Here we are again. This Saturday we are continuing to go through Genesis and looking at how the LXX translators handle various texts. I found these verses especially interesting. I also decided to include a bibliography this time for anyone who wants to pursue some of these things further. Enjoy:

Noah’s Sacrifice

Gen. 8:20 καὶ ᾠκοδόμησεν Νωε θυσιαστήριον τῷ θεῷ καὶ ἔλαβεν ἀπὸ πάντων τῶν κτηνῶν τῶν καθαρῶν καὶ ἀπὸ πάντων τῶν πετεινῶν τῶν καθαρῶν καὶ ἀνήνεγκεν ὁλοκαρπώσεις ἐπὶ τὸ θυσιαστήριον 

Gen. 8:21 καὶ ὠσφράνθη κύριος ὁ θεὸς ὀσμὴν εὐωδίας καὶ εἶπεν κύριος ὁ θεὸς διανοηθείς οὐ προσθήσω ἔτι τοῦ καταράσασθαι τὴν γῆν διὰ τὰ ἔργα τῶν ἀνθρώπων ὅτι ἔγκειται ἡ διάνοια τοῦ ἀνθρώπου ἐπιμελῶς ἐπὶ τὰ πονηρὰ ἐκ νεότητος οὐ προσθήσω οὖν ἔτι πατάξαι πᾶσαν σάρκα ζῶσαν καθὼς ἐποίησα 

Gen. 8:22 πάσας τὰς ἡμέρας τῆς γῆς σπέρμα καὶ θερισμός ψῦχος καὶ καῦμα θέρος καὶ ἔαρ ἡμέραν καὶ νύκτα οὐ καταπαύσουσιν 

 

Translation:

20) And Noah built an alter to God and he took from all the clean animals and from all the clean birds and he offered up whole burnt offerings upon the altar. 21) And the Lord God smelled the sweet smell and the Lord God said, having it in mind, “I will never again curse the earth on account of the deeds of men because the heart of humankind is inclined thoroughly upon the evil from youth; therefore I will not again add to strike all living flesh as I have done. 

22) All the days of the earth

seed and harvest, cold and heat,

summer and springtime, day and night

will not cease.

 

Translation Notes:

ἀνήνεγκεν ὁλοκαρπώσεις

Literally translated from the Greek this would be ‘and he offered up whole fruit.’ ἀνήνεγκεν being an Aorist Active Indicative 3 Singular of αναφερω, ‘to bring up, raise up, offer up;’ (LEH) and ὁλοκαρπώσεις as Feminine Plural Accusative of ολοκαρπωσις, from ολος (whole) and καρπος (fruit). However, as Wevers notes, “the noun עלה also occurs six times in ch.22 and always rendered it by this word. Obviously to [the translator of Gen.] it must have meant holocaust, and it continues to be used occasionally as such in later literature” (Wevers, 110), thus our translation of ‘whole burnt offering.’

 

οὐ προσθήσω ἔτι τοῦ καταράσασθαι

This is a fairly literal translation of the Hebrew idiom: יסף + Infinitive Construct to render continuous action. The seemingly extra ἔτι is part of how the LXX renders this idiom (see Conybeare and Stock, §113). Thus literally it would be: ‘I will not add again to curse…’ but we have rendered it idiomatically: ‘I will never again curse….’

 

τὰ πονηρὰ

I noted the article in this construction. I am beginning to wonder that we too often translate the articular form of evil as just ‘evil’ (cf. Heb. הרע), when I wonder if it is meant to convey something more specific, i.e., a turning away from God rather than evil in general. See my discussion of Schneiders view of הרע in Judges here. Interestingly, the MT has the non-articular רע here.

 

MT vs. LXX:

ὠσφράνθη κύριος ὁ θεὸς ὀσμὴν εὐωδίας vs. וירח יהוה את־ריח הניחח

That the LXX accurately translates this Hebrew phrase is surprising to me. It is often noted that the LXX de-anthropomorphizes the MT. Though they do not do this consistently they do often de-anthropomorphize certain expressions (cf. Ps. 18:131, 46, see Jobes and Silva, 95). Not only is this phrase anthropomorphic but it makes God sound like a god of the ANE, who is appeased by the ‘smell’ of sacrifices (cf. Walton, 131-32). I have always been slightly troubled by this reference but the LXX translators seem not to be.

 

καὶ vs. ו

Curiously in v. 22 the LXX has turned the eight nouns listed in the MT into 4 couplets, only including the joining καὶ alternatively. This could be merely a stylistic thing. Or it could add to the orderliness of things that will never again cease. This verse implies that these eight things (seed and harvest, cold and heat, spring and summer, day and night) were somehow affected by the flood. This goes well with the flood representing a return to chaos, with the elements not functioning as they were designed to. Thus, with the new creation after the flood God promises that the ordinary functions of the earth will return to their orderly fashion. The LXX heightens the orderliness by changing a list of eight things to four orderly, related couplets.

 

Comment:

This passage is an amazingly important passage. God promises never to wipe out the world with water (chaos). It is a promise that we will never again return to the pre-creation status of chaos. The ANE parallels are everywhere in this text. I have always been a little uneasy by thinking of God as appeased by the ‘smell’ of sacrifices but the LXX translators, who were not afraid to subtly change things they were uncomfortable with, seemed to have no problem with this ANE anthropomorphism. It seemed to communicate for them what it was meant to communicate to its original audience without causing any theological problems. I’m beginning to think that a study of the LXX’s view of God based on how they handle translating anthropomorphisms would be a very interesting study. 

 

Bibliography

Karen H. Jobes and Moises Silva, Invitation to the Septuagint (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Academic, 2005); J. Lust, E. Eynikel and E. Houspie, A Greek-English Lexicon of the Septuagint, 2 Vols. (Stuttgart, Germany: Deutsche Bibelgesellschaft, 1992, 1996); F.C. Conybeare and St. George Stock, Grammar of Septuagint Greek: With Selected Readings, Vocabularies and Updated Indexes (n.p.: Hendrickson Publishers, 1995); John H. Walton, Ancient Near Eastern Thought and the Old Testament (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Academic, 2006); John W. Wevers, Notes on the Greek Text of Genesis (Atlanta, GA: Scholars Press, 1993).

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