Welcome to First Century Bible
This is a new Bible translation in English, based upon the Greek and Slavonic bibles of eastern tradition, and presented here as an ongoing project. The Old Testament is derived from the most ancient Greek translation of the Hebrew scriptures, begun in the early third century BC and known as the Septuagint (LXX), and is accompanied and complemented by the Byzantine New Testament.
Why the Septuagint?
Earliest Christianity was essentially a sect of Judaism which quickly outgrew its origins and spread throughout the Mediterranean, Greek speaking world, with an increasingly Gentile membership. The early Church quite naturally adopted the Greek scriptures as its Bible, to which the books of the New Testament were later added. The Septuagint was received as God's word and became an integral part of Christian tradition. It is the version that was known to the New Testament writers and early Fathers. In the churches of the Orthodox east its use continues unchanged, but in the post-Reformation west it has given way to the Masoretic Hebrew (MT) on which all modern Bible translation is based, although it is still studied academically and is well known to professional scholars.
But the Septuagint has a richness and beauty of its own. Its real value is that it is based on an earlier Hebrew text which predates the Masoretic, and to which it is now virtually the only complete witness. Following the Jewish war that resulted in the destruction of Jerusalem and its Temple in AD 70, the Hebrew scriptures went through substantial revision and for the first time were organised into a fixed canon, which became the proto-Masoretic. All earlier versions and copies were suppressed, and meticulous safeguards were later built into the text to prevent any change or error occuruing through transmission and copying. But the few fragments that have survived, such as those found hidden away among the Dead Sea Scrolls, reveal a considerably greater freedom in earlier times, resulting in many textual variants, broadly grouped into three main traditions, namely the Babylonian, Palestinian, and Alexandrian. Of these the Masoretic is descended mainly from the Babylonian tradition while the Septuagint represents the Alexandrian.
The Septuagint itself has gone through much revision and adaptation to Christian interpretation and liturgical use. There are many variants and there has never been a universally accepted canon of Old Testament scripture. The Septuagint therefore includes several books which were rejected by the Reformers and labelled apocrypha, although in eastern tradition they are still a valid part of Holy Scripture. This version is based on the standard Bible of Greek Orthodoxy. It has two additions which are found in the Slavonic version but are no longer in the Greek, namely the Prayer of Manasseh and 3 Ezra. Its goal is to present the scriptures of Old and New Testaments as they were received by the early Church and incorporated into Christian life and liturgy. The chosen text is that which belongs to eastern tradition, rather than western scholarship. It is hoped that the evidence of inspiration will be internal, and perceived by the reader, rather than external, and dictated by dogma.
This version is prepared by one who has no qualification or expertise other than an amateur interest in biblical languages and a heart for the word of God. It is the work of a Bible reader, not a scholar or theologian. It seeks neither scholarly approval nor popular acclaim. It is not in any sense a definitive translation, nor does it claim to be. It does, however, seek to rediscover the scriptures that inspired the early Church but are now largely unknown in the west except to professional scholars. It is true that the Septuagint has seen a considerable revival of popular interest in recent years, though this is usually in connection with analytical research, rather than for its own intrinsic value as the word of God.
This version is offered in a spirit of reverence and humility. It seeks always to look beyond the Greek translation and understand the sense of the underlying Hebrew, which is not necessarily 'the' original, but will often be closer to it than the revised Hebrew version that became the Masoretic. Holy tradition is living and dynamic. The Hebrew scriptures translated for Greek speaking Jews became adapted and incorporated into the life and worship of the early Church. We recognise the ongoing ministry of the Holy Spirit within the life and community of the whole people of God, shaping and developing the text of Holy Scripture, as well as the liturgical tradition that springs from it. May the reader be blessed, and may God be honoured.