Texts and versions
Manuscripts and printed editions of the Septuagint
The manuscripts are conveniently
classified by papyri uncials (capital letters) and minuscules (cursive script). The papyri fragments run into the hundreds,
of varying sizes and importance, ranging from the formative period of the Septuagint through the middle of the 7th century.
Two pre-Christian fragments of Deuteronomy from Egypt are of outstanding significance. Although not written on papyrus but
on parchment or leather, the fragments from Qumran
of Exodus, Leviticus, and Numbers, and the leather scroll of the Minor Prophets from Nahal
Hever from the first pre-Christian and post-Christian centuries, deserve special mention
among the earliest extant. The most important papyri are those of the Chester Beatty collection, which contains parts of 11
codices preserving fragments of nine Old Testament books. Their dates vary between the 2nd and 4th centuries. During
the next 300 years papyri texts multiplied rapidly, and remnants of about 200 are known.
The uncials are all codices written
on vellum between the 4th and 10th centuries. The most outstanding are Vaticanus, which is an almost complete 4th-century
Old Testament, Sinaiticus, of the same period but less complete, and the practically complete 5th-century Alexandrinus. These
three originally contained both Testaments. Many others were partial manuscripts from the beginning. One of the most valuable
of these is the Codex Marchalianus of the Prophets written in the 6th century.
The minuscule codices begin
to appear in the 9th century. From the 11th to the 16th century they are the only ones found, and nearly 1,500 have been recorded.
The first printed Septuagint
was that of the Complutensian Polyglot (1514–17). Since it was not released until 1522, however, the 1518 Aldine Venice edition
actually was available first. The standard edition until modern times was that of Pope Sixtus V, 1587. In the 19th and 20th
centuries several critical editions have been printed.
The spread of Christianity
among the non-Greek speaking peasant communities of Egypt necessitated the translation of the Scriptures into the native tongue
(Coptic). These versions may be considered to be wholly Christian in origin and largely based on the Greek Bible. They also
display certain affinities with the Old Latin. Nothing certain is known about the Coptic translations except that they probably
antedate the earliest known manuscripts from the end of the 3rd and the beginning of the 4th centuries CE.
The Armenian version is an expression
of a nationalist movement that brought about a separation from the rest of the Church (mid-5th century), the discontinuance
of Syriac in Greek worship, and the invention of a national alphabet by St. Mesrob, also called Mashtots (c. 361–439/440). According to tradition, St. Mesrob first
translated Proverbs from the Syriac. Existing manuscripts of the official Armenian recension, however, are based on the Hexaplaric
Septuagint, though they show some Peshitta (Syriac version) influence. The Armenian Bible is noted for its beauty and accuracy.
According to Armenian tradition,
the Georgian version was also the work of Mesrob, but the Psalter, the oldest part of the Georgian Old Testament, is probably
not earlier than the 5th century. Some manuscripts were based upon Greek versions, others upon the Armenian.