The Sole (and Very Interesting) Occurrence of “Mediator” in the LXX

God’s covenant people have always needed a mediator. And God—with limitless grace—has always sent mediators to the people.

A mediator joins two parties together, stands in the gaps, bridges their conflict. A mediator is “a go-between,” a re-negotiator, an arbitrator. An effective mediator is a miracle worker.

Scripture narrates a familiar pattern: God makes covenants with his people; his people break them; God uses mediators to make peace.

The Greek word for mediator is μεσίτης (mesitēs). Careful readers of Scripture know that “the idea of mediation and therefore of persons acting in the capacity of mediator permeates the Bible” (New Bible Dictionary, 3rd edition). However, the word mediator=μεσίτης (mesitēs) occurs only six times in the Greek New Testament.

Three of those uses are in Hebrews (8:6, 9:15, and 12:24). Two are in Galatians 3:19-20. And one is in 1 Timothy 2:5, a theologically rich verse:

there is one God;
there is also one mediator between God and humankind,
Christ Jesus, himself human….

The concept and practice of mediation (think: sacrifice, atonement) does indeed fill the pages of the Old Testament. Most of the New Testament uses of mediator, in fact, reference the old covenant. So I found it especially fascinating when I learned that mediator=μεσίτης (mesitēs) occurs only once in the Greek Septuagint.

It comes up in a striking passage in Job 9:33.

Job has already lost everything. But we remember as he utters these words in chapter 9 that the Bible describes him as “blameless and upright, one who feared God and turned away from evil.” It said he would “rise early in the morning and offer burnt offerings,” just in case his children had sinned. He covered all his bases. He kept at least the semblance of a covenant with God.

And yet Job senses a breach. All manner of tragedy has befallen him, and everyone around him tells him to curse God. He won’t, but still he feels at odds with God. Job says to the Lord:

… you are not a mortal like me, with whom I would contend,
that we should agree to come to trial.

Would that there were a μεσίτης/mesitēs/mediator for us and an investigator
and one to hear the case between us two.

(This is from the NETS translation, which translates μεσίτης as arbiter.)

Job longs for a mediator, an arbiter between him and God. An “umpire,” the NRSV says, translating the Hebrew.

Again, Job calls for a mediator, even though we have no narrative evidence that he broke a covenant with God! He acknowledges that he can’t “contend” with God as in court, but still yearns for a “mediator” to bridge the gap between him and God.

And now, for the pastoral payoff:

If Job, who led a blameless life, thought he needed a mediator to get to God, how much more do we, God’s not-blameless people, need a mediator to be in the presence of a perfectly holy God?

Coming Soon(ish): Historical and Theological Lexicon of the Septuagint


From publisher Mohr Siebeck:

Edited by Eberhard Bons and Jan Joosten (Université de Strasbourg)

This large-scale collective and interdisciplinary project aims to produce a new research tool: a multi-volume dictionary providing an article of between two and ten pages (around 600 articles in all) for each important word or word group of the Septuagint. Filling an important gap in the fields of ancient philology and religious studies, the dictionary will be based on original research of the highest scientific level.

This project has benefitted from funding from the Agence Nationale de la Recherche (French Research National Agency), the Maison Interuniversitaire des Sciences de l’Homme – Alsace (Strasbourg), the Melanchthon-Stiftung (Tübingen), and the Armin Schmitt Stiftung (Regensburg).

The first volume is projected to be published in 2018.

You can check out a lengthy PDF sample here, with a “Wordlist of the First Volume,” as well as some sample articles.

February 8: Happy International Septuagint Day!

International Septuagint Day


Today is February 8, which can only mean one thing: International Septuagint Day. Happy LXX Day! Take some time to read part of the Septuagint today, in Greek or English.

Here are few more links to explore:

Feb. 8: Happy International Septuagint Day!

International Septuagint Day


Today, February 8, is International Septuagint Day. Happy LXX Day! So read yerself some Septuagint today, in Greek or English.

A few more links to explore:

How Accordance Can Help with Intermediate and Advanced Greek

LXX decal


Ever wonder how to do intermediate and advanced Greek searches and set up some high-octane Greek Workspaces in Accordance? Yesterday I led a Webinar on that very topic.

Here is the .pdf handout of what I covered, which includes some links to helpful resources. And Accordance allows you to share Workspaces with others, so if you want any of the Workspaces mentioned in the .pdf (notation is WS), just let me know in the comments or reach me here and I’ll set you up!

Feb. 8: Happy International Septuagint Day!

International Septuagint Day


Happy International Septuagint Day! 

Read some Septuagint on Sunday, Februrary 8, if you can, in Greek or English. Here’s why I think you need the Septuagint. And here are some more “rarely cited reasons” why the LXX is important, given by James Aitken and noted on Jim West’s blog.

goettingen septuagintOne good monograph to read on the Septuagint is First Bible of the Church. And if you want to get in-depth with the critical edition of the LXX, I have offered reviews of the Göttingen Septuagint in Logos and Accordance softwares. And, perhaps as important, I suggest how one might actually make sense of that critical edition, noted here and here, with an ever-elusive third part of the primer still to come.

I have very recently reviewed the Genesis volume of the Göttingen Septuagint, found here.

Happy LXX Day!

(The above is a slightly modified re-post of my 2014 Happy LXX Day post.)