Inspired by Aboulet’s alliterated series’ Wednesdays with Waltke and Midrash Mondays; and Ancient Hebrew Poetry’s posts on textual issues of biblical passages I decided to start my own alliterated series on biblical passages. Since I am currently taking classes in Hebrew and Aramaic and nothing in Greek I decided to do something that would help me keep my Greek fresh. So (hopefully) every Saturday I will post a bit on a passage from the Septuagint. For those of you that don’t know the Septuagint (or LXX) is a Greek translation of the Old Testament from about the 2nd Century BC. It is one of my favorite areas of study. I do not think that many people will get much out of these posts but since this is for my own edification, and this is my blog I’m going to do it anyway. So, let’s start with the begininng:

Gen. 1:1 ἐν ἀρχῇ ἐποίησεν ὁ θεὸς τὸν οὐρανὸν καὶ τὴν γῆν 

Gen. 1:2 ἡ δὲ γῆ ἦν ἀόρατος καὶ ἀκατασκεύαστος καὶ σκότος ἐπάνω τῆς ἀβύσσου καὶ πνεῦμα θεοῦ ἐπεφέρετο ἐπάνω τοῦ ὕδατος 


Translation: In the beginning God made the heaven and the earth. 2 And the earth was invisible and unformed and darkness was upon the deep and a breath of God was carrying itself upon the water.


Translation Notes:

1. πνεῦμα θεοῦ

1. The relationship of the genitive noun θεοῦ to the nominative noun πνεῦμα governs how one views this phrase. It seems to me that the two standard options are either a genitive of source (‘a spirit/wind from God) or a possessive genitive (‘God’s spirit/wind’). The NRSV has taken the genitive of source (it is the same grammatical construction in the MT) translating ‘a wind from God.’ The NETS has translated the Greek as ‘a divine wind.’ This is taking it as an adjectival genitive, which conveys the sense but I think I want to keep the θεοῦ as a noun. My translation ‘a breath of God’ is intentionally vague, allowing for the pun of Spirit and wind to be conveyed while leaving it open as to whether this is just a wind or God’s Spirit.

2. ἐπεφέρετο

1. For the sake of literalness and probably to the detriment of readability I have translated this Imperfect middle indicative verb as ‘carry itself’ (from ἐπιφέρω, ‘to bring, put’) I guess ‘hovering’ is probably a good translation but I wanted to bring out the ‘middle’ sense of the verb. 


LXX vs. MT

1. The LXX is a very literal translation of the MT, down to following the word order.

2. τὸν οὐρανὸν vs. השׁמים

1. The only difference here is that the Greek has used a singular noun to translate the dual ‘heavens’ of the MT. But since Greek has no dual it had to chose between singular and plural. It would be interesting to see how the LXX translates duals throughout.

3. ἀόρατος vs. תהו

1. The LXX has used a word that implies the visual aspect of the state of the earth (from the root ὁράω, ‘to see’) against the MT which uses a word that implies the actual physical substance of the state of the earth: empty.

4. ἐπεφέρετο vs. מרחפת

1. The LXX has used an imperfect indicative verb to translate the piel participle of רחף (which means ‘to grow soft’ in the qal, and ‘to flutter’ in the piel). I think the Hebrew would inform the translation ‘was hovering’ which is actually not a bad translation to get the imperfect sense of the Greek verb and would work well as a representation of the participle in the MT. NETS has gone with “was being carried,” which seems like a good translation of the Greek without taking into account of the Hebrew.    

This has been ‘Septuagintal Saturdays,’ I hope you enjoyed it. I know I did.