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While a number of Jewish commentaries have been written on Targum Onkelos, Targum Yonasan, Targum Pseudo-Yonasan, and Targum Yerushalmi (see the list in the Targum section at Parshablog, for example), have there been any Jewish commentaries authored on the Targum Shiv'im, (a.k.a. the LXX or Septuagint)? If so, where can I find them (or, if only one has been written, where can I find it)?

  • Fwiw, Melech Tanen doesn't list any. – msh210 Jul 18 '18 at 3:17
  • Yes. It’s the Gemara in Megillah that discusses its inaccuracies and how the book came to be. Once you get those out of the way, isn’t it the same as ours? – DonielF Jul 18 '18 at 13:15
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    @DonielF unfortunately not. There are way more differences than just what is listed on the Gemara, not to mention that any translation into another language adds a layer of interpretation. For some examples, try to read and compare the Brenton Septuagint translation to Bereishis 4:8 or other celebrated conflicts... – רבות מחשבות Jul 18 '18 at 13:17
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    This may be considered an answer. – Oliver Jul 18 '18 at 18:33
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    Emanuel Tov has written extensively on the Greek translations of the Hebrew Bible and related texts, most notably Jeremiah. His website has full bibliography, plus PDFs of many of his articles on LXX as well as Dead Sea Scrolls. This probably isn't the kind of commentary in mind, so I note this as a comment -- but well worth being aware of in any case. – Dɑvïd Jul 18 '18 at 21:40
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There is a current academic attempt (by Prof. Moshe Tzipor from the Bar Ilan University) to reconstruct the original Hebrew text the Greek translation was based on. It has extensive notes, comments and explanations. As far as I can tell, only the first volume (Bereshit/Genesis) has been published so far:

http://www.biupress.co.il/website/index.asp?id=633

  • Nice find, Shkoyach! – רבות מחשבות Jul 18 '18 at 15:58
  • "To reconstruct the original Hebrew text" Don't we have the original Hebrew text already? – ezra Jul 18 '18 at 22:47
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    @ezra "...the original Hebrew text the Greek translation was based on" We don't necessarily have the same text those translators used. Did they have the version in modern Yemenite scrolls or modern Sefardi scrolls? Or something in between? Or different? – Double AA Jul 18 '18 at 23:13
  • @DoubleAA The wording in a Yemenite and Sefardi sefer Torah is the same, it's just spelling and other differences that don't change the translation. And based on the Rambam's principles we must accept with emunah that the version of the Torah we have today IS THE SAME Torah they had back then – ezra Jul 18 '18 at 23:33
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    The variant Hebrew original text that seems to be the underlining reason for a large part of the thousands of differences between the Septuagint (LXX) and the Mesoratic text (MS) are ofter confirmed by the variants in the Hebrew Samaritan (S) Torah and some (but not most) of the fragments from the Dead Sea Scrolls (DSS). This does not mean that such proto-LXX Hebrew version was older or more reliable then the Masoratic version. – ShimonS Jul 19 '18 at 14:12
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Nearly all of Philo's writings are explanations of the Septuagint version of the Pentateuch, though I believe the only ones that actually go through the books in order as a commentary are his Questions and Answers on Genesis (at the above link) and Questions and Answers on Exodus.

Other Jewish authors who used the Septuagint, such as Artapanus, Ezekiel and Demetrius, are only known to us from quotations from Eusebius and Clement of Alexandria (the respective Wikipedia pages give the exact references). However, they often give paraphrases or embellishments (sometimes only loosely based on the text), rather than commenting directly.

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R. Hayim Heller wrote a sefer on the Septuagint. I'm not sure if you would quite call it a commentary, but you can access the sefer here. I think he also wrote something on it in German, called Untersuchungen zur Septuaginta. As described in his profile page on YUTorah:

A gaon in Mikra, he published the Targum HaPshitah on Bereishit and Shemot and a German language work on the Septuagint.

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    While it's an exceptional sefer, I wouldn't consider it a "commentary... on the Septuagint". The central theme is comments on Septuagint references cited in Mandelkern's Concordance. – Oliver Jul 18 '18 at 13:21
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    I noticed he also published a version of the Samaritan Torah with notes. I'd love to get my hands on that! – רבות מחשבות Jul 18 '18 at 13:38
  • @רבותמחשבות I don't believe he did. He published a sefer called "Nuschaot HaTargumim LaTorah" (Berlin 1934, Jeru. 1972). He utilizes quotes of the Samaritan version to demonstrate a few things: its textual variations were incorporations of Jewish-traditional expositions on the given verse, its translation is essentially a commentary (as is Saadia Gaon's trans.) and that its variations are not due to them having a different tradition/text rather its character is due to its contemporaneous language construct to which the Samaritan translators were keeping with. (I don't know of an online link.) – Oliver Jul 18 '18 at 14:18
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    Alex, רבות מחשבות and others probably already know this but for anyone else interested in other versions of the Bible, particularly edited by R. Chaim Heller, his editions of the Peshitta Bereishit (Genesis) and Shemot (Exodus) are online. – Oliver Jul 18 '18 at 14:24
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    @רבותמחשבות I'd guess Otzar HaChochma; don't know anywhere else online. FTR, if you cross-reference with the book I mentioned above all the citations in his Peshitta edition to "b'sifri Nusach HaShomroni" you'll see it's the same book (different title). – Oliver Jul 18 '18 at 18:09
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The late Harry M. Orlinsky was an expert on the LXX. While he wrote no commentary on the whole translation, he did publish important articles on it. A Google search ('Harry Orlinsky on the Septuagint') will reveal his work in this field. He earned his doctorate from Dropsie College for his work on the translation of Job in the Septuagint. He also studied the anthropomorhisms and anthropopathisms as treated in the translation of Isaiah. And he wrote an essay entitled 'The Hebrew Vorlage of the Septuagint of the Book of Joshua.' See further 'The Septuagint: the Oldest Translation' in his book Essays in Biblical Culture and Translation (Ktav, 1974). Orlinsky was co-founder and first president of The International Organization for Septuagint and Cognate Studies.

For the general need of such a commentary, see 'Prospective for a Commentary on the Septuagint Sponsored by The International Organization for Septuagint and Cognate Studies' (ccat.sas.upenn.edu/ioscs/commentary/prospectus.html). The Society of Biblical Literature embarked on producing such a commentary in conjunction with IOSCS in 2005, and it now stands at thirteen voumes (as of 2015) and is published by Brill (https://www.logos.com/.../septuagint-commentary-series).

Though initial Jewish reaction to the LXX was positive (see Philo), later Jewish sentiment was negative.

“Seventy elders wrote the entire Torah for King Ptolemy in Greek, and that day was as difficult for Israel as the day it made the [Golden] Calf, for the Torah could not be properly translated” (Masekhet Soferim 1:7).

“Rabbi Yehuda La-Levi ben Rabbi Shalom said: Moshe wanted the Mishnah to be written as well, but the Holy One foresaw that the nations of the world would translate the Torah, read it in Greek, and say ‘We, too, are Israel’” (Tanḥuma Vayera 6).

This negative sentiment manisfests itself in the fact that no commentary on the LXX has ever been written in Judaism. The translations of Aquila and Theodotion, the next closest thing to commentaries on it, were suppressed eventually and are no longer extant.

  • You had accidentally omitted the l at the end - the webpage was an HTML not HTM. I did not upvote your answer, in the sense that it does not actually answer the question (you did not provide a Jewish commentary on the Septuagint), in the same way that I did not upvote some of the other answers here, which also don't. I do value the content you shared, however. – רבות מחשבות Jul 22 '18 at 16:03
  • You did not bring any proof that there is none; in fact, as pointed out above, there is a current attempt, and Philo's writings may also be considered a commentary. Others have provided examples of leading scholars in the comments. Alex's answer, which provided another leading scholar, also did not get upvoted by me. – רבות מחשבות Jul 22 '18 at 16:33
  • See my revised answer for the recently completed commentary (non-Jewish). – Clifford Durousseau Jul 23 '18 at 5:01
  • Ok, fine, I'll upvote, but only because I appreciate the about of research that went into your answer... Do you happen to have a link to the commentary? – רבות מחשבות Jul 23 '18 at 5:18
  • Yes. The link is logos.com/.../septuagint-commentary-series -- I tried to insert it in my answer and was unable. Feel free to edit my answer by inserting it. – Clifford Durousseau Jul 23 '18 at 9:50

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