New Book: Style and Context of Old Greek Job by Marieke Dhont

Below is a guest post from Dr. Marieke Dhont describing her new book Style and Context of Old Greek Job (Brill, 2018). Enjoy.


MD_OGJobWhen I was reading through the Old Greek (OG) text of the book of Job, the following verses (among many others, of course!) caught my attention:

Job 13:24

διὰ τί ἀπ᾿ ἐμοῦ κρύπτῃ,

ἥγησαι δέ με ὑπεναντίον σοι;

Why do you hide from me

and regard me your opponent?

למה פניך תסתיר

ותחשׁבני לאויב לך

Why do you hide your face,

and count me as your enemy?

Job 33:10

μέμψιν δὲ κατ᾿ ἐμοῦ εὗρεν,

ἥγηται δέ με ὥσπερ ὑπεναντίον.

But he found a basis for complaint against me

and has reckoned me as an adversary.

הן תנואות עלי ימצא

יחשׁבני לאויב לו

Look, he finds occasions against me,

he counts me as his enemy.

The Hebrew חשׁב with a double prepositional clause introduced by ל expresses the concept of “considering X as Y.” In the first case, the Greek translation represents the normal way to express this in Greek, namely with ἡγέομαι and a double accusative. In the second case, the translator uses a preposition to introduce the predicative, a construction that does not occur in any other classical or koine Greek sources. I started to wonder why the translator of Job would render the same construction differently in the course of his text.

OG Job is known as the “freest” translation in the Septuagint corpus, written in “good, idiomatic” Greek with a “literary style.” From this viewpoint, we may ask ourselves, why would the translator of Job, who clearly knows how to express himself in idiomatic Greek (13:24), say the same thing then in non-idiomatic Greek (33:10)? Yet, if we look at OG Job from the broader viewpoint of the corpus of LXX translations, it is precisely the “freedom” and “good, literary Greek style” of the translator of Job that requires explanation, since the majority of Septuagint translations appear to have been characterized by an isomorphic approach to the Hebrew that resulted in substandard Greek. How can we more adequately understand the character of Old Greek Job?

In Style and Context of Old Greek Job, I have three major goals.

– The first is to analyze the descriptors that scholars use to characterize Septuagint translations in terms of translation technique (e.g., “literal” and “free”) and style (e.g., “good” and “bad,” “literary” and “non-literary” Greek). I take insights from modern translation studies to argue that we would stand to gain from leaving behind the literal-to-free continuum (ironically, even modern translation studies have stopped using these terms; only in Septuagint studies do scholars still adhere to them). Translation is a complex process governed by various factors that are often socio-culturally determined. This cannot be described along a single axis but is more adequately characterized in terms multiple causation.

– My second goal is to come to a deeper insight into the character of Old Greek Job. This text is infamous for its qualitative and quantitative deviations from the Hebrew text of the Masoretes and has puzzled scholars for decades, but a nuanced analysis had yet to be offered. This book represents the first systematic study of the Greek text of Job from the viewpoint of language and style. I look both at the way in which certain features from the Hebrew are rendered into Greek, but also at how the translator uses features in the Greek text that have no counterpart in the Hebrew.

– The “freedom” of OG Job has often been understood in terms of a lingering opposition between Judaism and Hellenism. What does it mean to describe OG Job as a “Hellenized” translation, when Jews had adopted the Greek language and the target audience for the Greek translation of Job would have been Jewish? I propose an alternative approach to OG Job as a translation, an artefact of Hellenistic Jewish literature, and a product of an intercultural context in which Jews did not simply adopt elements commonly associated with Hellenism, but in which Hellenism, in turn, is approached as a culturally diverse environment that includes Judaism and that undergoes change as Judaism evolves. To structure my argument, I use a methodological framework derived from modern literary theory, namely Polysystem Theory (PST). I describe the position of OG Job as part of the development of a Jewish literary tradition in Greek.

In short, with this study, I attempt to provide a new answer to the question of why Job was translated into Greek the way that it was. I hope many will find my approach and the insights provided in this book stimulating for their own research.

About Marieke Dhont

Marieke Dhont obtained a joint doctorate in Religious Studies at KU Leuven and Theology at Université catholique de Louvain in 2016. She is currently a British Academy Postdoctoral Fellow at the University of Cambridge, where she is working on a new project, entitled “Expressing Jewish Identity through Greek Language and Literary Heritage.”

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