Lexham English Septuagint - strange/different text order?

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Carmen Gauvin-O'Donnell | Forum Activity | Posted: Tue, Jul 28 2020 12:07 PM

So there I was about to print out Sirach when I noticed what you see below in the table of contents (on the left of the text) - Ch 30 is followed by chs 33-36 THEN back to 30-33, followed by 36-39. The text of them is different as well. I take it these are different manuscript traditions or something? This couldn't be... gasp!... our fine Logos techs messing up as the info was being entered, LOL?!

Thanks for the help, folks!

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MJ. Smith | Forum Activity | Replied: Tue, Jul 28 2020 1:49 PM

Mention must here be made of the great displacement in the Greek text; this is dealt with by Swete:

A remarkable divergence in the arrangement of the Septuagint and Old Latin Versions of Ecclesiasticus 30–36 calls for notice. In these chapters the Greek order fails to yield a natural sequence, whereas the Latin arrangement, which is also that of the Syriac and Armenian Versions, makes excellent sense. Two sections, 30:25–33:13a (ὡς καλαμώμενος … φυλὰς Ἰακώβ) and 33:13b–36:16a (λαμπρὰ καρδία … ἔσχατος ἠγρύπνησα), have exchanged places in Latin, and the change is justified by the result. On examination it appears that these sections are nearly equal, containing in B 154 and 159 στίχοι respectively, whilst א exhibits 160 in each.2

There can be little doubt that in the exemplar from which, so far as is certainly known, all our Greek MSS. of this book are, as Fritzsche says, “ultimately derived, the pairs of leaves on which these sections were severally written had been transposed; whereas the Latin translator, working from a manuscript in which the transposition had not taken place, has preserved the true order.”1 The displacement is sometimes apt to cause some confusion when giving references; the matter is simplified when it is remembered that in the Greek text 33:13bc; 34:1–36:16a must come between 30:24 and 30:25. All the Greek manuscripts, including the cursive 248 (on this see below) have this displacement


W. O. E. Oesterley, An Introduction to the Books of the Apocrypha (New York: The Macmillan Company, 1935), 248–249.

Orthodox Bishop Hilarion Alfeyev: "To be a theologian means to have experience of a personal encounter with God through prayer and worship."

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MJ. Smith | Forum Activity | Replied: Tue, Jul 28 2020 1:52 PM


We shall look below (Chapter 3) at the different versions of the book. Here we may simply note that they do not always match one another in their detailed division, and this has led to some confusion, particularly in the enumeration of individual verses. Ziegler’s major edition of the Greek text for the Göttingen Septuagint (Ziegler 1980) laid down norms which are now coming to be generally followed, for example, by NRSV, and it is that classification which is used here. Older translations are liable to follow different patterns. Thus, for example, as early as ch. 2 RSV has 18 verses, NRSV only 17, treating vv. 17–18 of the earlier edition as one verse. Similar discrepancies occur throughout the book.
A further complication arises in places where the majority of translations apparently omit verses. Thus in ch. 1, vv. 5 and 7 have been transferred to the margin, not only by modern versions such as NRSV and REB, but also more than a century ago in the RV. These verses are found only in later and more expansive forms of the Greek text, commonly known as GII, which include some 300 cola not found in GI (Skehan and Di Lella 1987: 55–56). They do not represent one single, more elaborate manuscript, but embody a variety of text traditions. NRSV has frequent footnotes in the form ‘Other ancient authorities add …’, and this normally means a reference to the GII text.
One last complication arises from the fact that it is virtually certain that two sections, 30:25–33:13a and 33:13b–36:13, have been transposed in the Greek text so that they are out of order. The correct order has been preserved in the surviving Hebrew, as well as in the Latin and other versions. This ‘great displacement’, as it was described by Box and Oesterley (1913: 280), meant that in many older versions and commentaries references in this section are given in a somewhat confusing form. Thus, for example, the pericope found in NRSV as 31:1–4, dealing with the anxiety caused by wealth, is listed by Box and Oesterley as ‘31 (34) 1–4’ and by Ziegler as ‘34 (31): 1–4’ (1965).
These textual complications imply that it is even more than usually necessary here to issue and to take heed of the warning that references should not simply be followed without checking that they do indeed refer to the required passage. (A brief appendix, ‘The English Versions’, at the end of this present work sets out both the title given and the practice with regard to chapter and verse enumeration of the main English versions.)
We shall not in this Guide be greatly concerned with source-criticism in the sense that that discipline has been applied, for example, to the Pentateuch, but it is worth noting that those who have felt able to detect secondary sources within Sirach have most commonly found them in and around this section where the displacement has occurred. 36:1–22, for example, with its unusual form of a prayer, has often been regarded as secondary. But there is no agreement on the proper criteria to be applied in separating out material in this way, and so we shall not attempt to pursue that subject in detail. It is, of course, a different topic from the observation that some of the manuscripts contain added material agreed on all hands to be secondary. We should also be aware that ch. 51 poses particular problems, which we shall look at in the next chapter.


R. J. Coggins, Sirach, Guides to Apocrypha and Pseudepigrapha (Sheffield: Sheffield Academic Press, 1998), 17–18.

Orthodox Bishop Hilarion Alfeyev: "To be a theologian means to have experience of a personal encounter with God through prayer and worship."

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Carmen Gauvin-O'Donnell | Forum Activity | Replied: Wed, Jul 29 2020 3:50 AM

Thanks for the info MJ, although a lot of it went right over my head, LOL! (I think of my favourite apologist, Greg Koukl of Stand to Reason, who often says, and rightly so, "Don't worry if some of our conversations go right over your head... what goes over your head, will hit someone else!"

So that having been said, since I'm using Lexham's English Septuagint, based on the Greek and if so, perhaps I should go look at a latin-English translation in that case for an order that makes more sense? Did I get that right?

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Rick Brannan (Faithlife) | Forum Activity | Replied: Wed, Jul 29 2020 9:51 AM

The textual history of Sirach is a bit weird. But the Lexham English Septuagint has the text in the order it appears in Swete's edition of the Septuagint, which is (essentially) the version found in the 4th-5th century Codex Vaticanus. This is the order the text was read in, in Greek, for centuries.

The chapter/verse numbers were added by Swete, of course, and have no bearing on how the text was read in the 4th-5th century.

Note that in the LXX, Jeremiah has a tortured textual history and the TOC may look similar. See also Proverbs. And several other books.

I guess I'm saying that comparative ordering of text between traditions, at least to me, is not that big of a deal (but I might be the weird one, who knows). The numbering helps shifting from one version to the other for reference/comparison, but centuries of Christians read the text as it was preserved in Vaticanus and didn't have a problem with it.

Rick Brannan
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Carmen Gauvin-O'Donnell | Forum Activity | Replied: Wed, Jul 29 2020 10:53 AM

All righty then... thanks Rick!

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