This post is part of an on-going series in which I and others systematically read through Augustine of Hippo’s City of God in 2014.
City of God 18.42–18.54
18.42–43. Augustine defends his use of the Septuagint translation of the Hebrew Scriptures. Christians adopted the Septuagint as part of their canon from the earliest days of the church. When Christianity moved into Latin-speaking communities, people translated this Greek translation of the Hebrew into Latin. We usually call these the Old Latin versions of the Old Testament.
Augustine recounts the traditional story of the Septuagint’s creation, in which seventy-two scholars independently arrive at the same translation. This legend, which attempts to prove the translation’s accuracy, is almost as old as the Septuagint itself.
Jerome had recently finished his own translation of the Hebrew Scriptures, a translation for which the Bishop of Rome had asked. Augustine is a bit uncomfortable with a translation based on the work of one man.
Augustine provides some of his own views on textual criticism. Good Latin translations should acknowledge differences in the Hebrew text and the Greek text. Christians should view both, even when they differ, as inspired by the Holy Spirit. The Spirit might wish to communicate one thing through the prophets and another through the translators.