars of Alexandria, Egypt recognized this reality of the situation when they translated the Hebrew scriptures into Greek. The dispersion of the Jews outside Palestine made their task particularly urgent.
At the sacking of Jerusalem by Titus in 70 A.D. the Jewish people found themselves literally everywhere and thus it has been for them until the founding of the modern state of Israel. The ancient church developed in this milieu: the letters of the Apostles and the Gospels of the Evangelists would, of necessity, be written in the universal language of the day and the scriptures quoted would come from the Greek translation of the Hebrew. A side by side comparison between many passages from the Law and the Prophets in the Masoretic (Hebrew) text with those in the Septuagint translation can show some rather important differences in nuance. As a person who is generally at the mercy of translators I understand that even the best of translations of Homer are not "purely Homeric". As a Christian, I believe this to have been providential for Christianity's claims, and I can also understand why devout adherents of Judaism question our viewpoints upon the fulfillment of the Law and the Prophets by Christ Jesus. With all respect to both religions I think that it is probably a slight matter that most modern day Christian Bibles take their Old Testament text from the Masoretic while still maintaining the integrity of the use of the Septuagint in the old New Testament texts. For the Christian translator it is a matter of academic preciseness and I completely understand and support their wonderful work.
However, I am a traditionalist as well and it is important to me that ancient Christian tradition, particularly the works of the early Church Fathers and the seven Ecumenical Councils, relied upon the Greek translation of the Old Testament. Interestingly enough, the entirety of the Old Testament and New Testament can be reconstructed in the extant collective writings of the Fathers. The Dead Sea scroll discoveries, on the other hand, are a more favorable development for the Masoretic texts.
While we are sister religions, Judaism and Christianity, we are still two different religions and that ought to always be deeply respected. Whether it is a matter of going from Judaism to Christianity or from Christianity to Judaism the word conversion must be used for the differences are matters having to do with 2,000 years of religious development away from each other. Saul of Tarsus would never have become Saint Paul had he not been converted to Christianity, for he was an outstanding scholar of the Hebrew scriptures.
Did Jesus and the disciples speak and understand Greek? I cannot imagine anyone in the Roman Empire not understanding at least some Greek. However, they would be speaking their northern Aramaic dialect to their fellow Jews. After the Evangel began to spread throughout the Roman world, the Christian scriptures (New Testament) would be developed in the ordinary Greek of that day so that they might be readily understood everywhere. The recollections of Jesus' quotations from Hebrew scripture would naturally be recalled as Septuagint: here my faith simply informs me that God the Holy Spirit would thus guide the development of the Word written. Historically, however, Jesus and his disciples would have conversed in the Aramaic of the day.
St. Paul, a most learned man who would probably hold several Ph.Ds if he were around today, wrote his epistles to the churches in Greek. Whatever the history of the letters of James, Jude, John, and Peter, in time they would of necessity have to be written in the commonly understood Greek of the day. The development of the various Gospels of Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John would have had their necessary transitions from Aramaic into Greek and the inspired editors of the various strands and sources within those Gospels would have invariably used the Greek translation of the Hebrew scriptures when *literarily quoting* Jesus and His disciples. I leave it to the great Bible scholars to present their learned theories of redaction, etc., but guiding it all was God the Holy Spirit as Jesus had promised.
Whatever the case, the Lord saw fit to see that the Septuagint was written and that Christianity be benefited by it in those first centuries of its expansion.
Back to the main article