spittle of snakes, for example, has work to do in the digestion of the snake’s food.”
The lying, slanderous statements of the wicked, so damaging to the victim’s reputation, are likened to the deadly venom of the serpent. (Ps. 58:3, 4) Of slanderers, it is said, “The venom of the horned viper is under their lips” (or, “behind their lips”), even as the viper’s venom gland lies behind the lip and fangs of its upper jaw. (Ps. 140:3; Rom. 3:13) The human tongue, misused in slanderous, backbiting, false teaching or similarly harmful speech, “is full of death-dealing poison.”—Jas. 3:8.
Translations of the Bible from Hebrew, Aramaic and Greek into other tongues. Translation work has made the Word of God available to hundreds of millions of persons unable to understand the original Biblical languages. The early versions of the Scriptures were handwritten and were therefore in the form of manuscripts. However, since the advent of the printing press many additional versions or translations have appeared and these have generally been published in great quantities. Some versions have been prepared directly from Hebrew and Greek Bible texts, whereas others are versions of earlier translations.
The Scriptures have been published, in whole or in part, in more than 1,400 languages. From the standpoint of language coverage, this means that 97 percent of the earth’s population would have access to at least some part of the Bible. An account of versions or translations of the Scriptures will be enlightening and will engender gratitude to Jehovah God for the wonderful way in which he has preserved his Word for the benefit of mankind’s millions.
ANCIENT VERSIONS OF THE HEBREW SCRIPTURES
Extant today are over 1,700 ancient manuscripts of the Hebrew Scriptures, written in Hebrew (with the exception of a few Aramaic sections). Extant also are many manuscripts of old versions or translations of the Hebrew Scriptures in various languages. Some versions were in themselves translations of earlier versions from the Hebrew. For instance, the Hebrew Scripture portion of the Old Latin version was rendered from the Septuagint Version, a Greek translation of the Hebrew Scriptures. However, some ancient versions of the pre-Christian Scriptures (the Septuagint Version, Aramaic Targums, the Syriac Peshitta Version and in the Latin Vulgate) were made directly from the Hebrew and not through the medium of a version in Greek or some other language.
After the deportation of inhabitants of Samaria and the ten-tribe kingdom of Israel by Assyria in 740 B.C.E., pagans from other territories of the Assyrian Empire were settled there by Assyria. (2 Ki. 17:22-33) In time they came to be called “Samaritans.” They accepted the first five books of the Hebrew Scriptures and in about the fourth century B.C.E. they produced the Samaritan Pentateuch, not really a translation of the original Hebrew Pentateuch, but a transliteration of its text into Samaritan characters, mixed with Samaritan idioms. Few of the extant manuscripts of the Samaritan Pentateuch are older than the thirteenth century C.E. Of about 6,000 differences between the Samaritan and the Hebrew texts, by far the majority are unimportant. One variation of interest appears at Exodus 12:40, where the Samaritan Pentateuch corresponds to the Septuagint.—See CHRONOLOGY, page 335.
The “Targums” were free translations or paraphrases of the Hebrew Scriptures into Aramaic. They likely assumed their present final form no earlier than about the fifth century C.E. One of the principal Targums, the “Targum of Onkelos” on the Pentateuch, is rather literal. Another, the so-called “Targum of Jonathan” for the Prophets, is less literal, being a paraphrase on the books of Joshua, Judges, Samuel, Kings, Isaiah, Jeremiah, Ezekiel and the twelve so-called “Minor Prophets.” Extant today are Targums on the Pentateuch, the Prophets and, of later date, the Hagiographa.
The Septuagint Version (often designated LXX) was used by Greek-speaking Jews and Christians in Egypt and elsewhere. Reportedly, work on it commenced in Egypt in the days of Ptolemy Philadelphus (285-246 B.C.E.), when, according to tradition, the Pentateuch thereof was translated into Greek by seventy-two Jewish scholars. Later, the number seventy somehow came to be used, and the version of the Pentateuch was referred to as the Septuagint, meaning “Seventy.” The other books of the Hebrew Scriptures (by various translators whose style varied from quite literal to rather free rendition) were gradually added until translation of the entire Hebrew Scriptures had finally been completed during the second century B.C.E. and perhaps by 150 B.C.E. Thereafter the entire work came to be known as the Septuagint. This version is often quoted by writers of the Christian Greek Scriptures. Apocryphal writings were evidently inserted in the Septuagint Version sometime after it was first completed.—See APOCRYPHA.
One of the oldest extant manuscripts of the Septuagint Version is Papyrus 957, the Rylands Papyrus iii. 458, preserved in the John Rylands Library, Manchester, England. It is of the second century B.C.E. and consists of fragments of Deuteronomy (23:24–24:3; 25:1-3; 26:12, 17-19; 28:31-33). Also of the second century B.C.E. is Chester Beatty Papyrus No. 6, consisting of the Septuagint Version of portions of Numbers and Deuteronomy. Another manuscript, of the second or first century B.C.E., is Papyrus Fouad 266 (possessed by the Société Royale de Papyrologie du Caire), containing parts of the second half of Deuteronomy according to the Septuagint Version. In various places therein the Tetragrammaton (YHWH in English) of the divine name is found in a form of Old Hebrew characters right within the Greek script.—See JEHOVAH, page 886.
The Septuagint Version has thus been preserved in numerous manuscripts, many fragmentary, others fairly complete. Notably, the Septuagint Version texts are preserved in the three famous uncial manuscripts written on vellum, the Vatican Manuscript No. 1209 and the Sinaitic Manuscript, both of the fourth century C.E., and the Alexandrine Manuscript of the fifth century C.E. The Septuagint Version as found in the Vatican Manuscript No. 1209 is almost complete; much of that in the Sinaitic Manuscript has been lost and that in the Alexandrine Manuscript is rather complete, though lacking parts of Genesis, First Samuel and Psalms.
Later Greek versions
Early in the second century (perhaps about 130 C.E.) Aquila, a Jewish proselyte of Pontus, made a new and very literal Greek translation of the Hebrew Scriptures. Except for fragments and quotations thereof by early writers, it has perished. Another Greek translation of the same century was produced by Theodotion. His was apparently a revision of the Septuagint Version or some other Greek version of the Hebrew Scriptures, though he considered the