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 


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


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 


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…)

Septuagintal Saturdays have become an occasional affair, and I think I”m going to have to make my peace with that. However, when I get around to doing them I find them very educational and fun. This one was no exception.

Gog or Agag? Num. 24:7


Num. 24:7 ἐξελεύσεται ἄνθρωπος ἐκ τοῦ σπέρματος αὐτοῦ καὶ κυριεύσει ἐθνῶν πολλῶν καὶ ὑψωθήσεται ἢ Γωγ βασιλεία αὐτοῦ καὶ αὐξηθήσεται ἡ βασιλεία αὐτοῦ 

MT/LXX Comparison

יזל־מים מדליו ἐξελεύσεται ἄνθρωπος ἐκ τοῦ σπέρματος αὐτοῦ
וזרעו במים רבים κυριεύσει ἐθνῶν πολλῶν
וירם מאגג מלכו καὶ ὑψωθήσεται ἢ Γωγ βασιλεία αὐτοῦ
נשׂא מלכתו καὶ αὐξηθήσεται ἡ βασιλεία αὐτοῦ 


“A man will come forth from his seed 

and he will rule many nations 

and his kingdom will be lifted up above Gog, 

and his kingdom will be increased.”


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.

Translation Note:

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.

Invitation to the Septuagint

Karen H. Jobes and Moises Silva, Invitation to the Septuagint (Grand Rapids:  Baker Academic, 2000).

The first thing a reader should note about Jobes and Silva’s Invitation to the Septuagint is the scope and importance of such a project. In the past fifty years when scholars could lament that Swete’s Introduction “was never brought up to date nor replaced,”[1] Jobes and Silva’s contribution attempts to do just that. While how affective they are in accomplishing that goal can be debated but no one can debate the importance and need of a clear introduction to Septuagint studies. The authors break down their book into three basic parts, and we will look at each one to see how well they accomplished their task


Part 1: History of the Septuagint

            In the first chapter of this section the authors begin by defining the term Septuagint (LXX). They note that equating the LXX with Rahlfs edition is naïve and they caution the reader that (more…)

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