The Importance of the Septuagint for Biblical Studies Part II -- By: Everett F. Harrison

Journal: Bibliotheca Sacra
Volume: BSAC 113:449 (Jan 1956)
Article: The Importance of the Septuagint for Biblical Studies Part II
Author: Everett F. Harrison

The Importance of the Septuagint for Biblical Studies
Part II

Everett F. Harrison

The Influence of the Septuagint on the New Testament Vocabulary

A reader of the New Testament who approaches it by way of familiarity with the Old Testament is likely to recognize a certain similarity of structure and idiom, but he will not think of it as strange because his mind has been conditioned by the reading of the Old Testament. But if one were to come to the reading of the Greek New Testament without this background, having only an acquaintance with classical Greek, let us say, he would be impressed with certain features that would strike him as peculiar. In other words, he would discover that the New Testament, although written in a language to which he is accustomed, possesses constructions and meanings of words for which his knowledge of classical Greek provides him no preparation. These are especially marked in the quotations, but also characterize the composition of the various books to a greater or lesser degree. The technical term for these features is Semitism, a term broad enough to include both Hebraism and Aramaism (the general subject of Semitisms can be explored to good advantage in J. H. Moulton, Grammar of New Testament Greek, II, 411–85).


Even Luke, the one New Testament writer who can be safely judged to have been a Gentile, shows Semitic influence. In his case it is chiefly due, no doubt, to the use of Semitic source materials. The first two chapters of his Gospel, for example, bear evidences of Semitic influence to a marked degree. One instance will suffice to establish the point—the use of kai egeneto in temporal clauses, a recognized

Semitism (1:23, 41, 59; 2:15) which reflects the wayehi (“and it came to pass”) which is so common in narrative portions of the Old Testament.

Another example is the cognate accusative, in which a verb is followed by a noun of the same root used in an adverbial sense. So in Mark 4:41, we read that the disciples “feared a great fear,” which means that they feared greatly. It would not occur to a native Greek to write this way, as the adverb would be an entirely natural and adequate means of expressing the same idea.

Much more important, however, than the influence of Semitic constructions upon the New Testament is the shaping of the concepts which it con...

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