Michael Law has posted a short, but significant piece on Jerome’s use of Aquila as a source of the Vulgate. In this field, there are few scholars who post on these significant matters, so I thought I would draw more attention to it. Thanks for sharing, Michael!
Natalio Fernandez Marcos, author of The Septuagint in Context, says, “Nowhere in the New Testament is the need for a Semitic Vorlage demanded by the evidence, and most of the Hebraisms invoked by philologists are more easily explained as indirect Hebraisms or Septuagintalisms through the sub-language that was created for the Scriptures by the translations of the Bible in Greek” (Septuagint, 333).
In my study of Greek Job, I have come across at least two examples of the use of προσθείς + finite verb which translates Hebrew יסף + infinitive, “to X again”, in which the action to be repeated is carried by the infinitive. In Job 27:1 and 29:1, Job takes up his parable/discourse again. The OG renders this construction as προσθείς + εἶπεν: lit. having added/furthered, Job said… Or “Again, he spoke his discourse.” LSJ lists this meaning for προστίθημι only for LXX and NT. A simple example from the NT comes from Luke 19:11: Ἀκουόντων δὲ αὐτῶν ταῦτα προσθεὶς εἶπεν παραβολὴν, “Now after hearing these things, he again spoke a parable…”
Since there is some debate over whence this NT construction comes (Hebrew or Aramaic Vorlage or LXX influence), it is interesting to compare it to Aquila’s revision of Job 27:1: καὶ προσέθηκεν Ἰὼβ ἆραι τὴν παραβολὴν αὐτοῦ καὶ εἶπε (lit. And he added Job to take up his parable and he said). Predictably, Aquila renders every word of his Hebrew source into Greek, even preserving the exact Hebrew word order. He has translated the Hebrew verb ultra literally, which preserves the Hebrew parataxis, whereas the OG translator created a hypotactic construction. Nowhere do the NT authors use the construction of Aquila to my knowledge, but they do use the construction of the LXX with some frequency.
This observation and the phenomenon of Septuagintalisms in general (see the list in Marcos on pages 333-35) indicate probably that the NT authors were influenced by the LXX and perhaps in some cases the early revisers, but might it also indicate that they did not have much recourse, if any, to a Hebrew parent text and that they were not very influenced by its linguistic makeup? If they had recourse to the Hebrew parent text of the Greek OT, would we expect more literal renderings such as we find in Aquila or Theodotion, who clearly had such an access? Of course there are more angles to this discussion, which I have left out (e.g. revision of the OG by the time of the NT, what was the exact form of the Greek OT during the first century AD? etc.). All I’m asking at this time is, do the presence of Septuagintalisms add to the growing consensus that the NT authors were more, if not exclusively, influenced by the LXX than the Hebrew text and therefore they may not have made ad hoc renderings from this text?
[Caveat: Text form does not indicate a different canon thus the NT authors' dependence on the LXX does not mean that they were thinking in terms of the so called "wider canon" of the LXX. That such a conception existed at all is dubious according to a thorough examination of all of the evidence.]
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.
After seeing the word Hexapla in this blog title, you continued to read the post :).
Microsoft Word has underlined “Origen” and wants to correct it to “origin” continually throughout the document.
Your point of reference for Aquila is the Jewish reviser of the Septuagint of the early second century CE, not the preacher in the book of Acts.
The phrase “Catena manuscripts” conjures up all sorts of nightmares regarding provenance and manuscript groupings.
You know for what the siglum “Syh” stands.
The names of Field, Montfaucon, Morinus, Nobilius, and Drusius are household names.
Bishop Paul of Tella (7th century) and the work of Ceriani (19th century) have deep significance to you and perhaps a special place in your heart.
You recognize that this is a very significant colophon and perhaps some of the names in lines 8 and 10.
Asterisks (※) mean a whole lot more to you than marking an exception or a hypothetical form (e.g. Latin *potsum > possum).
The obelisk (÷) is not a division sign used in mathematics primarily.
The church fathers, Jerome and Olympiodorus et al., are more valuable and essential to your research than Augustine.
You learned about Julian “The Arian” for the first time in your life.
And finally, the Armenian language is way more interesting to you than Arminian theology.
However, Aquila, a proselyte and contentious translator, who has attempted to translate not only words (uerba) but also the etymologies (etymologias) of the words (uerborum), is rightly rejected (proicitur) by us. For who is able to read and to understand χευμα (that which is poured), οπωρισμον (vintage), στιλπνοτητα (brightness) [words from Deut 7:13], for grain and wine and oil [Deut. 7:13], in so far as we are able to read “pouring” (fusionem) and “harvesting of fruit” (pomationem) and “shining,” (splendentiam)? Or because the Hebrews not only have αρθρα (connecting word, the article), but also προαρθρα (prefixes), so that he κακοζηλως (in bad style) may interpret both syllables and letters and he may say συν τον ουρανον και συν την γην [Gen. 1:1; Aquila renders the marker of the direct object in Hebrew with συν, even though this rendering has no acceptance in Greek or Latin], which no Greek and Latin dialect accepts? We are able to take his precedent of the matter from our discussion. For how many words are spoken well among the Greeks, which, if we translate according to the word, do not resound in Latin, and from a region, where they are pleasing among us, if equally the words are altered with respect to the arrangement, then among the Greeks they will displease.
Epistula LVII, 11
At LXX Studies we will more than likely never be the first to break a story to the public, but hopefully we will be able to offer sound reflection on some of the more newsworthy items from the perspective of the Ancient Versions.
This past week, there was some hype due to an announcement that Ellen Van Wolde has made an argument that concludes something to the tune of “the traditional view that God is creator is untenable now.” As I understand it, a major part of Van Wolde’s argument concerns the translation of the Hebrew word ברא in Genesis 1:1. Of course the traditional translation of this word is “to create,” but Van Wolde has suggested that the word in this context should be translated “to separate,” so that the text is not teaching the original creation of the heavens and the earth, but only the separation of the heavens from the earth (see Chris for an apt critique of Van Wolde’s analysis of the Hebrew usage).
What Van Wolde means by the “traditional view” is not clear, but one may safely assume that she has in mind the traditional exegesis of Genesis 1:1 which supports the traditional Jewish and Christian view of creation that God created the heavens and the earth ex nihilo. I simply want to list the evidence of the Ancient Versions in order to present the traditional exegesis of this verse.
LXX: ᾿Εν ἀρχῇ ἐποίησεν ὁ θεὸς τὸν οὐρανὸν καὶ τὴν γῆν. The text can be translated: In the beginning God created/made the heavens and the earth (see LSJ s.v. αρχη for anarthrous examples with prepositions, where the sense is still clearly definite probably because the lexical item naturally assumes only one beginning). The LXX, then, uses a verb which does not mean “to separate,” but means “to make” or “to create” ( for the latter meaning see s.v. ποιεω A.2 LSJ). For a thorough listing of translation equivalents for bara’ in the LXX and for what equivalents one would expect to see if the translators wanted to communicate the sense “to separate” see here. This translation comes from the 3rd century BC (c. 280 BC) and some might wonder if the translators intended to convey that God only formed the heavens and the earth from existing matter by their use of ποιεω. Although this is possible, only about 120 years later, we see clearly that the Jews are praying to the LORD God as ο παντων κτιστης (“the creator of all”) among other appellations in 2 Maccabees 1:24. The Jews clearly have an understanding that God created all things in this period of their history and this theology must come from texts such as Genesis 1:1.
Aquila: ἐν κεφαλαιω εκτισεν θεος συν τον ουρανον και συν την γην. Aquila employs the very specific verb κτιζω “to create” in order to render the Hebrew text. Note that Aquila is not using the συν preposition in the normal sense “with” so that someone might be tempted to translate the text: God created with the heavens and with the earth or something like this. Rather, Aquila uses συν characteristically to translate the Hebrew marker of the direct object את.
Symmachus: Not extant
Theodotion: Not extant
Vulgate: In principio creavit Deus caelum et terram. Jerome uses creo to communicate the idea of creation, not separation.
Peshitta: ܒܪܫܝܬ ܒܪܐ ܐܠܗܐ܂ ܝܬ ܫܡܝܐ ܘܝܬ ܐܪܥܐ܂ P uses a cognate (bra’) to translate the Hebrew text in this verse. According to the CAL in the G stem this verb may mean “to create” or “to get well.” The former is clearly the meaning in this context given that the verb is transitive in this context.
Targum: בֲקַדמִין בְרָא יוי יָת שְמַיָא וְיָת אַרעָא׃ The Aramaic Targum uses the same cognate (bra’) as P, which has the same range of meaning in this dialect according to the CAL.
The Ancient Versions speak with one clear voice that God did indeed create the heavens and the earth, not simply the “stuff” in the heavens and the earth, and they certainly did not understand the text to mean God separated the heavens and the earth.
Therefore any argument to the contrary will have to be established firmly on the basis of the analysis of the Hebrew text of Genesis and the Hebrew Bible as a whole, which is Van Wolde’s project apparently. However, see John Hobbins’ initial critique of Van Wolde’s analysis of the Hebrew Bible here.
Fewer texts in the OT have been more important to the Christian church than Isaiah 7:14. Justin Martyr’s Dialogue with Trypho is a great example of the controversy between Jews and Christians over this crucial text. However, Justin and Trypho argue on the basis of Greek versions alone, and the controversy never descends to the meaning of the Hebrew Bible. The Versions listed below are translations from the Hebrew text, and I offer some commentary on each one. Continue reading