Septuagint


It has been quite a while since I’ve put my hand to the Septuagint. I’ve been rather busy, the last few months have been applications, working on papers, thesis, etc. However, in my reading I came across an article (Moberly, see below) that contains a very interesting discussion of the interpretive difference in this verse. Here is a brief discussion of a possible (probable?) reason for the main difference between the MT and LXX of Jonah 3:4. (more…)

The last two online lectures I have posted about have been multiple lecture series. This lecture is a stand alone. It is also a fantastic introduction to the complexities of the Septuagint by the Dean of all Septuagintal studies, John W. Wevers. 

John W. Wevers has contributed more to Septuagintal studies than any other living scholar. Most notably we owe him for the Göttingen critical edition of the LXX of the entire Pentateuch! I can’t exaggerate how massive of a task that is. He also wrote a series of commentary notes on each of those books.

This lecture, part of a great online collection of lectures from Calvin Seminary, is something akin to an old man’s recollection of a lifetime of work on the Septuagint. It is a great introduction to everything from the Letter of Aristeas to the daughter translations to the doctrinal importance of the Septuagint. And if you don’t know, what I’m referring to you should probably take an hour of your time and listen to this lecture.

John W. Wevers – The Study of the Septuagint as a Theological Discipline

I have recently read Michael Heiser’s interactions with John Hobbins ‘thoughts about canon’ posts here, here and here. I have found this discussion very interesting and helpful. The topic of the canon, especially the canon of the OT has interested me for some time, and I might even say, troubled me for some time. This question is intrinsically linked to the problem of inerrancy, which I have discussed earlier

There are several problems with the concept of canon, as it is narrowly defined. The first is the problem that different churches accept different canons. The famous example being the inclusion of much of the ‘so called’ apocrypha by the Orthodox and Catholic churches, and the rejection of those books by Protestant churches. But the other problem, in my mind, is the Septuagint, which is still recognized as the Old Testament by Orthodox churches today, though both Protestant and Catholic churches have accepted the Hebrew Masoretic Text.  The Septuagint represents a different list of cannon, including such books as Maccabees, 1 Esdras, Judith, Tobit, Wisdom of Solomon, Sirach, Baruch and new parts of Daniel. 

The major difficulty that the Septuagint poses is the fact that it seems that it was the accepted canon of the earliest church. It stayed accepted until Jerome’s Latin Vulgate, which was based on the MT much to Augustine’s chagrin, won the day as the accepted Scripture of the church. So the earliest church accepted the LXX but the later church accepted the MT, we have some discontinuity in our church history. I have no clear solution to this problem, but having just finished Martin Hengel’s excellent book, The Septuagint as Christian Scripture, I’ll just offer this quote as something to think about:

Does the church still need a clearly demarcated, strictly closed Old Testament canon, since the New Testament is, after all, the ‘conclusion’, the goal and the fulfillment of the Old? (M. Hengel, The Septuagint as Christian Scripture [Grand Rapids, BakerAcademic, 2002], 125-26).

For this Septuagint Saturdays I decided to do something different. Since I recently attended TWU’s Septuagint Conference I wanted to interact with some of the proposals I encountered there. Unfortunately, interacting with the present proposal turned out to be a much more convoluted study than I was anticipating so it will have to be in two parts: 1) a summary of Professor Joosten’s proposal, followed by 2) an interaction with his thesis. So here is a summary of Professor Joosten’s thesis.

Professor Jan Joosten of Universite Marc Bloch, France gave a fantastic paper at the Septuagint Conference that I recently attended. His topic was how the LXX translators handled Hebrew Idioms. He proposed that there are three ways that the LXX translators handled Hebrew idioms. First, they often translated the idioms literally, with a word for word equation with the Hebrew. Second, they rendered them freely, decoding the meaning of the idiom for their readers. Third, they used a combination of free rendering and literal translation. One example of the various handlings of idioms that he used came from Exod. 35-36.

Literal Technique Ex. 35:21: Heb – ‘everyone whose heart stirred him up’ (‏אשׁר־נשׂאו לבו) vs. Gk – ‘every one whose heart carried them’ (ὧν ἔφερεν αὐτῶν ἡ καρδία)

Free rendering Ex. 36:2: Heb – ‘every one whose heart stirred him up’ (‏אשׁר נשׂאו לבו) vs. Gk – ‘all those who freely desired’ (τοὺς ἑκουσίως βουλομένους)

Combination Ex. 35:26: Heb – ‘all the women whose heart stirred them up’ (‏אשׁר נשׂא לבן) vs. Gk – ‘all the women to whose mind it seemed good’ (αἷς ἔδοξεν τῇ διανοίᾳ αὐτῶν) 

The third option renders the idiomatic ‘lifted up’ freely but maintains something of the Hebraic thought by translating לבן (heart/mind) as διανοίᾳ (mind) and maintaining the basic Hebraic syntax of the statement.

Prof. Joosten’s conclusion from his study is that the LXX translators learned their trade on the job. His survey of the varying ways that the translators handled idiomatic phrases showed him that there was not an established translation technique that they followed and they ad libbed as it were.

In a conversation over coffee, I asked him if it were not possible that there were other contextual factors contributing to the varying translation techniques that he found. His answer was that he believed the translators translated small sections at a time, so larger contextual pictures may not be a major factor, though it was not an element of his study and something that should probably be looked at. 

In a subsequent post I will examine this section (Exo. 35-36) in more detail to see if there are other factors informing the LXX translator’s technique for rendering these idioms in the various ways that they do.

This last weekend I had the chance to attend Trinity Western University‘s Septuagint Conference celebrating the recent release of the New English Translation of the Septuagint (NETS). The event was hosted by TWU’s Septuagint Institute and featured many of the translators of NETS as well as representatives of the two other major LXX translation projects: the French La Bible d’Alexandrie and the German Septuaginta Deutsch. It was a fantastic, if heady conference.

For me the highlights were: a paper on interlinearity by Albert Pietersma (University of Toronto), a discussion over coffee with Jan Joosten (Universite Marc Bloch, France) about his view of the LXX translator’s translation technique, a paper from Wolfgang Kraus (Universitat des Saarlandes, Germany) on Amos 9:11 and Hab. 2:3 in Acts 15, a conversation with Melvin Peters (Duke University) about the process and life of academia and an interesting paper by Cameron Boyd-Taylor (University of Cambridge, England) on the impact (or non-impact) of the LXX on Greek lexicography.

It was a great time and I hope to interact further with some of the things I learned, but for now the highlights will have to suffice.

After looking at 1 Samuel 15 and seeing how the LXX translated the verbs with God as the subject I thought it would be good to see how Num. 23:19 handled a similar subject to 1 Sam. 15:29. Below is an oracle of Balaam which he declared to Balak concerning the reliability of God to bring about what he has spoken about Israel.

Num. 23:19 οὐχ ὡς ἄνθρωπος ὁ θεὸς διαρτηθῆναι οὐδὲ ὡς υἱὸς ἀνθρώπου ἀπειληθῆναι αὐτὸς εἴπας οὐχὶ ποιήσει λαλήσει καὶ οὐχὶ ἐμμενεῖ 

Translation:

Not like a man is God to be deceived nor like a son of man to be threatened, when he has said will he not do? When he speaks will it not remain?

Translation Notes

εἴπας and λαλήσει

The future verb ποιήσει requires that the aorist participle εἴπας be translated in a temporal sense, ‘when he says(said)…’ in the form of a question (cf. NETS). The next clause starts with a future λαλήσει (‘when he says’) and continues (more…)

LXX’s view of God’s Repentance

1 Sam. 15:11, 29, 35

Text

1Sam. 15:11 παρακέκλημαι ὅτι ἐβασίλευσα τὸν Σαουλ εἰς βασιλέα ὅτι ἀπέστρεψεν ἀπὸ ὄπισθέν μου καὶ τοὺς λόγους μου οὐκ ἐτήρησεν καὶ ἠθύμησεν Σαμουηλ καὶ ἐβόησεν πρὸς κύριον ὅλην τὴν νύκτα 

1Sam. 15:29 καὶ διαιρεθήσεται Ισραηλ εἰς δύο καὶ οὐκ ἀποστρέψει οὐδὲ μετανοήσει ὅτι οὐχ ὡς ἄνθρωπός ἐστιν τοῦ μετανοῆσαι αὐτός 

1Sam. 15:35 καὶ οὐ προσέθετο Σαμουηλ ἔτι ἰδεῖν τὸν Σαουλ ἕως ἡμέρας θανάτου αὐτοῦ ὅτι ἐπένθει Σαμουηλ ἐπὶ Σαουλ καὶ κύριος μετεμελήθη ὅτι ἐβασίλευσεν τὸν Σαουλ ἐπὶ Ισραηλ 

Translation

15:11 ‘I have comforted myself since I crowned Saul as King, because he has turned from away from behind me and my words he has not kept. And Samuel was disheartened and cried out to the Lord all night.’

15:29 ‘And Israel will be divided into two and he will not turn back nor repent because He is not like a man in that he does not repent.

15:35 ‘and Samuel did not add again to see Saul until the day of his death because Samuel mourned Saul and the Lord regretted that he had made Saul King over Israel.’

Translational Issues (more…)

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