Septuagint Study Recommendations

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Josh | Forum Activity | Posted: Fri, Oct 4 2013 5:10 PM

I am in the mood to learn more about the LXX. I browsed what Logos had to offer and also took a look at Amazon. I'm thinking about purchasing McLay's "Use of the LXX in NT Research", but I was hoping to get some recommendations before making a purchase.

Dine's "The Septuagint" also looked like it might be a good LXX introduction. Has anyone read it?

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Milford Charles Murray | Forum Activity | Replied: Fri, Oct 4 2013 5:27 PM

Josh:

I am in the mood to learn more about the LXX. I browsed what Logos had to offer and also took a look at Amazon. I'm thinking about purchasing McLay's "Use of the LXX in NT Research", but I was hoping to get some recommendations before making a purchase.

Dine's "The Septuagint" also looked like it might be a good LXX introduction. Has anyone read it?

Peace, Josh!                  I haven't thoroughly read it; however, in my perusal I found it to be quite good ...   *smile*

A little sample for you, if that pleases ... (I first started studying the LXX in the late 1960's, so it's time to take another long, hard look methinks!  *smile*)

If you'd like to see a little more, please let us know, eh???

The Septuagint and Koine Greek

Koine differs in various respects from the earlier ‘classical’ Greek associated principally with Attic, the form of the language spoken and written in and around Athens. Ancient Greece, geographically and historically, resisted unification, and its language consisted of a number of distinct, though related, dialects. For a while in the fifth century bce, Athens was dominant, both historically and culturally, and most (though not all) of the literature equated with the great age of classical Greece was written in Attic. During the period of the Athenian Empire, and in its aftermath, Attic was widely used in trade and other international relationships; in the process, some of its distinctive features began to disappear, although, in any case, there would have been differences between everyday and literary speech. Elements from other Greek dialects prevailed, archaic words and expressions, including Homeric ones, reappeared. Some grammatical forms (the dual, for instance, and the optative) changed, simplified, and eventually all but vanished, in the normal way in which living languages evolve with time and circumstance.

Some changes appear already in the fourth-century writings of well-travelled Athenians like Xenophon and Aristotle. Then, in the wake of Alexander’s conquests in the late-fourth century, this ‘common’ Greek became the lingua franca not only of the Mediterranean Basin and the Aegean, but also of much of the ancient Near East, including Egypt and Palestine. Greeks settled overseas in even greater numbers than before, and the common language not only facilitated trade and communication, but also helped to further Alexander’s vision of a universal Greek culture. Even when the short-lived Empire broke up after Alexander’s early death in 323 bce, the Ptolemaic, Seleucid and Antigonid dynasties, between whom it was divided, were all of Macedonian Greek origin. So the linguistic situation did not change and Koine continued to be the expression of a cosmopolitan, multi-ethnic civilization.[1]

 



[1] Dines, J. M., & Knibb, M. A. (2004). The Septuagint (pp. 110–111). London;  New York: T&T Clark.

Here's a bit more ...   *smile*

Koine was also increasingly spoken by non-Greeks. At first, we may suppose, it was acquired as a second language for practical reasons, but before long it will have become the first language for many, including Jews. It is a language increasingly well known to us from inscriptions (decrees, dedications, memorials) and papyri (letters, documents), especially, in the latter case, from Egypt. It is also the language of much of the LXX (and later of the NT). Study of the inscriptions and papyri has shown how much the LXX reflects the common language.

Koine, whether in the Bible or elsewhere, must not, however, be equated simply with colloquial, vernacular language. It was also used in a more polished way (even some of the papyri and inscriptions display a consciously elegant style). In Egypt under the early Ptolemies, in the third and second centuries particularly, there was a new flowering of Greek thought and writing; it was centred on Alexandria, but other renowned cities like Athens, Pergamum and Cyrene were also involved. The result was a corpus of Hellenistic Greek literature, both poetry and prose, which is now the object of increasingly appreciative study.

Among the writers of the second century bce were a number of distinguished Jewish authors, who wrote in various genres. It is as part of this cultural flowering that we should probably understand some of the more ‘literary’ LXX translations (Proverbs, for instance, or Job). At the same time, the study, in Hellenistic schools, of earlier Greek literature showed up the differences in style with works written in Koine. From at least the first century bce, there was a conscious move, in some literary circles, to revive the supposedly ‘pure’ Attic dialect used by the great authors of fifth-century Athens. There were also debates, extending into subsequent centuries, between proponents of Attic and those who defended the use of other forms of the language. This too has left its mark on the history of the LXX, where ‘Atticizing’ revisions occur from the time of the earliest extant remains as well as in the Lucianic Recension (see above, Chapter 5, p. 104).

In modern times too, the Greek of the LXX has been tried and found wanting. Swete is typical in calling it ‘clumsy’ (of the prologue to Sirach), ‘a mongrel patois’ (of the Greek spoken in Alexandria and perhaps reflected in the Pentateuch), and ‘uncouth’ (1914: 20, 292, 370). He appreciates the ‘simple style’ of the Pentateuch and the achievements of the authors of the Wisdom of Solomon and 2–4 Maccabees (1914: 312). Concerning the syntax of the translated books, however, he was so struck by the Semitic character, that he considered the LXX as not really Greek at all: ‘the translators … are almost indifferent to idiom, and seem to have no sense of rhythm’ (1914: 299). Many of these judgements, which were once widely accepted, are now being revised, though there is still much debate about the nature and extent of Semitic influence on the LXX’s syntax. It is worth dwelling on the reactions of the older biblical scholars (classical scholars, on the whole, did not engage with the LXX) because they demonstrate how much their own cultural conditioning affected their responses. Immersed from their earliest years in a classical education, and taught to take the fifth-century bce Greek authors as their benchmark, they could scarcely help being shocked by the LXX, a product of the Hellenistic age which itself was hardly thought worthy of study.

Their discomfort is not an exclusively modern phenomenon, as we have just seen in the matter of Atticizing. As well as the textual evidence for stylistic improvement, we also find Christian apologists already in antiquity defending the rough simplicity and old-fashioned language of the Bible (in Old and New Testaments alike) against the contempt of opponents with more sophisticated literary tastes. The third century ce was another moment of classical revival, within which must be set Origen’s answer (c. 248 ce) to the earlier treatise of the non-Christian Celsus on True Doctrine (c. 180 ce). Celsus had sneered at the Apostles as a bunch of tax-collectors and sailors. Origen’s reply defends the efficacy of their uneducated speech for preaching the gospel, along lines already used by Paul (possibly against a similar background; Against Celsus 1.62; cf. 1 Cor. 2:1–4?). There may be a hint of similar criticisms in the second-century ce apologist Theophilus of Antioch’s comment that all the ‘prophets’ (that is, the biblical authors) were ‘illiterate and shepherds and uneducated’, agrammatoi kai poimenes kai idiōtai (Ad Autolycum 2.35; translation by Grant 1970). Swete suggested that Hellenistic Jewish writers deliberately paraphrased their biblical quotations in order to conceal the ‘uncouth phraseology of the Greek Bible’ (1914: 370), but this is unlikely. It is true that the preference for Attic forms over those of Koine affected vocabulary, verb endings and other features, as Pelletier has shown in the case of Josephus’s updating of Ep. Arist. (1988: 106), but other apparent ‘liberties’ taken with the LXX have to be seen in the context of the normal way in which Greek (and Latin) authors deliberately disguised their sources (Spottorno has remarked on this in connection with Josephus, 1997: 382).

The Koine of the LXX is usually classed as colloquial or vernacular, as opposed to literary (though even Swete acknowledged in passing that there were some literary features present, and he forgets himself sufficiently to praise the LXX as ‘a monument of early Hellenistic Greek’; 1914: 295, 340). This classification, although basically correct, needs to be modified by examining each book for its particular features. The line between non-literary and literary language is not as clear as has been assumed, which makes examining the LXX for stylistic features (these are briefly listed by Aitken 1999: 29) an interesting development.

In another debate, influential for some time, it was argued, from the supposedly high incidence of Semitic features thought to permeate the LXX, that there was a special kind of ‘Jewish-Greek’, not only the result of written translation, but actually spoken by Jewish diaspora communities, especially in Egypt (it was assumed, questionably, that Jews mainly continued to speak Aramaic in Palestine). This theory has been largely (though not entirely) abandoned. From the ever-growing body of secular papyri, as well as of Jewish inscriptions in Greek, it becomes increasingly clear that the language of the LXX is fundamentally the same as that spoken (or at least, written) elsewhere, particularly its vocabulary (Lee 1983; 2003; Horsley 1989). Furthermore, in Egypt the undeniably Semitic character of many LXX expressions and constructions has been paralleled in non-Jewish papyri, especially from rural areas. Rather than suppose Jewish influence on the local brand of Greek, it has been argued that a Semitic flavour has come into Greek from the local Egyptian (Coptic) dialects (Vergote in Fernández Marcos 2000: 10. Brock 1972: 33–4 notes that this was already

 

Philippians 4:  4 Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say, Rejoice. 5 Let your reasonableness be known to everyone. The Lord is at hand..........

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Denise | Forum Activity | Replied: Fri, Oct 4 2013 6:26 PM

McLay is good. Although the title includes 'in research', it's more broadly useful. He's very even handed and quite a bit of detail.

Here's a section discussing Mat's comparison of Jonah to Jesus:

"The metaphor καρδίᾳ τῆς γῆς heart of the earth is unique in the Scriptures, but there is little doubt that the referent is Hades, especially when we consider that the imagery is rooted in the Greek form of the psalm of Jonah. The imagery of the journey from Sheol in the belly of the fish58 is reflected in Matthew in various ways, and it is instructive for our purposes to examine the language used in Jonah to depict the situation. First, the citation in 12:40 suggests the influence of the Greek version of Jonah upon Matthew. Second, in verse 3b of Jonah 2 God is said to have heard Jonah’s cry ἐκ κοιλίας ᾅδου from the belly of Hades, which not only retains the usual translation of Hebrew Sheol into Greek Hades (the Hebrew text has מִבֶּטֶן שְׁאוֹל from the belly of Sheol) but also provides an identification of the belly of the fish, which the Hebrew lacked ..."


Posts 1492
Josh | Forum Activity | Replied: Fri, Oct 4 2013 6:48 PM

Denise:

McLay is good. Although the title includes 'in research', it's more broadly useful. He's very even handed and quite a bit of detail.

Here's a section discussing Mat's comparison of Jonah to Jesus:

"The metaphor καρδίᾳ τῆς γῆς heart of the earth is unique in the Scriptures, but there is little doubt that the referent is Hades, especially when we consider that the imagery is rooted in the Greek form of the psalm of Jonah. The imagery of the journey from Sheol in the belly of the fish58 is reflected in Matthew in various ways, and it is instructive for our purposes to examine the language used in Jonah to depict the situation. First, the citation in 12:40 suggests the influence of the Greek version of Jonah upon Matthew. Second, in verse 3b of Jonah 2 God is said to have heard Jonah’s cry ἐκ κοιλίας ᾅδου from the belly of Hades, which not only retains the usual translation of Hebrew Sheol into Greek Hades (the Hebrew text has מִבֶּטֶן שְׁאוֹל from the belly of Sheol) but also provides an identification of the belly of the fish, which the Hebrew lacked ..."

Very interesting, thank you.

I was also looking at "Invitation to the Septuagint" by Jobes and Silvia. But I was unable to find this in Logos.

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David Paul | Forum Activity | Replied: Fri, Oct 4 2013 8:05 PM

Denise:

Here's a section discussing Mat's comparison of Jonah to Jesus:

Second, in verse 3b of Jonah 2 God is said to have heard Jonah’s cry ἐκ κοιλίας ᾅδου from the belly of Hades, which not only retains the usual translation of Hebrew Sheol into Greek Hades (the Hebrew text has מִבֶּטֶן שְׁאוֹל from the belly of Sheol) but also provides an identification of the belly of the fish, which the Hebrew lacked ..."

I started a reply to this and then something caught my attention. Is this guy saying what he appears to be saying? Because he seems to be saying that the Hebrew doesn't speak about "the belly of the fish". Isn't that what he's saying?

Jon. 2:1  <---This is a translation from the Hebrew.

I'm befuddled by this, because it seems that this guy is making a massive blunder, one so massive it seems impossible to make. Perhaps there is something beyond the ellipsis that redeems this apparent "fail"? I dunno, maybe he's saying something else that I'm not seeing.

Posts 9927
Denise | Forum Activity | Replied: Fri, Oct 4 2013 8:35 PM

The 'rest of the story':

... ' in the Greek, Jonah is said to be in τῇ κοιλίᾳ τοῦ κήτους the belly of the fish in verses 1 and 2, but in verse 3 he prays from the κοιλίας ᾅδου belly of Hades'.  

He's talking about the greek providing the bridged parallel across 3 parts of the poem.


Posts 4724
David Paul | Forum Activity | Replied: Fri, Oct 4 2013 8:37 PM

Josh:

I was also looking at "Invitation to the Septuagint" by Jobes and Silvia. But I was unable to find this in Logos.

I would probably get this if offered in Logos. You should recommend it.

Posts 4724
David Paul | Forum Activity | Replied: Fri, Oct 4 2013 8:44 PM

Denise:

The 'rest of the story':

... ' in the Greek, Jonah is said to be in τῇ κοιλίᾳ τοῦ κήτους the belly of the fish in verses 1 and 2, but in verse 3 he prays from the κοιλίας ᾅδου belly of Hades'.  

He's talking about the greek providing the bridged parallel across 3 parts of the poem.

Still not processing his point...

Jon. 1:17 "belly of the fish" Jon. 2:1 "belly of the fish" Jon. 2:2 "belly of Sh''ohl"

The English changes the first verse of the Hebrew (and the LXX as well) into the last verse of chapter 1.

So what's missing in the Hebrew?

Posts 1492
Josh | Forum Activity | Replied: Fri, Oct 4 2013 9:45 PM

I'm thankful for the quotes. As I was going through my dead-tree library I stumbled upon John Glynn's Commentary and Reference Survey. I quickly opened it up and found a section on Septuagint resources! There was quite a lot of resources to look up! Both Jobes/Silvia and Dines works are recommended.

John also suggests Martin Hengel's "The Septuagint as Christian Scripture".

Posts 95
Rick Brannan | Forum Activity | Replied: Sat, Oct 5 2013 11:12 AM
Note that Swete's Introduction to the OT in Greek is good. You won't find it if you're watching for titles with "Septuagint" in them. You may already have it in your Logos. Also, Ottley has an intro, I believe. His work on LXX Isaiah is well regarded.

Rick Brannan | Twitter: @RickBrannan
my books in print

Posts 1492
Josh | Forum Activity | Replied: Sat, Oct 5 2013 11:02 PM

Rick Brannan:
Note that Swete's Introduction to the OT in Greek is good. You won't find it if you're watching for titles with "Septuagint" in them. You may already have it in your Logos. Also, Ottley has an intro, I believe. His work on LXX Isaiah is well regarded.

I searched for Swete in my library. I own his "The Old Testament in Greek: According to the Septuagint" book, but not the one you mentioned. I decided to open up this book anyway and spotted this:

That's the book you recommended. Logos is selling it here. Maybe you could write a review. Smile

There are also several books I've found that have chapters reserved for the Septuagint. Bruce Metzger opens up "The Bible in Translation: Ancient and English Versions" with a chapter detailing both the Septuagint and Targums. Even though the information is succinct, Bruce packs a lot into that chapter.

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