[One of my main areas of research is the Greek translation of the Hebrew Bible, the Septuagint. This post talks about how the Greek text can be used to help us understand the Hebrew original. It was originally published 08/2009]
In this post I am laying a foundation for my next installment in my series on Psalm 151 in the Biblical Tradition, by discussing how to retrovert a text from one language into another. This is most commonly done when using the Septuagint in the textual criticism of the Hebrew Bible/Old Testament. Thus, in order to employ the LXX in textual criticism one must retrovert the Greek text back into Hebrew (for more information on the Septuagint and textual criticism in general see my series of posts on Textual Criticism of the Hebrew Bible). In many cases retroverting a text is easier said than done.
Here are some tips for retroverting a text:
Focus on the translation technique of the individual book in question. The LXX is not a uniform translation. Various translators at different times, with varying philosophies of translation and different language capability, translated different portions of the Hebrew Bible to make up the LXX. For example, the translation of the Torah is a good formal translation, the translation of the Psalter is very formal, while the translations of Proverbs and Isaiah are less so. Thus one cannot assume that the way one translator rendered a particular Hebrew word or construction will be the same fora translator of a different book. Each individual book of the LXX has its own idiosyncrasies to its translation; thus a careful examination of its translation technique is necessary before one can retrovert the text with any confidence.
Examine the different ways a translator renders a particular word. In order to figure out what Hebrew word may be behind a particular Greek word in a passage, you need to look up every instance of the Greek word in question within the biblical book and note what Hebrew word was being rendered. There are a number of useful resources that will help you with this task. If you have a Bible software package with the original language modules, then you can do a Greek lemma search and see what Hebrew was being translated. Even more ideal is if you have Emauel Tov’s The Parallel Aligned Hebrew-Aramaic and Greek Texts of Jewish Scripture module where you can see the equivalent elements of the MT and the LXX (as reconstructed by the editor). For more on the different software programs available for Biblical Studies, see my Bible Software pages. If you do not have a Bible software package, then you can manually look up how a word is with Takamitsu Muraoka’s Hebrew/Aramaic Index to the Septuagint: Keyed to the Hatch-Redpath Concordance (Baker Academic, 1998; Buy from Amazon.ca | Amazon.com) which also comes included in Edwin Hatch, Henry A. Redpath, A Concordance to the Septuagint: And the other Greek Versions of the Old Testament – Including the Apocryphal Books (Second edition, two volumes in one; Includes Muraoka, “Hebrew/Aramaic Index”; Baker Academic, 1998; Buy from Amazon.ca | Amazon.com).
Identify a pattern. If a clear pattern emerges, propose a retroversion. When you examine the different ways an individual book tends to translate a word into Greek, and if there is a clear default rendering, then you can be fairly confident in proposing the retroversion. While you can never be 100% certain with any retroversion, some will be more certain than others. If a clear pattern doesn’t emerge, or if the words in question do not occur frequently enough in the book under study, then you will need to broaden your investigation to see how the word is rendered elsewhere in the LXX. While this will not produce as clear of results as the previous situation, you can still produce a workable retroversion.
With these principles in mind, the Septuagint may be employed quite fruitfully in the textual criticism of the Old Testament/Hebrew Bible. Of course, retroversion may also be used with texts of other languages, and even in ascertaining the relationship between Hebrew Dead Sea Scroll texts and the Septuagint (as I will seek to do in my next post on Psalm 151).
World class Septuagintal scholar John William Wevers passed away last week. Here is a notice that was sent to the members of the Canadian Society of Biblical Studies:
On July 23, Professor Emeritus John William Wevers, of the University of Toronto, passed away at the age of 91. Prof. Wevers was struck by a cerebral hemorrhage in the Toronto nursing home where he had lived since July 2008. A memorial service will be held in Toronto on Sept. 11.
During his long tenure at the University of Toronto, Prof. Wevers had brought the Department of Near Eastern Studies (now merged into the Dept. of Near and Middle Eastern Civilizations) to unprecedented complement and quality; he himself became an undisputed master of Septuagint Studies during the last decades of the 20th century, having produced the critical edition of the whole Greek Pentateuch for the Göttingen Septuaginta Unternehmen, and added further text-critical studies, translations, and commentaries to each of the five main volumes of this edition. Prof. Wevers’s knowledge and contribution extended to several other languages; he had, in particular, made significant contributions to Classical Hebrew scholarship, as well as vigorously promoting its study at the University of Toronto.
He was one of the few scholars I know who had the mastery of the languages and texts necessary to do true textual criticism.
May his name be a blessing for future generations. R.I.P.
“Genre research in Psalms is nonnegotiable, not something one can execute or ignore according to preference. Rather it is the foundational work with which there can be no certainty in the remainder.
It is the firm ground from which everything else must ascend.”
- Hermann Gunkel
Perhaps no scholar has influenced the modern study of the book of Psalms as much as Hermann Gunkel. His pioneering form-critical work on the psalms sought to provide a new and meaningful context in which to interpret individual psalms — not by looking at their historical background or their literary context within the Psalter (which he didn’t see as significant), but by bringing together psalms of the same genre (Gattung) from throughout the Psalter. Even though Psalms scholarship has refined and critiqued his approach and have moved on to different approaches, Gunkel’s form-critical legacy remains firmly entrenched in modern scholarship and is the default starting point for most studies of the Psalter.
The Genres of the Psalms
According to Gunkel, for psalms to be considered as part of the same genre (Gattung) three conditions had to be met:
the psalms had to have a similar setting in life (Sitz im Leben), basis in worship, a common cultic setting, or at least originally derive from one;
they had to be characterized by common thoughts, feelings, and moods; and
they required a shared diction, style, and structure — a language related to form (Formensprache). This feature provides the signals of the particular genre.
Working with these criteria, Gunkel isolated a number of different genres or types of psalms. In his earlier work he highlighted four primary types of psalms (hymns, community laments, individual thanksgiving psalms, and individual laments), with various subcategories, as well as several mixed forms. In his later work, completed by Joachim Begrich, he identified six major types (hymns, enthronement psalms, communal complaints, royal psalms, individual complaints, and individual thanksgiving psalms) and a number of smaller genres and mixed types. I have tended to follow the later classification, with modifications as noted. Also note that some psalms are found in more than one category. This is especially the case with sub-genres since Gunkel wasn’t consistent in how he dealt with them.
For this summary I have relied primarily on these two works:
Hermann Gunkel (completed by Joachim Begrich), Introduction to Psalms: The Genres of the Religious Lyric of Israel (Mercer University Press, 1998; translation of Einleitung in die Psalmen: die Gattungen der religiösen Lyrik Israels [Vandenhoeck & Ruprecht, 1985, 1933]; Buy from Amazon.ca | Buy from Amazon.com).
Hermann Gunkel, The Psalms: A Form-Critical Introduction (Fortress Press, 1967; translation of his article in Die Religion in Geschichte und Gegenwart [2nd ed; J.C.B. Mohr (Paul Siebeck), 1930]; Buy from Amazon.ca | Buy from Amazon.com)
I have also included this summary as a PDF document below (it is a handout I put together for my Psalms class). Feel free to download it and use it as long as you keep the ascription in the first footnote. (While I have double checked the references, please let me know if you find any errors or omissions.)
Introduction: A call to praise, sing, and rejoice to Yahweh in some form.
Body: The reasons why Yahweh should be praised (often introduced by כי, kî, “for”).
His qualities and attributes.
His regular or repeated actions, including his works in creation and conservation of cosmos and his works in history, especially for Israel.
Conclusion: renewed summons to praise.
Sitz im Leben
Hymns were sung as part of worship on diverse occasions, including sacred festivals as well at other times, perhaps by a choir or an individual singer.
B. Songs of Zion
Psalms 46; 48; 76; 84; 87; 122.
These psalms tend to lack a proper introduction. They praise Yahweh by praising Jerusalem, addressing the holy place, and calling down blessings upon it. They were sung at particular occasions that celebrated Jerusalem’s majesty and future eschatological significance.
C. Psalms of Yahweh’s Enthronement
Psalms 47; 93; 96:10-13; 97; 99.
Often begin with the words יהוה מלך, “Yahweh has become king.”
Contain many calls to rejoice.
Have brief references to Yahweh’s deeds, depicted as just now taking place.
Give descriptions of what his reign will mean to Israel and the world.
Present the idea that a new world kingdom is coming.
Sitz im Leben
These psalms were used as part of Israel’s worship, likely including an enthronement festival in which Yahweh is glorified as king. These psalms were given a prophetic, eschatological, reinterpretation in their final stages.
Calling upon Yahweh by name (usually in the vocative)
Lamenting complaints over the misfortune; almost always political in nature.
Supplications and petitions to Yahweh to transform the misfortunes.
Thoughts aimed to excite confidence in the suppliant or to move Yahweh to action, such as his honour or the sake of his name.
Often end with a certainty of hearing.
Sitz im Leben
The setting of these psalms are days of national fasting and/or complaint festivals brought on by various national calamities, such as war, exile, pestilence, drought, famine, and plagues.
Laments will typically include the following element, though not necessarily in the same order:
Summons to Yahweh.
Complaint/Lament proper, often preceded by a description of the prayer.
Considerations inducing Yahweh to intervene, whether by challenging Yahweh’s honour, exciting his anger by citing the enemies’ words, or by the nature of the complaint itself.
Petition/Entreaty. This is the most significant part of the complaint psalm. May be of a general nature or may be quite specific (confessional petitions, petitions of innocence, etc.).
Conviction of being heard (present only in some Psalms) and/or a vow.
Sitz im Leben
The setting in life is difficult to determine due to the formulaic character of the language in laments. Originally derives from the worship service and then later were used as spiritual songs of the individual. These psalms were occasioned by apparently life-threatening situations rather than everyday life; such situations may include illness, misfortune, persecution from enemies — though one needs to be careful about taking the images too literally.
2) Psalms Protesting Innocence
Psalms 5; 7; 17; 26. These psalms have an accentuated assurance of innocence, and even in some cases a qualified self-curse.
3) Psalms of Confession
Psalms 51; 130 (Psalms expressing national penitence include Psalms 78; 81; 106; cf. also Ezra 9:9-15; Neh 9:9-38; Dan 9:4-19). These psalms are characterized by a painful awareness of having sinned against Yahweh and deserving punishment. In this light they ask forgiveness and appeal for God’s grace.
4) Psalms of Cursing and Vengeance
Psalm 109, among others. These psalms strive for retaliation against enemies.
5) Psalms of Trust
Psalms 4; 11; 16; 23; 27:1-6; 62; 131 (Psalm 125 is a national song of trust). These psalms reformulate the lament psalms and shift their focus to an expression of trust and confidence, so much so that often the complaint, petition, and certainty of hearing are displaced. They often speak of Yahweh in the third person.
Formally Royal psalms are of different types, though in all cases they are “concerned entirely with kings.” Some of their distinguishing elements include:
Praises of the king.
Affirmations of Yahweh’s favour to the king.
Prayers for the king (or his own prayer) and royal oracles.
Portrayals of the king’s righteousness and piety.
Sitz im Leben
These psalms were performed at some sort of court festivity, where they were performed in the presence of the king and his dignitaries. Specific occasions may be enthronement/accession festivals and anniversaries, victory over an enemy, healing from an illness, among others.
An expanded Introduction, declaring the intention to thank God.
Narration of the trouble, usually to the guests of the celebration. The psalmist usually recounts:
his trouble (thus they are akin to Laments)
his calling upon God
Acknowledgment/proclamation of Yahweh’s deliverance; usually directed towards others.
In many cases, the psalm ends with an Announcement of the thank-offering.
Sitz im Leben
Since the word usually translated “thanksgiving” is the same word used for “thank offering” (תודה; todah; e.g., Ps 50:14, 23; Jonah 2:9), it is clear that these psalms were intended to be used in a cultic setting. It is thought that the individual, in the presence of the worshiping congregation (e.g., 22:22; 26:12), would testify personally to God’s saving deeds, accompanied with a ritual act and meal. Eventually, these psalms freed themselves from the actual sacrifice.
B. Thanksgivings of the Community
Psalms 66:8-12; 67; 124; 129.
These psalms are parallel in form to the individual thanksgiving psalms. The life setting for these psalms was likely a cultic celebration at the temple in remembrance of God’s help and intervention.
V. Wisdom Psalms
Psalms 1; 37; 49; 73; 91; 112; 127; 128; 133.
While there are wisdom elements found in psalms of a variety of genres, there are psalms which exhibit a concentration of wisdom themes to be considered a distinct type. As such, these psalms do not exhibit a single formal pattern, but share a number of characteristics, including:
Psalmist speaks of his words as wisdom, instruction, etc.
He describes the “fear of Yahweh.”
He addresses his hearers as “sons.”
He warns, teaches, and uses figures, question and answer techniques, beatitudes, descriptions of Yahweh’s ways.
VI. Smaller Genres and Mixed Types
A. Pilgrimage Psalms
Only one complete example remains, Psalm 122. These psalms were used at the beginning of a pilgrimage as well as once the pilgrim had reached his or her destination.
B. Psalms Using Ancient Stories (Legends) of Israel
Psalms 78; 105; 106. These psalms are subsumed under other literary types (e.g., Ps 105 is a hymn), but may be grouped together because they share a number of common characteristics:
The Narration of Yahweh’s deeds and/or the sins of Israel (of Heilsgeschichte)
The Exhortation (as in Deuteronomy)
C. Psalm Liturgies
Psalms 15; 20; 24; 14/53; 66; 81; 82; 85; 95; 107; 115; 118; 121; 126; 132; 134. These psalms are characterized by their antiphonal structure, particularly suited for corporate worship.
As I mentioned above, Gunkel’s classification is just a starting point. Much has changed since Gunkel did his seminal studies of the Psalms, though few studies have the Psalms have had as lasting of influence. Perhaps in future posts I will highlight some of the changes and trends since Gunkel.
Since then Bio Nascimento has translated the handout into Portuguese (with my permission). I don’t know how many readers I have that read Portuguese, but I figured I would make the translated handout available, so here it is:
The latest volume of Biblica has an excellent article by H.G.M. Williamson evaluating the proposed Oxford Hebrew Bible project. In the article, “Do We Need A New Bible? Reflections on the Proposed Oxford Hebrew Bible” (Biblica 90/2  153-175), Williamson begins by noting his general methodological agreement with the project, but then continues to raise some very serious problems with the project as a whole. Some of his objections relate to the nature of the textual evidence for the Hebrew Bible, while others are connected with the proposed format of the OHB.
Here is his concluding paragraph:
It shows a sorry lack of understanding about the fact that our text is a linguistic hybrid which makes this enterprise flawed from the start. Its form of presentation only aggravates that problem, since against its stated objectives it will not present anything remotely resembling an eclectic edition of a supposed archetype. And finally it fails to take into account the ways in which the textual criticism of the Hebrew Bible inevitably differs from that of most other texts, leading, I fear, to further confusion on the part of those who are not already well versed in the subject. In the present state of knowledge, as well as in the light of the extraordinary range of diversity of opinion in this field, what is required is full and sober textual commentary. I have no doubt that that aspect of the project will be welcomed and widely used; but it is not a Bible, new or old.
I too have had a number of methodological questions about the project, so it is nice to see Williamson raising some of the same concerns I have had.
[I will be republishing my series on the Hebrew text of Jonah for my current introductory Hebrew class since I had to go back and fix the Hebrew in the posts]
The first chapter of the book of Jonah begins with Jonah’s call to go to Nineveh. But instead of heading for Nineveh, he heads the opposite direction to Tarshish aboard a ship filled with pagan sailors. Jonah’s presence on the ship does not bode well for the sailors, who eventually figure out Jonah is the reason their ship is in danger. After much prayer, they toss Jonah into the sea, after which he is swallowed by a divinely appointed “big fish.” Thus begins Jonah’s “Big Fish” story.
Jonah and the Sailors (1:1-16)
The Hebrew Text is taken from BHS. Click on the image to the right to view the passage in the actual Leningrad Codex (MS B19 A). To hear the chapter read in Hebrew, an MP3 file is available here.
Please note that my translation is more formal in nature and purposefully highlights literary and poetic features of the text. The versification follows the Hebrew text.
1:1 The word of YHWH came to Jonah son of Amittai, saying: 2 Get up, go at once to Nineveh, that great city, and proclaim against it; for their wickedness has come before me. 3 Jonah, however, got up to flee to Tarshish away from the presence of YHWH. So he went down to Joppa and found a ship going to Tarshish, and he paid its hire, and went down into it to go with them to Tarshish, from the presence of YHWH. 4 But YHWH hurled a great wind to the sea, and there was a great storm upon the sea that the ship thought about breaking up!
5 And the sailors were afraid and cried out, each to his own god; and they hurled the cargo that was in the ship into the sea to lighten [it] for them. But Jonah had gone down into the hold of the vessel and had lain down, and was in a deep sleep. 6 The captain went over to him and cried out, “Why are you sleeping so soundly? Get up, call upon your god! Perhaps the god will bear us in mind and we will not perish.” 7 The men said to one another, “Let us cast lots and find out on whose account this misfortune has come upon us.” They cast lots and the lot fell on Jonah. 8 They said to him, “Please declare to us — you who have brought this evil upon us — what is your business? Where have you come from? What is your country, and from what people are you?” 9 And he said to them, “I am a Hebrew and I fear YHWH, the God of heaven, who made the sea and the dry land.” 10 The men were greatly terrified [feared a great fear], and they said to him, “How could you have done this?” For the men knew that he was fleeing from the presence of YHWH, for so he had told them. 11 And they said to him, “What must we do to you so that the sea calms down for us?” For the sea was growing more and more stormy. 12 He answered, “Heave me overboard, and then the sea will calm down for you; for I know that this great storm came upon you on my account.” 13 Nevertheless, the men rowed hard to return to the dry land, but they could not, for the sea was growing more and more stormy against them. 14 Then they called to YHWH: “Oh, please, YHWH, do not let us perish on account of this man’s life and do not put innocent blood upon us! For You, O YHWH, have done just as you pleased.” 15 And they cast Jonah into the sea, and the sea stopped from its raging. 16 The men feared YHWH with a great fear, and they sacrificed a sacrifice to YHWH, and they vowed vows.
וַיְהִי- This Qal prefix vav conversive apocopated form is at home in Hebrew narrative and is the typical opening for “historical” books like Joshua, Judges, 1Samuel, and Ruth (see AC 3.5.1 c).
יוֹנָה בֶן־אֲמִתַּי - This “Jonah son of Amittai” is considered to be the nationalistic prophet of the same name mentioned in 2Kings 14:23-29.
קוּם לֵךְ- Of the two imperative verbs, קוּם functions as an auxiliary verb to the principal verb לֵךְ and may be translated something like “Arise, go…” or better, “Go at once…” (GKC 120g).
וּקְרָא עָלֶיהָ- The collocation of על with the verbקראtypically has negative connotations, hence my translation “proclaim against.” The parallel statement in Jonah 3:2 on the other hand has אל. While this change may only suggest the interchangeable nature of the prepositions (WO’C), the change to the more innocuous “proclaim to” in 3:2 may foreshadow the Ninevites’ positive response to Jonah’s message (see Ben Zvi).
הָעִיר הַגְּדוֹלָה- The definite articles are functioning as weak demonstratives, “that great city” (AC 2.6.6). Alternatively, both adjectives could be modifying the noun, “Nineveh the great city” (J-M 138b; 141c; BHRG 30.2.2vii).
כִּי־עָלְתָה רָעָתָם לְפָנָי- This phrase should be taken as causal (“because…”), providing the rationale for God sending the prophet to Nineveh (contra Sasson who understands it as asseverative). See AC 4.3.4a, i.
מִלִּפְנֵי- This compound preposition is best translated as “away from the presence of” or even just “away from” (HALOT).
תַרְשִׁישׁ- The identification of “Tarshish” is the subject of much spilled ink (see Sasson for a discussion). I tend to think of it as an ancient “Timbuktu.” Either way, the point is that Jonah headed in the exact opposite direction of Nineveh. Note that it occurs both with and without the directive ה in this passage
אָנִיָּה- The footnote in BHS (sic L, mlt MSS Edd אֳניה cf 4.5) suggests that the pointing of אָנִיָּה is incorrect; it should be אֳניהas many other Masoretic texts indicate as well as the pointing in vv. 4 and 5.
וַיִּתֵּן שְׂכָרָהּ- The antecedent of the 3fs possessive pronoun is clearly אָנִיָּה(“paid its [i.e., the ship's] fare”). A number of Jewish traditions (and modern authors) suggest this indicates Jonah rented the entire ship (and thus was wealthy), which again emphasizes the extent to which he was willing to avoid God’s call.
עִמָּהֶם- While the sailors are not mentioned until v. 5, the 3mp object suffix on עִמָּהֶם refers to the sailors included in the sense of the term אָנִיָּה (GKC 135p).
וַיהוָה- The fronted subject with the conjunction breaks the series of vav conversives and introduces a different subject and is best rendered as “but YHWH…” (AC 3.5.4; 5.1.2b.2).
חִשְּׁבָה לְהִשָּׁבֵר- Many translations render this combination of Piel affix 3fs and Nifal infinitive construct something like, “the ship was about to break up” (NASB) or the like. I prefer to take it as an example of personification or prosopopoeia where the ship is portrayed as thinking about breaking up. This understanding is supported by the fact thatחשׁבis always used elsewhere with an animate subject. See WO’C 23.2.1 for the sense of the Nifal here.
אִישׁ אֶל־אֱלֹהָיו- This is a distributive use ofאִישׁ, “each to his own god” (GKC 139b). It could also be translated “each to his own gods” since the sailors were evidently pagan.
לְהָקֵל- The Hifil infinitive construct needs an object, i.e., “to lighten [it].”
“But Jonah had gone down… and had lain down, and had fallen fast asleep.” The fronted subject once again interrupts the sequence of wayyiqtol verbs and marks a new subject which contrasts Jonah’s actions with those of the sailors.
וַיֵּרָדַם- The verbרדםmeans “deep sleep” and is from the same root as the noun used to describe Adam’s sleep when the woman was taken out of his side in Gen 2:21. The Septuagint translatesרדםwith the verb ῥέγχω “snore,” which adds some humour to the scene as Jonah’s snoring was apparently loud enough for the captain of the ship to hear him from above deck as he comes down to Jonah and asks him what is he doing snoring when a life threatening storm has been thrown to the sea by YHWH (see my post on snoring here)!
רַב הַחֹבֵל- Lit., “chief of the sailors,” i.e., captain.
מַה־לְּךָ נִרְדָּם- The Nifal participle may be functioning as a subordinate accusative of state, i.e., the object of the non verbal interrogative construction, lit. “what [is it] to you, sleeping?” = “why are you sleeping so soundly?” (see GKC 120b; J-M 127a, 161i). I am almost tempted to take the participle as a vocative and translate it something like, “What is the matter with you, sleepy head?!”
יִתְעַשֵּׁת - The Hitpael of עשׁתis a hapax that means something like “bear in mind” (HALOT).
Note the cohortative הs on וְנַפִּילָהand וְנֵדְעָה .
בְּשֶׁלְּמִי- The compound particle is made up of the preposition ב + relative שׁ + preposition ל + interrogative מי; together it means “on whose account” (HALOT), or “for whose cause” (GKC 150k). For the combination of the relative שׁ and preposition ל, see WO’C 19.4a n15.
Note the idiom of “casting lots” with the verb נפל.
There is a rather oblique text critical footnote in BHS (“nonn add Hab” = “several manuscripts have added”) marking off the phrase בַּאֲשֶׁר לְמִי־הָרָעָה הַזֹּאת לָנוּ, “on whose account has this evil come upon us” (as well as a similar phrase in v. 10; see below). The footnote suggests the editors of BHS considered this phrase to be an addition or later gloss. While they do not provide any reasons, it is likely based on two things: (1) the phrase is omitted in the LXX and a number of Masoretic manuscripts and (2) it appears to be a doublet or repetition of virtually the same phrase in v. 7. While this is certainly possible, the phrase is found in the huge majority of Masoretic texts as well as scrolls from Qumran. Furthermore, the absence of the phrase in some Hebrew and Greek manuscripts can easily be explained by homoeoteleuton (skipping over words between words with similar endings) triggered by the repetition of לָנוּ in the Hebrew or ἐν ἡμῖν in the Greek. That being said, the question of how to translate it remains. The most straightforward translation is to repeat the question, “on whose account has this evil come upon us?” even though they already know the answer and Jonah doesn’t answer it (see NASB, KJV, NIV). Another, perhaps better, option is to render it as a relative clause, “you who have brought this evil upon us” (see JPS and Sasson). This recognizes the subtle difference of the construction בַּאֲשֶׁר לְמִי־הָרָעָה הַזֹּאת לָנוּ with בְּשֶׁלְּמִי הָרָעָה הַזֹּאת לָנוּin the preceding verse.
The sailors pose four questions to Jonah: (1) what is your mission? (2) from where are you coming? (3) what is your (home)land? and (4) from what people are you? (the combination of the interrogative with מן does not produce any notable change in meaning; J-M 143g).
עִבְרִי אָנֹכִי- The order of predicate –> subject in the verbless clause indicates classification and refers to a general class (Hebrews) of which the subject is a member (WO’C 8.4.2). The term “Hebrew” is typically only used in the HB to imply a contrast with foreigners (GKC 2b).
The irony of Jonah’s confession is marvelous; while his confesses he fears “YHWH, the God of heaven, who made the sea and the dry land,” he also appears to believe he can flee from this same YHWH by taking a sea voyage!
וַיִּירְאוּ הָאֲנָשִׁים יִרְאָה גְדוֹלָה- This construction of a verb with a direct object derived from the same root is called an “internal accusative” or “cognate accusative.” It serves to strengthen the verbal idea and may be translated “the men were greatly terrified” or the like (AC 2.3.1c; GKC 117q).
מַה־זֹּאת- The linking of the interrogative pronoun to the feminine demonstrative is an exclamation of shock or horror rather than a query (Sasson).
כִּי הִגִּיד לָהֶם- This phrase is marked off as a gloss in BHS (see discussion on v. 8 above).
מַה־נַּעֲשֶׂה לָּךְ- The prefix form in this context likely has a modal nuance, i.e., “what must we do to you…” (J-M 113m).
וְיִשְׁתֹּק- The prefix + vav form indicates purpose, “so that” (J-M 169i; BHRG 21.5.1.iv).
הוֹלֵךְ וְסֹעֵר- The participles form a hendiadys to convey repetition and increasing intensity, with הלךfulfilling an auxiliary role (GKC 113u).
וְיִשְׁתֹּק- The prefix + vav form in Jonah’s reply has a consecutive sense, “then…” (J-M 169i).
וַיַּחְתְּרוּ- The verb חתר means “to dig”; it is used here to suggest hard rowing or “digging” into the water with their oars.
The first person plural cohortatives are found here with the particle of entreaty נָא, often translated as “please” or the like (J-M 114f; GKC 105, 108c).
כִּי־אַתָּה יְהוָה כַּאֲשֶׁר חָפַצְתָּ עָשִׂיתָ- This clause is a bit difficult to unpack. Sasson takes it and the preceding clause as separate motivations offered by the sailors to God: “Indeed, you are YHWH; and whatever you desire, you accomplish.” While this is possible, I think Sasson is giving too much weight to the zaqef qaton on YHWH. I have translated YHWH as a vocative and the relative clause as modifying אַתָּה“you.”
מִזַּעְפּוֹ- The Qal infinitive construct with the prepositionמן (and the 3ms suffix) serves as a verbal complement to עמד, “the sea stopped from its raging.”
וַיִּירְאוּ הָאֲנָשִׁים יִרְאָה גְדוֹלָה אֶת־יְהוָה- The verb here has double accusatives: YHWH is the affected object (the object that existed apart and before the action of the verb, but is reached by the verb), while the “great fear” is the internal object (the object is an abstract noun of action typically of the same root as the verb, and thus a cognate accusative) (AC 2.3.1; J-M 125u n1).
Note again the irony that the pagan sailors are more devout than Jonah.
While I will leave most of the larger questions of interpretation to a later post, I do want to highlight a few things from chapter one.
First, it is difficult if not impossible to pick up on a significant key word for the book of Jonah: גָּדוֹל“great” or “big.” Everything in Jonah is “great”: Nineveh (v. 2), the wind (v. 4), the storm (v. 4, 12), the sailors’ fear (v. 10) and their repentance (v. 16). In later chapters we will encounter a “great” or “big” fish (2:1), among other things.
Second, the frequent use of גָּדוֹלas well as some of the other language in this (the ship thinking) and later chapters (the animals putting sackcloth on themselves in 3:8), “shifts the story to the fabulous” as Sasson suggests. I will come back to this observation in a later post.
Finally, when examining the characterization of Jonah, YHWH, and the pagan sailors in this chapter it is striking:
Jonah does exactly the opposite of what YHWH calls him to do: instead of getting up and going (קוּם לֵךְ), he got up to flee (וַיָּקָם יוֹנָה לִבְרֹחַ ), and then in contrast to getting up, he has a series of descents (ירד) in order to get away from YHWH’s call. And of course, as I already noted, the irony between Jonah’s flight and his confession is stunning.
The sailors come across much better than Jonah. Their actions are often parallel to those of YHWH: they, like YHWH, tell Jonah to “get up” and “call” (1:2, 6); they both “cast to the sea” (1:4, 5, 15). In addition, a contrast is set up between the sailors and Jonah: Jonahâ€™s fear (1:9) vs. the sailors’ fear (1:10); and “perish” in the mouths of the sailors (1:7, 14) vs. from Jonah’s perspective (4:10).
Well, this post has ended up longer than I anticipated. I better end it here. We’ll pick up Jonah chapter three next.
As many of my readers may or may not know, there will be a special Codex Sinaiticus Conference at the British Library, London, on 6-7 July 2009.
The Codex Sinaiticus Project, an international initiative to reunite the entire manuscript in digital form and make it accessible to a global audience for the first time (see www.codexsinaiticus.org), will host a conference devoted to this seminal fourth-century Bible.
To celebrate the Project’s achievements, on 6-7 July 2009, the British Library is hosting an academic conference on topics relating to Codex Sinaiticus. A number of leading experts have been approached to give presentations on the history, text, conservation, paleography and codicology, among other topics, of Codex Sinaiticus. Selected conference papers will be edited and published as a collection of articles.
The list of confirmed speakers is quite impressive:
Eldon J. Epp
Harry Y. Gamble
As you can see, my advisor, Al Pietersma, is among the speakers.
It saddens, yet doesn’t surprise me, that Prof. Peter Enns will be leaving Westminster Theological Cemetary Seminary as of August 1, 2008. You can check out Enns’s own site for the announcement as well as the WTS webpage. The statement is short and to the point. Basically, while WTS affirms Enns’s “teaching and writing fall within the purview of Evangelical thought,” it is apparently not consistent with WTS’s notion of a “confessional Reformed Seminary.”
I had posted previously on my support for Dr. Enns as well as the support of my colleague, Dr. Jerry Shepherd (WTS grad and friend of Dr. Enns). I have found Enns’s work to be refreshing and engaging (particularly his recent work, Inspiration and Incarnation: Evangelicals and the Problem of the Old Testament [Baker Academic, 2005; Buy from Amazon.ca or Amazon.com]) and wish him all the best as he moves on. I know he will have no problem finding an excellent faculty position where he can pursue his teaching and research.
This is an exciting project — I hope other similar projects will be inspired by this one so that more primary texts will be available online. From the available preview, the site should be spectacular.
As many of my readers may have already heard, Dr. Peter Enns, Associate Professor of Old Testament at Westminster Theological Seminary (Philadelphia), has been suspended by the Board of Trustees effective 23 May 2008, pending review “to consider whether Professor Enns should be terminated from his employment at the Seminary” (Between Two Worlds). The suspension is due to controversy surrounding his evocative, refreshing, and insightful recent book, Inspiration and Incarnation: Evangelicals and the Problem of the Old Testament (Baker Academic, 2005; Buy from Amazon.ca or Amazon.com).
I trust it is clear by my choice of adjectives that I quite liked Enns’s work and am saddened by the controversy it has evoked among conservative evangelicals. I am saddened because, while I don’t agree with everything in Inspiration and Incarnation (what academic ever could!), I felt Enns was on the right track. Evangelicals have had an uneasy relationship with critical scholarship and I felt that Enns was attempting to address some of the issues with both theological sensitivity and some academic rigor. In fact, I was in contact with Dr. Enns last year to have him speak at Taylor’s Faith & Culture Conference (as it turns out he was unavailable; instead we brought in Dr. Kenton Sparks, author of a similarly engaging work on evangelicals and biblical scholarship that is hot off the press, God’s Word in Human Words: An Evangelical Appropriation of Critical Biblical Scholarship [Baker Academic, 2008; Buy from Amazon.ca or Amazon.com]. This is another book I would highly recommend).
At any rate, this is not the place for a full review and engagement with Inspiration and Incarnation, but I would encourage you to purchase it and then read it carefully — especially if you feel the need to criticize it.
I will refrain from commenting on issues internal to Westminster Theological Seminary, its administration, faculty, students, and constituency, since I have no basis for comment. It is clear that Westminster has some hard times ahead with the disunity this controversy is raising and the institution needs our prayers. Perhaps even more than this, Dr. Enns needs our prayers. I can’t imagine what it would be like to go through this sort of investigation.
If you want to follow the controversy, I encourage you to keep tabs on Brandon Withrow‘s blog. In addition, Christianity Today also has a blog post and an article on the events. Peter Enns also has a website, though I imagine he will not be posting anything relating to this controversy in the near future.
The sad irony of this whole controversy is found in Dr. Enns’s words from the preface to Inspiration and Incarnation:
I am thankful for being part of such a solidly faithful group [the Westminster faculty] that does not shy away from some difficult yet basic questions and with whom I am able to have frank and open discussions. This does not happen at every institution, and I do not take that privilege for granted” (p. 9).
Sadly, it seems “frank and open discussions” don’t occur at Westminster after all.