The latest Bulletin of the International Organization for Septuagint and Cognate Studies (Vol. 38, 2005) is out (I actually received the volume a while back, but have not had a chance to finish the post). This is an excellent issue, with many excellent articles for those interested in Septuagint studies as well as translation theory and biblical studies. Wevers’s article is worth a read, if only for his engaging account of this work on the GÃ¶ttingen Pentateuch volumes.
In addition, those interested in translation theory will want to read the articles by Aiken and Boyd-Taylor. Aitken has a very good summary of functional translation theory, while Boyd-Taylor has an interesting discussion of Descriptive Translation Studies (DTS). Both of these approaches offer more nuance than the typical discussions of “formal” versus “dynamic” translation theories based on Chomsky’s generative-transformative theory.
At any rate, here is the contents, with brief abstracts:
John William Wevers, â€œThe Dead Sea Scrolls and the Septuagint,â€? pp. 1-24.
Wevers provides a collation of Qumran Pentateuch LXX documents (Rahlfs MSS 805, 801, 802, 803) and then contextualizes his evaluation of their significance in light of current text critical practices, beginning with Lagarde and ending with reflections on his own (fascinating) experience preparing the GÃ¶ttingen Pentateuch volumes. He concludes that while the Qumran Greek texts of the Pentateuch are not significant text-critically, the Hebrew MSS from Qumran are truly significant.
Petra Verwijs, â€œThe Septuagint in the Peshitta and Syr.-Hexpla Translations of Amos 1:3-2:16,â€? pp. 25-40.
Verwijs examines the character and role of the LXX as reflected in the Syriac translations of the Peshitta and the Syr.-Hexpla, using Amos 1:3-2:16 as an example. After a thorough study of the texts and their translation technique, Verwijs concludes that the communities that produced the Peshitta and the Syr.-Hexapla employed the LXX, though in the case of the Peshitta the reflection of the LXX may be due to the translatorâ€™s recollection rather than access to an actual text.
Claude Cox, â€œTying It All Together: The Use of Particles in Old Greek Job,â€? pp. 41-54.
Cox describes the use of coordinating conjugations in OG Job. While Hebrew has relatively few sentence or clause connectors, Greek has many, and Cox finds that the OG translator incorporates many more coordinating conjunctions in his translation, particularly Î³Î¬Ï? and Î´Î. This frequent use of coordinating conjunctions brings the text together into brief sections or paragraphs in a way that is not apparent in its Hebrew Vorlage.
James K. Aitken, â€œRhetoric and Poetry in Greek Ecclesiastes,â€? pp. 55-77.
While the OG translation of Ecclesiastes is characterized by a high degree of formal equivalence, Aitken underscores the presence of a number of rhetorical features in the translation, including variatio, polytoton, anaphora, parechesis, assonance, isocola, and homoeoteleuton. Thus, the translator was not â€œslavishly literalâ€? but employed features consistent with Greek rhetorical style in order to produce a text that is both faithful to its Hebrew Vorlage and engaging for its Greek readers. Aitken concludes with a brief discussion of the merit of a functional translation theory that takes into consideration the type of text that is being translated, over against the generative-transformative model. Thus, LXX-Ecclesiastes may be better described as an â€œinformative-expressiveâ€? translation than simply â€œliteral.â€?
Cameron Boyd-Taylor, â€œCalque-culations — Loan Words and the Lexicon,â€? pp. 79-99.
Boyd-Taylor brings the Descriptive Translation Studies (DTS) of Gideon Toury to bear on the study of semantic borrowing and calques in the Septuagint. DTS understands the act of translation as a product of and for the target audience in which the some aspects of the source text are invariably retained for a variety of reasons. Seen in this light, stereotyped equivalents are examples of habitual lexical interference or transfer. The calque, on the other hand, â€œpresupposes the institutionalization of a stereotype, such that the transfer of function from the source item to its counterpartâ€¦ becomes itself a convention of the target languageâ€? (pp. 84-85). To illustrate his discussion, Boyd-Taylor examines the usage of ÎºÎ¿Î¯Ï„Î· to refer to sexual relations and concludes that it may plausibly be a calque in some configurations. All in all, he concludes that identifying calques â€œis a precarious businessâ€? (p. 99) and many so-called calques should be reexamined.
Takamitsu Muraoka, â€œGleanings of a Septuagint Lexicographer,â€? pp. 101-108.
Muraoka briefly reflects on the influence of Semitisms and textual criticism on LXX Lexicography. In regards to the former, he discusses three examples of lexical Semitisms in the LXX: á¼€Î³Ï‡Î¹ÏƒÏ„ÎµÏ?Ï‰ â€œto do a kinsmanâ€™s office,â€? Î¸Ï…Î¼ÏŒÏ› â€œbreath, venom,â€? and á½?Î¼Î¿Î¹ÏŒÏ‰ â€œto consent, to concur.â€? In regards to the latter, while it was policy to base A Greek-English Lexicon of the Septuagint on the GÃ¶ttingen LXX editions, Muraoka departed from this policy on occasion (one example he discusses is Num 11:13).
I received a kind email the other day from the novelist Anne Rice. It appears that she came to my site looking for information on recent manuscript finds in Israel and wanted to convey thanks for my “interesting articles on many subjects.”
In turn, I thought I would put a plug in for her latest work, Christ the Lord: Out of Egypt: A Novel (Knopf, 2005; Buy from Amazon.ca | Buy from Amazon.com). I recognize that for the blogosphere this is old news (the book came out over a year ago! That’s like eternity on the ‘net!), but it is a novel worth reading. Christ the Lord is an engaging novel written from the perspective of a seven year old Jesus returning to Nazareth with his family after living in exile in Egypt to escape King Herod’s clutches. Writing a book about the adolescent Jesus was quite the departure for the author who made her mark on the literary world by writing about vampires, but the novel is wonderfully written and well-researched. Rice draws from a wide array of sources for her inspiration, including, of course, the canonical gospels (which are admittedly sparse on the topic of Jesus’ adolescence), but also apocryphal works like the Infancy Gospel of Thomas, scholarly understandings of first century Palestine, and traditional Catholic teachings. The result is a compelling coming of age story.
That being said, this is a work of historical fiction and you shouldn’t base your theology on it (for example, one problem that Michael Pahl notes — and I agree with — concerns her portrayal of Jesus’ strong messianic consciousness; others would include her use of apocryphal material).
If you are interested in more information about Rice’s novel and potential film plans, you can check out her site.
There is an interesting article on profanity in classical authors by Barry Baldwin over at Shatter Colors Literary Review. The article, “Classical Swearing: A Vade-Mecum,” surveys the history of swearing in classical times.
Here is an excerpt:
You might expect the Greeks who supposedly had a word for everything (actually they didnâ€™t: no noun for â€œorgasmâ€?, though one supposes they did have them) and the Romans (likewise lacking a term for â€œsuicideâ€?, despite all that falling on swords in Shakespeare) with their reputation for plain speaking would not line up with the American Indians, Japanese, Malayans, and Polynesians who do not curse but rather with those many cultures in which – as Geoffrey Hughes puts it in his book of that name – â€œSwearing is fascinating in its protean diversity and poetic creativity, while being simultaneously shocking in its ugliness and cruelty. It draws upon such powerful and incongruous resonators as religion, sex, madness, excretion, and nationality, upon an extraordinary variety of attitudes including the violent, the shocking, the absurd, and the impossible.â€?
The article is mildly fascinating, though be warned: it does contain swear words!
Numbers 19:1-10 is a prescriptive ritual text concerned with the preparation of the ashes of a burnt â€œred cowâ€? to be used to counteract the impurity caused by exposure to a human corpse. Like many other biblical ritual texts, this one is relatively rich in details on ritual practice, but offers little that might be termed â€œinterpretationâ€? of the various ritual actions. In response to this conceptual gap, various attempts have been made to specify the â€œmeaning(s)â€? of the actions and objects. Giving special attention to the blood manipulation component of the ritual complex (Num 19:4), this paper explores a variety of theoretical questions about the interpretation of ritual activity represented in biblical ritual texts. It highlights the significance of the textuality of our access to biblical ritual, the need to fill gaps while interpreting biblical ritual texts, and points to the value of considering the indexical qualities of ritual actions.
In addition, the following reviews have been added:
Tsumura, David Toshio, Creation and Destruction: A Reappraisal of the Chaoskampf Theory in the Old Testament (Winona Lake: Eisenbrauns, 2005). Review by KarljÃ¼rgen G. Feuerherm.
Rabin, Eliott, Understanding the Hebrew Bible: A Readerâ€™s Guide (Jersey City, NJ: KTAV Publishing House, 2006) Review by Shaul Bar.
Perry, T. A., The Honeymoon Is Over: Jonahâ€™s Argument with God (Peabody: Hendrickson Publishers, 2006). Review by Barbara Green.
Klein, Ralph W., 1 Chronicles: A Commentary (Hermeneia; Minneapolis: Fortress Press, 2006). Review by Steven L. McKenzie.
Brettler. Marc Zvi, How to Read the Bible (Philadelphia: The Jewish Publication Society, 2005). Review by Alex Jassen.
Ben Zvi, Ehud, Hosea (The Forms of the Old Testament Literature, 21A/I; Grand Rapids/Cambridge, UK: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., 2005). Review by Yair Hoffman.
Noteworthy are the reviews of Klein’s Hermeneia commentary on 1 Chronicles by McKenzie (a commentary which I would highly recommend), as well as Hoffman’s very lively review of Ehud Ben Zvi’s commentary on Hosea. In addition, the review of Brettler’s recent book (which is really more of an introduction to the Hebrew Bible than the title suggests), has piqued my interest. It looks like it is worth a read.
This is Mr. Kugel’s 10th book on scriptural hermeneutics and perhaps his most fascinating; for here he takes on the appalling family of Jacob in all its mingled squalor and grandeur. As he puts it, “â€˜Dysfunctional’ is probably the first word an observer would use to describe such a family in modern times.” That seems an understatement. And yet, the five episodes he considers touch on virtually every aspect of the human predicament.
One interesting result of his approach is that we steadily see how differently earlier readers interpreted a text. Genesis 28 contains the famous dream-vision that Jacob had on the way to Haran: “He had a dream; a ladder was stuck into the ground and its top reached up to heaven, and the angels of God were going up and down on it. And the Lord was standing over him and He said, â€˜I am the Lord, the God of Abraham your father and the God of Isaac; the land upon which you are lying I am giving to you and your descendants.” This passage had never struck me as problematic. But it bothered ancient readers. What was the point of the ladder? Couldn’t God have spoken directly to Jacob? And why, after he heard the voice of the Lord, did Jacob grow frightened and say, “How fearsome is this place!” Wasn’t God’s message with its promise of covenant reassuring?
The ladder itself called forth highly creative speculation. For Philo it represented the “ups and downs” of human experience. Others were intrigued by the statement that the angels were “going up and down” on it. If they were going up, they must have begun from the ground. What were the angels doing on the ground in the first place? Some suggested that they had been on a previous mission; but if so, why had they stayed so long before ascending again? One puzzle bred others. The text was a mere seed, the commentaries that sprouted from it a vast bramble that somehow, over centuries, came to cohere.
Whether discussing Reuben’s sin with Bilhah or the priesthood of Levi or Judah and Tamar, Mr. Kugel moves easily from moral dilemmas to textual enigmas; his book thus serves as a guide to interpretation as well. He analyzes motifs and explains such hermeneutic devices as “notariqon,” a method for explaining ambiguous words by breaking them down into their hidden components (as if we would gloss the word “hearth” by saying that it was composed of “heart” and “earth”). As he notes, exegesis itself became a kind of Jacob’s ladder over the centuries, with rungs capable of spanning the lowest and the highest in one swoop. His own book has that laddered quality. Maybe the point isn’t to reach the top of the ladder but to keep that angelic procession going up and going down to the end of time.
Here is an outline of the chapters from the publisher’s website:
Chapter One: Jacob and the Bible’s Ancient Interpreters
Chapter Two: The Ladder of Jacob
Chapter Three: The Rape of Dinah, and Simeon and Levi’s Revenge
Chapter Four: Reuben’s Sin with Bilhah
Chapter Five: How Levi Came to Be a Priest
Chapter Six: Judah and the Trial of Tamar
Chapter Seven: A Prayer about Jacob and Israel from the Dead Sea Scrolls
The book looks quite facinating — so much so I may adopt it for my Genesis course next semester (any other suggestions are welcome!).
Interestingly, the front cover is almost identical to another great book on the Jacob narrative: Frederick Beuchner’s The Son of Laughter: A Novel (HarperSanFrancisco, 1994; Buy from Amazon.ca | Buy from Amazon.com).
Volume 56 of Vetus Testamentum — one of the major academic journals on the Old Testament/Hebrew Bible — has hit the shelves, and it contains a number of interesting articles, including one on the first chapter of Chronicles as well as a brief one on abecedaries.
Here is the table of contents:
Assis, Elie. “From Adam to Esau and Israel: an anti-edomite ideology in 1Chronicles 1,” Vetus Testamentum 56 (2006), 287-302.
I just had a chance to see the July 2006 volume of Dead Sea Discoveries (Volume 13, Issue 2). There are a number of interesting articles in it, especially the ones on “David’s Compositions” and the Qumran cemetery. The contents are as follows:
Halpern-Amaru, Betsy. “A Note on Isaac as First-born in Jubilees and Only Son in 4Q225″ (pp. 127-133).
Noam, Vered. “The Origin of the List of David’s Songs in ‘David’s Compositions’” (pp. 134-149).
Popovic, Mladen. “Physiognomic Knowledge in Qumran and Babylonia: Form, Interdisciplinarity, and Secrecy” (pp. 150-176).
Reymond, Eric D. “The Poetry of 4Q416 2 III 15-19″ (pp. 177-193).
Schultz, Brian. “The Qumran Cemetery: 150 Years of Research” (pp. 194-228).
Werman, Cana. “Epochs and End-Time: The 490-Year Scheme In Second Temple Literature” (pp. 229-56).
Bob Buller, the Editorial director for the Society of Biblical Literature, emailed me Sunday to let me know that one of my blog posts was cited in a book review for the Review of Biblical Literature. This is what Bob wrote:
While preparing the next batch of RBL reviews for publication this morning, I encountered what I believe is a first: a reviewer cited for further reading a blog entry from a biblical studies blog. It was your part 3 of the discussion of the LXX psalm superscriptions. I hope that this will become more common, since a number of the blogs offer excellent discussions, but you are the first (to my knowledge).