I find myself conflicted when it comes to the Septuagint. I’m sympathetic to recent arguments in favor of the Septuagint’s importance, particularly in light of the early Christian community [see Timothy Michael Law’s excellent book When God Spoke Greek: The Septuagint and the Making of the Hebrew Bible]. However, I don’t know what to make of the ways in which the LXX seemingly whitewashes some of the more robust (read: not-Hellenized) theological descriptions found in the Hebrew text of the Old Testament.
A few examples:
The LXX usually translates the Hebrew nhm (repent, change one’s mind, regret) with the Greek term metanoeo or metamelomai, but here it avoids both of these verbs and reads “And God considered that he had made man.” As Wevers observes in his Notes on the Greek Text of Genesis, the author “obviously softened the anthropopathic metaphors of the Hebrew and has God, rather than reacting emotionally to man’s evil condition, concentrating on what he will do to rectify the situation.”
Exodus 32:12, 14
A similar phenomenon happens in another classic “divine repentance” text – Exodus 32. Verse 12 changes from the Hebrew “repent of the evil against your people” to the Greek “be merciful concerning this evil” while v. 14 changes from the Hebrew “YHWH repented of the evil which he spoke to do to his people” to the Greek “the Lord was propitiated concerning the evil he said he would do to his people.” (Translations from Victory P. Hamilton in The Book of Genesis, NICOT)
Job 13:15, 14:14
The LXX of Job contains significant interpretive revisions from the Hebrew text (see D. Gard, The Exegetical Method of the Greek Translator of the Book of Job). Job 13:15 transforms from the Hebrew “He may well slay me, I have no hope” (NJPS) to the Greek “Though the Mighty One lay hand on me, since he has already begun, I will speak and plead before him” while Job 14:14 transforms from the Hebrew “If a man dies, will he live again?” to the Greek “If a man dies, he will live again!”
Should Christian theological reflection take the Hebrew texts seriously?
More seriously than the LXX texts?
Well, I finally convinced my husband Jimmy (@fakejimmy) to be a guest contributor here at Cataclysmic! While he won’t be one of the regular Cataclysmic bloggers, he will be posting every now and then on his favorite subjects: linguistics and Biblical Greek. Below is a short bio to help you get to know Jimmy:
Jimmy Parks is a graduate of Houston Baptist University (MA in Biblical Languages) and will be pursing a PhD in the near future. Jimmy currently works at a Maternal-Fetal Medicine office where he spends his lunch breaks reading Septuagintal Greek. He also works as a student grader and occasionally substitutes for Greek, Hebrew, and Linguistics classes at HBU and SWBTS. During the summer he enjoys teaching Greek grammar classes at a local prison. He is a deacon at First Colony Christian Church (Sugar Land, TX). Jimmy is married to Jessica and they have two dogs – Charlie and Parker.
Jimmy is interested in Biblical Languages and Linguistics. He loves reading books about language and the brain and is especially interested in how humans process language.
His first post will be up later this week so stay tuned!
Abram K-J over at Words on the Word has started hosting a monthly Septuagint Studies Soireé, similar to the monthly Biblical Studies Carnival but focused (obviously) on the LXX. I am an LXX fanatic and so I’m especially glad that Abram is putting this together each month. The world needs more exposure to LXX studies and this is a great place to start.
I hope to be able to contribute some more posts on the LXX in the near future (I recently posted snippets from my work on Susanna here, here, and here). Since I’m currently taking a class on Paul and his letters I would like to touch on Paul’s view of Scripture, particularly his use of the LXX. I’m also planning to read through the Apocrypha this semester since I’ve only ever read bits and pieces… I know, for shame!). One could easily get lost in the field of Septuagint studies as there is so much to learn and discover, but it’s all wonderfully fascinating and incredibly important to the life of the Church.
Be sure to check out the Septuagint Studies Soiree #1 as well as August’s Biblical Studies Carnival hosted by Brian LePort (coming September 1st).
Jessica Parks is a self-proclaimed language nerd and happily married to one as well. She is a full-time graduate student at Houston Baptist University where she also works as a student grader and occasionally substitutes for Greek, Hebrew, and theology classes. She recently earned a Master of Arts in Biblical Languages and is starting her second master’s degree this fall in Theological Studies. In addition to biblical languages and linguistics, she is interested in Septuagint studies, early Christianity, patristics, and gender issues. Jessica is a member of First Colony Christian Church (Sugar Land, TX) and serves on occasion through preaching and teaching. She also enjoys going to the movies with her husband Jimmy, playing with her dogs Charlie and Bo, and of course a good game of Zelda.
Follow Jessica on Twitter @mrsjessparks and read her recent review of T. Michael Law’s book ‘When God Spoke Greek: The Septuagint and the Making of the Christian Bible’ as part of a blog tour hosted by Near Emmaus.
Wife is home and blog will return to regular schedule next week. For now, interesting reads from across the world wide web…
Brooks (NYT) on Data – I love to read people’s explanations for what do we know and how do we actually know it. It will be interesting to follow Brooks as he examines how we use data. On another note, just received This Explains Everything in mail this week. Hope to blog about it as I read it.
The Problem with Queer Theology – Michael Bird posted a quote from Oliver O’Donovan on his blog that I thought was brilliant. His reflection on the tension between creation and redemption could open up so many conversations.
Jackson Wu on Contextualizing and Compromising the Gospel – In a article in the latest volume of Global Missiology, Wu argues that settling for the truth compromises the gospel. I have some questions about engaging different perspectives of reading/understanding (for example, reader-response), but thought-provoking essay. He answers some questions about the article on his blog here and here.
Sinners – Tim Gombis writes on one way Paul finds unity between Jews and Gentiles in Romans. By the way, his blog is quickly becoming a favorite: regular posting, insightful posts, and engages with commenters.
Ben Blackwell and I thought I knew you.
Finally, Happy LXX Day. Great day because I don’t have to feel bad about the state of Hebrew. Free to read all I want in Greek!