The Septuagint is perhaps the best known of all the ancient translations of the Old Testament.

About three or four months after the destruction of Jerusalem and its temple by the Babylonians in 587 BC, a large number of Jews fled to Egypt. When Alexander the Great founded Alexandria in 331 BC, the descendants of these Jews made up an important part of Alexandria’s population. From the start, Alexandria was a Greek speaking city. It’s Jewish population soon forgot its native tongue and spoke exclusively in Greek. Therefore, the Greek speaking Jews of Alexandria found themselves in desperate need of a Greek translation of their Hebrew Bible.

The word “Septuagint” means “seventy.” According to the story behind the translation, in 285 BC, seventy translators were assigned the task of translating the first five books of the Bible—the Books of Moses or the Books of Law, also known as the Torah or Pentateuch—into Greek. It took them only seventy days to complete their task.

Although the term Septuagint was originally used for the Greek translation of the Hebrew Pentateuch alone, it eventually was used to refer to a Greek translation of the whole Old Testament. By the first century AD the Septuagint had been adopted by Greek speaking Jews as their version of the Old Testament. Most of the Old Testament quotations appearing in the New Testament are quotes from the Septuagint.