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Archive for the 'Septuagint' Category

The Septuagint and Textual Criticism: Retroverting the Text

23rd February 2011

[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).


Posted in Dead Sea Scrolls, Psalm 151 in the Biblical Tradition, Septuagint, Text Criticism, Textual Criticism of the Hebrew Bible | 2 Comments »

R.I.P. John William Wevers

29th July 2010

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.


Posted in CSBS, IOSCS, Scholars, Septuagint, Text Criticism | 1 Comment »

The Relationship between the Septuagint and Qumran Psalm 151

6th August 2009

As I mentioned in my previous posts on Psalm 151 in the Biblical Tradition, there is significant debate on the relationship between the Septuagint Psalm 151 and the version of the Psalm found in the Qumran Psalms scroll (11Q5 Psalm 151A and B).

The editor of 11Q5 Psalm 151A and B, James Sanders, argues that 11QPsa 151A and B, while related to, are not identical with the Vorlage of LXX Ps 151. He further argues that “there can be no hesitancy whatever in affirming that 11QPs 151 is the original psalm” (The Psalms Scroll of Qumrân Cave 11 (11QPsa); DJD 4 [Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1965; buy from Amazon.com], 60), and that the LXX Psalm is a later translation of an “amalgam” of the Qumran originals (63). Most (but not all) scholars have followed Sanders in his reconstruction of the relationship between the Greek and Hebrew versions of Psalm 151.  Peter Flint considers the Greek version a “transformation of two separate psalms into a single piece” (“Apocryphal Psalms,” Encyclopedia of the Dead Sea Scrolls [2 volumes; Oxford University Press, 2000; buy from Amazon.ca | Amazon.com. ],  2:708), while his Dead Sea Scrolls Bible (HarperCollins, 1999; buy from Amazon.ca | Amazon.com) also popularizes Sanders’s view:

The text found in 11QPs-a represents the original Hebrew with two originally separate Psalms, which the Greek translator has reworked and synthesized into a single Psalm (p. 585).

Beyond the question of the relationship between these psalms, Sanders has little good to say about LXX Psalm 151.  He calls it “meaningless” (DJD, p. 60), and maintains that without the background provided in Psalm 151A, the LXX psalm “makes little or no sense at all” (p. 59). Furthermore, he argues that the individual who brought together the Vorlage of LXX Psalm 151 destroyed “the beauty and integrity of the original” and “sacrificed not only the artistry but also the sense of the one, and probably as well of the other” (p. 63). In his popular work, The Dead Sea Psalms Scroll (Cornell University Press, 1967; buy from Amazon.ca | Amazon.com), Sanders further refers to the Greek version of Psalm 151 as “nearly meaningless” (p. 94) and “comparatively ridiculous” (p. 95).  Sanders is not alone in his low opinion of the Septuagint Psalm 151. For instance, Strugnell echoes Sanders when he describes it as “largely meaningless” (“Notes on the Text,” 259), while Meyer considered it a “dogmatic correction” of a rustic psalm (“Die Septuaginta-Fassung von Psalm 151:1-5,” 172).

While I agree that the Qumran psalms are related to the Vorlage of LXX Psalm 151, there are significant differences between the texts that indicate that their relationship is not so simple, and that the texts are more dissimilar than even Sanders admits.  In fact, I think – in line with the works of Haran, Smith, Segal, and most recently Debel (in part) – that it is more plausible that the Qumran psalm(s) are a later reworking of the shorter Hebrew Vorlage of LXX Psalm 151. Furthermore, in contrast to Sanders, I will argue that LXX Psalm 151 is a coherent text in and of itself, and that it doesn’t need 151A/B to make sense of it. In this regard I argue that while LXX Psalm 151 is shorter, it is in fact a well-constructed midrash on 1 Samuel 16-17.

In fact, I would argue that reading LXX Psalm 151 in the light of the Qumran psalms actually hampers our understanding of it, since the later Qumran versions take the psalm in a slightly different direction. In a recent article, Segal (“Literary Development,” Textus 21[2002], 143), has made the bold claim that

the bias towards the Hebrew version of the psalm has resulted in a skewed view of the meaning of the Greek edition, as all scholars have assumed that this shorter poem [i.e., the LXX] necessarily addresses the same topics as the longer version.

While Segal overstates the case, I concur with his evaluation. In my next post I will explore in more detail the relationship between the Greek and Hebrew versions of this psalm.


Posted in Dead Sea Scrolls, LXX Psalms, Psalm 151 in the Biblical Tradition, Psalms, Psalms Scrolls, Septuagint | 1 Comment »

Psalm 151 at Qumran

4th August 2009

As mentioned in my previour post on Septuagint Psalm 151 (first installment in my series on Psalm 151 in the Biblical Tradition), the discovery of Hebrew psalms clearly related to the Septuagint Psalm 151 created quite a stir among biblical scholars.  Prior to the discovery of the Dead Sea Scrolls, Psalm 151 was only know to us from its Greek and Syriac versions. At the beginning of the last century Septuagint scholar Henry B. Swete noted that “there is no evidence that it [Ps 151] ever existed in Hebrew” (Introduction to the Old Testament in Greek [Hendrickson, 1989], p. 253; buy from Amazon.ca | Amazon.com), and in the 1930s Martin Noth “expressed doubts” about a Hebrew original to LXX Psalm 151 in his study of the five Apocryphal psalms and did not bother to provide a Hebrew retroversion of Psalm 151 in that study.

It was not until the discovery among the Dead Sea Scrolls of the so-called “Qumran Psalms Scroll” (11QPs-a or 11Q5; see my Scroll Introduction) that contained two Psalms (Ps 151A and B) that were clearly parallel with the LXX 151, that scholars universally recognized that LXX Psalm 151 had a Hebrew Vorlage (i.e., a Hebrew original), though the precise relationship between LXX Psalm 151 and 11Q5 Psalm 151 remained under debate.

Before we discuss the nature of the relationship between the Greek LXX Psalm 151 and the Hebrew 11Q5 Psalms 151A and 151B, it would do us well to carefully examine the psalms in question. I have already provided a translation of LXX Psalm 151 in my previous post; here I provide a translation of Psalm 151A and B as found in column 28 of 11Q5:

11Q5 Ps 151A-B

11Q5 Ps 151A & B
3

הללויה לדויד בן ישי

A Hallelujah of David son of Jesse.

קטן הייתי מןאחי

Smaller was I than my brothers

וצעיר מבני אבי

And the youngest of the sons of my father
4

וישימני רועה לצונו

And he made me shepherd of his flock

ומושל בגדיותיו

And ruler over his kids

ידי עשו עוגב

My hands made a (musical) instrument

ואצבעותי כנור

And my fingers a lyre
5

ואשימה ליהוה כבוד

And I rendered glory to the Lord

אמרתי אני בנפשי

I said within myself

ההרים לוא יעדו לו

The mountains do not witness to him,
6

והגבעות לוא יגידו

Nor do the hills declare;

עלו֯ העצים את דברי֯

The trees have cherished my words

והצואן את מעשי֯

And the flock my works.
7

כי מי יגדי ומי ידבר

For who can declare and who can speak,

ומי יספר את מעשי֯ אדון

And who can recount the works of the Lord?

הכול ראה אלוה

Everything has God seen,
8

הכול הוא שמע

everything has he heard,

והוא האזין

and he has heeded.

שלח נביאו למושחני

He sent his prophet to annoint me,
9

את שמואל לגדלני

Samuel, to make me great

יצאו אחי לקראתו

My brothers went out to meet him,

יפי התור ויפי המראה

Handsome of figure and handsome of appearance

הגבהים בקומתם

They were tall of stature
10

היפים בשערם

Handsome by their hair,

לוא בחר יהוה אלוהים בם

The Lord God did not choose them.

וישלח ויקחני מאחר הצואן

But he sent and took me from behind the flock
11

וימשחני בשמן הקודש

And annointed me with holy oil,

וישימני נגיד לעמו

And made me leader to his people
12

ומושל בבני בריתו

And ruler over the sons of his covenant
13

תחלת גב[ו]רה ה[דו]יד

משמשחו נביא אלוהים

At the beginning of [Dav]id’s p[ow]er after the prophet of God had annointed him

אזי רא֯[י]תי פלשתי

Then I s[a]w a Philistine
14

מחרף ממ[ערכות האיוב]

Uttering defiances from the r[anks of the enemy].

אנוכי [     ]  את

I   […]  ’t […]

I should note that while the translation is my own, the above reconstruction follows that by the scroll’s editor, James Sanders (which I do not entirely agree with, but I’ll discuss that in another post).  The line numbers in the left-hand column are not precise; they reflect the line divisions of the editor.  According to Sanders’s reconstruction, Psalm 151B begins in line 13.

In the actual scroll, the column is laid out as follows:

11Q5 Column 28

יהוה העומדים בבית יהוה בלילות שאו ידיכם קודש וברכו

1

את שמ יהוה יברככה יהוה מציו[ן] עושה שמים וארץ

2

vacat

הללויה לדויד בן ישי קטן הייתי מןאחי וצעיר מבני אבי וישימני

3

רועה לצונו ומושל בגדיותיו ידי עשו עוגב ואצבעותי כנור

4

ואשימה ליהוה כבוד אמרתי אני בנפשי ההרים לוא יעדו

5

לו והגבעות לוא יגידו עלו֯ העצים את דברי֯ והצואן את מעשי֯

6

כי מי יגדי ומי ידבר ומי יספר את מעשי֯ אדון הכול ראה אלוה

7

הכול הוא שמע והוא האזין שלח נביאו למושחני את שמואל

8

לגדלני יצאו אחי לקראתו יפי התור ויפי המראה הגבהים בקומתם

9

היפים   בשערם לוא בחר יהוה אלוהים בם וישלח ויקחני

10

מאחר הצואן וימשחני בשמן הקודש וישימני נגיד לעמו ומושל בבני

11

vacat בריתו

12

תחלת גב[ו]רה ה[דו]יד משמשחו נביא אלוהים אזי רא֯[י]תי פלשתי

13

מחרף ממ[ערכות האיוב] אנוכי [     ]  את

14

Here is an English translation:

11Q5 Ps 151A & B
1 of the Lord, who stand in the house of the Lord by night. Lift your hands in the holy place and bless
2 the name of the Lord May the Lord, maker of heaven and earth, bless you from Zion.
blank space
3 A Hallelujah of David son of Jesse. Smaller was I than my brothers And the youngest of the sons of my father
4 And he made me shepherd of his flock And ruler over his kids My hands made a (musical) instrument And my fingers a lyre
5 And I rendered glory to the Lord I said within myself The mountains do not witness
6 to him, Nor do the hills declare; The trees have cherished my words And the flock my works.
7 For who can declare and who can speak, And who can recount the works of the Lord? Everything has God seen,
8 Everything he has heard, and he has heeded. He sent his prophet to annoint me, Samuel,
9 to make me great My brothers went out to meet him, Handsome of figure and handsome of appearance They were tall of stature
10 Handsome by their hair, The Lord God did not choose them. And he sent and took me
11 from behind the flock And annointed me with holy oil, And made me leader to his people And ruler over the sons of
12 his covenant
13 At the beginning of [Dav]id’s p[ow]er after the prophet of God had annointed him Then I s[a]w a Philistine
14 Uttering defiances from the r[anks of the enemy]. I   […]  ’t […]

As you can see, the actual scroll does not divide the Hebrew psalm into poetic lines, but takes up the width of the column with as much text as possible. (By the way, the top of the column [lines 1 and 2] consists of all but the first part of Psalm 134 [LXX Ps 133]).

Comparing Sanders’s line divisions with that of the actual scroll raises an issue common with any analysis of the Dead Sea Scrolls; the issue of editorial reconstruction.  A number of aspects of Sanders’s reconstruction of Psalms 151A and B have been severely criticized by scholars — especially his reconstruction of lines 6-8. That being said, even a quick comparison of LXX Psalm 151 with this text from Qumran suggests some sort of literary relationship between the texts, though as I noted above, the precise nature of that relationship is debated.


Posted in Dead Sea Scrolls, LXX Psalms, Old Testament, Psalm 151 in the Biblical Tradition, Psalms, Psalms Scrolls, Septuagint | 1 Comment »

Septuagint Psalm 151

30th July 2009

This post is my first in a series on Psalm 151 in the Biblical Tradition.  Now,  some of my readers may be wondering what is this Psalm 151 that I am talking about? The biblical book of Psalms only contains 150 psalms! To you I reply, you are absolutely correct (but also a little incorrect!).  The book of Psalms in the Hebrew Masoretic tradition — the tradition on which Protestants and Jews base their modern English translations — contains 150 psalms (actually this isn’t quite correct; there are Masoretic manuscripts that divide the psalms differently resulting in more or less than 150 psalms. For example, there are manuscripts that divide individual psalms differently and end up with 147, 148, 149 and even 170 psalms!  Nonetheless, the Masoretic tradition is consistent in its content with modern Protestant and Jewish translations). If we turn to the  Greek Septuagint (and the Syriac) tradition, however, we find an extra psalm right after Psalm 150, which has become known as “Psalm 151.” It appears that this psalm was not held with quite the same authority as the other 150 psalms,  since an editorial note in the psalm title marks it as ἔξωθεν τοῦ ἀριθμοῦ (“outside the number”).

While this psalm was known for a long time from the Greek and Syriac traditions, the discovery of two Hebrew psalms clearly related to the Septuagint Psalm 151 among the Dead Sea Scrolls (dubbed “Psalm 151A and 151B” by the editor of  11Q5), has challenged our understanding of this psalm in a number of ways. It has raised significant questions surrounding the relationship between the Greek and Hebrew versions of this psalms, as well as the precise nature of the Hebrew original from which the Greek was translated.  In much of this debate, the interest in the Qumran psalms has overshadowed interest in the LXX version of Psalm 151. In this series of posts I will explore these questions and any implications they may have to our understanding of the development of the book of Psalms. More specifically, I want to look at the relationship between LXX Ps 151 and 11Q5 Ps 151A and 151B and then provide an analysis of  Psalm 151 as a psalm in its own right.

But first, let me provide the actual psalm itself as well as an English translation:

 

LXX Psalm 151
1a Οὗτος ὁ ψαλμὸς ἰδιόγραφος εἰς Δαυιδ καὶ ἔξωθεν τοῦ ἀριθμοῦ, ὅτε ἐμονομάχησεν τῷ Γολιαδ. This Psalm is autobiographical. Regarding David and outside the number. [When he fought Goliath in single combat.]
1b Μικρὸς ἤμην ἐν τοῖς ἀδελφοῖς μου I was small among my brothers,
1c καὶ νεώτερος ἐν τῷ οἴκῳ τοῦ πατρός μου, and the youngest in my father’s house;
1d ἐποίμαινον τὰ πρόβατα τοῦ πατρός μου. I would shepherd my father’s sheep.
2a αἱ χεῖρές μου ἐποίησαν ὄργανον, My hands made an instrument;
2b οἱ δάκτυλοί μου ἥρμοσαν ψαλτήριον. my fingers tuned a harp.
3a καὶ τίς ἀναγγελεῖ τῷ κυρίῳ μου; But who will report to my lord?
3b αὐτὸς κύριος, αὐτὸς εἰσακούει. The Lord himself, he listens.
4a αὐτὸς ἐξαπέστειλεν τὸν ἄγγελον αὐτοῦ It was he who sent his messenger
4b καὶ ἦρέν με ἐκ τῶν προβάτων τοῦ πατρός μου and took me from my father’s sheep
4c καὶ ἔχρισέν με ἐν τῷ ἐλαίῳ τῆς χρίσεως αὐτοῦ. and anointed me with his anointing oil.
5a οἱ ἀδελφοί μου καλοὶ καὶ μεγάλοι, My brothers were handsome and tall,
5b καὶ οὐκ εὐδόκησεν ἐν αὐτοῖς κύριος. but the Lord took no delight in them.
6a ἐξῆλθον εἰς συνάντησιν τῷ ἀλλοφύλῳ, I went out to meet the foreigner,
6b καὶ ἐπικατηράσατό με ἐν τοῖς εἰδώλοις αὐτοῦ, and he cursed me by his idols.
7a ἐγὼ δὲ σπασάμενος τὴν παῤ αὐτοῦ μάχαιραν But I, having drawn the sword from him,
7b ἀπεκεφάλισα αὐτὸν I beheaded him,
7c καὶ ἦρα ὄνειδος ἐξ υἱῶν Ισραηλ. and removed reproach from Israel’s sons.

 

This psalm has been aptly described as  an autobiographical midrash on the early life of David as recorded in 1 Samuel 16–17. It weaves together incidents from David’s adolescence recorded in 1 Samuel 16-17: his anointing (16:1-13), his entry into Saul’s service as a musician (16:14-23), and his victory over Goliath (chap. 17).  Significantly, these three episodes hang together uneasily in their context in Samuel, but are brought together in this poetic midrash connecting David’s anointing by Samuel with his victory over Goliath as an example of the Lord’s presence with David.

I will offer some more analysis of this psalm in a later post.


Posted in Bible, LXX Psalms, Psalm 151 in the Biblical Tradition, Psalms, Septuagint, Series | 2 Comments »

Electronic Edition of the Göttingen Septuagint Announced by Logos

3rd March 2009

Logos Bible Software has announced a project that will make all Septuagint scholars’  mouths water: an electronic edition of all of the Göttingen Septuagint volumes, including the entire critical apparatus.  The LXX will be morphologically tagged and fully searchable; and if you own the texts found in the apparatus you will be able to just click and view the text. To make this all the more appealing, you can order the electronic edition at a fraction of the price of the print editions.

While the advent and availability of electronic texts has advantages and disadvantages, in the right hands tools such as these can revolutionize scholarship.

For more information on the Logos Göttingen Septuagint, see here.  For more information on the Septuagint, check out my “Resources relating to the LXX” pages.


Posted in Announcements, Logos, Septuagint, Software | 2 Comments »

German Translation of the LXX Published

3rd March 2009

The very first translation of the Septuagint into German has now been published: Septuaginta Deutsch: Das griechische Alte Testament in deutscher Übersetzung (Martin Karrer and Wolfgang Kraus, eds.; Deutsche Bibelgesellschaft, 2009).

The “LXX.D” project has been on the go for about a decade, so it is nice to see it come to completion. Here is an excerpt from the press release:

It is said concerning the genesis of the Septuagint that 72 Jewish translators in ancient Alexandria translated the Hebrew Bible in 72 days into miraculously identical Greek. To this day, the very name “Septuagint,” which in Greek means “70,” evokes the legend surrounding the creation of the Old Testament in Greek.  The Septuagint was the standard Bible used by first-century Christians.  A knowledge of the Greek version of the Bible is necessary in order to comprehend many theological pronouncements, for example the virgin birth of Jesus. Moreover, it is still today the Scripture of the Orthodox churches.  However, it has never been published separately in German translation.

That situation has now been remedied. The first edition of the Septuagint in German will be presented to the public at the residence of the plenipotentiary of the EKD Council in Berlin (Charlottenstrasse 53/54) on 28 January 2009 at 3.30 pm.  Persons cordially invited to attend the presentation include Präses Nikolaus Schneider (Evangelical Church in the Rhineland), Bishop Johannes Friedrich (Evangelical Lutheran Church in Bavaria) and Jan Bühner (general secretary of the German Bible Society), as well as the two principle editors, Professor Wolfgang Kraus (Saarbrücken) and Professor Martin Karrer (Wuppertal). Greetings will be pronounced by Bishop Joachim Wanke (Erfurt) and Metropolitan Augoustinos (Bonn).

Up to more than 80 persons worked at one time on the project, which had been coordinated since 1999 out of a specially set-up office.  According to Wolfgang Kraus, “Without the generous support of the Evangelical Church in the Rhineland, in particular, we would never have been able to complete the translation.”  However, the translation which is being presented is not the only positive result of the nearly ten-year effort. The translation process included academic symposia organized in Germany, France and the United States.  “In terms of international Septuagint research, Germany is now on the map,” declared Martin Karrer with visible pride.

The translators included Protestant, Catholic and Orthodox Christians, who consulted with Jewish scholars on questions of translation.  The result was a collective effort uniting various Christian denominations and Judaism.  For the first time, Orthodox Christians living in Germany have at their disposal a Bible in the German language.

The newly published translation, which comprises 1,500 pages in one volume, will be followed by a two-volume version which includes scholarly commentaries based on the Greek Bible.  The editors plan further publications, which testifies to the standing of the Septuagint as a source of important insights regarding the textual transmission of the Old Testament and as one of the cornerstones of European culture.

For more information on the German Septuagint project, you can check out their website: septuagintaforschung.de.

With this publication, new translations of the LXX have now been produced for English (New English Translation of the Septuagint – NETS), French (La Bible d’Alexandrie; this project includes introductions and commentary on the text and is almost complete), and German. Translation projects are also underway in Italian, Modern Greek, Modern Hebrew, as well as Japanese.


Posted in Announcements, Septuagint | Comments Off

Reasons to Study the Septuagint (in Honour of International Septuagint Day)

8th February 2009

“The Sept-tu-a-what?” is what I hear from many of my students when I first mention the Septuagint in my introductory lecture on the text and transmission of the Hebrew Bible/Old Testament.  By mid-term, however (or should I say by the midterm, i.e., the midterm exam), virtually all of my students are able to tell me that the Septuagint is the Greek translation of the Hebrew Bible begun around the third century BCE for the Pentateuch and completed sometime in the second or first century BCE for the rest of the books. Keen students should be able to further tell me that the title “Septuagint” comes from the Latin Septuaginta, which means “70” (thus the abbreviation LXX), and relates to the legendary origins of the translation by 70 Jewish elders from Israel (my “A” students may even relate how some versions of the legend report 72 elders were involved in the translation).

You may be wondering why I am bothering to relate something of my experience of teaching about the LXX. Just in case it didn’t come pre-marked in your calendar, February 8 is International Septuagint Day. This is a day established by the International Organization for Septuagint and Cognate Studies (IOSCS) to promote Septuagint studies throughout the world.

In honour of International Septuagint Day, I thought I would provide some of the top reasons why we should study the Septuagint today:

  • The Septuagint preserves a number of Jewish-Greek writings from the pre-Christian era not contained in the Hebrew Bible (known in Christian circles as the Apocrypha or the Deuterocanonical works)
  • As such, study of the LXX can provide a glimpse into the thought and theology of diaspora Jews before the common era.
  • For the majority of the books of the Old Testament/Hebrew Bible, the LXX provides us the earliest witness to the biblical text (earlier than most of Hebrew witnesses found among the Dead Sea Scrolls, for example) and is indispensable for textual criticism.
  • The LXX provides a unique glimpse into the literary and textual development for some books of the Old Testament (e.g., Jeremiah, Esther, Daniel), as well as the sometimes fuzzy border between literary development and textual transmission.
  • Insofar that all translations are interpretations, the LXX provides one of the earliest commentaries on the Hebrew Bible.
  • The LXX gives us a glimpse of the shape of the OT canon before the common era (at least for Greek-speaking Judaism in the diaspora, perhaps not for Palestinian Jews).
  • The LXX functioned as the Bible of most of the early Greek-speaking Christians (and continues to function as such for the Greek Orthodox Church).
  • In connection with the previous point, the LXX often served as a theological lexicon for the writers of the NT, and as such it provides a fruitful avenue of research into the background of many of the theological terms and concepts in the NT.
  • The LXX was the preferred Scriptures for many of the early church fathers and is essential for understanding early theological discussions.
  • It’s a great conversation starter at parties (Attractive Woman/Man: “Read any good books lately?” Budding LXX student: “Why yes, I was just reading the Septuagint today!” Attractive Woman/Man: “The Sept-tu-a-what?” Budding LXX student: “Let me buy your a drink and tell you more…”)

I imagine more reasons could be thought of to read and study the Septuagint, but the above list is a good start. If you are interested to learn more about the Septuagint, I encourage you to work through my “Resources Relating to the LXX” pages, though I will mention three essential resources:

  • A New English Translation of the Septuagint (Alberta Pietersma and Benjamin G. Wright, eds.; Oxford University Press, 2007). This is the best English translation available of the LXX and a great place to begin your study of the Septuagint. Buy from Amazon.ca | Buy from Amazon.com
  • Karen H. Jobes and Moisés Silva, Invitation to the Septuagint (Baker Academic, 2000). This is probably the best introduction for beginning students. It aims to familiarize readers with the history and current state of Septuagintal scholarship as well as the use of the LXX in textual criticism and biblical studies. For a more detailed description, see my review in the Catholic Biblical Quarterly 64 (2002) 138-140. Buy from Amazon.caBuy from Amazon.com
  • Septuaginta (Alfred Rahlfs, ed.; Editio altera/Revised and corrected edition by Robert Hanhart; German Bible Society, 2006). This is the popular edition of the Septuagint — and the only affordable version with the complete Greek text. Buy from Amazon.caBuy from Amazon.com

I challenge you to think of some creative ways to celebrate International Septuagint Day today!


Posted in Holidays, IOSCS, Septuagint | 17 Comments »

Codex Sinaiticus Conference

7th February 2009

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:

  • Christfried Böttrich
  • Christopher Clarkson
  • Eldon J. Epp
  • Harry Y. Gamble
  • Dirk Jongkind
  • René Larsen
  • David Parker
  • Albert Pietersma
  • Emanuel Tov
  • David Trobisch
  • Klaus Wachtel

As you can see, my advisor, Al Pietersma, is among the speakers.

It looks as if it will be a great conference.

If you want to read more about Codex Sinaiticus, check out my profile of the manuscript which was part of my Textual Criticism of the Hebrew Bible series.


Posted in Announcements, Conferences, Septuagint, Sinaiticus, Text Criticism | 1 Comment »

Nerds Galore!

25th July 2008

OK, I have been trying to view the images of Codex Sinaiticus on the codexsinaiticus.org website for the last 24 hours. I keep getting this message:

Too many concurrent connections (> 100.000). The manuscript page is temporarily unavailable. Please try again later.

Who would have thunk there would be over 100,000 people interested in a really old Greek manuscript?!

I guess I will have to wait until the initial interest dies down (a couple days? a week?). What I can say is that the rest of the site looks great (although it does have a few dead links).


Posted in Septuagint, Sinaiticus | Comments Off