Reading the Psalms in Greek

Since March 2021, I have been leading a reading group working through the Septuagint text of the Psalms.

What is the Septuagint, you might ask? The Septuagint is the translation into Greek of the Torah (Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers and Deuteronomy). Additionally, the term often refers to the Greek translation of the rest of the Hebrew Scriptures, otherwise known as the ‘Old Greek.’ Translation began some time in the early to mid 3rd century BCE, with the Psalms following not too long after. The Scriptures were translated so that Jews outside of Judea, who often no longer spoke Hebrew, could read them. Having been translated so soon after Alexander the Great had spread the Greek language across the eastern Mediterranean world, the Septuagint is one of the earliest texts in the Koine Greek language that was later spoken by the early Christians. Being the first-century equivalent of something like the New International Version or Jewish Publication Society versions today, it is fascinating not just for being the Bible that Christian and Jewish biblical authors of the time were themselves likely reading, but also because it often represents an older tradition of the Hebrew than the Hebrew texts we otherwise use today – if you don’t know what I mean by that you might have to attend to find out!

Our reading sessions are intended for people with a very wide range of skills. Those who feel confident to translate for everyone volunteer the month before and are assigned a verse or two. Those who do not feel they have the skills to translate independently just sit and take it all in, commenting and asking questions inasmuch as they feel able. The sessions begin with a 25 minute lecture on a subject to do with the text, including a recap of some basic Greek grammar, as well as a short comment on some unique feature of Septuagint grammar. The sessions we have had so far seem to have been enjoyed by all those who attended, as we discover the unique features of the Septuagint, and learn a lot about the Bible and about translation itself, and the obstacles that were faced by biblical translators 2300 years ago, many of which are still faced today.

Please email me at teacher.learnnewtestamentgreek@gmail.com if you would like to join us, and read the Bible that was read by Philo, Paul, Josephus and other early Jews and Christians. We meet on Zoom on the last Thursday of every month, from 7:30pm to 9:00pm. You are more than welcome to join in actively from the start, or just to watch and see what it’s like. My golden rules is that no one will ever be put on the spot to translate something that they haven’t volunteered to translate in advance, even if you seem to know what you’re doing; so it is a safe space if you’re not confident of your abilities and would just like to learn! I look forward to seeing you.