Origen’s Fifth and Sixth Greek Editions

Clay JarsMost readers will be familiar with the Greek version of the Septuagint. Fewer will have heard of the Jewish revisers/translators, Theodotion, Aquila, and Symmachus. I plan to treat these three in more depth from Epiphanius’s vantage point at a later time. But Origen found two or three more translations and called them the Fifth (Quinta), the Sixth (Sexta), and the Seventh (Septima). There are three sources that describe these translations and the chaotic situation in which they were made, hidden, and found in the second and third centuries. It is worth citing and commenting on them in order to learn what we can about these versions. I conclude with a brief example of these versions from Psalm 1:1.

Eusebius of Caesarea (c. 325)

In a context describing Origen’s Hexapla and other versions, he also describes the lesser known translations of the Fifth, the Sixth, and the Seventh (for Psalms at least) which were hidden and then found by Origen.

And in addition to the well-known translations of Aquila, Symmachus, and Theodotion, he discovered certain others which had been concealed from remote times—in what out-of-the-way corners I know not—and by his search he brought them to light. Since he did not know the authors, he simply stated that he had found this one in Nicopolis near Actium and that one in some other place. In the Hexapla of the Psalms, after the four prominent translations, he adds not only a fifth, but also a sixth and seventh. He states of one of these that he found it in a jar in Jericho in the time of Antoninus, the son of Severus (Historia 6.16; ANFP).

Regarding these translations, Eusebius says that Origen did not know who made them. Furthermore, he does not know exactly where Origen found each of these translations. One came from Nicopolis near Actium and another was found in a jar in Jericho in the time of Antoninus. He does not assign a specific provenance to any of these, some were found in Greece and others were from Israel from places like Jericho.

Epiphanius of Salamis (c. 392)

Around seventy years later, Epiphanius comments on the same discoveries of Origen. He certainly appears to use Eusebius as a source but he either gives his free interpretation of that source or has independent information since his description appears to fill in some details.

Now concerning the Fifth and the Sixth published edition, I am not able to say who translated them or from where, but only that after the persecution of king [Septimius] Severus [reigned 193–211], the Fifth was found in large jars in Jericho, having been hidden in the times of Antoninus the son of Severus who was surnamed both Karakallos and Geta [198–217]…. In his days, as I said before, the books of the Fifth edition were found in large jars in Jericho having been hidden with other Hebrew and Greek books…. In the midst of these years [Alexander, the son of Mamaia; 218–222], the Sixth publication was found and it had been hidden in jars in Nicopolis, the one near Actia (Mens. 18; my translation).

Epiphanius does not know by whom and from where the translations were made. He clearly assigns the Fifth version to the one found at Jericho in large jars where it was hidden with other Hebrew and Greek books. As for the Sixth, that one was found in jars at Nicopolis (in Greece) near Actium. This last part made more certain where each was discovered than Eusebius had appeared to convey earlier. Epiphanius could have misread Eusebius, offered independent interpretation of his work, or had access to other sources of information on this question. It is not clear how he seems to know exactly where Origen found each version.

Hypomnestikon (393–431?)

Another source of information of rather uncertain provenance itself is known as the Hypomnestikon or Joseph’s Bible Notes (thanks to Eva Mroczek for pointing me to this source).

The Fifth edition was found at Jericho, hidden in bronze jars (ἐν πίθοις χαλκοῖς), not being named with regard to the translator. They say that it was translated by a woman, since the jars were found in the house of an attentive woman in sacred literature.

Another Sixth edition was found in Nicopolis near Actium, after the persecution of Severus.

Hypomnestikon follows Epiphanius on where the Fifth and Sixth versions were found. He does add the bit about “bronze” jars. By far, it adds the most information on the Fifth edition in terms of its translator. But it may have conflated some other material in Eusebius (Hypomnestikon, p. 251). Right after Eusebius’s description of Origen’s versions, he adds that Symmachus, who was an Ebionite, wrote commentaries on the Scriptures. Eusebius says that Origen received these books from a certain Juliana, who received these books and others as an inheritance from Symmachus himself. Perhaps, Hypomnestikon has conflated the story of Juliana with the provenance of the Fifth edition. But maybe not. Maybe there were two women. It would be strange for Hypomnestikon not to name the woman translator of the Fifth version, if he thought the name was Juliana from Eusebius. So a certain Juliana could be the woman who supplied Origen with texts of Symmachus as Eusebius says. Another anonymous woman may have translated the Fifth version. We do not know. What is very interesting is that Hypomnestikon actually suggests that a woman was the translator of the Fifth edition and this woman was a student in sacred literature.


Clearly, the situation was very chaotic in the second and third centuries. We read of Jews hiding Hebrew and Greek scriptural books in clay jars during the times of certain Roman emperors and about Origen finding them as they were stored. How old are these versions? We know they are older than Origen’s textual work. Are these versions the same as those that our later sources refer to as Quinta and Sexta? Probably. These Greek versions appear to be revisions of the Septuagint towards the Hebrew, but they didn’t become as popular among the Jews as the big Three. Based on the current evidence, the Fifth and Sixth versions were not complete Greek Bibles. Eusebius mentions these works in reference to the Psalms and most of the extant evidence for them comes from the same book. Perhaps, Origen was only able to find Psalms in these versions and by his time they had already fallen into disuse and therefore were not being copied. The mystery over these editions continues.

One teaser from the Fifth and the Sixth in Psalm 1:1 is interesting to cite here:

Hebrew: אַ֥שְֽׁרֵי־הָאִ֗ישׁ אֲשֶׁ֤ר׀ לֹ֥א הָלַךְ֮ בַּעֲצַ֪ת רְשָׁ֫עִ֥ים

“Blessed is the man who does not walk in the counsel of the wicked.”

OG: Μακάριος ἀνήρ, ὃς οὐκ ἐπορεύθη ἐν βουλῇ ἀσεβῶν

“Blessed is a man, who does not walk in counsel of wicked people.”

Ε’. S’. τέλειος ὁ νεώτερος ὃς οὐκ ἀπῆλθεν ἐν βουλῇ ἀλλοτρίων

“Devoted is the young man, who does not depart into counsel of foreign people.”

Several items are of interest. “Blessed” has now been conveyed along the lines of “devotion” or “consecration.” The “man” has been cast in terms of “young man.” Perhaps most interesting the “wicked” or “impious” have now been rendered as “foreigners” or “strangers.” When exegeting the Psalms, it will be of interest to keep an eye on these versions for they offer very interesting interpretations of the Hebrew text. Origen and later Christians were fascinated with these versions that have become largely forgotten today. Our exegesis and textual criticism will become more enriched by the relative few fragments that remain.

The Translation of the “LXX” of Job 37:18

This post is a response to Ed Babinski’s questions on my “About” page. He raised a significant question regarding the differences between Brenton’s translation and the NETS (New English Translation of the Septuagint) at Job 37:18. His question also gave me the opportunity to look ahead at a verse that I will have to prepare for my dissertation, since this verse is sub asterisk (※).

He asked two questions, 1) what accounts for the disparity between the English translations of the Septuagint, and 2) how does the “LXX” translate Job 37:18? I will answer them in order.

The Problem with Brenton’s Translation

Brenton differs with NETS in two instances in this verse: he has a verb in v. 18a, where NETS has a noun and he reads the word “mirror”, where NETS has “appearance.” I have not done an exhaustive study of Brenton’s translation, but my experience with it is that he sometimes translates the Hebrew text at the expense of faithfulness to the Greek of the LXX. This verse seems to be an example of this phenomenon in both places. In the first example, the LXX has στερεώσεις, which is a plural noun from στερεωσις, “a making firm, a making solid” (see LSJ) or as NETS has it “solidifications.” I prefer NETS here because the noun is a -σις noun and it usually indicates an abstract noun, thus a solidification. The Hebrew text has a Hiphil verb from רקע, and Brenton seems to translate this word instead (see BDB). In the second example, LXX has ὅρασις “appearance”, while the Hebrew has ראי “mirror”, which is listed in both BDB and KB. This word does seem to be a genuine hapax legomenon. Brenton has read the Hebrew text again, for the Greek word does not mean “mirror” (see LSJ). NETS has translated the Greek text more faithfully here, and there is a reason for the Greek translation to which we now turn.

The Reading of the “LXX”

The second question regarding the Greek translation of ראי brings us to the main issue. Most significantly, this reading does not come from the (O)ld (G)reek translator (1-2 centuries BCE), but from the Jewish reviser Theodotion, who completed his work in the 1st century CE (many argue for a late second century date, but see Peter J. Gentry, The Asterisked Materials of the Greek Job for a contrary and persuasive proposal). The text is under the asterisk (※), marking a text present in the Hebrew but absent in the OG, and in this case the Syro-hexapla and Catena Ms 740 preserve the attribution to Theodotion. Thus, when attempting to discover the translation technique, one needs to understand Theodotion’s use of ὅρασις, not necessarily the technique of the OG. Here is the available evidence of ὅρασις for Th (the references correspond to Field):

מראה: Ezek 1:13, 16; 10:22; Dan 8:16, 26  Th.

רוהּ: Dan 3:25 Th

חזון: Dan 9:24; 10:14; (7:13?) Th.

חזוי: Dan 2:28 Th.

Is 22:1 Sym and Th for חזיון.

Ezek. 13:16 Sym and Th for חזון.

Ezek 1:27, 28; 10:10 Aq and Th מראה.

Amos 5:26 Th for סכות perhaps for שכה “to observe, behold.”

Problematic readings occur in Dan 4:7, 7:2, 8:2, and so have been left out of this analysis.

The plethora of evidence allows one to leave aside the double attributions or those instances where Th is joined by Aq and Sym as the author of the lemma, since there are clear cases where only Th uses ὅρασις for Hebrew מראה and חזון.


In Job 37:18, Th must be reading ראי “mirror” as a form of מראה “appearance.” Perhaps, he was unaware of the meaning of this hapax legomenon in the Hebrew Bible. A comparison of the rest of the Versions confirms this, since none of these Versions have an equivalent for “mirror”:

Aquila: also uses ὅρασις “appearance.”

Symmachus: uses an infinitive ὀφθῆναι “to appear.”

Vulgate: qui solidissimi quasi aere fusi sunt.

Peshitta: No equivalent for the reading in question or it has interpreted the reading with “to support simultaneously.”

The Versions all take an interpretive stance, which is almost certainly because of the hapax in the Hebrew text. The only other possibility is to posit that modern Hebrew lexicography is wrong in this case and to posit that the Hebrew word really does mean “appearance” on the basis of Th, Aq, and Sym.

These translators are attempting to render the Hebrew text in front of them in a quite literal way. I doubt we can discern their cosmology based on their rendering of the text. They want to be faithful to the Hebrew text and its message from what I can tell. Perhaps Ed can now enlighten us as to what he thinks is happening in this text regarding ancient cosmology.

You Might be Studying the Hexapla If…

After seeing the word Hexapla in this blog title, you continued to read the post :).

Microsoft Word has underlined “Origen” and wants to correct it to “origin” continually throughout the document.

Your point of reference for Aquila is the Jewish reviser of the Septuagint of the early second century CE, not the preacher in the book of Acts.

The phrase “Catena manuscripts” conjures up all sorts of nightmares regarding provenance and manuscript groupings.

You know for what the siglum “Syh” stands.

The names of Field, Montfaucon, Morinus, Nobilius, and Drusius are household names.

Bishop Paul of Tella (7th century) and the work of Ceriani (19th century) have deep significance to you and perhaps a special place in your heart.

You recognize that this is a very significant colophon and perhaps some of the names in lines 8 and 10.

Asterisks (※) mean a whole lot more to you than marking an exception or a hypothetical form (e.g. Latin *potsum > possum).

The obelisk (÷) is not a division sign used in mathematics primarily.

The church fathers, Jerome and Olympiodorus et al., are more valuable and essential to your research than Augustine.

You learned about Julian “The Arian” for the first time in your life.

And finally, the Armenian language is way more interesting to you than Arminian theology.

Jerome to Augustine about the Nature of the Septuagint

Jerome writes to Augustine concerning the nature of the Septuagint of the 4th century (i.e. after Origen’s Hexapla) as follows:

Because, however, in other letters you ask, why my former translation has asterisks and obelisks noted in the canonical books, and afterwards I published another translation without them –I say with your pardon— you do not seem to me to understand, because you have inquired (about them).  For this first translation is from the seventy translators and, wherever the marks are, that is the obelisks, it is shown, that the Seventy said more than is contained in the Hebrew; however, where there are asterisks, that is stars which light the way, the reading was added by Origen from the version of Theodotion.  And in that (former) translation we translated from the Greek, in this place from the Hebrew itself, we expressed what we were understanding, preserving more importantly the truth of the sense than the order of the words now and then.  And I am amazed how you do not read the books of the Seventy in their pure form, as they were published by the Seventy, but rather as emended (emendatos) by Origen or rather corrupted by the obelisks and asterisks, and you do not follow the translation of a Christian man, especially when he (Origen) transferred these additions, which have been added from the edition of a man, a Jew and a blasphemer, after the Passion of Christ.  Do you wish to be a true friend of the Septuagint?  You should not read these (additions), which are under the asterisks; on the contrary, erase/scrape them from the chapters, so that you might show yourself to be a true patron.  If you do this, you will be forced to condemn all the libraries of the churches.  For scarcely one or another manuscript/book will be discovered, which has not such additions.

Epistula CXII, 19 Ad Augustinum

St. Jerome’s Critique of Aquila’s Translation

Jerome says:

However, Aquila, a proselyte and contentious translator, who has attempted to translate not only words (uerba) but also the etymologies (etymologias) of the words (uerborum), is rightly rejected (proicitur) by us.  For who is able to read and to understand χευμα (that which is poured),  οπωρισμον (vintage), στιλπνοτητα (brightness) [words from Deut 7:13], for grain and wine and oil [Deut. 7:13], in so far as we are able to read “pouring” (fusionem) and “harvesting of fruit” (pomationem) and “shining,” (splendentiam)? Or because the Hebrews not only have αρθρα (connecting word, the article), but also προαρθρα (prefixes), so that he κακοζηλως (in bad style) may interpret both syllables and letters and he may say συν τον ουρανον και συν την γην [Gen. 1:1; Aquila renders the marker of the direct object in Hebrew with συν, even though this rendering has no acceptance in Greek or Latin], which no Greek and Latin dialect accepts?  We are able to take his precedent of the matter from our discussion.  For how many words are spoken well among the Greeks, which, if we translate according to the word, do not resound in Latin, and from a region, where they are pleasing among us, if equally the words are altered with respect to the arrangement, then among the Greeks they will displease.

Epistula LVII, 11

Departure for Goettingen Today

Well, only in the providence of God would it happen that a young aspiring Septuagint scholar, like me, would have the opportunity to visit the Septuaginta-Unternehmen in Goettingen, Germany (this is the “Mecca” of LXX studies).  I’m accompanying Peter Gentry for the next week and he will be putting me to work on collating the few fragments of Ecclesiastes preserved in the Christian Palestinian Aramaic version for his critical edition.  In addition to this task, I will also be trying to track down some Catenae mss. for my own project on the Hexapla of Job.  Nancy Woods has finished the Hexapla for Job 1-21 and she made great use of the Goettingen edition by Ziegler and the new edition by the Hagedorns (The Nachlese), but she listed some “unused mss,” which were not collated or used by either Ziegler or the Hagedorns.  I want to track down as many of these mss. as I am able so that our work on Job will be complete in this area.  I also look forward to walking around Goettingen and taking in as much as is possible in one week :).

Please pray for safe travels for me and Dr. Gentry and pray that our short trip (Jan. 13-20) will be very productive.  I will post if the research becomes interesting.