The Translation of Symmachus

Date: 3rd or 4th century A. D.


There are still preserved manuscripts written on parchment from the beginning of our era. Included are many fragments of the Holy Scriptures. They were often bound around two sticks, one at each end – these were known as scrolls. - Luke 4:17 (to v.21).


Writings on parchment have the advantage of being stronger and more permanent than writings on papyrus. In Latin, parchment is called 'pergamena'. The process used to make parchment was developed in the old city of Pergamon. They took the skin of goats, sheep or calves and treated the leather in such a way that writing on both sides was possible. The writer used a pen made of reed and the ink was made of gum, soot and water.

In the National Library of Vienna, Austria, we can see a certain fragment dated from the 3rd or 4th century. The fragment contains a Greek text, but what is remarkable is that the Name of God is written in Old Hebrew. The fragment contains verses from Psalm 69, specifically verses 13, 30 and 31. The parchment is supposed to have been made by Symmachus, someone considered to be a Jew converted to Christianity. He was a translator of the Old Testament, from Hebrew writing to Greek. In his translation, made around 200 A.D., he tried to give the Greek text the right meaning like it is found in the Hebrew Scriptures.



Facsimile made by B. Bonte



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