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.”


SBL/IOSCS Paper Proposal Accepted


Last week, I learned that I will be presenting at the Denver meetings, “The Dream for a ‘Field for the Twenty-First Century’ Endures: A Description and Defense of the New Critical Edition of Job 22–42.” Yes, yes, if I present it, you will come :-). For anyone interested, here is the abstract:

Publishing “a Field for the Twenty-First Century” remains the aim of the Hexapla Project, and after many years of waiting, the release of its first edition, A Critical Edition of the Hexaplaric Fragments of Job 22–42, is planned for winter of 2018. In light of this development, I want to (1) review the aims of the Hexapla Project, (2) describe the format of the new edition vis-à-vis prior editions, and (3) reply to some recent criticism of the project with specific examples from the new edition of Job 22–42. The new edition surpasses the previous editions of Frederick Field and Joseph Ziegler both in terms of evidence and method, and this advance will be demonstrated with examples from Job 22–42. Finally, Olivier Munnich has offered some recent criticisms of the Hexapla Project, which I will address in the final part of the presentation.



Origen’s Hexapla at Southeastern

Origen3Last week, I gave a presentation at Southeastern Seminary on Origen’s Hexapla. Almost every point of the history of the Hexapla has been debated over the years. Was there a Hebrew column? Why was there a transliterated column (i.e. the Secunda)? Were there signs (asterisk, obelus) in the Fifth column (i.e. the corrected Septuagint)? Why did he compile it in the first place? What’s the Tetrapla? How did the Hexapla come to have such an impact on the textual history of the Septuagint? I won’t present it again here. Below are some pictures from Chip Hardy, Ian Mills, and SEBTS Library on social media. In addition to the SEBTS community, some from Duke, Shepherd’s Theological Seminary, and Erskine College attended the talk. I had a great time. The questions after the presentation were good. The coffee was excellent. I enjoyed the post-presentation conversations with the folks that attended.

I’m at Southern Seminary this week visiting family and friends and continuing to revise and finalize my critical edition of the hexaplaric fragments of Job 22–42 for publication.


Inner-Biblical Exegesis between Old Greek Isaiah 9:9 and Genesis 11:3–4?

The Old Greek (OG) translators are often times (mis)understood to be mechanical in their approach to translating the Hebrew Text (HT), often pictured as giving a plain, or even rigid, word for word rendering of their Hebrew source. Of course this description is closer to the mark when describing Song of Songs or Ecclesiastes or even Numbers etc. But not all translators went about their task in this way. Some of them wove deliberate interpretation or exegesis into their translations (of course all translations are interpretations to a degree so that we should think about translations on a continuum from less to more interpretation). The Isaiah (image: Codex Marchalianus) translator is an example of a more interpretive translator, and I was struck by what appears to be a beautiful example of his technique in 9:9. Continue reading “Inner-Biblical Exegesis between Old Greek Isaiah 9:9 and Genesis 11:3–4?”

Canon, Codex, and Biblical Theory

Codex SinaiticusCanon and Codex. Surely, the alliteration indicates that these ideas are co-extensive, right? Depends on whom one asks. Armin Lange in the same article referenced here says:

I have also referred repeatedly to the invention of the mega-codices as a catalyst in the development of the Christian canon. It was only the mega-codex [full collection of Old and New Testament books] format that made it possible to combine all biblical Scriptures (Old and New Testament) into one book. Consequently, the question of which books should be included in such a mega-codex as the one Bible will have brought the issue of canon to the attention of Christian thinkers and officials…. It is all the more interesting that none of the three preserved mega-codices [Sinaiticus, Vaticanus, Alexandrinus] corresponds precisely in its table of contents with any of the canon lists of the fourth century (pp. 74–5).

In this section, Lange cites an article by Robert Kraft, “The Codex and Canon Consciousness” (pp. 229–33) in the The Canon Debate (among other scholars). I presume he had these thoughts of Kraft in mind:

…I suspect that the new possibility (and concept) effected a major paradigm shift in how Christians henceforth thought about their “Bible” and its canonical cohesiveness. That is, “biblical canon” took on a very concrete meaning in the shadow of the appearance of the Bible as a single book in codex form (p. 230).

And again:

But once it was possible to produce and view (or visualize) “the Bible” under one set of physical covers, the concept of “canon” became concretized in a new way that shapes our thinking to the present day and makes it very difficult to recapture the perspectives of earlier times. “The canon” in this sense is the product of fourth-century technological developments. Before that, it seems to me, things were less “fixed,” and perceptions, accordingly, less concrete (233).

Kraft and Lange, among others we could cite, define the Christian biblical canon in terms of what books were placed between physical covers. No doubt, Christian scribes and bishops made choices on which books to include and exclude from the codex and no doubt the new physical form changed the concept of the Bible. The question, however, pertains to (1) whether codex technology and physical form actually motivated the fixing of the canon in the fourth century and (2) whether the discrete books within the codex were all viewed as having equally authoritative status.

For whatever change in perception of the material form of “the Bible” these developments brought—I assume change in perception did occur—there is very little evidence that would suggest that these codices brought about the fixing or concretizing of the canon. There’s not space to detail the similarity between the few second- and third-century lists and the later fourth-century lists that would actually show a remarkable conservatism (with some change of course) in canon formation in these centuries. Therefore, it remains unclear to me what kind of “change” did occur once Christians put their books between two covers. Certainly, the codex would have come as a wonderful advance from the standpoint of hermeneutics and being able to organize knowledge and concepts more efficiently. But whether it brought development to the canon or not still remains fuzzy and less concrete to me.

Many Eastern lists contain the books of the narrower Hebrew canon (see post on Epiphanius). Some fourth century lists, both Western and Eastern, contain those canonical books and “useful scriptures” in distinct categories. It is probable that the drafters of these canon lists would have no difficulty with codices that contained these books between two covers since the distinctions between books would still be conceptualized. Another possibility could be that the codices agree with later Latin lists which attest the wider canon; that is, they include the six deutercanonical books. But at this point it is insightful to look at the specific books in these codices to see if their compilers considered these deuterocanonical books as stable as the canonical ones.


Codex Sinaiticus: 1. PENTATEUCH (defective); 2. JDG (defective), CHRON (defective) EZRA–NEH, ESTHER, TOBIT, JUDITH, 1 & 4 MACCABEES; 4. ISAIAH, JER + LAM, EZEK (defective), SUS + DANIEL + BEL (defective), THE TWELVE; 3. PSS, PROV, ECCL, SONG, WISDOM, ECCLESIASTICUS, JOB.


The three codices agree on inclusion of Judith, Tobit, Wisdom, and Ben Sira / Ecclesiasticus though not on their order and placement. They do not all contain the books of Maccabees with only two including 1 and 4 Maccabees and only Alexandrinus containing 2–3 Maccabees. The later Latin canon lists of Augustine and Innocent I, for example, do not include 3–4 Maccabees, only 1–2 Maccabees. Thus the codices and those lists do not agree on these books, and therefore the codices may not be a stable guide to canon regarding them. But what about the other four books? It is possible the compilers considered these books canonical because they chose to include them. But in the absence of explicit statements to this effect, it might be more reasonable to conclude with the majority of the canon lists (most of the early ones) that these books are simply useful scriptures and were not considered to be authoritative in matters of doctrine. That is, codex does not equal canon.

Modern canon scholarship has emphasized the codex and manuscripts in general for determining the Christian canon and describing how that canon was conceptualized. No doubt, the invention of the codex brought development to the concept of the Bible. But moderns continue to envision the canon lists in tension with the codex, perhaps irresolvable contradiction (see Lange’s statement above). However, have we committed anachronism? Have we read the canonical significance and conceptualization of our physical Bibles back into the ancients’ codex? If we have, how would we know? The main line of evidence that may offer a corrective and a way forward is the ancients’ statements themselves. Serious consideration of those statements and lists need to be reintroduced into the conversation so that a more balanced and reasonable, though no less complex, picture may emerge.

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).


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?

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.