Welcome to the forum, OnThePathForward!
I think I can do a good job of answering these questions, as someone who who has a decent knowledge of Biblical Greek and is learning Hebrew.
I think I will respond on the New Testament first, because it is a bit simpler.
And is there still an original version (if you will) of the New Testament that was written in the early church years? And does the Orthodox Church use this version to translate into English? What version do they use, or should they use?
There are no early-century manuscripts of the NT still extant, but we can reconstruct the whole thing many times over based on quotations from the Fathers. There are barely any significant variations in the New Testament books, and where there are diverging versions, it is usually minor. I’ll give a couple of examples:
- Matt. 5:22 (some manuscripts do not include “without a cause”)
- The infamous Comma Johannem, a medieval addition in Latin manuscripts (1Jn 5:7,8)
- The story of the woman taken in adultery, added in the fifth century
Some people make claims that they are using the “original manuscripts.” No such thing exists, especially in the case of the OT, as we shall see below.
But the variations between manuscript traditions are not earth-shattering, so any version of the NT should be perfectly fine.
I've learned, I believe, that the new Testament was written in Greek? Except for the Gospel of Matthew? that this Gospel was in fact written in Hebrew, or Aramaic?
Yes, the New Testament was probably first written in Greek. However, some early Fathers said that there was an Aramaic Gospel of Matthew at one point, which was later lost. But Greek Matthew was believed by many (including Origen) to be a separate book from Aramaic Matthew.
In any event, it is apparent that the canonical Gospels were essentially a translation of an Aramaic oral tradition, because the Greek text is filled with semitic expressions.
Some people claim that the whole NT was originally written in Aramaic, but aside from the Gospels, these claims are extremely dubious.
On the Old Testament:
From what I've been learning is that the Old Testament was originally written in Hebrew. Then in the third century BC it was translated into Greek. This translation into Greek became nown as the Septuagint? LXX?
Correct. LXX is the abbreviation for Septuagint (because it was translated by “seventy” rabbis).
No, the Hebrew Old Testament that was used for the translation of the Septuagint is no longer in existence. The oldest extant Hebrew text is a translation of the Septuagint back into Hebrew. This text, called the Masoretic Text, is the basis for versions of the Bible that translate from the Hebrew.
That the MT (Masoretic Text) is a translation of the LXX is news to me. Ytterbiumanalyst, where did you learn this? I cannot find anything to substantiate it.
I've seen that there were also Greek translations from Hebrew texts known as: Aquila, Symmachus, and Theodotion after the birth of Christ. Where these translations made from the same Hebrew texts that were used for the original Septuagint (LXX) translation back in the 3rd Century BC?
There were a number of text traditions in use. The other Greek translations were all made later. Origen compared them side by side in the Hexapla. The original LXX is the only pre-Christian version of the OT still surviving. This is why we use the LXX in the Orthodox Christian Church.
When we say that the Old Testament is translated from the Septuagint, is it in fact from the original? Or maybe a better question: Is there an English translation of the original Septuagint? And what is the name of this version? I noticed that there is a NETS version? New English Translation of the Septuagint...but I see that they are using a version from Alfred Rahlf (1935)? I don't think I fully understand that.
I admittedly have never read the NETS, but from what I hear, it is fine.
I've also heard that one of the oldest versions of the Old Testament in Greek in existence is the 'Codex Vaticanus'? Is this considered 'Septuagint'? Or is the LXX original the only true 'Septuagint'?
There a number of codices of the LXX in existence; the differences between them are not very significant (not even close to the differences between the LXX and the MT). They may all be properly called the Septuagint.
I have heard that the Septuagint may have had errors in it when translated. Is this correct? I also heard there were numerous other Greek translations after the birth of Christ that may be a better or worse translation than the Septuagint?
Back in the day, there was no standard version of the Hebrew Bible (there was not even a standard set of books). The Samaritan version of the Torah variant readings in some places compared to the Jewish version, etc. The LXX was evidently translated from these versions. The later translations were probably taken from variant readings, which is why they were slightly different. There are no “mistakes” in the LXX.
The LXX was used universally among the ancient Jews, because no one spoke Hebrew anymore. After the diaspora, the Jews turned back to using the Hebrew, which, after throwing out several books and perhaps introducing subtle changes into some passages, became known as the Masoretic Text. This is the text Protestants use.
In the 5th century, St. Jerome translated the OT into Latin using the early Masoretic Text. His translation seems to fall somewhere in between the LXX and the modern MT rendering in certain passages, indicating that the MT evolved over time until it was finalized in the middle ages.
I've also heard of the Peshitta. This is a translation made from the original Hebrew text into Aramaic??? Did this translation use the same Hebrew version of the Old Testament as the Septuagint?
The Peshitta was translated from the Hebrew in about the 2nd century AD.
Also, is there still an original Hebrew Old Testament in existence today (i.e. the one used for the translation of the Septuagint)? And if so, if there were past errors in these translations, why is a new translation not being conducted? Or is there?
The only ancient version of the OT in Hebrew still extant is the Qumran scrolls. In a number of places, they agree with the LXX instead of the MT. In others, they agree with the MT and disagree with the LXX. In many places, they disagree with both. Textual criticism is not a cut-and-dried issue. There was absolutely no such thing as a standard Hebew version until the MT. The LXX was being used as a standard version long before the MT.
I hope this answers your questions, if not a bit too thoroughly. These are good questions!