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:

ἀκουσιάζομαι

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. 

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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.

@DageshForte

 

 

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Today is the most blessed day: International Septuagint Day.

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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.