You’ve seen those odd biblical texts names in the footnotes of your Bible and wondered what they are. Names like Septuagint, Vulgate, and Masoretic Text keep popping up at the bottom of the page in tiny little print. But what are they? They are all either translations, versions, or collections of biblical text. Keep reading for a quick definition of several names you’ll want to know!


During the time of Alexander the Great, many Jews lived outside Palestine. Since the Greeks imposed their language in the areas under their control, Greek became the common language for many Jews living outside Palestine. So, about 200 B.C. a group of 70 Jewish scholars produced a Greek translation of the Hebrew Scriptures known as the Septuagint. You may see it referred to as “LXX” (70) in Bible footnotes and commentaries. (Also see “3 Reasons We Can Trust the Bible.” and “Who Wrote the Bible and Why Does it Matter?”)

Masoretic Text

Ancient Hebrew was written without vowel sounds or punctuation making the Old Testament text difficult to read. So, between the 7th and 9th centuries, Hebrew scholars known as the Masoretes, worked to incorporate the vowels, punctuation, and stress that was known through oral tradition, into the written text of the Scripture. The text they produced, which is known as the Masoretic Text, was based on the best Hebrew manuscripts and meticulously preserved oral tradition. The oldest copies we have today of the Masoretic Text are from the 9th century. It is the traditional authoritative Hebrew version of the Old Testament on which most of our English translations are based. It’s commonly abbreviated as “MT” in Bible footnotes and commentaries. For a thorough explanation of the Masoretic text and its importance see “Following the Footnotes: The Masoretic Text” and “What is the Masoretic Text?”)

Dead Sea Scrolls 

In 1947, a teenage Bedouin shepherd found a collection of clay jars in a cave along the northwestern shore of the Dead Sea. Those jars contained ancient manuscripts and manuscript fragments. Between his discovery in 1947 and 1956, close to 1,000 scrolls and scroll fragments were found in eleven caves in that area. About 230 of them are biblical scrolls. These Dead Sea Scrolls include complete or partial copies of every book in the Old Testament except Esther. 

Experts say most of the scrolls date to between 2,000 BC – 2,000 AD. These scrolls are the oldest existing copies of the biblical texts. That’s about a millennium older than the oldest existing copy of the Masoretic Text. What’s more amazing is there’s only a 5% variation between the Dead Sea Scrolls and the Masoretic Text. That’s solid proof of God’s miraculous preservation. (For more on the Dead Sea Scrolls, see “9 Things You Should Know about the Dead Sea Scrolls.”) 


The Vulgate is a Latin version of the Bible commissioned by Pope Damasus I. The scholar, St Jerome, finished his translation in 400 A.D. He used the Septuagint, the Hebrew Old Testament, the Greek New Testament, and the Apocrypha. The Vulgate became the official Bible of the Church and dominated Christianity for 1,000 years before King James VI authorized a new English translation based on the best Hebrew and Greek manuscripts. 


The Apocrypha is a collection of fifteen books written during the time between the testaments. They are accepted as authoritative by the Catholic Church and Eastern Orthodox Christians, but not by Protestant Christians or Judaism. Although they had been used by Catholics for centuries before, they were not officially included in the Catholic Bible until A.D. 1546. It’s believed their acceptance by the Catholic church was an attempt to counter Martin Luther and John Calvin’s criticism of these books during the reformation.

Based on historical evidence, conservative biblical scholars don’t believe Judaism ever accepted these books to be inspired and authoritative like the other 39 Old Testament books. The Jews believe that divine prophecy ended with Haggai, Zechariah, and Malachi who were God’s prophets during the time of Ezra and Nehemiah. (See also “What is the Post-Exilic Period of the Bible?“) So, they don’t accept any books dated after about 450-400 B.C. However, Jewish and Christian scholars find both historical value and insight on how theology developed between the testaments in the Apocryphal books. (See also “What is the Apocrypha?“)

Had you heard of these? Are there any other biblical texts names you’ve seen in the footnotes?

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