#1 When God Spoke Greek

The fanfare over the release of T. M. Law’s When God Spoke Greek was fierce. Michael Law posted a few interviews over at his site. There were numerous blog reviews. See the Near Emmaus blog for the blog tour summary. Now that the fanfare is dying down, I want to contribute a few comments on the book. This will not be a book review. Many summaries of the book have been written and I commend those to you. Rather, I want to focus on what kind of book this is and then attempt to offer some critical interaction with it. I should say from the beginning that I required this book for my Septuagint course over the summer. The few students that took the class (may their tribe increase!) bought the book and reviewed it as an assignment. I will continue to require this book in future offerings of the course because I think it is an interesting and readable book and provides the students with an alternative perspective, something every professor and class needs.

The first question is what kind of book is it? Law has called it a “narrative history” of the Septuagint on many occasions. Although one is not able to find this exact categorization in the book, I agree with it, but that’s not actually the question I am raising at present. In the interactions I have had with students and peers, the question over whether the book is a work of popular scholarship or popular scholarship has arisen. I suppose Law has answered this question in a clean up blog post by denying “scholarly monograph” status to his own work. And yet the work was published by Oxford University Press and it was endorsed by very established scholars in the field, some who said “the book is meant for the scholar and learned reader alike.” It is for these reasons, not to mention the book’s own internal scholarly arguments, which perhaps causes Law to deny that his book is simply “popular drivel” in the same blog post (sidebar: comments like this one always create more heat than light and should be avoided at all costs). I have read the book with its end notes and certain parts of the book many times, and Law interacts with most of the up-to-date scholarship on the questions he poses. He did not trace arguments to their roots and, as I will point out later, he did not represent other viewpoints in some chapters. This fact may mean the book is more popular than scholarly, but I do not want readers to take this comment as dismissive. On the contrary, the book demands critical interaction. I will also discuss Law’s use of primary sources since in my view one’s interaction with the primary evidence is the mark of good scholarship. Therefore, I am treating the work as a narrative history of the Septuagint written for a serious reader or scholar. As such this book and its claims must be put under close scrutiny in order to evaluate its significance to the fields of historical and textual research.

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.

Life Update

At the end of July I moved my family from Louisville, KY to Phoenix, AZ to take a teaching position at Phoenix Seminary. Phoenix is a wonderful city even though it is hot in August. I started teaching last week and am almost through week two already. I teach Hebrew I, Hebrew III (Syntax and Exegesis), and Survey of the Pentateuch. The students are great and it has been a wonderful experience so far.

I reserve Fridays for research pursuits. Lately, I have been working on the Hexaplaric fragments in ms RA 788. This manuscript needs to be incorporated into the collection of the hexaplaric fragments of Job. I was able to incorporate most of it into my dissertation, and now I am comparing it to work of Nancy Woods on the first half of Job. I hope to present the findings at a scholarly meeting and eventually publish the article.

I am also working on articles for a three volume work to be published by Brill, The Textual History of the Bible. The work will be edited by Armin Lange. My articles pertain to the Hexapla of Psalms, the three Solomonic books, the major prophets, and of course Job.

It is a busy season of transition and new opportunities, but it is an exciting one!

Dissertation…Defended!

I’m very thankful to Peter Gentry and Jim Hamilton for serving on my dissertation committee as well as to Claude Cox and Jerome Lund for serving in the capacity of external examiners. I have relatively few edits to make before submitting the final draft in May. Onward to graduation.

Home from Goettingen Safe and Sound

I arrived home on the 28th and then my wife and I swiftly departed from the airport to Cincinnati for a little R&R and to celebrate our 8th wedding anniversary (the official date is July 5th, but Mama was in town and watched the kids for us).

The trip to Goettingen was a success in my mind. To list a few things, I retrieved pictures or scans of the most significant manuscripts for  my project, worked on the collation of Ms RA476, incorporated the relevant hexaplaric fragments from ms 709, began a thorough revision of my earlier chapters [they really need it!], met the Hagedorns in person, met other scholars who work at the Septuaginta-Unternehmen or who were passing through, and gained a better appreciation for German culture.

As usual, it is great to be home, but I am already thinking of ways to go back!

In Göttingen Safe and Sound…Hard at Work

I arrived in Göttingen yesterday safe and sound. It was not an easy day of travel, since I came down with a stomach bug or virus 4 hours before going to the airport. My wife contracted this virus before me and so we were both very tired and not at our best mentally or physically. Long story short, I missed my first flight to Cleveland (I know, I know you’re not supposed to miss the first one!). As bad as this was, it worked to my advantage. I was supposed to take two domestic flights (Lou. to Clev. to Washington Dulles), but instead I took one flight to Newark and one to Frankfurt, which was much better for me especially given more poor health.

I made it in time to take a train to Göttingen. In Göttingen, I am staying for two weeks at the Baptiste Kirche. The accommodation is very quaint and suitable. I will post pictures later.

At the Institute, I was able to start collecting the resources for Job. I have scanned Ms 257 and photographed Ms 740. This is a very good start. I work from collations of the Job materials, but these two mss are usually recorded a silencio “from silence,” and as such one cannot be sure of their exact contents. I can now check these two mss myself. I have several more mss to photograph during my time here. I hope there is time to do it all.

Today, Dr. Gentry and I ran the errands (I had forgotten the joy of taking a daily walk to get the day’s supplies). We also bought our train tickets for our trip to Köln to meet Professor Hagedorn.

I will continue to post updates of the trip. I hope to take and post pics. as well.

On Treasuring the Humanities and Biblical Studies

Charles Halton has posted a link to an article in the Statesman, in which Jo Ann Hackett and John Huehnergard comment on the importance of academic research in the field of humanities. Since money for humanities’ research is drying up (the article references Harvard), whether to keep these kinds of programs will be an important question for many institutions.

I would like to add that institutions (seminaries, bible colleges etc.), which treasure the study of the Bible in its original languages and according to its historical and cultural background, should probably pose similar questions to themselves. These institutions are not competing with the latest in scientific research as UT, but it seems biblical and theological  studies in these institutions is always competing with the latest in church ministries or leadership in all of its manifestations. Donors are quick to give money to these kinds of programs, schools, and professors, which are supposed to help the churches in the short term. But where are the donations for good solid evangelical research, which will produce the resources for understanding and proclaiming the truth of the Scriptures for generations to come? When money is tight, what will these institutions choose to keep and what will they let go? It seems to me, as Christians we have a responsibility to keep studying the Bible at the highest level possible, but not all may see it that way.

Any thoughts?