Welcome to First Century Bible
This is a new Bible translation in English, still in the earliest stages of preparation, and presented here as an ongoing project. It is based upon the Greek and Slavonic Bibles of eastern tradition. The Old Testament is therefore derived from the most ancient Greek translation of the Hebrew scriptures, begun in the early third century BC, and known as the Septuagint; and this is accompanied by the traditional Byzantine New Testament.
Earliest Christianity began as a sect of Judaism, but very quickly spread throughout the predominantly Greek speaking world of the Mediterranean. The early Church therefore quite naturally adopted the Greek scriptures as its Bible, to which were later added the books of the New Testament. The Septuagint was received as the inspired word of God and became an integral part of Christian tradition. It is the version that was known to the New Testament writers, and to the early Fathers of the first few Christian centuries. In the churches of the Orthodox east its use continues unchanged; but in the post-Reformation west, it is well known to professional scholars, but virtually unknown to the ordinary Bible reader; being of academic interest, but no longer used in mainstream Bible translation, having been supplanted by the Massoretic Hebrew which is now the textus receptus for Old Testament translation, being regarded by most western Christians as closest to the inspired ‘original’.
But the Septuagint has a richness and beauty of its own. Its real value is that it is derived from a much earlier, pre-Masoretic Hebrew text to which it is now virtually the only complete witness. In the late first, and early second centuries Rabbinical Judaism came into its own, having emerged from the earlier Pharisaism. The Hebrew scriptures went through substantial revision, and the canon of Hebrew scripture finally became fixed. All earlier versions and copies were suppressed. The Masoretic scribes would later develop a system which would meticulously safeguard the text from error through many centuries of transmission and copying. The few earlier copies and fragments that have survived, such as those that were found among the Dead Sea Scrolls collection, reveal a considerably greater freedom of transmission. Some variants agree with the Masoretic, some agree with the Septuagint, and some agree with neither.
The Septuagint itself has gone through much revision and adaptation to Christian understanding and liturgical setting. There are many textual variations, and there has never been a single universally accepted canon of Old Testament scripture. The Septuagint therefore includes several books which, although accepted by Orthodox, are called deuterocanonical by Catholics, and apocryphal by Protestants. This version is based primarily upon the standard Bible of Orthodox Greek tradition. It has two additions which are found in the Slavonic Bible but no longer in the Greek, namely the Prayer of Manasseh and 3 Ezra. Its goal is to present the scriptures of both Old and New Testaments as fully and completely as possible, just as they were received by the early Church, incorporated into Christian life and liturgy, and preserved through two millenia of living tradition. All the books of the Septuagint are accepted here with no debate as to their canonicity or otherwise. The chosen text is that which belongs to eastern tradition, rather than western scholarship. It is hoped that the evidence of its inspiration will be internal, and perceived by the reader, rather than external, and dictated by dogma.
This translation 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 may not meet with scholarly approval, but nor does it seek to. It is not in any sense a definitive translation. Its style will not please everyone. It does, however, seek to rediscover the scriptures that inspired the early Church but are largely unknown in the west, except to academics. It is true that the Septuagint has seen a considerable revival of popular interest in recent years, though usually as a means of getting closer to the inspired 'original', rather than for its own intrinsic value as the word of God.
This edition is offered humbly, with a feel for the devotional, rather than the academic. It seeks always to look beyond the Greek translation and understand the sense of the underlying Hebrew, which is not '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.