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The Septuagint and its role in the birth and spread of Christianity

ucyow3c22 January 2015

pencil-iconWritten by Wenqing Peng, UCL Arts & Humanitites PhD student

Painting of Jesus

Credit: James Shepard.

The Septuagint, or the Greek translation of the Hebrew Bible, plays a crucial role in the spread of Christianity into a world religion, from its roots as a minor Jewish sect. Dr. Aleksander Gomola (Jagiellonian University) presented a range of illustrations of the nuances in translation that influenced the writers of the New Testament and the subsequent direction of Christianity itself.

In the first part of the talk, Dr Gomola examined the legend and fact of the Septuagint (LXX): a koine Greek version of the Hebrew Bible. The legend of the translation is found in the pseudepigraphic Letter of Aristeas to his brother Philocrates in the 2nd century BCE, which elaborated on the invitation by Ptolemy II Philadephus to 72 Jewish scholars to translate the first five books of the Hebrew Bible into Greek for the Library of Alexandria, and how they accomplished this feat in 72 days.

Dr Gomola then explained the significance of the relation between the LXX and Greek thought: the LXX revised the hierarchy of the Greek classics and the writings of Jewish patriarchs and prophets.

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We don’t know if God evolved, but belief did

ucyprlc21 January 2015

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Written by Rebecca Caygill, Media Relations Manager

How and when did organised religion begin? It’s a big question and one that Professor Steve Jones (UCL Genetics, Evolution and Environment) set out to answer before a packed Darwin Lecture Theatre last week in his Lunch Hour Lecture, ‘Did God evolve?’, on 20 January.

After clarifying that he didn’t actually know if God evolved, Professor Jones spoke about where religion began and where science predicts it is heading, based on evidence. Starting with farming, he took us on an enlightening and amusing trip through the history of the evolution of religion.

Evidence for the link between religion and farming goes back thousand of years not only in fertility rites for crops, but also to the story of Adam and Eve who were expelled from Eden to “till the ground”.

Adam and Eve, St Mary's Eastham, Wirral Credit: Sue Hacker on Flickr

Adam and Eve, St Mary’s Eastham, Wirral
Credit: Sue Hacker on Flickr

From studying maps of the Holy Land overlaid with modern locations, there may be truth in biblical texts about places such as the Land of Nod, where scientists have found farming originated with pigs, sheep, cattle and goats.

With farming came an explosion in the population, which moved to the east and west, changing language along the way. Language is constantly evolving at the same rate – to notice changes within our own lifetimes, we only need to listen to old TV or radio recordings.

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