What is it about?

Zacharias Frankel had a very low opinion of the abilities of the LXX translators, the quality of their work and the ensuing textual transmission. He considered the Septuagint only useful as a testimony to help prove the antiquity of the halacha, a notion with apologetic value. Methodologically, he conceptualized the genesis of the Greek Pentateuch through the theories of contemporary historical criticism. His monographs on the Septuagint display great continuity with early modern scholarship. This also holds true for the assumption that the Septuagint reflects Jewish interpretation and the notion of five translators/editors for the Greek Pentateuch. Frankel’s works were considered important, but his innovations, viz. the insistence that all Jewish exegesis was Palestinian in origin and his rejection of textual criticism were accepted by few and rejected by most scholars, Jews and Christians alike. Frankel’s boldness and his use of German helped to keep his ideas on the scholarly agenda.

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Why is it important?

Much has been published about Frankel as a Jewish scholar, as a historical personality in his own right, and as the forefather of Conservative Judaism. But his view of the Septuagint has not been a part of his portrayal. His publications, written in archaic German, are no longer accessible to English speakers, and are often misunderstood and misquoted. My study shows how Frankel combined an Orthodox (Jewish) perspective with great continuity with early modern (Christian) scholarship. It also makes clear that the reception of Frankel's work did not differ much between Jews and Christians.


Every handbook tells you that five translators did the five books of the Torah, Instead of arguments, references to Frankel are given. But I got a hunch that something was wrong there. I turned his works inside out to find out what he really said. First I made an English summary of his "Vorstudien zu der Septuaginta" (available at sil.academia.edu/TheovanderLouw). I soon found that he did not really say what he is often made to say...

Dr Theo van der Louw
Summer Institute of Linguistics

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This page is a summary of: Zacharias Frankel’s Conception of the Septuagint in Context, Textus, July 2021, Brill,
DOI: 10.1163/2589255x-bja10016.
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