In a previous post on Job 37:18, I tried to demonstrate that 1) that the verse comes from Theodotion, not the (O)ld (G)reek, 2) that Theodotion translated ראי “mirror” with ορασις, since he probably was unaware of the difference between ראי “mirror” and מראה “appearance,” and 3) Theodotion’s cosmology does not come through in this verse, since he is simply trying to render his Hebrew source in a way that makes it accessible at the expense of intelligibility to the audience. In this post, I want to comment on Theodotion’s rendering of שְׁחָקִ֑ים in 37:18a.
Here are the texts:
HT: תַּרְקִ֣יעַ עִ֭מֹּו לִשְׁחָקִ֑ים “Will you, with him, stretch out/pound out the heavens/clouds?”
Theodotion (Th): στερεώσεις μετ᾽ αὐτοῦ εἰς παλαιώματα “Solidifications are with him for a growing old.”
The word שחקים in biblical hebrew means “heavens/clouds;” thus, prima facie Th seems to have rendered the text wrongly or he may be rendering a different Hebrew parent text, but a deeper look shows differently. The same consonants שחק mean “rags from worn-out garments” in Babylonian Aramaic, Palestinian Aramaic, and Mishnaic Hebrew (Sokoloff, A Dictionary of Babylonian Aramaic, 1128; see also the prologomena to the root שחק in HALOT; Sokoloff’s Syriac lexicon also lists “to tire” for the verb shahaq ܫܚܩ, which would then make probable that the noun could also mean fatigue, antiquity, etc.).
When reconstructing the Vorlage of the LXX and the revisers (e.g. Th), one must be aware of all of the potential meanings of the unvocalized text that confronts them. In the LXX, παλαιωμα is only used in Job 3x and these references are all attributed to Theodotion (36:28, 37:18, 21), and they all render Hebrew שחק. Theodotion does not seem to be aware of the meaning “heavens” in biblical hebrew and also Aramaic. Perhaps, he was accustomed to seeing שחק with other verbs (e.g. נטה with שמים) and was unaware of the valency with רקע, which is not a common verb.
Therefore, Th understood the consonantal text of MT “heavens/clouds” with a later Hebrew or Aramaic meaning “worn out or old garments > antiquity, growing old,” and he used παλαιωμα accordingly, and therefore there is no difference in text form between Th and MT, only a difference in reading tradition. Th translated a Hebrew text which would align with the proto-MT, which became the text of the MT.
The broader question is, does this verse reveal the cosmology of Th? My assumption is that Th is attempting to render the Hebrew text in front of him faithfully, even at the expense of intelligibility on the part of the audience. Based on this premise, one might assume that Th is trying to preserve the theology of the Hebrew Bible, which is a separate question.
Clearly, Th preserved the idea of solidifications which is present in the Hebrew, but his translation has obscured the reference to the heavens, since he understood the solidifications as growing old, not a reference to the heavens. Perhaps (and I pose this almost foolishly at this time), one could suggest that Th is trying to avoid the conclusion that the Hebrew text taught that the heavens were stamped out (assuming they were thought of as a dome)? Any conclusions of this sort must remain speculative, at least for me, since I have not worked up a comprehensive translational portfolio for Theodotion. One must master his translation technique and have a good grasp on the form of the Hebrew text he was using before one can make conclusions on his theology or Tendenz.
Others should feel free to offer their suggestions about Th, the meaning of the Hebrew text of Job etc.