Category Archives: Septuagint

Judges 5.2

A bit ago, David M. posted a question about Judges 5.2 on Facebook. As you know, I am currently researching a “unique” view of the death of Christ so when I read this, it immediately jumped out to me as something I could use. Judges 5.2 is set within a larger poem detailing the victory of Deborah when she was a judge in Israel. It is a very old portion of the Hebrew Bible, among the oldest some scholars believe.

The Hebrew (into English) reads,

‘For the leaders, the leaders in Israel, for the people who answered the call, bless the Lord. (REB)

While the the LXX(b) reads,

A revelation was uncovered in Israel when the people ignorantly sinned: praise the Lord!

Ἀπεκαλύφθη ἀποκάλυμμα ἐν Ἰσραήλ· ἐν τῷ ἀκουσιασθῆναι λαὸν εὐλογεῖτε Κύριον.

The key word in the LXX is:


Going further, the word is used in Numbers 15.28 (LXX):

Hebrew Alignment1

שׁגגcommit error unintentionally (1): Nu 15:28

נדבoffer willingly (1): Judg 5:2G

Numbers 15.28 in the Hebrew (via REB English) and then in the LXX (and LS English):

and the priest will make expiation before the Lord for that person, who will then be forgiven.


Then the priest will make atonement for the person who inadvertently sinned and erred involuntarily before the Lord, to make atonement for him.

καὶ ἐξιλάσεται ὁ ἱερεὺς περὶ τῆς ψυχῆς τῆς ἀκουσιασθείσης καὶ ἁμαρτούσης ἀκουσίως ἔναντι Κυρίου, ἐξιλάσασθαι περὶ αὐτοῦ.

The key word, ἀκουσιάζομαι, is connected to the sin in ignorance found in Numbers 15.28 as well as the Greek words ἀκουσίως and ἀκούσιος also in Numbers 15.24-28. This section enumerates the required sacrifices for those, individual and congregation, who have committed a sin that could not be helped (either through ignorance or against their will). As I read this passage, I do not see a heavy line drawn through the different words, but rather seem them as synonyms.

Let me show you why I think they are all related, if not simply complimentary:

septuagint logos lexicon numbers 15.24-28

So, here is my thinking about Judges 5.2 LXX(b). The march to war, which required soldiers to volunteer themselves (to die), was a sin (albeit one of ignorance/against the will/necessary) because it involved the sacrifice of the person to the deity. However, because it was required, it was forgiven and rather celebrated. Because of the (self-)sacrifice of the soldiers, God awarded Israel victory. In Rome, you’d call this a devotio. In LXX Israel, you call it a revelation.

  1. Lexham Analytical Lexicon to the Septuagint

Datenbank “Septuagintazitate im NT”

I shall have to use this for my dissertation

Um die Textgeschichte der neutestamentlichen Schriftzitate zu erschließen, entstand am Institut für Septuaginta- und Biblische Textforschung der Kirchlichen Hochschule Wuppertal/Bethel in den Jahren 2007 bis 2011 mit Unterstützung durch die Deutsche Forschungsgemeinschaft eine Datenbank, die für Zitate und zitierte Stellen eine Vielzahl von Varianten/Texten aufnahm.

via Datenbank | Kirchliche Hochschule Wuppertal/Bethel.

A Septuagintal Theology? @brianleport @tmichaellaw

Brian LePort, my arch-nemesis and all around bad guy, asked this morning about the last two pages of T. Michael Law’s book, When God Spoke Greek.1 He has asked other theological questions regarding the Septuagint before, so this is nothing new.

In the last two paragraphs of the book, (p171), Law speaks to the need of returning to the Septuagint for theological exploration. Is there room for theological exploration? What might a theology based on the Septuagint mean for the Christian Church?

I guess it’d look like much of the first four centuries, Christologically speaking I mean.

It would be interesting, however, to see how modern dispensationalists would read Jeremiah and Daniel. Would they get the same, super secret-but-revealed-by-Alex-Jones meanings? What would be the canon-within-the-canon for Old Testament books? Would we read Baruch and Wisdom with an eye to gender-equality in the Church, given they feminize an attribute of God?

How would we quote Isaiah 9.5-6?

What about Canon order?

How might we read Matthew if Sirach was in our Protestant bibles? Or Revelation with Tobit? But, this isn’t really Septuagintal theology, so much as canonical theology. If we follow the NETS, could we finally read the Psalms of Solomon?

Or, would we all be Orthodox?

  1. He is the Joker to my Batman, the Lex to my Superman, the South Pole to my North Pole. He is the Khan to my Kirk, the Benedict Arnold to my George Washington, the Thomas to my Mark.

Blog Tour, When God Spoke Greek: The Septuagint and the Making of the Christian Bible

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. 

Enhanced by Zemanta

On γαρ’d

Douglas Campbell’s Deliverance of God has generated lots of discussion, especially on Romans 1:18-32. The γαρ in 1:18 has been a problem for interpreters long before Campbell came to it. But Campbell’s work is making folks take another look at the particle in this verse.

Koine “traditionalists” (is there a better word?) assert that γαρ is a discourse connector which logically joins two parts of a discourse, normally in an explanatory way.  This sense is typically translated “therefore”. Example: I have a broken leg, therefore I will not be playing football. If one only reads the NT, then clearly this is the most frequent usage.

But there is other Greek literature out there. Consider Euripides’ Bacchae. In places like lines 477, 483, and 612, γαρ is used to signal a switch in speaker (like from Dionysus to Pentheus or the Chorus leader to Dionysus). This is evidence for how the particle could function in rhetoric, particularly in a Socratic dialogue. To be fair, just because Euripides used γαρ this way sometimes does not automatically mean that’s what Paul did in Romans 1:18. However, it is evidence that I don’t see many people consider before they dismiss it. A better question for the traditionalists might be Why can’t the γαρ in Romans 1:18 indicate a speaker change?

In addition to Euripides, there’s biblical evidence as well. Consider the translation Greek of the LXX. In Job, when he converses with his “friends”, γαρ is twice used in a change of speaker (Job 6:2; 25:2). Also, by my count there are over 45 instances of γαρ symbolizing a speaker change in LXX Isaiah (tweet me if you want the list and begin discussing who is speaking where in Isaiah). (Maybe this requires an intro to the various voices in Isaiah, but…) One of the clearest examples is Cyrus talking to Yahweh in Isa 45:15— συ γαρ ει θεος, και ουκ ηδειμεν, ο θεος του Ισραηλ σωτηρ (You are the God people cannot see. You are the God who saves Israel. ERV)

Long story short: γαρ is a very small form that gets used in lots of contexts. Identifying what the form means from context-to-context should be determined by those contexts, not by a lexicographic straight-jacket.

So does the γαρ in Romans 1:18 signal a switch from Paul’s voice to the Teacher’s voice? I think the evidence suggests so.




Enhanced by Zemanta

Today is the most blessed day: International Septuagint Day.


Throughout the day today, I will celebrate by picking on Jeremy.

Also, to celebrate, pick up a copy of the Göttingen Septuagint from Logos, here. It has been reviewed by Abram here.

Glory be.

Insert Pun about the Virgin Birth – My take

First, it begins here with comments by Dr. Francesca Stavrakopoulou, an expert in the Hebrew bible. T. Michael Law, the expert in the Greek Old Testament, known in the heavenly tongue as Septuagint, weighs in about the mistranslation part. Mark Goodacre finds his mic. John Barton, a colleague of Jim’s via SOTS, weighs in as well.

Dr. Stravrakopoulou suggests that Matthew reads Isaiah 7.14 as a mistranslation resulting in the understanding a virgin birth. The Law is laid down on whether or not the LXX Isaiah is a mistranslation or not. The LXX is not a mistranslation (in part, as there is no real whole translation theory until after the time of Jesus) but a re-authoring. That’s my pet theory, I guess. Anyway, Goodacre does a great job (warning, British accent that lulls you in) of discussing the use of Scripture in telling the story.

However, Barton is the focal point for me.

that no one would have translated parthenos as virgin unless there had ALREADY been a virgin-birth tradition.

There is a very important virginal/extra-natural birth tradition pre-dating Matthew’s retelling the story of Jesus. Noah, at Qumran and in Enoch (an obviously important book to early /an/Christians, is presented as havingmiraculous birth. I am also going to go into my other pet theory, that the genealogy has something to do with Stoicism, etc… although this is not well-defined and thus, I’ll leave this for later.

A few other areas to look:

  • Virgil in the fourth Eclogue, recognized by the Patristics as problematic so re-interpreted. 
  • Augustus was said to have had his birth announced by portent among other supernatural occurrences

There iss a fertile ground in Matthew’s world not for a mistranslation, but for the use of portents, births out of the natural order to explain surprise births, and to highlight the divine qualities of a person. This is not, in anyway, required to be connected to a Greco-Roman schema of demigods and the such. Matthew, no doubt, intended his audience to understand that Mary was impregnated according to God’s will, the first factor in the greatness of Jesus and used his bible, the LXX (because, as T. Michael Law would have it, God Spoke Greek), to do so. He was not the first Jew to promote the divine-ordained, and free of the sins of this world, birth of a prophet to other Jews, but followed a rather Jewish pattern as seen in the Genesis Apocryphon and Enoch, books and thoughts closer to the authors of the Gospels and much more palatable to their audience than Greco-Roman myths.

This gets into the post-/structural debate of placing emphasis. Either we place it on Matthew or the audience, although I like the middle ground myself. We can reasonably identify certain qualities of Matthew and we can reasonably identify the audience in a certain social situation, but not the initial reception beyond that of acceptance. My supposition is that Matthew very well intended that the audience would understand the story as meaning that Mary was impregnated by an angel/holy Spirit but accepting a presented literary structure is not the only goal of the author — I would contend that Matthew would rather have wanted his audience to receive what he meant by the inclusion of this story. An example I used in discussing this with a friend via phone was Virgil reading his poem about the ascendency of Rome and Augustus to the Emperor Augustus who knew very well many of the events enshrined did not occur as written and more than likely, if reception history is the judge, understood the intended allegory.

Anyway, here is my 2.5 shekels.

A Short Primer on the Göttingen Septuagint

Abram writes, in part –

It is my intention with this post, and a second to follow, to give a short primer or user’s guide to the Göttingen edition. Here I offer suggestions on how to read and understand the text, the apparatuses, the sigla/abbreviations, the introductions, and point to additional resources that will be of benefit to the Göttingen user.

I recently put together a basic orientation to the scholarly editions of the Hebrew Bible and the Greek translation of the same. That is here. It is worth nothing again that the International Organization for Septuagint and Cognate Studies (IOSCS) has a good, succinct article on the various editions of the Septuagint. Below, “OG” stands for “Old Greek.” They write:

How to Read and Understand the Göttingen Septuagint: A Short Primer, part 1 | Words on the Word.

The Septuagint, in my opinion, is something the Western Church should rediscover as part of the reason early Christianity was able to do what it did with its views on Jesus.

Also, the Letter of Aristeas says it it is inspired.

ἀποστροφή in Genesis 3:16 – Thoughts?

Kurk (because he is sorta insisting, I think) is in a conversation regarding Genesis 3.16 in the LXX. It is my contention that the LXX is not so much a translation (although in Deuteronomy it is) but a reauthorizing of the Text. Of course, I guess by truly translating Deuteronomy, they may be alluding to the fact that they considered it perfect and will within the Translator’s context, but that is another matter.

The Greek reads,

BGT  Genesis 3:16 καὶ τῇ γυναικὶ εἶπεν πληθύνων πληθυνῶ τὰς λύπας σου καὶ τὸν στεναγμόν σου ἐν λύπαις τέξῃ τέκνα καὶ πρὸς τὸν ἄνδρα σου ἡ ἀποστροφή σου καὶ αὐτός σου κυριεύσει

The Hebrew, into English, reads,

NRS  Genesis 3:16 To the woman he said, “I will greatly increase your pangs in childbearing; in pain you shall bring forth children, yet your desire shall be for your husband, and he shall rule over you.”

I noticed that the next (besides Genesis 4.7 cf 1st Clement 4.5) place which deals with sorta the same context is in 3rd Maccabees,

NRS  3 Maccabees 2:10 And because you love the house of Israel, you promised that if we should have reverses and tribulation should overtake us, you would listen to our petition when we come to this place and pray.

BGT  3 Maccabees 2:10 καὶ ἀγαπῶν τὸν οἶκον τοῦ Ισραηλ ἐπηγγείλω διότι ἐὰν γένηται ἡμῶν ἀποστροφὴ καὶ καταλάβῃ ἡμᾶς στενοχωρία καὶ ἐλθόντες εἰς τὸν τόπον τοῦτον δεηθῶμεν εἰσακούσῃ τῆς δεήσεως ἡμῶν

Not sure if this means anything, but Philo uses the same word, but in English we read,

“And thy ἀποστροφή,” says God, “shall be to thy husband.” [Genesis 3:16.] There are two husbands of the outward senses. The one a legal one, the other a destroyer. For the object of sight, acting upon it like a husband, puts the sense of sight in motion; and so does sound affect the sense of hearing, flavor the sense of taste, and so on with each of the outward senses respectively. And these things attract the attention of and call the irrational outward sense to itself, and become the master of it and govern it. For beauty enslaves the sight, and sweet flowers enslave the sense of taste, and each of the other objects of outward sense enslaves that sense which corresponds to them. (Leg 3:220 PHE)

Liddell-Scott notes,

2. a resort, resource, Hdt.:-c. gen. objecti, u[datoj avp. a resource or means for getting water, Id.; swthri,aj avp. Thuc.

Maybe, the LXX translators are seeing a recourse for Life or a return to her Husband which may be meaning the return to the androgyny of Genesis 1.26. In 3rd Maccabees, the word is translated and means a reverse. What if the LXX translators saw the woman reversing herself?

Scratchpad: Exegesis of the Greek 2 Samuel 7.1-17

Solomon's Wealth and Wisdom, as in 1 Kings 3:1...
Image via Wikipedia

Yep, the gift of Seminary. Personally, and don’t tell my wife I said this, but I am thinking that the only real reason that I am in Seminary is because it helps with blogging. Shhhhhh……

It is my position that the use of the Temple story has been contextualized by different authors during Israel’s history, and most notably by the authors/translators of the Septuagint, the Greek Old Testament. While it may not always be safe to call a translator an author, the fact remains that the Old Greek differs greatly in place from the Hebrew vorlage so much so that we may place upon the translators the title of author, or at least a reauthor of sorts. In 2nd Samuel 7.1-17 in the Septuagint, we find a contextualization of the passage to allow for the imminent ‘Great David’s greater Son’ (Mark 12.35-37; Luke 1.32) as well as the negatively to be placed not on the intended Saul but perhaps all of Israelite royal history. In doing so, the Greek translators allowed, as they did for Isaiah 7.14, for continued recontextualization of the passage to be made by New Testament authors and later writers. In his essay on this passage which was delivered to the 2008 annual meeting of the SBL, Omer Sergi argues that the Hebrew passage underwent at least three different redactions according to the worldview of the authors. Along this same vein, the Greek translators are, according to their own worldview, reauthoring this passage[1].

Second Samuel 7.4-17 has long been used in connection to Messianic Expectation[2] in connection with Jesus Christ, rather, the periscope of verse 14-16 which speaks specifically to the future King. Ideally, however, the passage (both the Temple and the Dynastic Promise) should be taken as a whole given that promises once made to David by YHWH are now being removed from him and given to another, namely to that of Solomon. To blindly allow the passage to speak only in regards to Christ would be violently destructive to the text itself, to the intentions of the original author, and to the original application. No doubt that the original author(s) was writing in hope of something while attempting to misalign David as the ideal king, but it is doubtful that a future event some five centuries later was expected. While the text is prophetic, note that it is given from God to the Prophet Nathan and then to David in response to David’s prayer, prophecy was not about some long expected future event, but about the almost immediate present, although in this case, it would have been some decades later before Solomon was given the promises fully.

Two things are taken from David on this night, namely his goal of centralizing the cult via his service to God in building the Temple and the fact that his son’s throne will be the established Throne, or restored throne as the LXX[3] has it. What is interesting is that in 2nd Samuel, God refuses David’s offer of building the House of the Lord while in 1st Chronicles 22.9, David recounts a prophecy which as part of his punishment, God has removed from David the right to build the Temple while promising that in the future, Solomon would be given the honor and duty. Added to this is Solomon’s words in 1st Kings 8.14-21 which has God praising David’s desire to build the house, couching the refusal into a prophetic statement that Jerusalem, named by Solomon, would be chosen and that Solomon would build the Temple. I note the differences as well in where, and perhaps when, the son of David will come from, as given in the various statements mentioned above. In 2nd Samuel, the son comes from the belly (7.12, LXX), in 1st Kings 8.19, the son comes from the King’s side, while only in 1st Chronicles 22.9 is the son said to be born unto the King. While the language may all mean the same thing, I find it difficult to see it as such, especially given the translation, and oftentimes interpretation via translation, of the Septuagint. The Hebrew, at least preliminary, seems to all contain the same thought, that the son of David which will have the established throne will be an immediate descendent of David.

The Actors in 2nd Samuel 7.1-17

God is absent as David’s genesis of though in building the Temple, only to intervene later after God’s prophet had given what should have been divine permission for the construction of the Temple. What is of note here is that the God in this passage, at first a passive actor, does not live up to the God of Ezekiel 14.6-11, in which a prophet who speaks without divine permission and the inquirer will be punished and ‘annihilated’ (Eze 14.9 NETS). The Deuteronomist was equally clear in Deuteronomy 18.20 when YHWH says that ‘the prophet who acts impiously by speaking a word in my name that I have not ordered to speak…that prophet shall die (NETS).’ Here, God allows David to inquire of Nathan and Nathan simply gives David the answer, speaking, as Prophets were known to do, for God but without permission. God, at least in v1-3 is a passive actor who goes on to never admonish either David or Nathan for their wrong speech.

Both David and Nathan, however, are almost not existent in this scene, besides the initial dialogue. David, however, in the rest of the chapter, issues a Psalm in response to God’s new covenant with his house. The prompting of the request, however, is important. 7.1 tells us that David had been given a gift by YHWH. In the Hebrew, the word is nuach while the Greek, κατεκληρονόμησεν, means inheritance. The meaning is different in that with the Hebrew, I believe that it points to the immediacy of the situation. David was given rest from his enemies, although at the start of chapter 8 David can hardly to be said to be at rest, and wanted then to give God a place of rest[4]. The Greek speaks to the inheritance, perhaps the future dynastic house which the Greek translators saw in the passage. Further, we see that David was at ease in his own house, and only after that, began to think about the things of God. Nathan, otherwise only hinted at being heard (v17), makes only one statement in this passage, and that of speaking for YHWH without authorization, which as I discussed earlier, should have been both David and his death sentence.

Perhaps the only remaining actor to discuss is the one which is not mentioned but implied by later interpreters, the Son of David. This son, mentioned in v12-16, is the once future king. For David, it was Solomon, but for the Greek translators, it would have been the expected Messiah, the Greater Son. In the Hebrew, a son is called for after the death of David and will be given the throne of David while in the Greek, a seed (cf Romans 1.3) which is planted will be the new king. The future aspect of the Kingdom is found when God is said to ‘ἀνορθώσω his throne forever (v13, cf v16, LXX).’ Further, in the Hebrew, God says that he will become a father, while the Greek seems to imply a pre-existing parental relationship. Further, what is telling is in the Greek, the Son of David is the one given the dynasty unlike the Hebrew which explicitly states that it will be David’s dynasty which is made permanent (NET).

Significant Differences:

As I have mentioned earlier, the Greek translators were almost reauthoring this passage from the Hebrew vorlage. Further, I have briefly mentioned some of the differences between the Hebrew and the Greek. As is evident with the Temple Scroll and Deuteronomy, communities during this time were not above taking the Sacred Text and contextualizing it to fit their current needs, even rewriting sections to make it address their present needs. In this next section, I will explore more of those differences and what they might mean to the newly minted section of 2 Samuel 7.1-17. What comes about is not the soon-to-inaugurated Solomon as we see in the Hebrew, but an expectation of a restored Kingdom ripe for the Messianic contender.

In 7.5, God is asking a rhetorical question, where the Greek has YHWH firmly stating that David will not be the builder of God’s house. The idea of ‘house’ is here meaning the Temple, but as we will see, comes to mean the dynasty of David. In verse 6, the Greek Translators, showing that their Sitz im Leben is far removed from that of the original Hebrew authors, implied that the Wilderness Tabernacle was only supposed to be temporary. This is contrary to the Hebrew which has imagined a more permanent perspective. This may be a result of the time period in which the Greek translators were writing in that they had had time for theological reflection.

7.9-11 seems to imply that YHWH is speaking before Israel entering the Promised Land, with a future tense being applied to a future security in a future place. The Greek verse 9 solidifies the tenses. Whereas in the Hebrew, YHWY tells David that He has been with him in battle already and that He will make David a great name, in the Greek, David already has the great name, again, implying the date of the LXX translation. The tenth verse may, in fact, be the lead in understanding the ability of the Greek Translators to force of a future tense upon the text. This verse, rife with Deuteronomic thought, places this ideal relationship between Israel and God in the future[5]. If this is so, then the Greek Translators, noting that a place of security (Israel) had already been established when 2 Samuel was written may have seen this as an indication of a ‘now, but not yet’ futuristic view of this passage, which further allowed them to see the passage as speaking of a Son of David beyond that of Solomon[6]. 7.11 (Gr)  implies that there is hope for David making a house for God, whereas the Hebrew in the NASB has YHWH making a house (dynasty) God and the NRSV turns this a bit with YHWH making David into a dynasty. What is further interesting in verse 11 is that here, in both the Hebrew and the Greek, YHWH promises ‘rest’ to Israel. The Hebrew in verse 1 and verse 11 is unchanged, but the Greek in verse 11 (ἀναπαύσω) reflects the idea of rest, whereas the first verse speaks to an inheritance.

7.12 (Gr) has the future son coming from David’s belly (NETS; womb, my translation) whereas the Hebrew notes that the future son will come from David’s body. It may be that the Greek is looking forward to a yet unfulfilled expectation or is relying upon Psalm 131 (132 Eng) in which, having been written on David’s behalf, attempts to remind God of the promise made to David while the author sits in exile of some sort. Further, the same Greek word is used in 2nd Samuel 16.11 in which David laments after Absalom, the ‘son who came out of my belly’ (NETS) in what may an author’s trick and getting the audience to think that Absalom was the future son from chapter 7.

7.13-16 (Gr) has YHWH promising to ‘restore’ the throne of the future son, or perhaps restore the throne for the future son whereas the Hebrew have God establishing the throne for the future son, as I have briefly detailed earlier. In the Hebrew, Saul’s name is expressly mentioned in verse 15, whereas in the Greek, the singular becomes the plural, again revealing the Translator’s place in life. It may be that the Translator has in mind not only the kinds which God has removed (Saul, Ahab, Manassah) but also the exile of Israel. In 2nd Kings 23.27, we read,

The LORD said, “I will remove Judah also from My sight, as I have removed Israel. And I will cast off Jerusalem, this city which I have chosen, and the temple of which I said, ‘My name shall be there.'” (2Ki 23:27 NAU)

This passage calls to mind 2 Samuel 7.13 and verse 15, both with the mention of the Temple being for the name of YHWH and the remembrance of all those who God had removed. For the writer of the Kings, however, both Israel and Judah were removed as well. This is followed in verse 16 which again has YHWH promising to restore (build in the Hebrew) the House and the Throne of the Greater Son[7], whereas in the Hebrew, it is the David’s House.


Regardless of the text used, Hebrew or Greek, the passage has played a part in the development of the Davidic theology present not just in the Jewish Canon, but so too the Christian canon. Sergi notes (Sergi, 2010, 262) that the Davidic monarchy  occupies a ‘major role in biblical historiography’, but even beyond canonical sources, such as the Psalms of Solomon, we find the idea that the promised Throne and House which is to last forever provides a hope for Jewish believers, regardless of their sect. It is this Covenant which many sought to see restored as they were weighted down under the boot of the Greeks and, later, the Romans (See 1st and 2nd Maccabees and the above mentioned work) and was the covenant which allowed the Messianic Expectation which Christians believe was fulfilled in the person of Jesus Christ. The Greek Translators were able to urge this suggestion along with their reauthoring of the text to reflect their present day hope of the soon coming King, the Greater Son of the Great David.

For the Greek translators, and thus readers, what was already once fulfilled may have just been a shadow of things to come. The Jews in Palestine were technically in exile, with no government of their own, the Temple was less than the first one, and the Land itself wasn’t secure. The ‘permanent’ dynasty was simply no more, and yet, the translators were able to show a ‘not yet, but soon’ mentality in their translation. While we have no evidence of the passage being used at Qumran, there is plenty of evidence of it being used in the Messianic Community which surrounded the followers of Jesus. It gave them verification of their own understanding of who Jesus was.

[1] Sergi Omer, “The Composition of Nathan’s Oracle to David (2 Samuel 7.1-17) as a Reflection of Royal Judahite Ideology,” Journal of Biblical Literature 129 (2010): 261-279.

[2] Although, the connection is rather weak in the New Testament. Paul uses it in 2nd Corinthians 6.18, not for Christ in particular, but for the Church corporately.

[3] I will be using the NETS: Pietersma, Albert, & Wright, Benjamin G. (2007). A New English Translation of the Septuagint. Oxford University Press, USA.

[4] I note Matthews, et al, who writes, ‘Here it is indicated that God has given David rest from his enemies, and throughout the Old Testament the Lord speaks of giving rest to his people. This is especially significant in this context where David wants to build a temple, because in the ancient Near East the temple of the deity was supposed to offer rest to the deity. Some of the temple names even suggest that as a primary function of the temple. This divine rest then often results in rest for the people in their land. In contrast the Bible says little about divine rest, and it is never the prerequisite for human rest except for the Sabbath. (Victor Harold Matthews, Mark W. Chavalas and John H. Walton, The IVP Bible Background Commentary : Old Testament, electronic ed., 2 Sa 7:1 (Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 2000).)

[5] P. Kyle McCarter II Samuel (Garden City, 1984), 202-3 argues that the future tense refers to the Temple, although latter scholars note flaws in his argument.

[6] D.F. Murray (Vestus Testamentum XL, 3), in his 1990 essay, however, argues against this future as temple, and instead turns the meaning of the ‘place’ as land. I understand it to mean place, in regards to land, following David Qimhi’s lead. See David Vanderhoot (JBL 118.4 (1999( 625-633) for further discussion of Temple v. Land.

[7] Sergi notes that ‘setting the royal dynasty and the temple at the heart of royal ideaology was common practice in the ancient Near Eastern Kingdoms.’

Enhanced by Zemanta

Following up on Isaiah 65.1-7 and Mark 5.1-20

Medieval book illustration of Christ Exorcisin...
Image via Wikipedia

As we turn to the exegesis of Mark 5.1-20, which I have already weighted heavily with the idea that Mark is using mimesis to undue Vespasian’s actions in Gadara and Simon bar Giora’ claims, it is necessary that I examine the normative source for a Gospel writer, the Jewish Prophets. The Gospel writers’ use of the Old Testament as a means of showcasing who Jesus is is well documented and must not be overlooked during any exegesis. In Mark, the writer has a formula for introduction when he is using the voices of the Prophets to introduce something which Jesus has done/is doing. The Evangelist used it least eight times[1], with a preference for Isaiah and the Septuagint. Knowing that, then, one must examine Isaiah 65.1-7 as a possible backdrop to Mark’s story of the demoniac.

On the surface, the two passages are similar. Gerasa was a Gentile city, which matches Isaiah 65.1c. Also of note is the imagery of living among the tombs and demons in Isaiah 65.3-4a while 63.4b speaks about swine’s flesh. Also similar is the warning of the people to the Lord in Isaiah of not to come closer which is similar to Legion’s plea with Jesus not to have anything to do with it. The pattern is between the two is familiar as well, with the Lord/Jesus coming to a people who didn’t want to see him and being met with the insistence to stay away. Further, as just noted, the imagery of the tombs plays a large part in both passages, although in Isaiah the scenery is filled with the images which accompany pagan sacrifices and the move from henotheism to monotheism (65.3b – ‘the demons, which do not exist.’). Finally, what is also present is the images of hills and mountains as well as the repayment for the deeds done by the people.

What is missing, however, is the Markan use of the phrase ὡς γέγραπται. Without that formula it is difficult to assume that Mark is using his story in 5.1-20 as an eschatological fulfillment of Isaiah 65.1-7 (LXX). While Mark shows that he is familiar with the Septuagint and the Prophets, especially Isaiah, we cannot easily assume that Mark is writing to show that Christ fulfilled the words of the Prophet Isaiah. If we do, we must assume then that the Evangelist is employing recent historical events in such a way that they themselves cause the situation in Isaiah 65.1-7 to take place so that Jesus as the Son of God can now fulfill them. As we have seen, the historical events which pre-dated Mark’s writing would have been prevalent in his mind, and if he was writing to counter, as Winn suggests, the rise of the Roman pretender to the Messianic throne then the author may well have seen the fulfillment of Isaiah’s oracle in Vespasian and thus would use mimesis to show that the mighty acts of Jesus were far superior to that of the Roman pretender.

[1] 1.2; 7.6; 9.12-13; 11.17; 14.21; 14.27

[1] 1.2; 7.6; 9.12-13; 11.17; 14.21; 14.27

Enhanced by Zemanta