Well, it has been quite a while since I’ve contributed to my Septuagintal Saturdays. Apparently this series is becoming more of “Occasional Septuagintal Saturdays” than a firm weekly occurrence. But this series is more for my own edification than any potential readers. Anyway, today I looked at the interesting text-critical difference between the MT and LXX of Gen. 4:8.
The Death of Abel
Gen. 4:8 καὶ εἶπεν Καιν πρὸς Αβελ τὸν ἀδελφὸν αὐτοῦ διέλθωμεν εἰς τὸ πεδίον καὶ ἐγένετο ἐν τῷ εἶναι αὐτοὺς ἐν τῷ πεδίῳ καὶ ἀνέστη Καιν ἐπὶ Αβελ τὸν ἀδελφὸν αὐτοῦ καὶ ἀπέκτεινεν αὐτόν
And Cain said to Abel his brother, “let us go into the field.” And it happened in the time they were in the field that Cain rose up against Abel his brother and killed him.
ἐν τῷ εἶναι αὐτοὺς ἐν τῷ πεδίῳ
The above phrase appears to be trying to render the two prepositions in the MT as ἐν τῷ. The difficulty with the first ἐν τῷ, is that it makes the verb ‘to be’ (εἶναι) articular. This is not the case in the MT. Thus my rendering of ‘in the time,’ even though the word ‘time’ is not in the Greek.
MT vs. LXX
διέλθωμεν εἰς τὸ πεδίον vs. ???
There is no equivalent for the above Greek phrase, best rendered “let us go into the field,” in the MT. The MT simply has ‘and Cain said to Abel and it happened when they were in the field’ (ויאמר קין אל־הבל אחיו ויהי בהיותם בשׂדה). Either the MT has lost the phrase ‘let us go into the field’ or it intentionally places an ellipsis here in order to add tension (see NET Bible Notes). It is possible that this phrase could have been omitted by homoioteleuton (similar ending) based on the ending of אחיו and בשׂדה but that is far from certain. The MT is definitely the more difficult reading and one could make an obvious case for the LXX clarifying a difficult reading of the MT. However, the interesting thing is that even with the support of the Samaritan Pentateuch, Latin Vulgate and the Syriac, the LXX rendering is not unanimously accepted by modern translations. The NIV, TNIV, NRSV and NET all accept the LXX. But the NKJV, JPS and NASB do not (though they include it in footnotes). My question is this: even though this may not be the best rendering according to our internal text-critical rules, it clearly has overwhelming support according to our external text-critical rules. Therefore, should we not include the LXX’s rendering because the thought is clearly implied in the MT, though not expressly stated? It obviously has virtually no bearing on interpretation either way, but it is an interesting case.