A Book Review
There are plenty of good books on the Septuagint, and The Septuagint: What It Is and Why It Matters by Greg Lanier and Will Ross is unquestionably the best one to begin with, but it’s also tremendously valuable for anyone already well-versed on the subject. It’s a quick read and easy to understand. No knowledge of Greek or Hebrew is required. The authors offer a simple presentation of a complex topic and make a significant contribution to the understanding of its authority, while interacting with a plethora of scholarly literature along the way.
Part 1 (“What Is the Septuagint?”) establishes the definition of “the Septuagint” before surveying dominant origin theories, translation techniques, and the complex world of rescensions.
Part 2 (“Why Does It Matter?) attends to the Septuagint and its implications for OT and NT study before concluding with a thorough chapter on the authority of this ancient version. They convincingly argue for three forms of authority: normative, derivative, and interpretive. The Hebrew canon is authoritative, but the Septuagint aids in establishing that text. The derivative authority of the Septuagint means it’s the Word of God so long as it accurately reflects the message of the Hebrew canon. It’s interpretive authority is shorthand for its useful (yet fallible) role as ancient commentary.
Another welcome feature is a short appendix called “Ten Key Questions about the Septuagint” that includes recommended reading for further study. My interest is now piqued to check out the two older works by Jellicoe and Swete.
This book takes the reader through all the major movements you would expect: Aristeas, the Hexapla, theological exegesis, Göttingen, canonicity, and more. Contemporary illustrations like director’s cuts, urban dictionary, and Lord of the Rings help to clarify important concepts. An abundant use of examples from Scripture also illuminates many points in the discussion.
Lanier and Ross do not disappoint in providing a picture of the current state of scholarship in the field, and the footnotes will direct you to many other important works worth considering. This book clearly and simply explains the burgeoning field of Septuagint studies, but also succeeds in showcasing its value for all Christians today.
Special thanks to Crossway for providing me with a free copy of this book. This did not affect my views so far as I’m aware.