The Translation of the “LXX” of Job 37:18
Posted by John Meade on December 4, 2010
This post is a response to Ed Babinski’s questions on my “About” page. He raised a significant question regarding the differences between Brenton’s translation and the NETS (New English Translation of the Septuagint) at Job 37:18. His question also gave me the opportunity to look ahead at a verse that I will have to prepare for my dissertation, since this verse is sub asterisk (※).
He asked two questions, 1) what accounts for the disparity between the English translations of the Septuagint, and 2) how does the “LXX” translate Job 37:18? I will answer them in order.
The Problem with Brenton’s Translation
Brenton differs with NETS in two instances in this verse: he has a verb in v. 18a, where NETS has a noun and he reads the word “mirror”, where NETS has “appearance.” I have not done an exhaustive study of Brenton’s translation, but my experience with it is that he sometimes translates the Hebrew text at the expense of faithfulness to the Greek of the LXX. This verse seems to be an example of this phenomenon in both places. In the first example, the LXX has στερεώσεις, which is a plural noun from στερεωσις, “a making firm, a making solid” (see LSJ) or as NETS has it “solidifications.” I prefer NETS here because the noun is a -σις noun and it usually indicates an abstract noun, thus a solidification. The Hebrew text has a Hiphil verb from רקע, and Brenton seems to translate this word instead (see BDB). In the second example, LXX has ὅρασις “appearance”, while the Hebrew has ראי “mirror”, which is listed in both BDB and KB. This word does seem to be a genuine hapax legomenon. Brenton has read the Hebrew text again, for the Greek word does not mean “mirror” (see LSJ). NETS has translated the Greek text more faithfully here, and there is a reason for the Greek translation to which we now turn.
The Reading of the “LXX”
The second question regarding the Greek translation of ראי brings us to the main issue. Most significantly, this reading does not come from the (O)ld (G)reek translator (1-2 centuries BCE), but from the Jewish reviser Theodotion, who completed his work in the 1st century CE (many argue for a late second century date, but see Peter J. Gentry, The Asterisked Materials of the Greek Job for a contrary and persuasive proposal). The text is under the asterisk (※), marking a text present in the Hebrew but absent in the OG, and in this case the Syro-hexapla and Catena Ms 740 preserve the attribution to Theodotion. Thus, when attempting to discover the translation technique, one needs to understand Theodotion’s use of ὅρασις, not necessarily the technique of the OG. Here is the available evidence of ὅρασις for Th (the references correspond to Field):
מראה: Ezek 1:13, 16; 10:22; Dan 8:16, 26 Th.
רוהּ: Dan 3:25 Th
חזון: Dan 9:24; 10:14; (7:13?) Th.
חזוי: Dan 2:28 Th.
Is 22:1 Sym and Th for חזיון.
Ezek. 13:16 Sym and Th for חזון.
Ezek 1:27, 28; 10:10 Aq and Th מראה.
Amos 5:26 Th for סכות perhaps for שכה “to observe, behold.”
Problematic readings occur in Dan 4:7, 7:2, 8:2, and so have been left out of this analysis.
The plethora of evidence allows one to leave aside the double attributions or those instances where Th is joined by Aq and Sym as the author of the lemma, since there are clear cases where only Th uses ὅρασις for Hebrew מראה and חזון.
In Job 37:18, Th must be reading ראי “mirror” as a form of מראה “appearance.” Perhaps, he was unaware of the meaning of this hapax legomenon in the Hebrew Bible. A comparison of the rest of the Versions confirms this, since none of these Versions have an equivalent for “mirror”:
Aquila: also uses ὅρασις “appearance.”
Symmachus: uses an infinitive ὀφθῆναι “to appear.”
Vulgate: qui solidissimi quasi aere fusi sunt.
Peshitta: No equivalent for the reading in question or it has interpreted the reading with “to support simultaneously.”
The Versions all take an interpretive stance, which is almost certainly because of the hapax in the Hebrew text. The only other possibility is to posit that modern Hebrew lexicography is wrong in this case and to posit that the Hebrew word really does mean “appearance” on the basis of Th, Aq, and Sym.
These translators are attempting to render the Hebrew text in front of them in a quite literal way. I doubt we can discern their cosmology based on their rendering of the text. They want to be faithful to the Hebrew text and its message from what I can tell. Perhaps Ed can now enlighten us as to what he thinks is happening in this text regarding ancient cosmology.