The Hexapla of 1‒2 Samuel

The Academy of Finland research project The Hexapla of 1‒2 Samuel aims at producing the edition of the Books of Samuel for the Hexapla Institute.

The project will produce the critical edition of the Hexapla of 1–2 Samuel. The edition is under preparation by Tuukka Kauhanen, the PI, and Anneli Aejmelaeus, prof. emer. The funding will be used for two researchers and assisting personnel who will do textual analysis that directly contributes to the Hexapla edition.

The Hexapla (= “Six-folded”) was an ancient work that compared the Hebrew Bible (Old Testament) with four to six Greek translations in parallel columns. This huge work was compiled by the church father Origen in Caesarea (Palestine) in the 3rd c. CE. Its main purpose was to provide a means to compare the different versions of the Old Testament for the Jewish-Christian dialogue. In addition, Origen attempted to establish in it a better (or “healed”) text of the most important of the Greek translations, the Septuagint (translated probably 250–100 BCE). Unfortunately, the Hexapla has been preserved in fragments only.

The study of the Hexapla is closely related to the study of the Septuagint. The Septuagint was the Bible of the Jewish Diaspora as well as of the Early Christian church and it had a significant impact on both the style and content of many writings in the New Testament. The textual history of the Septuagint is very complex: already from the beginning its text was under constant revision according to the Hebrew text. Moreover, in later times most of its books underwent the stylistic Lucianic revision. In addition, the copying process of the Septuagint manuscripts was under the usual corruption that always takes place in the transmission of ancient texts. Thus none of the existing manuscripts provides the original text.

In order to use the Septuagint in philological and theological research, its original—or, the earliest attainable—text for each book must be reconstructed word by word. This is done by comparing all the extant witnesses and choosing the best reading in each case taking into account the various causes for textual changes. This procedure is called textual criticism. In 1908 the Göttingen Academy of Sciences established the institute Septuaginta-Unternehmen which is responsible for preparing the critical editions for the books of the Septuagint. Roughly two-thirds of the Septuagint have come out in a critical edition in the series Septuaginta: Vetus testamentum graecum. The ambitious hundred-year project aims at providing the scholarly world with an approximation of the original text as well as a documentation of all the extant textual evidence in the form of a critical apparatus. An important part of the textual evidence are the remains of the Hexapla: they can be used to evaluate variation among the Septuagint manuscripts, and thus they help to find original readings. However, using Hexaplaric material is complicated by the fact that no complete copy of the Hexapla has survived for any of the books of the Septuagint. The evidence is scattered in the margins of the Septuagint manuscripts and readings in quotations by early Christian authors and secondary versions of the Septuagint.

Besides the Septuagint, the witnesses in the Hexapla included three later Jewish Greek versions under the names of Aquila, Symmachus, and Theodotion. Together they are often referred to as “the Three”. Aquila’s (early second century CE) translation is highly literal as it aims at reproducing the structure of the Hebrew text as faithfully as possible. The resulting Greek is often clumsy or nearly unintelligible. Theodotion’s work is more likely a revision of the Septuagint rather than a new translation. The ancient sources place him in the second century CE but modern studies often date him to the beginning of the common era. His style, while more readable than Aquila’s, is close to the more literal translations in the Septuagint, such as Samuel-Kings. Symmachus’s translation is dated to the second or early-third century CE and, in contrast to Aquila, aimed at fluent Greek retaining fidelity to the Hebrew in sense rather than in form. In text-critical apparatuses and literature, the Three are often marked with the first letters of their Greek names and a prime: α´ = Aquila, σ´ = Symmachus, and θ´ = Theodotion.

The latest as-complete-as-possible edition of the Hexaplaric remains was Field’s Origenis Hexaplorum quae supersunt in 1875. Since its publication, Field’s edition has been the basis for all Hexapla research. In addition to the Hexaplaric readings proper, Field also reports noteworthy readings in the Septuagint manuscripts and quotations. Using all the material available for him, Field attempted a critical reconstruction of the original Hexaplaric readings. In addition, he provided a short textual commentary in Latin in the footnotes. After Field, a wealth of further material has accumulated. Field’s work is continued by The Hexapla Institute ( that has started a work for a new critical edition of the fragments of the Hexapla, “a New Field for the 21st Century.” The new Hexapla Project combines Field’s vision of a critical text of the Hexaplaric remains with the most up-to-date evidence and sources available.

The concrete aim of the project is producing the critical edition of the preserved Hexaplaric fragments of 1–2 Samuel. In addition, the researchers funded in the project will produce text-historical and translational studies. As one of the assigned editors, the PI will supervise the research and make the editorial decisions. The researchers in the proposed project contribute to the editorial work with their results.

The currently proposed Hexapla research will directly build upon the Septuagint editions of 1–2 Samuel under preparation by Aejmelaeus and Kauhanen. Those editions will include:

  1. A critically established Greek text that presents the closest possible approximation to the text that the translator produced.
  2. Apparatus I, that lists all the meaningful variant readings in the Greek manuscript traditions as well as important readings from secondary versions.
  3. Apparatus II, that lists extant Hexaplaric readings derived from later Jewish Greek versions (Aquila, Symmachus, Theodotion).
  4. An Introduction that explains the format of the edition and outlines the textual history.
  5. Appendices providing information about orthography and other details.

The Septuagint editions provide the core data for the Hexapla editions and an access to all the other readings in the Septuagint traditions, an important source of comparative material (see 2.2 Research Methods below). In addition, the experience gained by the editors in preparing the critical editions is indispensable in evaluating the Hexaplaric readings. In addition to her articles mentioned above, Aejmelaeus will publish her key findings in the introduction of the edition and a companion volume on text-critically important cases, and Kauhanen has recorded his evaluations of the readings in a text-critical commentary (Notes on the Greek Text of 2 Samuel, forthcoming in 2024). Building on this material and experience, the currently proposed project will develop the collection of the Hexaplaric readings into a critical Hexapla edition of 1–2 Samuel by:

  1. evaluating and, when necessary, emending the readings and attributions
  2. adding material from important sources beyond the manuscripts, especially patristic quotations and the ancient versions, including the remains of the Syrohexapla
  3. inputting the data into the Hexapla database.

It feels proper to stress once again the different function and aim of the forthcoming Septuagint editions and the currently proposed Hexapla edition: Apparatus II of the Septuagint editions reports the Hexaplaric readings as found in the margins and commentaries of the manuscripts; whereas the Hexapla edition is a critical edition of all the putatively Hexaplaric material, both in the marginal readings and as variant readings in the witnesses of the Septuagint.