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

Vat.gr.2125_0353_pa_0173_s

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?”

Advertisements

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.

Does the NT Misread the OT?

Daniel O. McCellan and I are having a bit of an exchange on his blog regarding the whole issue of the NT’s use of the OT here. Daniel posits that Hebrews 2:5ff has misread Psalm 8 via the mistranslation of the LXX. In Daniel’s view, this example shows that one cannot read the Bible “univocally,” since the NT is reading into the OT text and using it for its purposes. I disagree with Daniel for two reasons: 1) I’m not convinced that the LXX has misread the Hebrew text when it translates אלהים with αγγελοι. On his thread I said:

The Greek Psalter uses αγγελος 13 times to render three Hebrew words: אביר אלוהים, and מלאך. Of these 13 times, it uses αγγελοι to render “gods” 3 times (8:5, 96(97):7, and 137(138):1). In 96:7, αγγελοι is a very fitting translation of אלוהים since it clearly has “gods” or “divine beings” in view and not the God of Israel, YHWH, while the other two references are debatable. There is clearly not a different Vorlage underlying the LXX, since it is an established equivalent in the Psalter (see also Job 1:6 et al.). So there is no textual fluidity here, but rather indication that the translator is attempting a somewhat close rendering of a text similar to M. When the Hebrew Psalter refers to false gods/judges(?) or elohim in 81(82):1 and 85(86):8, the translator uses θεοι. Thus it would seem that the LXX has detected three meanings of elohim: God, angels or divine beings, and false gods/judges, and it has a different equivalent for each, clearly distinguishing the true God of Israel from the false gods by employing the singular and plural of θεος respectively. All of this seems like good translating on the part of the LXX, not a different Vorlage.

Therefore, in my view, LXX Psalms is actually a faithful translation of the Hebrew text (Peshitta and Targum also have “angels” here). Daniel thinks the translator made a translational (?; I don’t think he means an unintentional error of hearing or sight) mistake here, but I think he needs to show that αγγελοι is an insufficient Greek equivalent in those instances where elohim means something other than false gods or the God of Israel. It may be a novel translation equivalent in the LXX (though I’m not certain of this point), but does that mean the translator misread the Hebrew text?

2) I’m also not convinced that Hebrews has misinterpreted Psalm 8 by applying it to Christ. There is some debate over whether this text is Christocentric or anthropocentric, but let’s assume the former for the sake of discussion. I understand Psalm 8 to be written by David on the basis of the superscription attested in both MT and LXX, and therefore it is quite early. If it is Davidic, then one should read it in light of the covenant God made with David (2 Sam. 7:13ff) and in the light of the original creation of Adam, since it is a commentary on creation. I understand humanity and, therefore Adam as the first human, to be a kingly figure, since he is identified as the image and likeness of God. Genesis 5:3 also links Son with image, and therefore Adam is considered the Son of God, which is a title of kings in the ancient world. David also realizes that the covenant God made with him and his genealogy places him as King over all of the peoples, since there is one God over the entire world in the Israelite worldview  (Deut. 6:4; 2 Sam. 7:19; cp. Isaiah 2:1-3).

Hebrews 2:5ff, then, continues the Christological argument of the author, begun in 1:4ff. The word οικουμενη links 1:6 to 2:5ff, showing that the argument in chapters 1-2 is actually the same one. The author effectively shows in the categories of the OT that Jesus is the great Davidic King, the Son of God, who is at the same time fulfilling the covenant made with creation.

Conclusions

Daniel has set up the argument that there are some who understand the relationship between NT and OT as “univocal.” I’m not sure to whom he is responding, since most Evangelical scholars I know and read, affirm the relationship between the Testaments to be something like “unity in diversity.”  This means that the Bible has essential unity but that it also has contours and development, similar to a well-woven tapestry, which has individual patterns and colors, but of course these all create a unified pattern. The question is then, does the evidence reveal that Hebrews diverged from the essential message and theology (-ies) of the OT in a way that the OT would not approve or affirm? Or does the evidence indicate that the exegesis of Hebrews develops the OT theologies (creation and Davidic covenant et al.) in light of the first advent of Jesus Christ in a way that the OT would stand and say, “Amen.”

These are big questions, but each one needs to wrestle with this issue. Thanks Daniel for raising this important question, even if we do disagree on the answer.

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.”

Jerome to Augustine about the Nature of the Septuagint

Jerome writes to Augustine concerning the nature of the Septuagint of the 4th century (i.e. after Origen’s Hexapla) as follows:

Because, however, in other letters you ask, why my former translation has asterisks and obelisks noted in the canonical books, and afterwards I published another translation without them –I say with your pardon— you do not seem to me to understand, because you have inquired (about them).  For this first translation is from the seventy translators and, wherever the marks are, that is the obelisks, it is shown, that the Seventy said more than is contained in the Hebrew; however, where there are asterisks, that is stars which light the way, the reading was added by Origen from the version of Theodotion.  And in that (former) translation we translated from the Greek, in this place from the Hebrew itself, we expressed what we were understanding, preserving more importantly the truth of the sense than the order of the words now and then.  And I am amazed how you do not read the books of the Seventy in their pure form, as they were published by the Seventy, but rather as emended (emendatos) by Origen or rather corrupted by the obelisks and asterisks, and you do not follow the translation of a Christian man, especially when he (Origen) transferred these additions, which have been added from the edition of a man, a Jew and a blasphemer, after the Passion of Christ.  Do you wish to be a true friend of the Septuagint?  You should not read these (additions), which are under the asterisks; on the contrary, erase/scrape them from the chapters, so that you might show yourself to be a true patron.  If you do this, you will be forced to condemn all the libraries of the churches.  For scarcely one or another manuscript/book will be discovered, which has not such additions.

Epistula CXII, 19 Ad Augustinum

Does Genesis 1:1 Teach That God Created the Heavens and the Earth?

At LXX Studies we will more than likely never be the first to break a story to the public, but hopefully we will be able to offer sound reflection on some of the more newsworthy items from the perspective of the Ancient Versions.

This past week, there was some hype due to an announcement that Ellen Van Wolde has made an argument that concludes something to the tune of “the traditional view that God is creator is untenable now.”  As I understand it, a major part of Van Wolde’s argument concerns the translation of the Hebrew word ברא in Genesis 1:1.  Of course the traditional translation of this word is “to create,” but Van Wolde has suggested that the word in this context should be translated “to separate,” so that the text is not teaching the original creation of the heavens and the earth, but only the separation of the heavens from the earth (see Chris for an apt critique of Van Wolde’s analysis of the Hebrew usage).

What Van Wolde means by the “traditional view” is not clear, but one may safely assume that she has in mind the traditional exegesis of Genesis 1:1 which supports the traditional Jewish and Christian view of creation that God created the heavens and the earth ex nihilo.  I simply want to list the evidence of the Ancient Versions in order to present the traditional exegesis of this verse.

LXX: ᾿Εν ἀρχῇ ἐποίησεν ὁ θεὸς τὸν οὐρανὸν καὶ τὴν γῆν.  The text can be translated: In the beginning God created/made the heavens and the earth (see LSJ s.v. αρχη for anarthrous examples with prepositions, where the sense is still clearly definite probably because the lexical item naturally assumes only one beginning).  The LXX, then, uses a verb which does not mean “to separate,” but means “to make” or “to create” ( for the latter meaning see s.v. ποιεω A.2 LSJ).  For a thorough listing of translation equivalents for bara’ in the LXX and for what equivalents one would expect to see if the translators wanted to communicate the sense “to separate” see here.  This translation comes from the 3rd century BC (c. 280 BC) and some might wonder if the translators intended to convey that God only formed the heavens and the earth from existing matter by their use of ποιεω.  Although this is possible, only about 120 years later, we see clearly that the Jews are praying to the LORD God as ο παντων κτιστης (“the creator of all”) among other appellations in 2 Maccabees 1:24.  The Jews clearly have an understanding that God created all things in this period of their history and this theology must come from texts such as Genesis 1:1.

Aquila: ἐν κεφαλαιω εκτισεν θεος συν τον ουρανον και συν την γην.  Aquila employs the very specific verb κτιζω “to create” in order to render the Hebrew text.  Note that Aquila is not using the συν preposition in the normal sense “with” so that someone might be tempted to translate the text: God created with the heavens and with the earth or something like this.  Rather, Aquila uses συν characteristically to translate the Hebrew marker of the direct object את.

Symmachus: Not extant

Theodotion: Not extant

Vulgate: In principio creavit Deus caelum et terram.  Jerome uses creo to communicate the idea of creation, not separation.

Peshitta: ܒܪܫܝܬ ܒܪܐ ܐܠܗܐ܂ ܝܬ ܫܡܝܐ ܘܝܬ ܐܪܥܐ܂  P uses a cognate (bra’) to translate the Hebrew text in this verse.  According to the CAL in the G stem this verb may mean “to create” or “to get well.”  The former is clearly the meaning in this context given that the verb is transitive in this context.

Targum: בֲקַדמִין בְרָא יוי יָת שְמַיָא וְיָת אַרעָא׃  The Aramaic Targum uses the same cognate (bra’) as P, which has the same range of meaning in this dialect according to the CAL.

The Ancient Versions speak with one clear voice that God did indeed create the heavens and the earth, not simply the “stuff” in the heavens and the earth, and they certainly did not understand the text to mean God separated the heavens and the earth.

Therefore any argument to the contrary will have to be established firmly on the basis of the analysis of the Hebrew text of Genesis and the Hebrew Bible as a whole, which is Van Wolde’s project apparently.  However, see John Hobbins’ initial critique of Van Wolde’s analysis of the Hebrew Bible here.

HT: Charles

Determining Dependency Between Ancient Versions (part 2)

In this post, I comment on the nature of the translation of the Syriac Peshitta (S) in Qoheleth, which is an important consideration when trying to determine whether S is dependent on the Septuagint (G).

The Former Thesis

At an earlier time in research, scholars considered S to be a daughter version of the Septuagint (for this view see G.W. Anderson, “Canonical and Non-Canonical,” in Cambridge History of the Bible, ed. P.R. Ackroyd and C.F. Evans, vol. 1, (Cambridge, 1970), 158-9.), which means they considered S to be a direct translation of G.  What ailed this thesis was that it did not conform to the evidence of S itself. One is not able to read past Genesis 1:1 (ܒܪܫܝܬ ܒܪܐ ܐܠܗܐ. ܝܬ ܫܡܝܐ ܘܝܬ ܐܪܥܐ) without seeing the essential Semitic character of S and its faithful translation of the underlying Hebrew text (M or proto-M).  But however faithful S was to M, scholars still have noted that in some places S seems to be dependent on G, and the challenge was to explain this phenomenon leading to a new thesis. Continue reading “Determining Dependency Between Ancient Versions (part 2)”