The First Translation of the Old Testament
In the third century BC, Ptolemy II, king of Egypt, wanted copies of all known books, including the Hebrew Scriptures, in his library in Alexandria. Since he could not read Hebrew, he brought 72 scholarly Jews from Jerusalem to translate the Old Testament into Greek.
According to a letter claiming to be written by an official of Ptolemy’s court, the translation of the Pentateuch, the first five books of the Old Testament, was miraculously made in 72 days. Each translator—or pair of translators, depending on which version of the story you read—working independently produced 72 (or 36) identical translations.
The translation of the entire Old Testament into Greek that was begun by Ptolemy took two centuries and is called the Septuagint, which is Latin for seventy. It’s the oldest and most important translation of the Old Testament.
For more than two thousand years the Septuagint was used to help translate the Old Testament into other languages. Before the discovery of the Dead Sea Scrolls in 1947, the earliest
known manuscripts of the Old Testament were not written in Hebrew, but were copies of the Greek Septuagint.
The Septuagint was the Bible of the early Christian church. When New Testament writers quoted the Old Testament, they usually quoted the Septuagint. Even today the 2,300-year-old Septuagint is the Old Testament text used by the Greek Orthodox Church.