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As far as we can tell from the earliest manuscripts, how much of the Old Testament is written in Greek, Hebrew, and Aramaic, or derived from earlier languages?

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  • @AbuMunirIbnIbrahim Please don't use comments to answer questions. If questions are truly off topic then answering them in any form should not be done here. Your comment basically does answer this question so it should have been posted as an answer. I don't see how this is off topic (obviously you thought the subject matter was something your expertise could answer) nor does it seem to be a duplicate. – Caleb Dec 26 '17 at 13:11
  • @Gordon Stanger Please don't be put off by a few negative votes or comments. Yours is an interesting question that can directly affect scholarship. – Dieter Dec 26 '17 at 17:56
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    @Dieter No, the OP should heed the downvotes and do a little bit of their own research first next time. – curiousdannii Dec 26 '17 at 23:10
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The entire Old Testament (as represented by the Masoretic Text) is in Hebrew, with the following exceptions in Aramaic (not counting single words):

  • Jeremiah 10:11
  • Daniel 2:4b-7:28
  • Ezra 4:8-6:18, 7:12-26

Some portions of the Bible have been proposed to be translations, such as Proverbs 22:17-23:11 as a (very loose) translation of the Egyptian Instruction of Amenemope (and even more fancifully, Job and Esther). However, the similarity is probably better described as influence, and not a translation. The earliest manuscripts of the Bible are all in Hebrew (and Aramaic), and so there is no manuscript evidence to suggest that they were translated from another language.

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The Old Testament books were originally written in Hebrew, Aramaic, and Greek.

Excepting the deuterocanon, the books of the Old Testament were written in Hebrew with the exception of the following, which were written in Aramaic1:

  • Genesis 31:48
  • Jeremiah 10:11
  • Ezra 4:8-6:18, 7:12-26
  • Daniel 2.4-7:28

The Hebrew text of the Old Testament takes multiple forms and dialects.2 Some poems in the Torah and elsewhere are written in a form of Early Biblical Hebrew. Most of the books from Genesis through Kings as well as portions of the Latter Prophets and of the "Writings" (Ketuvim) are in a form of Classical Biblical Hebrew. The Hebrew of the Second Temple period takes a Late Biblical form and is found in Ezra, Nehemiah, Daniel, and Chronicles. Ezekiel and Jeremiah would be examples of a transitional form somewhere between Classical and Late.

There are also some portions of Daniel that are only found in Greek Septuagint translations (3:24-90, prologue to chapter 13, prologue to chapter 14). Scholars disagree on whether these portions ever existed in Hebrew or Aramaic.

Of the deuterocanon set by the Chalcedonian Christian Churches:

  • Tobit may have been originally in Aramaic, Hebrew or Greek. Early manuscripts in all three languages have been found.
  • Judith may have been originally in Hebrew or Greek.
  • Wisdom (of Solomon) was originally written in Greek.
  • Sirach (Latin Ecclesiasticus) was originally written in Hebrew.
  • Baruch was written largely in Greek, but the beginning of the book may have been written in some Semitic language.
  • 1 Maccabees was originally written in Hebrew.
  • 2 Maccabees and 3 Maccabees were originally written Greek.

Some non-Chalcedonian Churches (e.g. Ethiopia) include a 4th Book of Maccabees, which also was originally written in Greek.


1. Steven Fassberg, "Languages of the Bible"; in The Oxford Jewish Study Bible (1st ed.), p.2067
2. Ibid., p.2065

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