It has long been a commonplace that the Greek-speaking, primarily Alexandrian, Jewish cultural milieu, out of which the Greek translations of the Hebrew scriptures first arose, came to an end early in the second Christian century, probably with the failure of the Jewish revolt against the Romans under emperor Trajan (115-117 CE). General works on the Greek Bible, while freely admitting that the books constituting the Christian Old Testament in Greek were translated by Jews for Jewish use, have tended until recently to assert that from the early second century the Jews abandoned their use, and that they subsequently became the exclusive possession of the Christian church. This abandonment is often associated specifically with their adoption by the church, and more particularly with their use by Christians in polemic against Judaism. The Jews are thus viewed as having turned their backs collectively on Hellenic culture once it was adopted by the Christians.

D. S. Blondheim

The first significant challenge to this view in the 20th century came from D. S. Blondheim (1884-1934), who in 1924 published an article in the Revue des Études Juives entitled 'Échos du judéo-hellénisme (étude sur l'influence de la Septante et d'Aquila sur les versions néo-grecques des Juifs)'. Blondheim not only appreciated the importance of the sparse remains of Jewish Greek Bible translations, but went much further in noticing the continuing influence in them of the ancient translations, and notably that of Aquila. "It is clear," he writes, "that Jewish scholars continued, from antiquity to our own time, in translating the Bible orally, to use expressions borrowed from the Septuagint and above all Aquila."

Blondheim then proceeded to prove his point by means of examples drawn form a number of sources, namely (in chronological order): quotations in a Talmudic dictionary, the Arukh, compiled by Nathan bar Yehiel of Rome in the late eleventh century; a fragment of a translation of Ecclesiastes recovered from the Cairo Genizah; a translation of the Book of Jonah; a translation known as the "Graecus Venetus"; copious marginal annotations in an uncial codex of the Octateuch, the Codex Ambrosianus (F); the Constantinople Pentateuch of 1547; and finally a translation of the Aramaic parts of the Bible, with a glossary of difficult words in the Hebrew Bible, made in the 17th century by a certain Elia Afeda Beghi. These examples demonstrate beyond all doubt the persistent influence of Aquila's version, and perhaps less securely that of the Septuagint, on the medieval and early modern Jewish versions. His demonstration, revealing an unparalleled command of the sources and providing as it does the missing link between ancient and medieval Greek Jewish culture, is of great importance; sadly, no notice was taken of it either by historians of Judaism or by historians of the Greek Bible, for more than half a century.

N. Fernández Marcos

In 1979 the Spanish scholar Natalio Fernández Marcos published his Introducción a las versiones griegas de la Biblia, an original feature of which is that it traces the Jewish and Christian transmission of the Greek Bible in separate, parallel sections. A chapter is devoted to Jewish versions into medieval and modern Greek. After listing the witnesses, Fernandez Marcos argues that the Constantinople Pentateuch does not represent a new departure, but depends on earlier Jewish translations, which in turn derive from the ancient versions, and consequently "there is no total rupture - following Blondheim - between the Jewish Hellenism that produced the translations of Aquila, Symmachus and Theodotion and that which produced the modern Greek translation of the Constantinople Pentateuch."

Nicholas de Lange

Between the first edition of Fernández Marco's book and its second edition in 1998 evidence confirming his view came to light, in the form of fragmentary manuscripts recovered form the Cairo Genizah. One of these, a bilingual glossary, first published by de Lange in Vetus Testamentum 30 (1980) 291-294, revealed very clearly the enduring influence of Aquila's translation eight or nine centuries after it was made. Further evidence was published in 1996 by Nicholas de Lange of the University of Cambridge in Greek Jewish Texts from the Cairo Genizah (GJT). These new discoveries, with others made since 1998, confirm the existence of continuous transmission of Greek Bible translations in Byzantine Judaism.