The Old Testament in Greek according to the Septuagint, by H.B. Swete

| Updated: Fri, 5 Mar 2021 | Tagged: ot, greek, lxx, text.

In the late 19th century, while Alfred Rahlfs was producing a series of seminal articles in Septuagint studies, in a vicarage in Cambridgeshire Henry Barclay Swete had embarked on a new edition of the Septuagint. First proposed to the syndics of the Cambridge University Press by F.H.A. Scrivener, the New Testament text critic, a stroke prevented him from carrying it forward, and the task passed to Swete.

Scrivener had already given some shape to the approach which Swete was to follow. The edition was to present the text of the uncial manuscript Vaticanus (B), and where it was defective, the lack was supplied by Alexandrinus (A), or another uncial text if A was not available. (This approach was later criticized by George Foot Moore, who saw in it a “superstition” against minuscule texts which more faithfully stood in the B tradition, and would have provided a better base text than A.)1 An apparatus provided variants from other uncial texts; the huge task of including minuscule mss was left to the “larger” Cambridge Septuagint.

Swete’s work appeared in three volumes: Volume 1 (Genesis - IV Kings) appeared in 1887, Volume 2 (I Chronicles - Tobit) in 1891 (Swete having become Regius Professor of Divinity in Cambridge in 1890), and Volume 3 (Hosea - 4 Maccabees) in 1984. It was to go through four editions (latest appearing in 1925) before Rahlfs’ rival “manual edition” appeared in 1935 with its “eclectic” text based largely on B, ℵ (= S = Siniaiticus) and A, as opposed to the “diplomatic” editions of the Cambridge Septuagint (both editio minor and editio major).

Several scans are available on, but these are those of the latest editions:

  • Volume 1: 1925 (4th and final edition)
  • Volume 2: 1907 (3rd edition, of three)
  • Volume 3: 1905 (3rd edition, of four)

The third volume scan is almost unreadably light from pp. i-159 (Isaiah 33:9) after which it is fine, but it can be supplemented in the ealier pages from a black-and-white Google Books scan (or PDF direct link) which suffers from the opposite problem!

  1. G.F. Moore, “The Antiochian Recension of the Septuagint”, AJSL 29/1 (1912), 37-62 (cf. p. 54 n. 39; cited by S. Jellicoe, The Septuagint and Modern Study [Oxford: OUP, 1968], p. 17-18, and see also p. 11 for a brief account of the origins of the Cambridge LXX project).