Some time ago, while writing a research paper, I was reading the LXX of Psa. 24:1.

The Hebrew text states,

א לְדָוִד מִזְמוֹר ליהוה הָאָרֶץ וּמְלוֹאָהּ תֵּבֵל וְיֹשְׁבֵי בָהּ

which may be translated into English as,

1 David’s psalm. The earth and its fullness are Yahveh’s, the world and all who dwell in it.

But, when I reviewed the LXX, I noticed the inclusion of additional text not found in the Masoretic text.

Αʹ ψαλμὸς τῷ Δαυιδ τῆς μιᾶς σαββάτων τοῦ κυρίου ἡ γῆ καὶ τὸ πλήρωμα αὐτῆς ἡ οἰκουμένη καὶ πάντες οἱ κατοικοῦντες ἐν αὐτῇ

which may be translated into English as,

1 David’s psalm of the first day of the week. The earth and its fullness are Yahveh’s, the world and all those who dwell in it.

In my research, I also had to examine the Talmud, which is part of Jewish law, or halakha. In the Talmud,1 I came across a most interesting passage.

The following are the psalms that were sung in the Temple. On the first day (ביום הראשון), they used to say (Ps. 24:1), “The earth is Yahveh’s, and its fullness, the world, and those who dwell in it.” On the second day (בשני), they used to say (Ps. 48:1), “Great is Yahveh and highly to be praised, in the city of our God, His holy mountain.” On the third day (בשלישי), they used to say (Ps. 82:1), “God stands in the congregation of God; He judges in the midst of the judges.” On the fourth day (ברביעי), they used to say (Ps. 94:1), “O Yahveh, God, to whom vengeance belongs, God, to whom vengeance belongs, shine forth.” On the fifth day (בחמישי), they used to say (Ps. 81:2), “Sing aloud unto God our strength, shout unto the God of Jacob.” On the sixth day (בשישי), they used to say (Ps. 93:1), “Yahveh reigns, He is clothed in majesty; Yahveh is clothed, He has girded himself with strength.” On Shabbat (בשבת), they used to say (Ps. 92:1), “A psalm, a song for the day of the Shabbat.” A psalm for the time to come, for the day that will be all Shabbat and rest for everlasting life.

השיר שהיו הלויים אומרין בבית המקדש: ביום הראשון, היו אומרין "לה', הארץ ומלואה" (תהילים כד,א). בשני, היו אומרין "גדול ה' ומהולל, מאוד" (תהילים מח,ב). בשלישי, היו אומרין "אלוהים, ניצב בעדת אל" (תהילים פב,א). ברביעי, היו אומרין "אל נקמות, ה'" (תהילים צד,א). בחמישי, היו אומרין "הרנינו, לאלוהים עוזנו" (תהילים פא,ב). בשישי, היו אומרין "ה' מלך, גאות לבש" (תהילים צג,א). בשבת, היו אומרין "מזמור שיר, ליום השבת" (תהילים צב,א)--מזמור שיר לעתיד לבוא, לעולם שכולו שבת מנוחה לחיי העולמים

Based on the passage from the Talmud, I concluded that the Jews had a relatively defined liturgy, singing a particular psalm on a particular day of the week. On Sunday, or the first day of the week, they would sing Psa. 24:1.

Question: What does the inclusion of «τῆς μιᾶς σαββάτων» in the LXX of Psa. 24:1 demonstrate about the religious identity of those who translated Psa. 24:1 into the LXX?

The reason I ask is because some Jews (could actually be a majority) assert that only the Torah was translated into Greek by the 70-72 men during the reign of Ptolemy and they disavow knowledge of who translated the remainder of the Tanakh. Consequently, they can reject such passages as the LXX of Isa. 7:14, and so forth. Some even go as far as saying that Christians may have translated some portions of the rest of the Tanakh into Greek.

(Note: I also found δευτέρᾳ σαββάτου in Psa. 48:1, as well as τετράδι σαββάτων in Psa. 94:1.)


1 Babylonian Talmud, Seder Kodashim, Tractate Tamid, Mishna, Chapter 7.4; also, Sefer Moʿed, Tractate Rosh ha-Shana, Gemara, Folio 31a


4 Answers 4


Although my initial reaction to this question was (not unlike the response in another answer here) that obviously this day-of-the-week superscription (DWS) reflects the Jewish liturgical background of the translator, this conclusion depends on several assumptions:

  • The phrase "τῆς μιᾶς σαββάτων" is original to the Old Greek translation of the Psalms ("LXX").
  • The phrase "τῆς μιᾶς σαββάτων" is intended as a liturgical notation.

After reading, I am no longer convinced that these are necessarily valid.

First, we should say that this problem is not unique to Ps 24. The question noted Tamid vii 4 which gives a Psalm for each day of the week. Six of the seven are marked in the Greek Psalter; only one of these (91[92]) is included in the MT.1 These are also missing from the available Qumran scrolls. These observations suggest that the superscriptions originated within the Greek tradition.2

Alfred Rahlfs, in his Psalmi cum Odis (a volume of the Göttingen Septuagint project), agreed with the OP's instinct that the DWSs reflected knowledge of the Jewish liturgy as recorded in Tamid vii 4. Rahlfs did not consider the DWSs to be necessarily original to the LXX. However, he did identify them as reflections of Jewish liturgy:

Es gibt aber auch Zusätze, die zweifellos jüdischer Herkunft sind, da sie angeben, an welchen Tagen die betreffenden Psalmen im jüdischen Gottesdienst verwendet wurden... Auf jeden Fall stammen sie aus der Zeit vor Übernahme der LXX durch die Christen; denn diese hätten keinerlei Anlaß gehabt, solche Überschriften hinzuzufügen.

[There are also additions that are undoubtedly of Jewish origin, since they indicate the days when the relevant Psalms were used in Jewish worship... In any case, they come from before the appropriation of the Septuagint by the Christians, because they had no reason to add those superscriptions.]*

This has been challenged by Albert Pietersma, who must know more about the superscriptions of the Greek Psalter than anyone alive. In his treatment of the issue, he goes to lengths to show that the superscriptions are mostly of an exegetical rather that liturgical nature.†,3 Among the evidence adduced, several observations from the superscriptions more broadly and the DWS can be brought to bear on the interpretation of Ps 23(24)'s DWS:

  • the frequent use of εἰς + acc. (e.g. εἰς σύνεσιν, εἰς τὸ τέλος, εἰς ἐξομολόγησιν, etc.), which describe what the Psalm is about rather than on what occasion it is used;

  • the DWS of Ps 91(92) (εἰς τὴν ἡμέραν τοῦ σαββάτου / regarding the sabbath), which may represent an exegetical assessment of the Psalm (esp. vv. 5-6) insofar as it is about the rejoicing due at the completion of creation; and similarly

  • the DWS of Ps 92(93) (εἰς τὴν ἡμέραν τοῦ προσαββάτου / regarding the pre-sabbath), which may represent an exegetical assessment of the Psalm insofar as it is about the "crowning achievement of the Lord's creative act, the settling of the earth with people";

  • the DWS of Ps 37(38) (περὶ σαββάτου / about the sabbath), which uses a preposition that is explicitly about rather than for use on the sabbath.

He sees Ps 23(24) similarly as a statement reflecting the topic of the Psalm: the first act of the prototypical creation week.

To answer the OP's question:

What does the inclusion of τῆς μιᾶς σαββάτων in the LXX of Psa. 24:1 demonstrate about the religious identity of the translator(s) of Psa. 24:1 into the LXX?

I think both Rahlfs and Pietersma would say that it demonstrates nothing about that individual, as the phrase was not (necessarily) the work of the translator.

To extend your question to the religious identity of the individual(s) who added the phrase, I take it that Rahlfs would see these as a reflection of his Jewish liturgical background. Pietersma would say that it is, similar to the other superscripts in the Greek Psalter, an exegetical note that does not indicate any particular religious context.4

1. In the Greek: 23(24) (Sunday), 47(48) (Monday), 93(94) (Wednesday), 80(81) Thursday, 92(93) (Friday), 91(92) (Saturday). Missing is 81(82) (Tuesday). Both this list and the Qumran list below are per Pietersma.

2. Included among the Qumran documents are four of the six that are unique to the Psalms: (47[48], 81[82], 92[93], 93[94]). All are missing the day-of-the-week, with the MT.

3. I can not here provide a decent summary of the entire paper, which is available in full, so I have limited this to a few observations that are most relevant to the DWS under consideration.

4. He's a little coy about his opinion of the nature of Christian influence here (or – more likely – I'm just too dense to pick it up). On Ps 23(24) (p. 137): "Not to be overlooked is that the entering of the king of glory, noted in vv. 7-10, with its obvious relevance for Palm Sunday, as well as the fact that the phrase (τῆς) μιᾶς (τῶν) σαββάτων occurs in the Synoptics, John, Acts, and 1 Corinthians, would ensure the title's continuance in a Christian setting" (page 137, italics mine [what does that mean?], link gleaned from footnote).

I have also failed to work out how he understands the correlation between the DWSs and Tamid vii 4. The only way I can put this together is to suppose that the Talmud and/or the tradition that it records is dependent on the LXX, a notion that I am not qualified to assess.

And finally, just to be clear, given your concerns in the "reason I ask" clarification: both Pietersma and Rahlfs assume in their treatment of this that the OG translation of the Psalms occurred in the pre-Christian era. The evidence for dating the LXX (particularly the extra-Pentateuchal books) would be worth another question in my opinion.

*Alfred Rahlfs. Psalmi cum Odis (Göttingen, 1967), 72. This is in German. If you know German, please correct this [makeshift translation].

Albert Pietersma Exegesis and Liturgy in the Superscriptions of the Greek Psalter in Proceedings of the 5th Congress of the IOSCS, SBL 2001, 99-138. The discussion of the DWSs begins formally on page 129 [PDF 31], although the first 30 pages provide necessary background.

  • 2
    Re: n. 4: he's clear, though, that the exegetical work is of Jewish origin, not Xn -- just that, as it happens, some of this exegesis would appeal to Xns for other reasons. | A nuance: he rejects the claim for Palestinian provenance, noteworthy since claims about whether certain LXX books emerged from Egyptian or Palestinian Jewish communities is contentious. See also Pietersma on "Place of Origin", and Aitken's discussion on LXX Pss provenance in favour (latter cautiously) of Egypt.
    – Dɑvïd
    Aug 12, 2016 at 8:21
  • Can't εἰς 'for, on' designate a celebration or liturgical date if it's used in an equivalent way in Acts 13:43: ...εἰς τὸ μεταξὺ σάββατον... ("on the following Sabbath")? May 14, 2017 at 13:35
  • @SolaGratia Sure (though I think it's v. 42). The argument doesn't rest on the preposition precluding a liturgical interpretation; clearly in itself it allows either. Do have a look at the paper. The second set of bullets above also summarizes some of the salient points.
    – Susan
    May 15, 2017 at 6:37

The question: What does the inclusion of τῆς μιᾶς σαββάτων in the LXX of Psa. 24:1 demonstrate about the religious identity of the translator(s) of Psa. 24:1 into the LXX?

Forgive me if I'm oversimplifying, but doesn't the inclusion (or addition) of a phrase from the Hebrew Talmud logically suggest a Jewish religious identity? I don't see how it could suggest anything else, really.

Those Jews who might assert that Christians provided the Greek translation of the Psalms found in LXX are forgetting that the Septuagint was complete 150 years or so before Christians existed. Can you provide references for such assertions?

Two Bible dictionaries1 which I have at hand show about the same conclusion, that LXX was probably completed by around 150 BC. Apparently, the name Septuagint

was [originally] applied to the translation of the Pentateuch, but eventually to the whole Greek O.T. ... It is commonly agreed that the LXX originated in Egypt, that the Pentateuch was translated into Greek in the time of Ptolemy Philadelphus, that the other books followed gradually, and that the entire work was completed by 150 B.C.2

1 Including: B.M. Metzger and M.D. Coogan, "Septuagint", The Oxford Companion to the Bible, p. 686 (New York: Oxford University Press, 1993).

2 J.D. Davis, rev. S.H. Gehman, "Versions", The Westminster Dictionary of the Bible, p.624 (Philadelphia: The Westminster Press, 1944).


I don't think we can truly ascertain the religious identity of the LXX author of this passage using only the evidence given. He may have been translating what was already inserted. If he was, in fact, the one who inserted it, the question becomes "Why did he insert those words?". His motives cannot be judged without further evidence. Was he a participant in such Temple customs? Did he find out about these customs from a third-party source? Was he trying to appear more Jewish than he was, or was he actually Jewish?

To answer these questions (and therefore, the OP) with any degree of certainty, further evidence is needed.


The question should be narrowed to the religious identity of the person who put τῆς μιᾶς σαββάτων into Psalm 24:1 (23:1 LXX). The answer depends on what one thinks the phrase means in Mt. 28:1; Mark 16:2, Luke 24:1; John 20:1, 19; Acts 20:7, and 1 Cor. 16:2. The phrase literally means "the first [day] of (the) Sabbaths." Since Christian tradition has insisted the resurrection to be on Sunday, it has construed this phrase to mean "first day of the week." But there is nothing obvious about that because "day of the Sabbaths" (ημερα των σαββατων) is used elsewhere to mean "the Sabbath day." It is more likely then that "first day of the Sabbaths" means some first Sabbath in a series of Sabbaths being liturgically counted. The Karaite Jews have such a liturgy on the basis of Lev. 23:15 where an injunction occurs to count seven Sabbaths in conjunction with Passover week.

Doubts are expressed about the meaning of the phrase on the Anchor Bible Commentary by C.S. Mann and W.F. Alright commenting in Mat. 28:1.

So if we go with the thesis that the phrase does not mean "first day of the week" then it follows that giving it this sense belongs to ecclesiastical Church Greek which evolved after the NT period. And the identity of the person who edited the phrase into Psa. 24:1 (23:1 LXX) is an enterprising Christian scribe who equivocated the word Sabbath with the meaning "week."

This is further shown by the fact that the Hebrew idiom for counting days of the week sometimes used in the Mishnah (but not in fact used in Tamid 7.4) is "one into the Sabbath" אחד בשבת. That "week" is not meant in this idiom is evident when we come to the sixth day and the seventh. It is "eve of Sabbath" and "Sabbath" and not "sixth day in the Sabbath" or "seventh day in the Sabbath" (Neither phrase occurs in any of the literature including the Aramaic). Greek and Hebrew have a perfectly suitable word for week, שבוע and εβδομαδος. The point of the idiom was not to make Sabbath mean week, but to piously refer to the Sabbath when counting.

The way to represent the counting to the Sabbath idiom in Greek is not what we find in the NT. A preposition εις or εν would be required in the accusative or dative case. It is possible that Christianity was helped on its way to Sunday by the degeneration of the word for Sabbath in Aramaic שׁבתא into שׁבא which latter word may easily be confused with the Hebrew word for seven, שבע, and taken to mean week. And this is what we see in the Syriac NT.

So putting the best face on it, the scribe who edited τῆς μιᾶς σαββάτων into the text was a Christian scribe using his ecclesiastical understanding of Church Greek to interpret the Jewish tradition in the Mishnah that the psalm was for the first day. The Mishnah source, which evidently is the source.

Putting a conspiratorial face on the matter it was a Christian scribe who wanted to redact the LXX so that it would become evidence for his ecclesiastical understanding of τῆς μιᾶς σαββάτων. This ploy would only work so long as people accept the LXX as more ancient than it is. In fact, the non Torah section of the LXX is later, and these ecclesiastical Psalm titles certainly much later.

It was a Christian scribe coming from the Christian tradition that made the change in the LXX. It does not matter whether it was a Jewish or non-Jewish Christian with knowledge of Jewish tradition. The editor was simply in favor of promoting the Christian tradition and interpretation of matters.

  • 1
    Hi Daniel, welcome to BHSE! Please take the Site Tour to learn more about the SE format and the scope of this site. This is a great first answer, but you skipped over the rationale behind your assumption that an insertion into the LXX makes more sense than a redaction in the Masoretic text - would appreciate some evidence to make your case there, considering the relative age differences in the textual evidence available for each.
    – Steve can help
    Mar 24, 2020 at 22:00

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