#1 When God Spoke Greek

The fanfare over the release of T. M. Law’s When God Spoke Greek was fierce. Michael Law posted a few interviews over at his site. There were numerous blog reviews. See the Near Emmaus blog for the blog tour summary. Now that the fanfare is dying down, I want to contribute a few comments on the book. This will not be a book review. Many summaries of the book have been written and I commend those to you. Rather, I want to focus on what kind of book this is and then attempt to offer some critical interaction with it. I should say from the beginning that I required this book for my Septuagint course over the summer. The few students that took the class (may their tribe increase!) bought the book and reviewed it as an assignment. I will continue to require this book in future offerings of the course because I think it is an interesting and readable book and provides the students with an alternative perspective, something every professor and class needs.

The first question is what kind of book is it? Law has called it a “narrative history” of the Septuagint on many occasions. Although one is not able to find this exact categorization in the book, I agree with it, but that’s not actually the question I am raising at present. In the interactions I have had with students and peers, the question over whether the book is a work of popular scholarship or popular scholarship has arisen. I suppose Law has answered this question in a clean up blog post by denying “scholarly monograph” status to his own work. And yet the work was published by Oxford University Press and it was endorsed by very established scholars in the field, some who said “the book is meant for the scholar and learned reader alike.” It is for these reasons, not to mention the book’s own internal scholarly arguments, which perhaps causes Law to deny that his book is simply “popular drivel” in the same blog post (sidebar: comments like this one always create more heat than light and should be avoided at all costs). I have read the book with its end notes and certain parts of the book many times, and Law interacts with most of the up-to-date scholarship on the questions he poses. He did not trace arguments to their roots and, as I will point out later, he did not represent other viewpoints in some chapters. This fact may mean the book is more popular than scholarly, but I do not want readers to take this comment as dismissive. On the contrary, the book demands critical interaction. I will also discuss Law’s use of primary sources since in my view one’s interaction with the primary evidence is the mark of good scholarship. Therefore, I am treating the work as a narrative history of the Septuagint written for a serious reader or scholar. As such this book and its claims must be put under close scrutiny in order to evaluate its significance to the fields of historical and textual research.

Textual Growth in Isaiah 40:7-8? (Part 1)

This series of posts may be too ambitious for a blog, but I hope to present some of the key issues and the scholars involved with this textual problem and the other significant textual problems in Isaiah generally. I will present the texts in this post and the two theories used to explain the textual situation. In a second post, I will present the interpretation of Eugene Ulrich, “The Developmental Composition of the Book of Isaiah: Light from 1QIsaa on Additions in the MT,” Dead Sea Discoveries 8,3 (2001): 288-305. In a third post, I want to convey some of the main ideas in a recent article by Drew Longacre, “Developmental Stage, Scribal Lapse, or Physical Defect? 1QIsaa’s Damaged Exemplar for Isaiah Chapters 34-66,” Dead Sea Discoveries 20 (2013): 17-50. In a fourth post, I will offer my own conclusion to this textual problem. These texts are the most relevant to this problem but I will comment on all of the evidence in post four.

MT:  יָבֵ֤שׁ חָצִיר֙ נָ֣בֵֽל צִ֔יץ כִּ֛י ר֥וּחַ יְהוָ֖ה נָ֣שְׁבָה בֹּ֑ו אָכֵ֥ן חָצִ֖יר הָעָֽם ׃יָבֵ֥שׁ חָצִ֖יר נָ֣בֵֽל צִ֑יץ וּדְבַר־אֱלֹהֵ֖ינוּ יָק֥וּם לְעֹולָֽם׃ ס. The text in red is what is under consideration.

NRSV: The grass withers, the flower fades, when the breath of the Lord blows upon it; surely the people are grass. 8 The grass withers, the flower fades; but the word of our God will stand forever.

LXX: ἐξηράνθη ὁ χόρτος, καὶ τὸ ἄνθος ἐξέπεσεν, […] τὸ δὲ ῥῆμα τοῦ θεοῦ ἡμῶν μένει εἰς τὸν αἰῶνα.

NETS: The grass has withered, and the flower has fallen, […] but the word of our God remains forever.

1QIsaa: יבשׁ חציר נבל ציצ כי רוח ֑֑֑֑ נשׁבה בוא הכן חציר העם יבשׁ חציל נבל ציצ ודבר אלהינו יקום לעולם. The text in red represents a later addition to this text, perhaps written in a different handwriting by a later scribe. I provide the image from the manuscript (see here for the whole digital scroll).

1QIsaa-XXXIII

As one can see, the Masoretic text is longer than the text of the LXX. Furthermore, 1QIsaa has an interesting and perhaps a mixed text. The image above shows that originally 1QIsaa had a shorter text similar to the LXX and that another hand added the longer reading of MT above the line and then continued the longer text down the left margin.

In order to describe this text and the factors involved one needs a theory which can explain these kinds of problems. Currently, the two theories on this problem and others like them are (1) 1QIsaa represents the shorter original and MT represents a growing and expanding text of Isaiah and (2) 1QIsaa and LXX represent a text that became shorter by a scribal error during the transmission of the longer text. In addition to a theory, one also needs an understanding of the character of these textual witnesses in order to describe the factors involved. For example, (1) would need to show that 1QIsaa usually has a shorter text than MT and the reason for MT’s longer text is due to intentional scribal additions. (2) would need to show that an unintentional scribal error is probable in 1QIsaa and would have to supply an equally probable solution for the rest of the shorter texts in that manuscript. In other words, a global knowledge of the textual character of 1QIsaa combined with a theory of its transmission is prerequisite to deciding between the two theories.

As we unpack this problem, I want to keep an eye on the theory which most simply explains the difference between these texts. Both theories are plausible from the outset, but which one will offer the simpler solution in the final analysis?

Upcoming IOSCS in Munich

A light post for the weekend. The congress of the International Organization for Septuagint and Cognate Studies (IOSCS) meets August 1-3 in Munich. The program is posted here. The complete list of abstracts is here.

I will be presenting a paper for the section on manuscripts. I post the abstract below. I also want to highlight other papers to be presented. Natia Dundua is presenting a paper on the Old Georgian of Ecclesiastes, “The Textual Value of the Old Georgian Version of Ecclesiastes.” Here is the abstract:

Ecclesiastes will be the first Göttingen Volume for which the Old Georgian Version was collated as a daughter version. Our paper briefly describes the task of collating this version and an assessment of these data for the history of the textual transmission of the Greek Ecclesiastes.

Amazing that Ecclesiastes will be the first edition to include this version. I look forward to learning about the textual character of this version.

My presentation will be on the significance of manuscript RA 788 for a a critical edition of the Hexaplaric Fragments of Job. Here is the abstract:

Ra 788 (Tyrnavos 25) is a tenth century Greek catena manuscript containing the book of Job and the three Solomonic books. Dieter and Ursula Hagedorn were not aware of it and therefore it was not included in their magisterial work Die Älteren Griechischen Katenen zum Buch Hiob or the Nachlese. Before commenting on the hexaplaric fragments, it is necessary to determine the manuscript’s place in the stemma. This paper seeks to show that 788 is a member of oldest Greek catena (Hagedorns’ Γʹ) and in particular that it is the ancestor of the important ms 250. Once its place in the manuscript stemma has been determined, the paper will comment on the significant hexaplaric fragments within the manuscript in comparison with the recent dissertations on the hexaplaric fragments of Job by Nancy Woods and John Meade.

Update to καίγε in Joel 2:29 and Acts 2:18

I have made an update to the post καίγε in Joel 2:29 and Acts 2:18, which interacts briefly with Steve Runge’s comments on Acts 2:18.

I post the Update here as well:

UPDATE: Brian Davidson informed me that Steve Runge wrote a paper on Joel 3:1-5 in Acts 2. Steve gives a great discussion of the Hebrew discourse function of גם and the Greek discourse function of γε. The particles גם and γε disambiguate the intended function of the following prepositional phrases marking the fullest extent to which the outpouring of the Spirit will be experienced. The LXX is ambiguous with καί only, but γε in Acts 2:18 indicates that the fronting of the prepositional phrases is emphatic and not contrastive. Excellent analysis of the grammar. What Steve does not mention (not the intention of this paper) is the καίγε tradition, which probably influences Acts 2:18. Before Acts 2, the Jews were already revising גם/וגם with καίγε where the OG had only καί. Therefore, καί γε is not an adaptation on the part of Luke (Steve does not actually suggest this from what I read), rather Luke received a text with καίγε in all probability.

Let’s keep the discussion going.

καίγε in Joel 2:29 and Acts 2:18

Blogging has been a low priority for me this past year since my transition to Phoenix last summer. My first year of teaching at Phoenix Seminary was both challenging and satisfying. Currently I am teaching a course on the Septuagint, Readings in the Septuagint, and in my preparation I came across an interesting piece in Joel 2:29.

As I was reading Joseph Ziegler’s apparatus for the Duodecim Prophetae for Joel 2:29, I found a curious variant. I provide the first part of the Hebrew, LXX, and NT followed by the apparatus for LXX:

HT: וְגַ֥ם עַל־הָֽעֲבָדִ֖ים

LXX: καὶ ἐπὶ τοὺς δούλους

NT: καί γε ἐπὶ τοὺς δούλους

καί 1° W* B-S*-V L-36 C-68 AchSa] + γε rel. = Act. 2:18.

No doubt Ziegler has determined the original text in this instance and perhaps Acts 2:18 influenced the rest of the Greek manuscript tradition with the addition of γε. Acts 2:18 is the earliest witness to this variant but it probably did not introduce this reading into the textual transmission. Where did γε come from? We now have enough evidence, especially for the Twelve Prophets, that shows that the Jews were revising the (O)ld (G)reek to a text closer to the proto-Masoretic Text long before the time of Jesus and the NT. One of the characteristics, indeed the characteristic after which the tradition became named, was the revision of the translation of וגם/גם with καίγε (sometimes two words καί γε) where OG had simple καί. This characteristic and the general tradition was brought to its pinnacle in the revision of Aquila. The most significant piece of evidence for the tradition comes from the Nahal Hever Scroll of the 12 Prophets dated to the middle of the 1st century BCE.

One can see that the use of καίγε brings the Greek text into greater quantitative alignment with the Hebrew source, for now גם has an equivalent in the Greek text.

What is intriguing to me in this example and others like it is that the NT has a reading which in all probability goes back to the καίγε tradition of the 1st century BCE and therefore a reading in close alignment with the proto-MT.

It is very intriguing to me that at times they cite what is close to the OG (even when it departs from the proto-MT) and at other times they cite what is closer to καίγε or Theodotion (a prominent member of the former tradition; see here). Did the NT authors have a choice between texts or did they simply use what they had at their disposal? This is an open question in my mind and I invite you to list your opinions in the comments.

UPDATE: Brian Davidson informed me that Steve Runge wrote a paper on Joel 3:1-5 in Acts 2. Steve gives a great discussion of the Hebrew discourse function of גם and the Greek discourse function of γε. The particles גם and γε disambiguate the intended function of the following prepositional phrases marking the fullest extent to which the outpouring of the Spirit will be experienced. The LXX is ambiguous with καί only, but γε in Acts 2:18 indicates that the fronting of the prepositional phrases is emphatic and not contrastive. Excellent analysis of the grammar. What Steve does not mention (not the intention of this paper) is the καίγε tradition, which probably influences Acts 2:18. Before Acts 2, the Jews were already revising גם/וגם with καίγε where the OG had only καί.

Life Update

At the end of July I moved my family from Louisville, KY to Phoenix, AZ to take a teaching position at Phoenix Seminary. Phoenix is a wonderful city even though it is hot in August. I started teaching last week and am almost through week two already. I teach Hebrew I, Hebrew III (Syntax and Exegesis), and Survey of the Pentateuch. The students are great and it has been a wonderful experience so far.

I reserve Fridays for research pursuits. Lately, I have been working on the Hexaplaric fragments in ms RA 788. This manuscript needs to be incorporated into the collection of the hexaplaric fragments of Job. I was able to incorporate most of it into my dissertation, and now I am comparing it to work of Nancy Woods on the first half of Job. I hope to present the findings at a scholarly meeting and eventually publish the article.

I am also working on articles for a three volume work to be published by Brill, The Textual History of the Bible. The work will be edited by Armin Lange. My articles pertain to the Hexapla of Psalms, the three Solomonic books, the major prophets, and of course Job.

It is a busy season of transition and new opportunities, but it is an exciting one!

Dissertation…Defended!

I’m very thankful to Peter Gentry and Jim Hamilton for serving on my dissertation committee as well as to Claude Cox and Jerome Lund for serving in the capacity of external examiners. I have relatively few edits to make before submitting the final draft in May. Onward to graduation.