A Fourth-Century Closure of the Old Testament Canon? (Part 2)

Hahneman-book coverIn the last post, we looked at Geoffrey Hahneman’s reasons for a fourth-century date for the closing of the Old Testament canon. In this post, I supply some response to his interpretation of the evidence.

(1) Hahneman began with the evidence of the New Testament (74–5). Though NT usage of religious literature will continue to be debated, Oskar Skarsaune, in a significant essay in Hebrew Bible/Old Testament: The History of Its Interpretation, vol. 1, concludes:

There has been much scholarly debate on the question of whether “circumstantial evidence” (i.e. the actual use of authoritative books) in the first century CE supports or contradicts the notion of a “closed” canon in that period. If quotation frequency is regarded as significant circumstantial evidence, the New Testament seems to indicate that its authors (with the one exception mentioned [1 Enoch in Jude]) quoted the Hebrew canon, and its books only, as Scripture (445).

According to formal quotation or citation, the NT only uses books from the Hebrew canon. Sundberg and Hahneman argue that NT authors reflect on books from a wider body of literature, but the question is whether that usage constitutes the same appeal to authority as direct quotation/citation. Skarsaune and most discern a difference. Continue reading “A Fourth-Century Closure of the Old Testament Canon? (Part 2)”


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?”

The Old Testament is Dying

I completed a key summer reading goal: The Old Testament is Dying: A Diagnosis and Recommended Treatment (Grand Rapids: Baker, 2017) by Brent A. Strawn of Emory University in Atlanta, GA. Strawn divides his book into three parts: (1) The Old Testament as a Dying Language (chs. 1-3), (2) Signs of Morbidity (chs. 4-6), and (3) Path to Recovery (chs. 7-9). Let me say from the outset: buy this book.

This book does not represent the average call to fix biblical illiteracy. Rather, Strawn OTDyingapproaches the problem from a medical vantage point and makes a diagnosis that the OT is dying or already dead (pp. 4-5). But in this case the patient is a language, the language of the OT and the Bible in general (pp. 6-13). Therefore, the language of Bible finds itself in need of a doctor treating a terminal patient rather than an English teacher helping one learn to read. Whatever one thinks of the analogy between the Bible and a language (and I think Strawn has done a good job noting the strengths and weaknesses of this analogy throughout the book such as on p. 16ff), he has struck the right tone with the imagery of language death. Some readers will not find the material on modern linguistics helpful or integral to the argument (such as the material in ch. 3 “On Language Growth and Change, Contact and Death”). But wading through this chapter and like comments throughout continues to stress how the OT has fallen into disrepair and is dying and also how to revive it. Continue reading “The Old Testament is Dying”

What is a Catena Manuscript and Why should we Care?

I have posted my answers to these questions over on the Evangelical Textual Criticism blog. If you are interested in the Bible’s text history and its history of interpretation, you may want to read this post, which highlights one interesting aspect of it. I include images of a few different manuscripts and provide a modest description of them. Perhaps, you did not know there were two different material layouts of these MSS? I did not either, but I was blessed in the learning.

Tyr 25-2.6-9b

Credit: The image was sent to me by Zisis Melissakis, who prepared the digital images of the MS at the library in Tyrnavos.

Origen’s Fifth and Sixth Greek Editions

Clay JarsMost readers will be familiar with the Greek version of the Septuagint. Fewer will have heard of the Jewish revisers/translators, Theodotion, Aquila, and Symmachus. I plan to treat these three in more depth from Epiphanius’s vantage point at a later time. But Origen found two or three more translations and called them the Fifth (Quinta), the Sixth (Sexta), and the Seventh (Septima). There are three sources that describe these translations and the chaotic situation in which they were made, hidden, and found in the second and third centuries. It is worth citing and commenting on them in order to learn what we can about these versions. I conclude with a brief example of these versions from Psalm 1:1.

Eusebius of Caesarea (c. 325)

In a context describing Origen’s Hexapla and other versions, he also describes the lesser known translations of the Fifth, the Sixth, and the Seventh (for Psalms at least) which were hidden and then found by Origen.

And in addition to the well-known translations of Aquila, Symmachus, and Theodotion, he discovered certain others which had been concealed from remote times—in what out-of-the-way corners I know not—and by his search he brought them to light. Since he did not know the authors, he simply stated that he had found this one in Nicopolis near Actium and that one in some other place. In the Hexapla of the Psalms, after the four prominent translations, he adds not only a fifth, but also a sixth and seventh. He states of one of these that he found it in a jar in Jericho in the time of Antoninus, the son of Severus (Historia 6.16; ANFP).

Regarding these translations, Eusebius says that Origen did not know who made them. Furthermore, he does not know exactly where Origen found each of these translations. One came from Nicopolis near Actium and another was found in a jar in Jericho in the time of Antoninus. He does not assign a specific provenance to any of these, some were found in Greece and others were from Israel from places like Jericho.

Epiphanius of Salamis (c. 392)

Around seventy years later, Epiphanius comments on the same discoveries of Origen. He certainly appears to use Eusebius as a source but he either gives his free interpretation of that source or has independent information since his description appears to fill in some details.

Now concerning the Fifth and the Sixth published edition, I am not able to say who translated them or from where, but only that after the persecution of king [Septimius] Severus [reigned 193–211], the Fifth was found in large jars in Jericho, having been hidden in the times of Antoninus the son of Severus who was surnamed both Karakallos and Geta [198–217]…. In his days, as I said before, the books of the Fifth edition were found in large jars in Jericho having been hidden with other Hebrew and Greek books…. In the midst of these years [Alexander, the son of Mamaia; 218–222], the Sixth publication was found and it had been hidden in jars in Nicopolis, the one near Actia (Mens. 18; my translation).

Epiphanius does not know by whom and from where the translations were made. He clearly assigns the Fifth version to the one found at Jericho in large jars where it was hidden with other Hebrew and Greek books. As for the Sixth, that one was found in jars at Nicopolis (in Greece) near Actium. This last part made more certain where each was discovered than Eusebius had appeared to convey earlier. Epiphanius could have misread Eusebius, offered independent interpretation of his work, or had access to other sources of information on this question. It is not clear how he seems to know exactly where Origen found each version.

Hypomnestikon (393–431?)

Another source of information of rather uncertain provenance itself is known as the Hypomnestikon or Joseph’s Bible Notes (thanks to Eva Mroczek for pointing me to this source).

The Fifth edition was found at Jericho, hidden in bronze jars (ἐν πίθοις χαλκοῖς), not being named with regard to the translator. They say that it was translated by a woman, since the jars were found in the house of an attentive woman in sacred literature.

Another Sixth edition was found in Nicopolis near Actium, after the persecution of Severus.

Hypomnestikon follows Epiphanius on where the Fifth and Sixth versions were found. He does add the bit about “bronze” jars. By far, it adds the most information on the Fifth edition in terms of its translator. But it may have conflated some other material in Eusebius (Hypomnestikon, p. 251). Right after Eusebius’s description of Origen’s versions, he adds that Symmachus, who was an Ebionite, wrote commentaries on the Scriptures. Eusebius says that Origen received these books from a certain Juliana, who received these books and others as an inheritance from Symmachus himself. Perhaps, Hypomnestikon has conflated the story of Juliana with the provenance of the Fifth edition. But maybe not. Maybe there were two women. It would be strange for Hypomnestikon not to name the woman translator of the Fifth version, if he thought the name was Juliana from Eusebius. So a certain Juliana could be the woman who supplied Origen with texts of Symmachus as Eusebius says. Another anonymous woman may have translated the Fifth version. We do not know. What is very interesting is that Hypomnestikon actually suggests that a woman was the translator of the Fifth edition and this woman was a student in sacred literature.


Clearly, the situation was very chaotic in the second and third centuries. We read of Jews hiding Hebrew and Greek scriptural books in clay jars during the times of certain Roman emperors and about Origen finding them as they were stored. How old are these versions? We know they are older than Origen’s textual work. Are these versions the same as those that our later sources refer to as Quinta and Sexta? Probably. These Greek versions appear to be revisions of the Septuagint towards the Hebrew, but they didn’t become as popular among the Jews as the big Three. Based on the current evidence, the Fifth and Sixth versions were not complete Greek Bibles. Eusebius mentions these works in reference to the Psalms and most of the extant evidence for them comes from the same book. Perhaps, Origen was only able to find Psalms in these versions and by his time they had already fallen into disuse and therefore were not being copied. The mystery over these editions continues.

One teaser from the Fifth and the Sixth in Psalm 1:1 is interesting to cite here:

Hebrew: אַ֥שְֽׁרֵי־הָאִ֗ישׁ אֲשֶׁ֤ר׀ לֹ֥א הָלַךְ֮ בַּעֲצַ֪ת רְשָׁ֫עִ֥ים

“Blessed is the man who does not walk in the counsel of the wicked.”

OG: Μακάριος ἀνήρ, ὃς οὐκ ἐπορεύθη ἐν βουλῇ ἀσεβῶν

“Blessed is a man, who does not walk in counsel of wicked people.”

Ε’. S’. τέλειος ὁ νεώτερος ὃς οὐκ ἀπῆλθεν ἐν βουλῇ ἀλλοτρίων

“Devoted is the young man, who does not depart into counsel of foreign people.”

Several items are of interest. “Blessed” has now been conveyed along the lines of “devotion” or “consecration.” The “man” has been cast in terms of “young man.” Perhaps most interesting the “wicked” or “impious” have now been rendered as “foreigners” or “strangers.” When exegeting the Psalms, it will be of interest to keep an eye on these versions for they offer very interesting interpretations of the Hebrew text. Origen and later Christians were fascinated with these versions that have become largely forgotten today. Our exegesis and textual criticism will become more enriched by the relative few fragments that remain.

The Hexapla at SBL 2017 in Boston


Four months from now the Society of Biblical Literature will meet in Boston. Several papers pertain to research on the Hexapla, with a whole session of the IOSCS devoted to the subject. In that section, several members of the Hexapla Institute are giving papers. This a good year for hexaplaric research.

4:00 PM to 7:00 PM
Room: Room TBD – Hotel TBD

Theme: Hexapla

Leonard Greenspoon, Creighton University, Presiding

Andrew McClurg, Grand Canyon University
Origen’s Role as Editor of the Fifth Column of the Hexapla (30 min)

Peter J. Gentry, Southern Baptist Theological Seminary
Colophons in Princeton University Library, Scheide Library M150 (30 min)

Pete Myers, University of Cambridge
The Hexaplaric Corrector of 2 Esdras in Sinaiticus (30 min)

Benjamin Kantor, University of Texas at Austin
The Second Column of Origen’s Hexpla in the Quotations of Church Fathers and in the Notes of LXX Manuscripts in Comparison with the Ambrosiana Palimpsest (O 39 Sup.) (30 min)

Reinhart Ceulemans, KU Leuven
Hexaplaric Excavations (30 min)

1:00 PM to 3:30 PM
Room: Room TBD – Hotel TBD

Anneli Aejmelaeus, University of Helsinki, Presiding

Anna Kharanauli, Ivane Javakhishvili Tbilisi State University
Hexaplaric Recension or Ekdosis of Alexandrian Grammarian? (30 min)

Richard Saley, Harvard University
Kaige Penetration in 2 Sam 1:1–1 Kgs 2:11 (30 min)

Guy Darshan, Tel Aviv University
The Hapax dunasteumata in 3 Kgdms 2:46c (30 min)

Matthieu Richelle, FLTE
Who were the “worst” of the kings of Israel and Judah? A little-known divergence between MT and LXX (30 min)

Kristin De Troyer , Universität Salzburg
Hexaplaric Readings in Joshua (30 min)

4:00 PM to 6:30 PM
Room: Room TBD – Hotel TBD

Kristin De Troyer, Universität Salzburg, Presiding

Anneli Aejmelaeus, University of Helsinki
Hexaplaric Recension and Hexaplaric Readings in 1 Samuel (30 min)

Natia Mirotadze, Ivane Javakhishvili Tbilisi State University
Hexaplaric Grains in the Georgian I Samuel (30 min)

Ki-Min Bang, Lutheran School of Theology at Chicago
The First Source Critic in LXX 1Samuel 17 (30 min)

Debra Scoggins Ballentine, Rutgers, The State University of New Jersey
“They Smote Him in the Fifth”: The Rhetorical Work of an Uncommon Phrase in 2 Samuel (30 min)

Brill’s Textual History of the Bible

THBOver at Evangelical Textual Criticism I summarize the aims and purpose of the Textual History of the Bible. I have mentioned THB‘s article on the Canon of the Hebrew Bible elsewhere on my blog. I do not review this work. I am only interested in drawing attention to a current tour de force in Hebrew Bible research that has potential (despite its outrageous cost) to update the state of the question of textual research. I hope it’s helpful to that end.

Summary of Epiphanius’s Biblical Theory (Part 4)


Patristic biblical theory is complex, and reductionism is difficult to avoid. For reasons I do not understand, folks still frame the complex situation in terms of “the church fathers read the Greek Septuagint” or the church “created its own Septuagint Canon” as if the Hebrew canon and text had only minimal impact on the Christian Bible. As I cited in Part 1 of this series (Parts 1, 2.1, 2.2, 3.1, 3.2, 3.3), Albert Sundberg said that Epiphanius “argued that the Greek translation was actually better than the Hebrew text.” But Sundberg has missed the role of the Hebrew in Epiphanius’s description of the matter and what role it has in his overall theory. As long as these comments and thoughts persist, the complexity of the matter of patristic biblical theory will continue to be reduced to rather simplistic forms. We have looked at Epiphanius’s biblical theory over the last several posts, which is only a very small part of the much larger picture of patristic biblical theory. In what follows, I offer a few summary comments. Continue reading “Summary of Epiphanius’s Biblical Theory (Part 4)”