As a way of properly marking February 8th as “International Septuagint Day”, I have decided to supplement my usual Monday blog post with a bonus post devoted to a key work from the field of Septuagint Studies, namely Dietrich-Alex Koch’s 1986 book Die Schrift als Zeuge des Evangeliums.
Today’s post will also introduce a new category entitled “key quotations”, which will involve key passages that are slightly longer than “model sentences” and thus only include a selective grammatical commentary.
As usual I will begin with the English translation so that the grammatical commentary directly follows upon the German passage.
English Translation (WMC): “Even if Paul fundamentally presupposes the Greek translation of Scripture designated as ‘Septuagint’, it has nevertheless always presented difficulties to derive all the quotations from this translation. Multiple Isaiah quotations and the two Job quotations of Paul are not taken from the LXX; they are much closer to the MT and in part also show clear correspondences/agreements with the (later!) translations of Aquila, Symmachus, and Theodotion. This simultaneously points to the fact/view/conclusion that Paul does not independently reach back to the Hebrew wording here, but rather in these passages he uses a Vorlage/existing text that has been adjusted to/made close to the Hebrew text.” Note 3: “The view that in these passages Paul reached back directly to the Hebrew Text and provided an independent translation is scarcely advocated any longer. An exception is Ellis, Use 15, 19-20, 139-141; on this see p. 80 below.”
Die Schrift als Zeuge des Evangeliums, p. 57: „Auch wenn Paulus grundsätzlich die als >Septuaginta< bezeichnete griechische Übersetzung der Schrift voraussetzt, hat es doch immer Schwierigkeiten bereitet, sämtliche Zitate von dieser Übersetzung herzuleiten. Mehrere Jes-Zitate und die beiden Hiob-Zitate des Paulus sind nicht der LXX entnommen; sie stehen dem MT wesentlich näher und zeigen z.T. auch deutliche Übereinstimmungen mit den (späteren!) Übersetzungen von Aquila, Symmachus und Theodotion. Dies weist zugleich darauf hin, daß Paulus hier nicht eigenständig auf den hebräischen Wortlaut der Schrift zurückgreift, sondern an diesen Stellen eine dem HT angenäherte Vorlage verwendet.“ FN 3: „Die Ansicht daß Pls in diesen Fällen direkt auf den HT zurückgreift und eine selbständige Übersetzung bietet, wird kaum noch vertreten. Eine Ausnahme bildet Ellis, Use 15.19f.139-141; dazu s.u. S. 80.“
Selective Grammatical Commentary: die Übersetzung is modified by “als >Septuaginta< bezeichnete” and by “griechische”. In such cases, it is usually best to relocate one of the modifiers in English. “bezeichnen als” is usually best translated as “designate as” but “refer to” is sometimes better. It could be preferable to translate “Schwierigkeiten bereiten” more freely as “created difficulties” or even more freely as “been difficult”. While one could translate “stehen” in a wooden manner as “they stand much closer”, it is often better to translate this German idiom as they “are” much closer. It is always difficult to translate z.T. (zum Teil). I have rendered it literally as “in part” but “sometimes” or “in some cases” might be preferable. “darauf hin, dass”/“to this, that” needs to be filled out either as “to the fact that” or “to the view that” or “to the conclusion that”. zurückgreift could perhaps also be translated as “go back to” or “make recourse to” or even “draw on”. Translators usually allow themselves the luxury of leaving the technical term “Vorlage” untranslated: here it refers to an already-existing Greek version that Paul is using. It is difficult to capture the force of angenäherte – a free translation such as “adjusted to” or “conformed to” is probably preferable to a wooden translation such as “made near to” or “approximated to”.
Substantive analysis: while I remain somewhat puzzled/surprised (and I acknowledge that this may simply be due to my inadequate knowledge of the full extent and nature of the relevant data) by the confidence with which some (Septuagint) scholars appear to suggest/presuppose that Paul and other New Testament writers could never have (also) independently interacted with Hebrew versions of the scriptures in oral or written form (how could we know this, at least for those authors who may well have known Hebrew?), I think that Koch and others have made a valuable contribution in stressing that in any given case it is at least equally likely and perhaps even more likely that a given New Testament author was making use of an alternative Greek version that had been adjusted to a Hebrew text, especially when there are resemblances to known Greek versions. In other words, I certainly think that these scholars have swung the pendulum in the right direction, even if I remain somewhat skeptical towards what I perceive as a certain dogmatism on this point.
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