For some time now I have been compiling what I hope will some day become an exhaustive list showing the influence of the Septuagint on the Greek New Testament. (Click link for PDF, 17 pages; it is a new document that I have uploaded to my static site.) I have collected these under four categories of influence: (a) spelling, (b) vocabulary, (c) syntax, and (d) Scripture quotations.
The third category is also referred to as "Septuagintisms." At one time, they were called "Hebraisms" or "Semitisms," on the assumption that many portions of the NT were actually translations of a text originally written in Hebrew or Aramaic. However, the general consensus of NT scholarship is that, aside from some of the sayings of Jesus, none of the actual texts or books of the NT was composed in a Semitic language. There is therefore a great reluctance to speak of "Semitisms" in the NT any more; any traces of Semitic influence on the syntax of the Greek NT are now best viewed as "Septuagintisms." In other words, the Semitic syntax has been mediated by the Septuagint which often translates the Hebrew quite literally and thus preserves the Hebraic flavor of the original.
The second area -- vocabulary -- is perhaps even more important than syntax, and is of special interest not only to philologists but also to biblical theologians. Not a few of the theologically important words of the Greek New Testament are best understood in light of their Old Testament context and allusiveness as mediated by the Septuagint. Many of these theologically important terms in the New Testament have nuances that differ slightly from their secular usage in extra-biblical Greek, whether classical Greek, literary Koine, or the papyri. Adolf Deissmann rightly refuted the notion prevalent in his day that the New Testament is written in a special "New Testament Greek" that differed substantially from standard Koine Greek. Nevertheless, Deissmann's emphasis on the papyri as the primary context for NT lexicography led to a reduced awareness of the strong influence of the Septuagint. As the late C. F. D. Moule said:
The pendulum has swung rather too far in the direction of equating Biblical with ‘secular’ Greek; and we must not allow these fascinating discoveries [the papyri] to blind us to the fact that Biblical Greek still does retain certain peculiarities, due in part to Semitic influence … and in part to the moulding influence of the Christian experience, which did in some measure create an idiom and a vocabulary of its own.
Septuagint scholar Sidney Jellicoe made a similar comment:
On the whole, [Deissmann] laid a sound foundation, but with the enthusiasm of the pioneer he looked to the papyri as the source of light, and took too little account of the richer content with which the LXX translators invested their Greek terms, a stage which must be interposed between the papyri and the New Testament for a right understanding of the vocabulary of the latter ... It is primarily to the Greek Old Testament that we should look, rather than directly to the papyri, for the theological significance of the terminology of the New.
[For references, see my paper, p. 1.]
Some theological implications of the above include the following:
- The οίκος formula and the debate over infant baptism
- Meaning of "righteousness" in the NT (is the Hebraic background of δικαιοσυνη more relational or forensic? I would argue forensic)
- Translation of ἀρσενοκοιται in 1 Cor 6:9 (NASB's "homosexuals" is totally misleading)
- Interpretation of "blessed are the poor" (is πτωχος an economic or a spiritual term?)
- Debate whether διαθηκη means covenant or testament
- Kline's interpretation of Luke 22:29, which uses the LXX verb "to make a covenant" (διατιθημι)
- Interpretation of "the βασιλεια (kingdom or reign) of God"
- And much, much more