Determining Dependency Between Ancient Versions (part 1)

I realize I have not been posting frequently, but I can say that I have been making progress in preparation for comprehensive exams, and I have been bringing long standing projects to a close.  One of those projects is my work on the relationship of the Peshitta of Qoheleth to the Septuagint of Ecclesiastes for Peter Gentry’s critical edition of Ecclesiastes in the Goettingen Septuaginta series.  This project began as a seminar paper for Dr. Gentry’s Introduction to the Septuagint seminar at Southern Seminary last Fall and has turned into a contribution to his forthcoming edition.  I hope in the future to publish the entire article, but it will take some time to clean it up for publication.

In the mean time, I would like to comment on some of the salient points of the work in the next few posts.

In this post I will attempt to date the sources.  In the second post I want to say something about the nature of the Peshitta as a translation of the Hebrew Bible (proto MT). In a third post, I want to work through the nature of the dependency of the Peshitta on the LXX.

Dating the Peshitta of Qoheleth (S)

In a project like this one, dating the sources is very important.  My work relied on Michael Weitzman’s Introduction, in which he dates S between 150-200 AD.  The Pentateuch was translated c. 150, while Chronicles, Ezra, and Nehemiah were translated c. 200.  Thus I place Qoheleth somewhere in the middle.  There are reasons for this dating.  First, external evidence indicates that the Syriac Fathers are quoting S Qoheleth as early as the third century.  Second, internal evidence indicates that the Syriac Fathers (e.g. Ephrem) have already misunderstood some of the archaic linguistic features of  the Syriac language, which appear in the Peshitta of Qoheleth.  For example see St. Ephrem’s comments on ܝܬ (yat) in Genesis 1:1.  He interprets the word according to his contemporary understanding of the meaning of the word as “essence or material” instead of the old marker of the accusative or the direct object.  This evidence shows that by the fourth century the older meaning of the word had been lost, which indicates that S was translated when S translators understood the older meaning of this word.  These two strands of evidence substantiate Weitzman’s dating of the Peshitta.

Dating of the Old Greek of Ecclesiastes (G)

The dating of G has spawned an interesting discussion, but I believe there are still very good reasons to date the original translation to the first century BC or the early part of the first century AD.  The earliest manuscripts of G, B (4th) and 998 (c. 300), show revision of the original translation, thus the second century date for the original translation will have to explain how the revision in these manuscripts would happen so soon.  Also, if I have dated S correctly and it depends on G in places, then S (c. 175) shows the antiquity of G because S has already depended on early inner Greek corruptions.  Thus if S has already borrowed elements of G which are erroneous as early as 175 AD, then G must be dated earlier than 175, and I would argue much earlier if S has access to corruptions, which have seeped into the entire Greek mss. tradition.  Thus the evidence of the textual tradition itself seems to demonstrate the antiquity of G Ecclesiastes.

Conclusion

This dating scheme means that S had access to G when translating the Hebrew text, and  S translators sometimes consulted G while translating M and the next two posts will attempt to comment on this phenomenon.

4 thoughts on “Determining Dependency Between Ancient Versions (part 1)

  1. Thanks for your interesting point. Not sure that I agree with your dating of the Aramaic Peshitta, though. But I look forward to your second and third articles about the quality of the Aramaic Peshitta translation compared with the Hebrew text, and the dependency between the Peshitta and LXX. Studies of the Peshitta is much neglected, despite its importance.

  2. I have found some 25 places in which the Peshitta goes with the Greek against the MT.
    Can you recomend me a paper o Thesis about this?

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