BHS, the Göttingen Septuagint, and other critical editions: a basic orientation to what they are

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Most students of the Hebrew Bible who read Hebrew know of the premier scholarly edition, the Biblia Hebraica Stuttgartensia (BHS, here on Amazon).  The BHS is now being updated by the BHQ (Q=Quinta), about which you can read more here. Both the BHS and BHQ are “diplomatic” editions of the text, which means that they reproduce a single “best” manuscript, the Leningrad Codex, in their cases. The footer in each page contains a critical apparatus, which lists variant readings from other manuscripts and versions that the editors have deemed to be of importance for getting even closer to the “original” (now often being called the “earliest attainable text”). In some cases, the editors may wish to show where another manuscript or version differs from the Leningrad Codex; the critical apparatus is where they do it.

There are two other similar projects underway for the Hebrew Bible. One is the Hebrew University Bible Project, also a diplomatic edition, but unlike BHS and BHQ, based on the Aleppo Codex. The HUB includes a more extensive critical apparatus than BHS, so that readers can see more textual variants.

The other scholarly edition of the Hebrew Bible is the Oxford Hebrew Bible Project, “a new critical edition of the Hebrew Bible featuring a critical text and extensive text-critical introduction and commentary.” Though the BHQ contains commentary, too, the OHB differs in being an “eclectic” text, meaning that, as R.S. Hendel says (quoted in Tov),

The practical goal for the OHB is to approximate in its critical text the textual “archetype,” by which I mean the earliest inferable textual state.

Though the textual apparatuses of the BHS/BHQ and HUB can theoretically aid the reader in approximating the textual “archetype,” the text of the OHB offers that approximation rather than reproducing an actual manuscript (as the diplomatic editions do). Hence, the OHB is an “eclectic” edition. (So, too, are the two major scholarly editions of the Greek New Testament, the NA27 and UBS4.)

The Septuagint–the Greek translation of these Jewish Scriptures–has various scholarly editions, too.

On its Website the International Organization for Septuagint and Cognate Studies (IOSCS) has a great primer on the various editions of the Septuagint. Below, “OG” stands for “Old Greek.” They write:

The creation and propagation of a critical text of the LXX/OG has been a basic concern in modern scholarship. The two great text editions begun in the early 20th century are the Cambridge Septuagint and the Göttingen Septuagint, each with a “minor edition” (editio minor) and a “major edition” (editio maior). For Cambridge this means respectively H. B. Swete, The Old Testament in Greek (1909-1922) and the so-called “Larger Cambridge Septuagint” by A. E. Brooke, N. McLean, (and H. St. John Thackeray) (1906-). For Göttingen it denotes respectively Alfred Rahlfs’s Handausgabe (1935) and the “Larger Göttingen Septuagint” (1931-). Though Rahlfs (editio minor) can be called a semi-critical edition, the Göttingen Septuaginta (editio maior) presents a fully critical text, as described below.

Beginning Septuagint students are likely to own just “Rahlfs” (the Handausgabe mentioned above). But those who want to do more detailed text work with the Septuagint want more than the mini-apparatus in that edition.

Between Accordance (here) and Logos (here), nearly everything listed in the above quotation is available in electronic form. Accordance has Rahlfs’s Apparatus, parts of the larger Göttingen edition, and both the smaller (Swete) and most of what is currently available in the larger Cambridge Septuagint. Logos has all the volumes of Göttingen that have been completed to date.

There is more here about the scholarly versions of the Septuagint, including a volume-by-volume listing of both the Cambridge and Göttingen projects.

I have been fortunate to receive a review copy of BHS and BHQ Hebrew Bible editions from Accordance, as well as the existing volumes of the Göttingen Septuagint from Logos. I’ll be reviewing each in the coming weeks.

UPDATE: My review of BHS in Accordance is here. My BHQ review is here. Part 1 of a short primer on using the Göttingen Septuagint is here.

6 thoughts on “BHS, the Göttingen Septuagint, and other critical editions: a basic orientation to what they are

  1. This is very helpful. Thanks. To supplement some of your listings:
    Logos, in addition to the Göttingen volumes you note, does offer Swete with the critical apparatus (and an interlinear version of it as well). Rahlf’s is also included but without the apparatus.
    Online, Swete’s is available at (search for Swete septuagint)
    The Larger Cambridge LXX is also online there with the first eight volumes bundled here:
    The other work you might mention here (but it is one that is even more difficult to negotiate) is Frederick Field’s Origenis Hexaplorum, also online at (search for hexapla).

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