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…)

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…)

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.

Apparently I’m stuck in key texts in Genesis. This is partly because Genesis is good narrative material and partly because I still have John Wevers’ Notes on the Greek Text of Genesis checked out from the library. This text jumped out at me because I’m reading Waltke’s Old Testament Theology. I had not heard the interpretation he takes on the Tower of Babel before, and it stood out to me. When I was reading the greek text of that story it dawned on me that Waltke’s interpretation is not possible there as it is in the MT (see comment below). Anyway, happy Septuagint Saturdays.


The Building of the Tower


Gen. 11:1 καὶ ἦν πᾶσα ἡ γῆ χεῖλος ἕν καὶ φωνὴ μία πᾶσιν 

Gen. 11:2 καὶ ἐγένετο ἐν τῷ κινῆσαι αὐτοὺς ἀπὸ ἀνατολῶν εὗρον πεδίον ἐν γῇ Σεννααρ καὶ κατῴκησαν ἐκεῖ 

Gen. 11:3 καὶ εἶπεν ἄνθρωπος τῷ πλησίον δεῦτε πλινθεύσωμεν πλίνθους καὶ ὀπτήσωμεν αὐτὰς πυρί καὶ ἐγένετο αὐτοῖς ἡ πλίνθος εἰς λίθον καὶ ἄσφαλτος ἦν αὐτοῖς ὁ πηλός 

Gen. 11:4 καὶ εἶπαν δεῦτε οἰκοδομήσωμεν ἑαυτοῖς πόλιν καὶ πύργον οὗ ἡ κεφαλὴ ἔσται ἕως τοῦ οὐρανοῦ καὶ ποιήσωμεν ἑαυτοῖς ὄνομα πρὸ τοῦ διασπαρῆναι ἐπὶ προσώπου πάσης τῆς γῆς 



1) And all the earth was one tongue and one speech [was] for all.

2) And it happened as they moved from the east, they found a plain in the land of Sennaar and they settled there.

3) And a man said the neighbor, “Come, let us make bricks and roast them in fire and the brick became unto stone and bitumen became for them clay.

4) And they said, “Come, let us build for ourselves a city and a tower, the head of which will be unto the heaven and let us make for ourselves a name before [we] are scattered upon the face of the earth. (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

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
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…)

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 



20) And Noah built an alter to God and he (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 



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.

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 


And God made humankind

According to the image of God he made them

Male and female he made them.


LXX vs. MT


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.