(This is a summary of my longer paper titled: The Parable of the Wicked Tenants in Context: Jesus’ Interpretation of Isa. 5:1-7 in Light of Second Temple Jewish Parallels. The current version of my paper is available here.)

The Parable of the Wicked Tenants (Mk. 12:1-9/Mt. 21:33-46/Lk. 20:9-19; also GThom 65-66) is one of the most important and most variedly interpreted parables in the New Testament. Many commentators suggest that the only plausibly historical way of interpreting this parable is to strip it from its synoptic context (in the midst of Jesus’ Temple controversy) and to remove from it its reference to Isa. 5:1-7 which forces an allegorical interpretation of it. I suggest, however, that if we are looking for an historically plausible Jesus, then we are looking for one who both fits plausibly within the Judaism of his day, and yet is controversial enough within that Judaism to have been crucified and founded a community which later broke with that Judaism. By looking at several other Second Temple Jewish interpretations of Isa. 5:1-7 we can see that Jesus’ interpretation of Isa. 5:1-7 in the Parable of the Wicked Tenants fits these criteria perfectly. (more…)

This verse has been brought to my attention recently and made me realize that there was a significant difference between the MT and LXX that I missed. So I decided that for today’s Septuagint Saturdays it would be worthwhile to revisit this text. 

Previously, I noted, based on the difference between τηρήσει and שׁוף, that “it seems, to this translator at least, that the LXX has taken a little thunder out of the protoeuangelion.” While that remains true of that translational observation another, significant translational observation points in the other direction. Thus the new section of this post, below, under αὐτός vs. ‏הוא. I have also added a short ‘concluding thoughts’ section and a bibliography.

The Curse of the Snake and the Woman
Gen. 3:15 καὶ ἔχθραν θήσω ἀνὰ μέσον σου
καὶ ἀνὰ μέσον τῆς γυναικὸς
καὶ ἀνὰ μέσον τοῦ σπέρματός σου
καὶ ἀνὰ μέσον τοῦ σπέρματος αὐτῆς
αὐτός σου τηρήσει κεφαλήν
καὶ σὺ τηρήσεις αὐτοῦ πτέρναν

Gen. 3:16 καὶ τῇ γυναικὶ εἶπεν
πληθύνων πληθυνῶ τὰς λύπας σου
καὶ τὸν στεναγμόν σου
ἐν λύπαις τέξῃ τέκνα
καὶ πρὸς τὸν ἄνδρα σου ἡ ἀποστροφή σου
καὶ αὐτός σου κυριεύσει

Translation
15 And enmity I will place between you
and between the woman
and between your seed
and between her seed
he will lie in wait for your head
and you will lie in wait for his heel.

16 And to the woman he said,
I will greatly increase your pain
and your groaning;
in pain you will bear children.
And to your husband will be your returning
and he will dominate you.

Translation Notes
τηρεω
How this verb translates the MT equivalent will be discussed below, but my translation of this verb as ‘lie in wait for’ needs some explaining. The standard translation for this word is (more…)

Hebrews 11 is the chapter of the ‘Heroes of Faith’ and is traditionally understood as a list of those ‘great cloud of witnesses’ (Heb. 12:1). However, after taking a class on the book of Judges, I realize that I need to rethink this chapter because I cannot hold the Judges listed (Gideon, Barak, Samson and Jephthah) as ‘heroes of the faith.’ These are not commendable characters. Let us look at Samson as an example.

Samson is called before birth to be a ‘Nazirite’ before God. He is promised to begin to “deliver Israel from the hand of the Philistines” (Judg. 13:5). The Nazirite vow comes from Num. 6:1-8. The vow consists of abstaining from 3 things: 1) wine or other grape products, 2) cutting the hair, 3) going near a corpse. In the stipulations set before Samson’s mother (the unnamed wife of Manoah), only the first two stipulations are mentioned but we can assume by the label ‘nazirite’ that the third was in view also.

The reason given for the vows of the Nazirite is that they are to be “holy to the Lord” (Judg. 6:8). In other words, they are to be dedicated as especially holy to the Lord for a certain amount of time. They are to take on extra stipulations so that for a time they are ‘more holy’ or ‘more set apart’ than the average Israelite.

The first thing we see Samson do is desire a Philistine woman for his wife (Judg. 14:1ff.). In the book of Judges this is “the evil” that Israel is so often accused of. In the book of Judges this is the main problem. Israel is repeatedly accused of (more…)

We are out of town this weekend so I do not have time to do a full post on a LXX text. However, I noticed this translation technique a while ago while I was reading one of the Aramaic portions of Daniel and I thought it was worth noting.

Dan. 3:2 καὶ Ναβουχοδονοσορ βασιλεὺς βασιλέων καὶ κυριεύων τῆς οἰκουμένης ὅλης ἀπέστειλεν ἐπισυναγαγεῖν πάντα τὰ ἔθνη καὶ φυλὰς καὶ γλώσσας σατράπας στρατηγούς τοπάρχας καὶ ὑπάτους διοικητὰς καὶ τοὺς ἐπ᾿ ἐξουσιῶν κατὰ χώραν καὶ πάντας τοὺς κατὰ τὴν οἰκουμένην ἐλθεῖν εἰς τὸν ἐγκαινισμὸν τῆς εἰκόνος τῆς χρυσῆς ἣν ἔστησε Ναβουχοδονοσορ ὁ βασιλεύς 

Dan. 3:3 καὶ ἔστησαν οἱ προγεγραμμένοι κατέναντι τῆς εἰκόνος 

 

Translation

2 And Nebuchadnezzar, king of kings, and ruling over the whole world, sent to gather all the nations and tribes and tongues, satraps, chief magistrates, governors, and consuls, stewards and those who have authority according to region and al those who are down in the world, to come to the dedication of the image of gold, which King Nebuchadnezzar set up.

3 And all the aforementioned stood before the image…

 

MT vs. LXX

οἱ προγεγραμμένοι

The entire point of this post was this little tidbit. In the MT, v. 3 virtually repeats the long list of people that were summoned to the dedication from v. 2. This practice of repetition, as my Aramaic professor informs me, is a typical stylistic practice of ANE literature. Here, the LXX translators felt it was appropriate to abbreviate the MT to οἱ προγεγραμμένοι (‘to write formerly’). I thought this was funny but it does show a willingness to ‘abbreviate’ the MT. It is an interesting insight into the translation technique and philosophy of the LXX translators. It still communicates the same as the MT without the repetitive style of ANE literature. What this shows to me is a willingness to communicate the message of the MT but using a different style. It would be interesting to see where else the LXX drops a repetitive section of the MT. Often the MT uses repetitions quite intentionally, and I wonder if only here, where the repetition does not seem to convey any extra meaning, the LXX doesn’t pick up on that. Comparing the style of presentation of the LXX and MT would make for interesting further study.

I got the opportunity to study the distribution and usage of verbs in Biblical Aramaic this semester. My study began as an attempt at a discourse analysis of Biblical Aramaic. This task was a bit over my head but it became an analysis of verbal usage in Dan. 2:4-3:30. The analysis was limited to 75 verses because, I only had one semester and it was only part of my workload. But it was an interesting project that forced my reading level of Aramaic to increase a lot and forced me to deal with syntax in a way I never had before. 

My basic conclusion supports the thesis of Michael B. Shepherd in “The Distribution of Verbal Forms in Biblical Aramaic,” JSS 52, 2 (Autumn 2007): 227-244. I commend his article to anyone interested in Biblical Aramaic or in discourse linguistics. His thesis is that “the qetal [or perfect] is the primary verbal form for narrative, and the yiqtul [or imperfect] is the primary verbal form for discourse” (242). My study, essentially substantiated his argument with the added observation that this thesis does not fully take into account the qatil [or participle], which is used differently in narrative and discourse. Below is the conclusion to my paper, I may post the whole paper after I get comments back from my professor.

 

After surveying the findings of our analysis we can confirm that Shepherd’s thesis is substantially correct. The qetal pattern is clearly the predominant narrative tense and the yiqtul is the predominant discourse tense in BA. However, it is not as easy as that. The qatil needs to be understood as a main verbal pattern. Thus we posit that BA has three main verbal tenses: the qetal, the yiqtul, and the qatil. 

The qetal is the predominant narrative tense but it is helped out by the qatil to introduce direct speech and function as both a primary narrative verb and as other parts of speech (adjective, etc.). The yiqtul is the predominant discourse tense but it is helped out by the qetal to portray past tense in both communication levels 2 and 3. The yiqtul is also helped out by the qatil in direct speech to portray present tense.

The qatil is the most versatile verbal pattern in BA. It functions as a major narrative tense reflecting past action and it functions as a major discourse tense reflecting present action. It is not helpful to classify the qatil as present, as is often done, because it functions predominantly as past tense in narrative and present tense in discourse. The qatil pattern is perhaps the pattern that would be the most revealed by further studies of this kind. It seems to be the pattern that is most affected by its place in the larger sections, i.e., narrative or discourse. What we can conclude in this study is that more work must be done here. The patterns observed by Shepherd seem to hold true in general but more work must be done, especially in the area of the qatil pattern if we are to better understand the verb forms of BA.

Since I am gearing up for finals and finishing final projects (including an analysis of verbal patterns in the Aramaic of Daniel 2-3, ouch), this weeks Septuagintal Saturdays will be necessarily brief. In fact it will only be one verse long. That being said, it is a very interesting one. This post was inspired in part by my reading of Waltke’s chapter on the Creation Narrative in An Old Testament Theology.

Gen. 1:27

καὶ ἐποίησεν ὁ θεὸς τὸν ἄνθρωπον 

κατ᾿ εἰκόνα θεοῦ ἐποίησεν αὐτόν 

ἄρσεν καὶ θῆλυ ἐποίησεν αὐτούς 

Translation:

And God made humankind

According to the image of God he made them

Male and female he made them.

 

LXX vs. MT

בצלמו?

The LXX has dropped this phrase at the end of the first line. the MT reads: ‘And God made humankind in his image.’ It could be that the LXX translators recognized that without this prepositional phrase the poem in Hebrew is more perfectly balanced (three lines with a 6-4 pattern). It could be that a scribes eye merely passed over the repeated verb בצלמו‭ ‬בצלם (in his image / in the image). While the meter of the poem is more balanced without the phrase בצלמו (in his image), the parallelism is better with it.

ἄρσεν καὶ θῆλυ vs. זכר‭ ‬ונקבה

Waltke argues that the two terms used in the MT “refer to the man and the woman as sexual beings” (An Old Testament Theology, 221). This is different than the terms in Gen. 2, which speak of man (‏אדם) and woman (אשׁה) in more social terms. These terms are consistently translated as ανθρωπος (man) and γυνη (woman). The terms ἄρσεν καὶ θῆλυ are distinct from the terms used in Gen. 2. Louw and Nida list them in the domain of ‘features of objects.’ Thus the importance of of the terms used in Gen. 1:27 are to show the ‘maleness’ and ‘femaleness’ of the man and woman as the key features being emphasized here. It appears, then, that the LXX translators validate Waltke’s claim. The LXX translators are consistent in their translation and note the importance of the terminology that is used by the Hebrew text. It is the maleness and femaleness of of man and woman that are made in the image of God.

Here is another installment of Septuagintal Saturdays. I’m not sure how I’m going to pick these texts, but for right now I’m going to pick some highlights through Genesis and see where that gets us. This passage is dear to me because I wrote my M.A. thesis on 1 Sam. 15, which deals with similar issues to the passage here in Genesis 6. There is also discussion as to where to place this passage. Is it the conclusion to the generation of Adam in ch. 5 or the introduction to the generation of Noah Chs. 6ff.? I think it is best understood as both. Clearly it is the climax of the generation of Adam and the evil it has come to but it is also the introduction to the flood narrative. Often in biblical literature we have these ‘seam’ texts that function as the conclusion to one section and the introduction to another. To some degree I think the book of Deuteronomy functions this way, but that is another discussion.

Gen. 6:5 ἰδὼν δὲ κύριος ὁ θεὸς ὅτι ἐπληθύνθησαν αἱ κακίαι τῶν ἀνθρώπων ἐπὶ τῆς γῆς καὶ πᾶς τις διανοεῖται ἐν τῇ καρδίᾳ αὐτοῦ ἐπιμελῶς ἐπὶ τὰ πονηρὰ πάσας τὰς ἡμέρας 

Gen. 6:6 καὶ ἐνεθυμήθη ὁ θεὸς ὅτι ἐποίησεν τὸν ἄνθρωπον ἐπὶ τῆς γῆς καὶ διενοήθη 

Gen. 6:7 καὶ εἶπεν ὁ θεός ἀπαλείψω τὸν ἄνθρωπον ὃν ἐποίησα ἀπὸ προσώπου τῆς γῆς ἀπὸ ἀνθρώπου ἕως κτήνους καὶ ἀπὸ ἑρπετῶν ἕως τῶν πετεινῶν τοῦ οὐρανοῦ ὅτι ἐθυμώθην ὅτι ἐποίησα αὐτούς 

Gen. 6:8 Νωε δὲ εὗρεν χάριν ἐναντίον κυρίου τοῦ θεοῦ 

 

Translation:

5 And when the LORD God saw that the evil deeds of humankind had multiplied upon the earth and all everyone thinks in their heart [is] thoroughly upon the evil, all the days, 6 then God considered that he made man upon the earth and he planned. 7 And God said, “I will wipe off humankind, whom I made, from upon the face of the earth, from humankind to animal and from creeping things unto birds of the air because I am angry that I made them. 8 But Noah found grace before the LORD God.

(more…)

Our church is beginning a sermon series on the book of Deuteronomy. I am immensely excited about this. Deuteronomy is such an important book. It sits in the canon as the climax to the Pentateuch (the foundation of the OT) and as the introduction to the rest of the story of Israel. It is also the book which Jesus uses to respond to his temptation in the wilderness. Each time the devil tempts him, Jesus responds from the book of Deuteronomy (See Matt. 4:1-11).   

    Our unofficial theologian in residence taught a self proclaimed lesson (not a sermon) on the book of Deuteronomy as a whole. It was a great introduction to Deuteronomy. You can read an excerpt from it here. The thought that struck me the most was his assertion that Deuteronomy is not law for us, it is wisdom. I was a bit taken aback by this and spent much of the service pondering it. 

    Christian’s always have to come up with some answer on how to deal with the law in the Old Testament. We frequently site Rom 10:4 ‘Christ is the end of the law’ (τέλος γρ νόμου Χριστς) or Jesus’ words: ‘Do not think that I have come to abolish the law or the prophets; I have not come to abolish but to fulfill’ (πληρσαι). We are clearly not ‘under the law’ in the same way that Israel was (e.g., Rom 6:14; 1 Cor 9:20; Gal 3:10). What then do we do with 2 Tim 3:16 (speaking specifically about the OT): ‘All scripture is inspired by God and is useful for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness. We rightly sympathize with the problematic nature of having someone stand up in our worship services and read: 

    Deut. 21:1ff.  “If, in the land that the LORD your God is giving you to possess, a body is found lying in open country, and it is not known who struck the person down, then your elders and your judges shall come out to measure the distances to the towns that are near the body. The elders of the town nearest the body shall take a heifer that has never been worked, one that has not pulled in the yoke; the elders of that town shall bring the heifer down to a wadi with running water, which is neither plowed nor sown, and shall break the heifer’s neck there in the wadi….” The word of the LORD, Thanks be to God!        

      

    I have always tended to interpret the law as narrative. That is, to understand its role in the Story of Israel and to see that our place in the story comes after the law has been fulfilled by Christ. But, I do want to say that the weightier issues of the law (to borrow a phrase from Walter Kaiser) are in effect because the law reflects the way that God desired His chosen people to act when they were in the Promised Land. In this sense we could look at the ideals of the law to be normative for us. 

    As I thought about the sermon from Sunday, it struck me that wisdom is not a bad category to use when dealing with the law. If wisdom literature is reflecting on the way the world works around us, then reflecting on the law in this way is a sort of revelatory wisdom, whereby we, as New Covenant people, reflect on God’s revealed ideals in the law and apply them to our lives as normative.  This is my thought process for now. I look forward to interacting with Deuteronomy more as our Church processes through this book.

    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. 

    Last Saturday I attended and presented at my first ETS (Evangelical Theological Society) Meeting. The meeting was fun, the plenary session was on decision making and the will of God, i.e., can we know God’s will for our lives? I heard an afternoon paper on how the synoptics use Lev. 19 and Deut. 6 in stating the two greatest commandments and a paper on ‘Love your neighbor and the imprecatory Psalms.’ All in all it was well worth the price of admission. I also won three books: Waltke’s Old Testament Theology, Walton’s Ancient Near Eastern Thought, and Seitz’s Prophecy and Hermeneutic. All in all, it was well worth the price of admission. I look forward to reading all of these. 

    As to the presentation. I found it to be very enjoyable. I really enjoyed giving the paper, and it seemed well received. When it came to the questions (the part I was really worried about) I met with some disagreement among those who were at my session. But I found the conversation helped clarify my own thinking on my topic even if I didn’t dissuade those who disagreed with me (when you’re a graduate student arguing with a seminary professor you’re probably not going to win).

    They say that presenting a paper is one of those things that you are supposed to do in Academics and that it looks good to schools you may want to apply to. That is probably true but the thing I found most beneficial was the affirmation that I enjoyed this type of academic activity and the stimulating conversation about a topic I had done quite a bit of studying on. All in all, it was a great time. I highly recommend it.