The Hexapla of Job 24:12a and the Modern Translator

I have not posted on the LXX in a while, but I wanted to draw attention to a problem at which I had to look for my dissertation on the Hexapla of Job and show how this work is relevant to modern translations of the Bible.

A sampling of modern translations of this verse is insightful. For example, the ESV says, “From out of the city the dying groan”. The word of interest is “the dying”, and it is also the translation of the NIV. Interestingly, the KJV(!), HCSB, and the NASB have “men” in their translation. So what is happening beneath the surface?

Here is a listing of the MT and the Versions:

MT: מֵ֘עִ֤יר מְתִ֨ים׀ יִנְאָ֗קוּ

LXX: οἳ ἐκ πόλεως καὶ οἴκων ἰδίων ἐξεβάλλοντο

Sym: ἐκ πόλεως ἄνδρας ἐποίησαν στενάξαι (retroverted from Syh  .ܣ. ܡܢ ܡܕܝܢܬܐ ܠܓܒܪ̈ܐ ܥܒ̣ܕܘ ܠܡܬܬ̣ܢܚܘ ܀)

Th: ἐκ πόλεως ἄνδρες κεκράξονται (retroverted from Syh ܬ. ܡܢ ܡܕܝܢܬܐ ܓܒܪ̈ܐ ܢܩ̣ܥܘܢ܀)

Vulgate: de civitatibus fecerunt viros gemere

Pesh:ܡܢ ܓܘ ܩܪܝܬܐ ܡ̈ܝܬܐ ܢܬܐܢܩܘܢ

A few observations are in order. First, the consonantal text of M may be pointed to mean “men” or “the dying”, but the vocalization of M clearly indicates that the former is in view. Now, a modern scholar may dispute this vocalization and claim that M’s vocalization was a relatively new invention; however, this vocalized reading is very old, if not the original reading, since it is also the reading of Theodotion, Symmachus and Jerome’s Vulgate. The LXX does not have either of these readings, but the translator seemed to understand people who are alive, not dead, but this version cannot always be trusted for this type of information in the book of Job. Second, the Pesh certainly has “the dead” or “the dying”. Third, and on a more pedantic note, Jerome seems to have used Symmachus for his translation, since we know he used Sym from time to time and these versions are the only two interpreting the Hebrew verb as a causative “from the city they made/caused men to groan”, when in fact the word is not causative. Thus, the Hexapla actually preserves the earliest evidence of the reading of the Hebrew Bible in this verse.

Now, let me highlight the problem of the ESV, which is the version I use most regularly and I find it to be a good translation overall. The translation, “the dying”, is put into the text without any explanation. As far as the reader knows, this translation is a faithful rendering of the Hebrew text. The problem, however, is that it is a faithful rendering of the Syriac Peshitta and perhaps one other insignificant Hebrew ms., and the English translator did not note the other Versions and witnesses to the text in this instance. What should have happened in this case?

The translator probably should have maintained the principles of the ESV and translated the Hebrew text (codex L) faithfully, and if he disagreed with the reading, he should have put all of the evidence in a footnote below the text. Or he could have put “the dying” in the text and left a footnote indicating that the reading of the Hebrew and the rest of the Versions is “men”.

The reader of the ESV wants to know what the original Hebrew text says, nothing more or less. In Job 24:12a, M and the oldest Versions have preserved the original vocalization. The text should say “From the city, men will groan.”

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