This post is part of the blog tour. I am reviewing/reflecting on the first two chapters. I must note that I am quite biased to this book, having read an early draft, the final draft, and having my name mentioned in the acknowledgements. Equally so, I am partial to the LXX and have long been a user of the New English Translation of the Septuagint.
It is not enough to hope all Christians understand the role the Greek translation of the Jewish Scriptures played in the life of the early Church. We know, sadly, the knowledge of the Greek Old Testament is very limited in the West in both the Church and (while less so) the Academy, but this has slowly given way. In recent years, several authors (Dines, Rajak) have written to demonstrate the validity, usefulness, and importance of the Septuagint. Admittedly, many of these recent works have fallen on deaf ears because they were written to the Academy, complete with stilted rooms of dusty Greek, podiums of big words, and boards of information not easily digestible. This is not to say T. Michael Law has written expressly to the laity and autodidacts among us. Rather, he has written an immensely approachable — and enjoyable — book to be used by a wide range of readers including lay and academic.
Law’s first chapter is appropriately named “Why This Book?” Simply put, he argues, the Septuagint is the reserve bank of Christianity. We are indebted to it not just for New Testament theology, and Christian theology, but so too certain translative images, such as the coat of many colors. He moves on to give four reasons why this book, his book, is need. He believes one area left uncovered is the role of the “Septuagint in the Christian story.” (4) In this book, he promises to keep the Christian story in the proper place in relationship to the Septuagint. His second chapter begins in earnest this present study. In ten short pages, Law gives a concise history of how Greek became the lingua franca of the world. This is a much needed background for those who need to understand the “why” of translating the Hebrew into the Greek.
It is refreshing to see such a book. It lacks a theological agenda, but places the Septuagint at the front of Christian theology. It is because of the Septuagint Christians could developed their theology in such as a way as it did. Further, we in the West tend to forget the East (Orthodox) still use the Septuagint as their biblical text. T. Michael Law writes with the ease of a well polished author and the skill of an academic. His prose is remarkable in that it delivers the needed punch without making the reader go round after round trying to figure out what he is saying.
Having read ahead, I can unequivocally state When God Spoke Greek will become the standard introduction to the Septuagint and should equally serve as an introductory text to New Testament and early Christian doctrine.
As a side note, I am personally glad to see such a book. It values the academic lever but finds its balance with an address to the laity. When I was a King James Onlyist, I was told the LXX was a figment of the imagination of the second or third century. I didn’t believe it, and it was in part due to this line of reasoning within the movement I was able to finally leave.
- The Reception of the Hebrew Bible in the Septuagint and the New Testament (zwingliusredivivus.wordpress.com)