A Meeting Place for Evangelicals, Reformed, and Orthodox Christians

The Song of Simeon and the Bible

This guest posting is by Vincent Martini. It was published earlier in Orthodoxy and Heterodoxy on August 15, 2012.

Thank you Vincent and Welcome to the OrthodoxBridge!   Robert


The Great Library of Alexandria (established during the reign of Pharaoh Ptolemy II Philadelphus, ca. 283-246 BC, and originally organized by a student of Aristotle) contained innumerable manuscripts, works and scrolls from all over the world.

In order to ensure everything possible was included in their library, the Egyptians even required their citizens (and even foreign travelers through Egypt) to hand in their own personal scrolls for copying so that they could be added to the overall collection. It is during the reign of Ptolemy II that the sacred scriptures of the Hebrew people were translated into the Greek language—which was the lingua franca of the world at thie time—in order to be included in the Alexandrian library’s already impressive collection of scrolls.

In order to have the scriptures accurately translated into Greek, Ptolemy II summoned seventy scribes from the Hebrew people to Alexandria. These were scribes and elders who were familiar with both the languages and the scriptures themselves. Initially, only the Pentateuch (the first five “Books of Moses”) was translated, with the rest of the scrolls to follow. According to a certain tradition, all seventy scribes ended up translating identical copies of the books from Hebrew into Greek, with no variations whatsoever.

As a result, this translation of the scriptures came to be known as the Septuagint (“seventy”) as a tip of the hat to these seventy scribes who performed an amazing feat in their translation efforts. This use of the Septuagint (often abbreviated as “LXX,” the Roman numerals for 70) spread like wildfire throughout the Greek-speaking Jewish world, and became the primary version of what we now call the Old Testament. It was so commonly used at the time of Christ and the Apostles that virtually all of their references to “scripture” come from this translation, and many of the parables, stories and other wisdom teachings that both Christ and His Apostles reference are from the Septuagint (and are not found at all in the medieval Masoretic text, ca. 10th century AD).

The Septuagint was “the Bible,” so to speak, for the Apostolic Church and has been received as the scriptures of the Hebrews all the way down to this day in both the Eastern and Oriental Orthodox traditions (in fact, even Ethiopian Jews use the LXX as their received text to this day). Despite the fact that Protestants claim there was a “silent period” between the end of their revised Old Testament canon and the time of the New Testament, Orthodox Christians believe that God continued to speak to His people, that prophets still arose (the NT proves this, referring to Anna as a “prophetess” in Luke 2:36 and to Simeon elsewhere in Luke 2, who both predated the NT era in their lifetime), as preserved alone by the LXX text.

However, none of this would have happened, possibly, were it not for the faith of Simeon the elder, called in Orthodox liturgical tradition Simeon the God-receiver, one of the seventy scribes of Israel who helped translate the Septuagint.

According to tradition, while translating the scroll of Isaiah from Hebrew into Greek, Simeon came upon the text that reads: ”Behold, a virgin shall conceive in the womb, and shall bring forth a Son” (Isaiah 7:14). Simeon found it hard to believe that “virgin” was the correct word in this passage, given the impossibility of a virgin to conceive a child. When he was about to replace the word “virgin” with simply “woman,” an angel of the Lord appeared to him. This angel informed him that “virgin” was, in fact, the correct word and that he would live to see the day when this would be fulfilled—the birth of the Messiah of Israel by a pure virgin. Simeon was faithful and so he obeyed the angel and kept the word as “virgin,” ensuring that his manuscript would match the others (which in turn led to the widespread popularity and acceptance of the Septuagint as inspired scripture, an attitude carried by Christ and the Apostles, no less).


And so, when we read the Gospel account of Christ being brought to the Temple as an infant, the elder Simeon is still there after 200 years, waiting to see the Messiah of Israel with his own eyes, just as the angel had promised him. Simeon immediately recognizes that Jesus is in fact the Christ (the Messiah) of Israel, and responds appropriately: “Lord, now let Your servant depart in peace, according to Your word, for my eyes have seen Your salvation, a Light to lighten the Gentiles and the Glory of Your people Israel” (Gospel Acc. to Luke 2:25-32). This passage, the Song of Simeon, is known in the West as the nunc dimittis, meaning “now dismiss” from its appearance in the Latin Vulgate.

Simeon could now rest in peace and depart this mortal world, having seen the fulfillment of the promise that God had made to him centuries before.

Unfortunately, many Bibles in America today do not use the Septuagint and many Christians do not know the back story for this Gospel. With the faith of Simeon, we can truly see Christ as He is, and we can receive the fulness of God’s revelation to and for us as His beloved people. If you are in a place where the Septuagint is not received as Scripture, perhaps you should consider finding the Church that has preserved the Bible of Christ and the Apostles all the way down to this very day.


Vincent Martini has a BA in Philosophy from Indiana University and is an Orthodox convert / layman in the Antiochian Archdiocese of North America. He resides in northwest Arkansas.


  1. David Rockett

    Back-Stories like this (& Saint Ignatius being the kid on Christ’s knee in the Gospel) very much. They are more valuable than we realize perhaps, in setting The Faith within a rich, personal, historic narrative that’s all too rare in our day. There must be hundreds of them not lost. Wouldn’t a well-researched entire book of back stories be a great gift to the Church, our kids and grandkids? It would be a great contribution in the further development (filling in) of Historic Theology, no? Go do it Mr. Martini. Another 19 should do it! 🙂 And where does one fine more on the role of the Septuagint in the making of the whole Cannon of Scripture?

  2. Vincent

    Well, the best place for this kind of material would be the Prologue of Ohrid, honestly. I doubt I could ever hope to top that… 😉

    As far as the role of the Septuagint in canonization, I have honestly found that pretty much any scholarly, honest work on the canon will present the case of the Orthodox Church — it just may not follow the findings to their logical conclusion (i.e. rejecting the Protestant canon).

    I have a lot of posts over on my blog on the canon of Scripture that try to address these issues, if they are of any help.

    In peace,

    • David Rockett


      You completely missed the slow, soft-ball pitch I gave you! 🙂 You shoulda noted (w/vast humility) you just happen to have an article titled: “The Septuagint & Textual Criticism” here:

    • John


      Thanks for this reference in the Prologue of Ochrid.

      # First something minor:
      For something to verify an eccentric “translation” of Isa 7:14, I was hoping for something at least in Migne (either PG or PL – preferably both), on more than two occasions, and backed up in Brill’s Patrologae of the Syriac Fathers, again at least twice. Likewise for Simeon’s age.

      For something of this magnitude, Ochrid alone is totally inadequate. There may be something mouldering under thick dust on Mt Athos, or at St Catherine’s, but even here, why, if it IS in either of these places has it not yet surfaced after all these years?

      # Now for something a little larger:
      * Your narrative re the “translation” of the LXX is little more that a condensation of the Letter of Aristeas – but without acknowledgment of same. Do you have something independent of this source to back up your narrative?

      I do not trust this “Letter” of Aristeas in ANY of its details. The only accurate and truthful condensation of this “Letter” is: “A group of men met in Alexandria to attempt a translation of the Tanak into Greek”.

      ALL else in this “Letter” is little more than pious wishful fiction – written in the style of a Pagan Greek Ode to its “hero”, in this case, the LXX itself.

      * The original of the LXX was presumably housed in the Royal Library of Alexandria which was burnt four times:
      1 Julius Caesar’s fire in the Alexandrian War, in 48 BC;
      2 the attack of Aurelian in 270 – 275 AD;
      3 the decree of Coptic Pope Theophilus in AD 391; and
      4. the Muslim conquest in 642 AD or thereafter.

      Do you have any reliable, secular record of the LXX being saved at any one or more of these burnings?

      * Why is it that the only secure copy of the LXX dates from the time of Origen?

      * Why is it that the LXX Chronologies for the Kings of Israel and Judah do NOT check out with the accurately-known chronologies of the surrounding nations? I refer you to:

      Edwin R. Thiele, “The mysterious Numbers of the Hebrew Kings”, Kregel Publications, Grand Rapids, Michigan, 1994. (New Revised Edition).
      ISBN 0-8254-3825-x [LC: BS1335.5.T48.]

      Thiele has never been successfully and/or substantively challenged since his new revised edition came out. The superior Hebrew original – as reflected in the Masoretic Text WILL check out with these chronologies perfectly.

      * Why were there 23 misleading “translations” in Amos?
      See: Some Hebrew Misreadings in the Septuagint of Amos, A Gelston, Vetus Testamentum, Vol LII, No. 4. pp 493 – 500.

      * Why is it that the “original” LXX rendition of Daniel was so barbarous that it had to be replaced by Theodotion’s efforts?

      * Why was the LXX NEVER before the Convocation at Jamnia? Only the Hebrew Tanak as we know it today was! The only reliable record of this gathering is in the Talmud. Church records of same are too unreliable.

      * Why was it that the Jewish Community in Alexandria NEVER composed a Talmud? Their “critical mass” in terms of numbers at the time was even higher than that in Babylon at the time. There was both a Babylonian Talmud and a Palestinian Talmud.
      Further, why is there practically no reference to an Alexandrian Targum? I challenge you to refute this answer: They were too assimilated into the Pagan Greek culture of the Nile Delta to even care!

      I think that this will do for starters. There is much more questioning available.


      • David Rockett

        Hey John,

        I’m sure some, if not all of your technical questions have good merit and intent. The devil is often in the details…

        Yet the most salient two-fold question here is: “Why were Jesus (the Incarnate Logos in human flesh and divine/human nature) with His Apostles and the early Church overwhelmingly led by the Holy Spirit to embrace the LXX Greek text…and given that all but unasailable fact…should we look for another OT text, especially one with real presuppositional problems?” Is it not possible that the minutia of textual criticism is really the chasing after answers to questions that really need not be asked to start with? Perhaps I’m missing something real important here, but it all seems too much like the unbelieving bio-chemist forever devising a new “primordial soup” he can zap with various “bolts of lightening” in his quest to prove “life possible” without God creating ex nilho. Are our a prioi presuppostitions to engaging in textual criticism vailid and sound?

        • John


          Thanks for your response.

          If you wish to pursue this dialogue off-line, please do not hesitate to contact Robert R who should be able to provide you with my E-mail address.

          I am only too happy to do so with you.

          I do not want to get into an extended discussion on the LXX on a thread primarily about Simeon. This would unduly subvert the principal purpose of this thread.

          Thanks, and may God bless you.

      • Jason

        Why do you suppose the Talmud has any historical reliability for the veracity of the LXX?

        This is the same Talmud in which study of the Tanakh itself is denigrated as having no merit. And, there is virtually no scholarly support for Jamnia being the event that finalized the Tanakh.

        • David Rockett


          Forgive me if I’m misunderstanding your question. But I believe resting the veracity of the LXX upon Talmud text(s) is bassackwards. No, the various “texts” used by the “seventy” is secondary if not incidential to what God the Holy Spirit seems to have done through the seventy scholoars giving the Church the LXX…as testified to by Christ, the Apostles and the early Church. In other words, the veracity of the LXX rest upon what God did with it after the fact in history…not upon the veracity of the various Talmudic(?) text they used.

          • Jason

            My apologies David. My question was directed to John, and I should have noted that. I understood his comment to place some authority with the Talmud when it concerns the veracity of the LXX. As such, I agree with you. The Talmud is too overladen with biases against Christ, His Church, the Theotokos, and Church Fathers to be considered as a reference for this subject.

          • David Rockett

            Thanks Jason…glad to be on same page with you. 🙂

      • Vincent


        I believe we have interacted on these issues before. What is your professed religion or faith?


        • John


          Thanks for your response.

          If you wish to pursue this dialogue off-line, please do not hesitate to contact Robert R who should be able to provide you with my E-mail address.

          I am only too happy to do so with you.

          I do not want to get into an extended discussion on the LXX on a thread primarily about Simeon. This would unduly subvert the principal purpose of this thread.

          Thanks, and may God bless you.

  3. David Lindblom

    John you said:

    “I do not want to get into an extended discussion on the LXX on a thread primarily about Simeon. This would unduly subvert the principal purpose of this thread.”

    Then why did you post such an extended comment about what you now say is not what this article is primarily about to begin w/?? I find it rather odd that you would state in such a public way numerous reasons for rejecting much of what was said about the LXX in this article and then refuse to further deal w/ those issues in the same public way.

    • John


      Thanks for this.

      You referred to “extended discussion”.

      When I said “extended discussion”, I have approx 30 pages of Arial 10pt critique available on A4 for the LXX alone, with more on the use of Greek. And so my reticence is not out of unwillingness to deal with these issues, but unwillingness to test Robert’s patience and forbearance on this issue.

      This is, after all, his blog. And until he opens a thread specifically addressing the matter of the LXX, and advises that a wide range of comments with a greater latitude for depth are welcome beyond that normally invited and accepted, only short comments (with often unsatisfactorily elliptical, to-the-point notations without backgrounding) will have to suffice.

      May God bless you as you strive for the truth.

      ps: Robert, thanks for your patience and forbearance to date.

      • David


        Vincent asked you on 9/26:

        “What is your professed religion or faith?”

        Do you ever intend to answer. It’s helpful (telling?) to know the context from which a man speaks…and to what eccles. loyalites and authorities he submits, no?

        • John

          David (and indirectly Vincent),

          Thanks for your enquiry. I apologize in advance for its length, but I would not want to do you a disservice by making it too brief, and hence unsatisfactorily elliptical.

          I take it that both of you are familiar with the current global environment regarding ecclesiastical scholarship. And that both of you would know that ecclesiastical loyalty and submission to the “magesterium” of one’s erstwhile denominational nominal membership is nowadays of negligible moment, if at all.

          For example, I start by citing the current Roman Catholic environment. Up to Vatican II, every Roman Catholic scholar, or even commentator (in forums analogous to blogs), submitted to Rome’s official censorship of “Nihil Obstat”, “Imprimatur”, and where relevant, “Imprimi Potest”. Today, in 2012, only those of the Opus Dei types bother with such archaic formalities.

          Take a look at the site ncronline.org, for example. Almost all of the contributors/bloggers are Roman Catholics, yet their degree of disobedience-with-impunity to the Roman Magesterium on the Tiber is legendary. And would lead the uninitiated to conclude that most are anything but Roman Catholics. They certainly evince no evidence of “submission” to that Magesterium. And yet they receive communion in the Mass with virtually no evidence of their being challenged in regard to their “loyalty” and “submission”.

          The same applies to academics in both Notre Dame and Bridgetown Universities. And with Benedict XVI’s crackdown moving on apace – imposing “loyalty” and “submission” to the competent ecclesiastical authority, the best and brightest are leaving, degrading the academic quality of those institutions. The same applies in every European University with an official “Catholic” chair. Brill in Louvain in Belgium, whilst originally set up as a Roman Catholic institution, has achieved its academic gravitas by politely ignoring any “interference” from Rome’s Magesterium which would diminish this gravitas.

          In Rome, the demand that any individual evince “loyalty” and “submission” to the Magesterium has uniformly degraded and diminished the quality of scholar who has so “submitted” and thus remained as an “official” Catholic scholar. I sincerely hope and pray that the same does not apply in Orthodoxy.

          In the Anglican orbit, outside the verkrampte Evangelical ghetto, there is no “magesterium”, and no consequential requirement to toe any “party line”. The same, more or less, applies in the Lutheran orbit.

          Very few erstwhile Presbyterians in both Aberdeen and Edinburgh Universities pay much attention to any Reformed Articles of Belief – of whatever provenance. And seem to defy with impunity, any consistory which would attempt to curtail their scholarship-latitude.

          In the Jewish orbit, even the concept of “magesterium” is unknown – and never has been known for over 3500 years! And attempts to both create and impose one would be laughed into derisory oblivion.

          All this by way of introduction.

          The best scholarship in the Western world today knows no denominational boundaries, and owes little, if any loyalty or submission to any magesterium of any provenance, irrespective of the nominal denominational membership of its individual scholars. And so today, as you would be all too aware, quality scholarship on one hand, and “loyalty” and “submission” to any ecclesiastical authority on the other, are never normally used in the same sentence except in contrast to each other. Today, the individual is judged on their merits irrespective of the criteria of “loyalty” and “submission” to any ecclesiastical authority.

          I am attempting to move in harmony with these well-established and accepted principles. I trust that you would respect my choice in this matter to do likewise.


          ps: Robert, this is intended to be entirely eirenic in tone, could you please accept it as such.

      • robertar


        Thank you for being sensitive to my concerns. You’re right 30 pages is much too long for a comment. Perhaps you can start up your own blog site and give us the URL?


        • John


          Thank you for your positive response. I much appreciate it. I try to keep things as brief as is possible, without surrendering the integrity of the response.

          When I do start up my own blog-site, I most certainly will do you the courtesy of advising you of the same, with its URL.

          May God continue to richly bless you in your ministry on this site.


          ps: I stand in awe of your dismembering TULIP! I have never seen anything so clinical! Bless you for this!

  4. John

    David (& thus Vincent),

    I refer to my post of October 12, 2012 at 10:58 am re obedience to the Roman Magesterium (episcopate).

    What follows is from: http://ncronline.org/news/theology/university-withdraws-theologians-invitation-after-pressure-financial-contributors

    Please read both the article and all its blogs before answering me.

    In the light of this example, my comments now extend to “private” Universities with a Catholic orientation. See University of San Diego Frances G. Harpst Center for Catholic Thought and Culture.

    The University has disinvited Tina Beattie, a professor of Catholic studies at London’s private University of Roehampton known for her work in contemporary ethical issues and Catholic understandings of feminism, received notice of the cancellation Oct. 27. She was scheduled to take residence at the university on Tuesday.

    Dr Lyons is the President of this University.

    Here is a blogger’s comment on this action (posted around 02:00UTC 1Nov2012):

    “Dr. Lyons and the University of San Diegonhave done an enormous disservice to its University population, both students and faculty, by disinviting Beattie to a visiting professorship at the University’s Frances G. Harpst ‘s Center of Catholic Thought and Culture. The University’s determination to deprive their population of the inspiring thought and words of this highly regarded theological scholar is a sure sign of its degradation and demise as an institution of higher learning by choosing to
    allow the dictates of a fearful, uninformed and politically adroit and powerful hierarchy to dictate the content and quality of its programing. By stooping this low, the University has relinquished its role as a viable player in the world of educational exploration. To the degree that the Magisterium of the Catholic Church is complicit in the University’s decision, it likewise has forfeited its relevance as a credible authority for assisting “The People of God” in their quest for deeper and more meaningful spiritual experience and development. This is truly a tragedy of monumental proportions.”

    And another blogger:

    “I’ll always be Catholic, even if I find myself someday as an Episcopalian. Today’s Catholic Church feels like it has left Jesus and is being run by the pharisees.”

    And another:

    “It is chilling that an institution of higher eduction, where academic freedom and open intellectual discourse is supposed to occur would engage in this reprehensible censorship. Sadly, the Univer$ity of $an Diego is more interested in money coming in than intellectual inquiry and theological discourse – pandering to donors, the spineless anti-intellectual and misogynist hierarchy, and arch-conservative bloggers. A sad day for Catholic higher education.”

    All three are Roman Catholics. I could go on, but I think that this makes my point. While I do not support everything professor Tina has to say, I support her academic freedom to say it. Without clerical / episcopal “silencing” or control.

    Vincent, (since you have admitted to being an Orthodox convert), can I break this to you gently: structurally, Eastern Orthodoxy has the same Roman form of episcopal hierarchy (minus papal supremacy only), with the same demand that its intellectuals “submit” to its bishops and to its “church fathers”.

    Unless I can be shown otherwise and to the contrary, ANY form of submission to any Constantinian hierarchy (bishops and above) has this effect of degrading both the institution and the scholars who choose “submission” to episcopal censorship rather than intellectual integrity.

    David, and thus Vincent, your “requests” (increasingly, I am reading them as demands) that . . .

    “David says:
    October 11, 2012 at 1:13 pm


    Vincent asked you on 9/26:

    “What is your professed religion or faith?”

    Do you ever intend to answer. It’s helpful (telling?) to know the context from which a man speaks…and to what eccles. loyalites and authorities he submits, no?”


    In the light of the above and until you both can prove Orthodoxy (or for that matter, any other ecclesiastical authority of any other Constantinian denomination) otherwise, I do not intend that my intellectual integrity and liberty of latitude for research and subsequent comment be constrained, debauched, debased and diminished or to be made to commit suicide by any form of “submission” to any episcopal authority of any persuasion.

    I would like to think that both of you would join me in this defence of academic freedom and quality of output. And that we all can prayerfully move forward together in peace and harmony amongst each other, pursuing that liberty in the gospel that came from the apostles.

    I trust that this further assists.

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