What is it about?

Very old price lists have been found in Egypt. We used those figures to estimate how much it would have cost to produce papyrus bookrolls of biblical books from the Septuagint, the Greek translation of the Old Testament. We also estimated the cost to transport such rolls to Palestine. It appeared that only the elite and the class immediately below it (together ca. 5% of the population) could afford such costly manuscripts.

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Why is it important?

For the first time, we studied Septuagint manuscripts from an economic viewpoint. That is essential to get a picture of who could buy and use those bookrolls. It is very likely that our findings are also valid for the first Greek translations in the 3rd century BC. Our paper also contributes to the old question whether papyrus or skin was more expensive.


The research was fascinating, but quite challenging, as Dr Hartog and I had to familiarize ourselves with neighbouring disciplines. We were very happy with the rich outcome of our work. We have now come much closer to estimating the cost of the Greek Pentateuch translation. For that purpose, we need to find the cost of hiring a translator/interpreter, and add that to the cost of book production. Who will take up that challenge?

Dr Theo van der Louw
Summer Institute of Linguistics

Read the Original

This page is a summary of: Physical and economic aspects of the earliest Septuagint papyri, Journal of Jewish Studies, April 2021, Journal of Jewish Studies,
DOI: 10.18647/3479/jjs-2021.
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