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A German Translation of the Septuagint1
Septuaginta Deutsch (LXX.D) is the first German translation of the old Greek version of the Old Testament as it appeared in the great complete Bible manuscripts from the fourth and fifth century and later: Codex Sinaiticus, Codex Alexandrinus, Codex Vaticanus etc. Unlike the Jewish Bible as known in the Masoretic Biblia Hebraica (BH) from the early Middle Ages, the more detailed content of which is first witnessed in a letter from Melito of Sardis,2 it also contains the Old Testament Apocrypha – in the Catholic tradition labelled the »deuterocanonical« books.3 What is now presented in a German translation in principle is the Bible of the Eastern, so-called Orthodox Churches, whereas the Western Christianity early on produced Latin translations, at the end of the fourth and at the beginning of the fifth century to be replaced by the revisions and new translations by Jerome, claiming to translate the Hebrew original (the so-called Hebraica veritas). Thus Jerome came to adhere to the Jewish point of view that the Hebrew Bible constituted the original both in its number of books and in text, the differences between this and the LXX being intentional deviations and the results of misunderstandings. For this reason – and therein Jerome disagreed vehemently with Augustine who estimated the LXX with all its differences to be exactly the Old Testament which God had decided for the Church – he would not translate a translation. Jerome also maliciously asked who had invented the fantastic legend about the seventy(-two)’s creation of the Greek translation and further pointed to the fact that originally the Jewish story was only about the translation of the Pentateuch. 4 In the age of the Reformation Luther took over Jerome’s point of view that the Hebrew text was the original and therefore – which was also in accordance with the ideals of Renaissance Bible Humanism – in his German Bible he (and his assistants) translated the Hebrew Bible text and not the text of the Vulgate, placing the Apocrypha in an appendix.5
I think this prehistory is an important part of the explanation as to why the LXX has played such an insignificant role in the churches of the Reformation and accordingly also in Bible research at the universities in the Northwestern part of Europe, practically until the last decennia. Thus I was educated in a tradition where Biblia Hebraica without discussion was the original text (Grundtext) of the Old Testament.6 Typically the first printed editions of the LXX were Catholic. First from the end of the 19th century it came to a more widespread interest in the LXX. Thus in Protestant scholarship the work began to establish a text-critical edition, first and foremost the Göttingen-Septuaginta, initiated in 1931 and not yet completed. The leading figure was Alfred Rahlfs (1865–1935), also editor of the popular and much used handbook edition of the Septuagint in two volumes published in 1935 (with many reprints and in a new edition revised by Robert Hanhart in 2006). A primary interest in the study of the LXX for a long time remained its possible usefulness in reconstructing the original text of BH. In the last decennia, however, it also came to be the center of an ever more intensive theological interest. What earlier mostly was labelled deviations from and misunderstandings of a Hebrew original, was now more and more perceived as creative reception. The LXX left behind its Cinderella role to become an important witness to transformations in Jewish theological thinking in the Hellenistic, not least the Egyptian diaspora and thus to be read for its own value. Accordingly new significance was attached to the fact that the LXX was the Bible text in most Old Testament quotations and allusions in the New Testament, sometimes even with decisive consequences as the quotation in Matthew 1.23 of Isaiah 7.14, where the Hebrew text knows of no virgin. It can even be argued that, more than the BH, the LXX constitutes the immediate antecedent to the con-tinuation developed in the New Testament.7 Further, the Greek translation rapidly became the only accessible Bible for a Greek speaking Christianity soon also mainly consisting of non-Jews.
In the wake of the finding of the Dead Sea Scrolls the text critical question also took a new turn. It became clear that it was impossible to speak of one original Hebrew text the way that had been done until then. In the centuries leading up to the Common Era what was to become the Masoretic text turned out to be only one among several text forms which, however, early gained a dominant role and eventually was to excel other texts. It meant that deviations in the LXX compared with BH were not necessarily the result of interpretation or misunderstanding but could also be due to another Hebrew text. However, it now seems that already in connection with the Maccabean revolt a process began of making the Hebrew text uniform, and to make the Greek translations conform to it. Later this tendency was accelerated, not least from the 2 nd century AD because of the Christian use of the old Greek translations. What earlier was considered a rather late enterprise, now clearly is seen to have its predecessors long before the rise of Christianity and thus to reflect a process going on inside Early Judaism. With this knowledge the story of Aristeas about how the translation of the Pentateuch came into being, the variant of it in Philo, and the only slightly revised version of Aristeas in Josephus’ Antiquities, also are to be estimated as an authorisation of one old Greek version over against new revisions. As to text critical work with the Hebrew text it means that the LXX sometimes contains readings presumably being older than those of the BH.8 With regard to the »canonical« question it has the consequence that the Old Testament of the Church cannot be reduced to one text, but that in principle it consists of both the Hebrew and the Greek texts.
The LXX.D enterprise is to be seen and evaluated in the light of this highly complex situation. It is expressly the result of scholarly work and has no liturgical standing. Nevertheless it has relevance for the more than 100.000 Orthodox Christians living in Germany and has been accomplished through a fruitful co-operation between a large group of biblical scholars and the German Bible Society, the enterprise also having been subsidised by the Evangelische Kirche in Deutschland (EKD).
Septuaginta Deutsch consists of three monumental volumes, the first containing the translation, the two others bringing information about and commentaries to the translation. The translation volume is provided with an ecumenical greeting by repre-sentatives from the Protestant Church, the Catholic Church, the Orthodox Church and the Rabbinic Conference of Germany; a preface by the editors, an instruction in how to use the volume, guidelines for Orthodox Christians, and a list of abridgements. A preface shortly outlines the manuscript situation, the history of the Sep-tuagint and the impact of this history on its wording, the meaning of the Septuagint, some remarks on the German translation and a list of the scholars involved in the project.
The translation volume appeared in 2009 (a revised edition was already published in 2010). It contains all the books which reasonably can be said to belong to the Septuagint – the number of which being not completely the same in all Bible manuscripts. Thus besides the books of the BH, and the books traditionally included in the Old Testament Apocrypha (in Luther’s Bible including The Prayer of Manasse, taken in from the Odes/Canticles, a Christian collection of Old and New Testament hymns probably dating from the 5th century), it also contains books sometimes placed among the Old Testament Pseudepigrapha (1 Esdras,9 3 Macc, 4 Macc, and Psalms of Solomon) and Odes/Canticles.10 It should not go unnoticed that also the order of the books in the LXX (historical books, poetical books, wisdom books, and prophetic books), surviving in the Christian Bible even when the Old Testament expressly is translated according to Hebraica veritas, has had grave theological implications not least by transforming the Law to be the first part of the historical books and by letting the collection end with the so-called Latter Prophets (and thereby not with Chronicles).11
In the preface it is emphasized that the question which Hebrew text is translated should be decided from case to case (cf. above), that the translation project took place in a period of c. 200 years, that the translation early on was made the object of revisions, a fact contributing to the rather disturbing text transmission in the first centuries of the common era and challenging Origen to his impressive effort to sort it out in his Hexapla. This situation does not invite one to treat the text of the Septuagint as a monolithic entity, and consequently the LXX.D-project has allowed for a certain linguistic pluriformity in the translations of the various books; in this way also texts are allowed to reflect their different genesis. Further it is noticed that the Septuagint is by far the largest translation project known from Antiquity and has had great impact on European culture. Finally it is maintained that it provides us with an invaluable insight in a specific formation of Judaism in the centuries before the beginning of the Common Era.
A short introduction informs readers of the number and order of books chosen, the critical text which is translated, in principle Rahlfs-Hanhart’s, taking the Göttingen Septuagint into account insofar as it has appeared; the titles, chapter and verse division and the use of headings. Where a double transmission exists, translations of both editions are printed side by side. The Septuagint is respected as an independent Greek text principally to be translated without conferring with the Hebrew version(s), although differences of course are regis tered. Thus the translation is meant to be readable even without knowledge of Greek or Hebrew, although the Greek text in itself sometimes is obscure because of an overliteral rendering. The same word is not necessarily translated in the same way (concordantly), respecting that the various translations reflect different epochs in the history of the language. There is no attempt to conform to modern gender specific language. Proper names and geographical names are in general rendered in transcription according to their Greek forms where it is not confusing because other name forms are in normal use. Where the Septuagint is in accord with the Masoretic BH it is printed with normal type, where the two texts vary from each other either in wording or in the Greek text being longer, italics are em-ployed, and a lifted »+« signifies that the Masoretic text contains something not present in the Greek. As mentioned, differences can owe to several causes: An alternative Hebrew text, interpretative ef-forts, but also another vocalisation than the later Masoretic, or misreading of the Hebrew (especially by mistaking a daleth for a resh, and vice versa). Inner-biblical references are to be found at the end of a passage. The footnotes, kept to a minimum, offer alternative possibilities of understanding, selected references to the Greek and often also to the Hebrew wording, and, ultimately, short explanations and the variants in the Orthodox tradition for reading and understanding. Further commentary is reserved for the companion volumes. Already here, however, a series of ten excurses is announced.
In LXX.D the books are divided in five parts, the Pentateuch having its own although belonging to the historical books.12 There are introductions both to these five parts and to the translations of the single books. The first category gives more general information, the last offers short overviews of the content of the single book, its characteristics in relation to the BH, a discussion of its possible Hebrew original (if any), and the presumed place and time of the translation. The tendency in the work of translation changed over time towards an ever more literal rendering supporting efforts to make it uniform with the Hebrew text. However, in spite of all the differences, in total the Greek translation appears as more homogenous than the text of BH.
Interestingly the LXX version of the Book of Isaiah distinguishes itself in being also an early interpretation, to some degree like the Isaiah-Targum and to represent the oldest accessible translation of the whole book. And where most of the other translations are placed in Alexandria, tentatively this one is located in Leontopolis and connected to Onias IV and his temple there (cf. Is 19.18 f.). The shorter LXX version of the Book of Jeremiah, normally estimated to rest on an earlier Hebrew edition than the one in BH, surprisingly is seen as the result of the translator(s) having eliminated doublets in the tradition and unnecessary clichés such as additions to proper names and designations of God.
Where two distinctly different translations of books have survived, they are helpfully printed in parallel columns. This is especially relevant to the Book of Judges, 2 Samuel (= LXX 2 Basileion) 10 to 1 Kings (= 3 Bas) 2.11; 1 Kings (= 3 Bas) 22 to 2 Kings (= 4 Bas) 25.30; the Book of Esther; the Book of Tobit, Habakkuk 3 (with the versio Barberini); and the Book of Daniel where the later Theodotian version has replaced the earlier translation. In the case of the Song of Songs or Song of Solomon it is remarked that the LXX translation is not yet influenced by an allegorical understanding which will later dominate both Rabbinic and Christian interpretation and which also has left its mark on the manuscript tradition in the form of additions signifying whom is speaking.
An appendix to this volume contains a list of the scholars having contributed to the project (the number exceeds 72!), chronological tables – some of them synchronistic – of the biblical story, the Seleucid kings and the more recent historical books, explanations of calendar problems, measures, weights and money values, tran-scriptions and names standardized in the translation, conjectures in the text of the Septuagint, a list of differences between the edition of Rahlfs and the revision of Hanhart, a list of readings in the service of the Orthodox Church, and a short survey of the development of the legend about the translation of the Septuagint, quoting some of its highlights. Finally there are attached three maps, a sketch of Alexandria, Egypt from the 4 th to the 1st century BC and Syria and Palestine in the 2nd and 1st century BC.13
The companion volume(s), originally planned to be one, but ending up as two, with continuous pagination, is provided with a new preface by the editors also describing the leading principles in the work, the organisation and words of thanks, an introduction telling how the information and commentaries are structured, a list of scholars contributing, and lists of abbreviations (these lists are conveniently reprinted in the beginning of vol. II). Because the translation volume is designed also to be used independently, a certain repetition is natural. However, with a much more detailed argument also presupposing knowledge of Greek and Hebrew, the companion volumes mainly address the scholar.
This part also contains a series of introductory contributions. The first, »Origin and development of the Septuagint in the context of Alexandrian and Early Jewish culture and education«, by Siegfried Kreuzer, is a valuable summary of the results of scholarship concerning the different historical and cultural aspects important for the understanding of the impact of the Septuagint on our understanding of Early Judaism. Kreuzer sketches the interrelation between Egypt and Greek culture in the period before and after Alexander and how Alexandria during the first Ptolemies not least with the erection of Museion and the famous library became a centre of a Greek culture intertwined with the rich inheritance of Egypt. Especially philology came to the fore in the efforts to re-create the original texts of the classics. Here also a sort of a canon of the most important literature relevant for education was created by Aristophanes of Byzantium (c. 260–185 BC) which is of special interest concerning the Old Testament since it shows that the thought of a canon was a topic of the day as was a grouping of literature according to its nature finding its counterpart in the way Old Testament books were arranged. The people behind the translation of the Old Testament seemingly were highly influenced by all these cultural efforts, also by the dominant role played by the works of Homer.
S. Kreuzer naturally also tells the story of the Jews in Egypt, one of the main centres of the diaspora; thus the Jewish population of Egypt is estimated to have been c. 500.000 in the 1st century AD of which 200.000 lived in Alexandria. Concerning the origin of the Septuagint two hypotheses are available. The one sees at least a grain of truth in the legend of Aristeas which claims that it was king Ptolemy who took the initiative for a translation of the Pentateuch; for instance this had as a consequence the fact that »hare« was translated »rough-foot« (δασύπους) and not with the normal word for that animal, λαγῶς, reminding too much of the by-name »Lagos«, the forefather of the Ptolemies. The other takes its departure in the practical need of the Diaspora Jews, not any longer mastering Hebrew, to have their Law in their new language. This understand-ing, of course, also finds confirmation in the many wrong details in Aristeas showing that its author lived more than a hundred years after the time of Ptolemy II. Kreuzer seeks a middle course: It was not a direct royal command which caused the translation but Ptolemy’s cultural policy was felt by the Jews as a challenge to make their traditions of origin known and present also in the royal library. It also may be of some significance that Palestine belonged to the Ptolemean realm. As Martin Rösel has shown the translation of the Urgeschichte in Genesis was influenced by Platonic philosophy and its chronology made to match the Egyptian history as told by Manetho.14 Kreuzer also mentions the interesting proposal by A. Schenker, that Jews could have found an impetus for a translation in Deuteronomy 4.2–8, especially v. 6 concerning the commandments: »Keep them and do them; for that will be your wisdom and your understanding in the sight of the peoples, who, when they hear all these statutes, will say, ›Surely this great nation is a wise and understanding people‹.«15
Kreuzer estimates that the translation work was finished after 100 or may be 150 years and thinks it unlikely that some books first were translated in the 1st century BC. Although with differences from book to book, generally the Greek text accurately resembles the Hebrew and tries to render it adequately; in the process even creating new words. An example of how the translation also takes into consideration the religious tradition in the handling of the text is the rendering of the name of God Yahweh, read as adonai, with »Lord« (κύριος). This translation technique developed into an ever more literal rendering, and with the so-called kaige-recension as a step in this direction already in the 2nd century BC we see traces of efforts to bring the Greek Bible text in accord with the Hebrew which at the same time also underwent a process bringing it to a greater uniformity. The translation witnesses the strengthening of the monotheistic aspects in the understanding of God. Kreuzer even valuates the translation of Daniel 7.13 identifying the Son of Man with the Ancient of Days as being the older version, later to be revised and brought in accord with the Masoretic text.16
Often the rendering shows that translators have presupposed one unifying understanding to lay behind all the different texts. Further it is possible to discern that several of the hermeneutical rules later to be ascribed to Hillel and others, are already active, and there are also examples such in Amos 4.13 of a seemingly messianic interpretation of the Hebrew text where, however, what has happened is that the Masoretic version has introduced an anti-messianic reading, not so much in opposition to a Christian use but perhaps as a result of an internal Jewish abandoning of messianic-apocalyptic tendencies after 70 AD. Also the process leading to an ever more literal rendering in Aquila, Symmachus and Theodotion is not exclusively to be valuated as a reaction to Christian interpretation, because, as we have seen, with the kaige-recension as an intermediary stage, it has roots back in the 2nd century BC. All this created a disturbing variety of readings and various counter efforts, to make the picture even more confusing. Because of a remark by Jerome mentioning a certain Lukian and bringing him together with a text present especially in Antioch and Constantinople, this text form has been labelled the Lukian recension. But according to Kreuzer this very Antiochene text was the one to be reworked with the kaige-text as its result and therefore to be estimated to be near to the original Septuagint, sometimes also labelled the »Old Greek«. This also explains why the New Testament brings quotations both from the revised and from the not revised text.17
Kreuzer’s final words (35–36) deserves to be quoted in full: »The translators of the Septuagint have – under the cultural and spiritual challenges of that time and with the for them accessible means and abilities which should not be underestimated – translated the holy books of Judaism into the language and living conditions of their fellow citizens and fellow believers. With this the greatest translation achievement of Antiquity they not only have offered an invaluable contribution to the existence and the development of their Jewish community of faith and later for the spreading of Christianity. They also for centuries in a crucial way have influenced, changed and marked Hellenistic culture and education and the world of Antiquity.«
The next contribution is by Knut Usener and focuses on the language of the Septuagint. It shows its own characteristics inside the broader frame of Koine Greek, and that it is possible cautiously to speak of a socio-dialect, also conditioned by the source language. Thus it predominantly is oriented against the original and not the target language, especially in following the order of the words in the Hebrew text, often nearly in an interlinear way. It is also perceivable that many of the later translations have taken the translation of the Pentateuch as a model. As an over all statement it can be said that the language of the Septuagint shows a simplification with regard to morphology and style natural for translation literature. However, it can be observed that this Septuagint Greek, also with its many neologisms, later characterized Christian literature.
Of an even more technical nature is a treatment of Hebrew verse and Greek prose rhythm in the Septuagint by Folker Siegert demonstrating how the translators tried to reproduce rhythmic passages, in this process also creating new idiomatic phrases and thus contributing to the rise of a new language of Canaan.
A bit unexpected but very informative is a chapter by Wolfgang Orth on Seleucid court titles and political structures as reflected in the Septuagint tradition. The reader is introduced to this world of »friends«, »brothers« and »fathers« of different sorts and certainly not friends, brothers and fathers in our normal understanding of these designations. The author offers an insight into the organisation of this kingdom, in the Septuagint especially to be found in I–IV Maccabees.
More obvious is a summary of the present status in research with regard to the character of the Hebrew sources of the Septuagint and their value for textual criticism and text history. It is written by Emanuel Tov from Jerusalem and probably the best expert in this field. Not least through the extensive findings of biblical manuscripts and fragments among the Dead Sea Scrolls it became clear that the different sorts of deviations in the Septuagint from the Biblia Hebraica not only could be ascribed to the translators freedom, interpretative effort, or lacking ability to understand the Hebrew. From case to case it has to be decided if the reason instead could be the Hebrew text of the translator that deviated from the Masoretic with the possibility that in between the Septuagint reflects an older Hebrew text. Tov offers an overview of all the books of the Septuagint and the relation between the two text traditions and answers to the question of how much the deviations owe to an alternative Hebrew text or to the translator’s contribution. Besides the »usual suspects« here, the Greek Esther and Daniel, representing the phenomenon »rewritten composition«, and 1 Kings also showing considerable changes, Tov nominates the differences be-tween the Hebrew and the Greek text in Exodus 35–40 to present the greatest challenge to Septuagint research.
To Tov it is not meaningful to speak of a certain Septuagint text type in the Hebrew text tradition because there is no such text type in the Hebrew Bible and the originals of the LXX show very few common traits. The common denominator of the Hebrew originals behind the books of the LXX is that they were the ones chosen to be translated. What characterizes the Hebrew originals is much more their many substantial deviations from the Masoretic text which are much more pronounced than in the scrolls employed in the translations in the Targum, Peshitta and Vulgate, and in the Qumran scrolls. Thus besides the Masoretic text the LXX offers the greatest amount of information about the different phases – early and late – in the development which the text of the Hebrew Bible ex-perienced. Tov sees two factors at work, either separately or together: 1) the specific scrolls employed by the translators were not accepted by the people promoting what became the Masoretic text, and 2) the relatively early date for the translation enterprise (ac-cording to Tov 275–150 BC) presupposes even older scrolls and could reflect earlier redaction stages of the biblical text. However, only a combination of both explains how very old texts as they for instance are reflected in the LXX, still could be in circulation in the 3 rd and 2nd century BC where some of the Proto-Masoretic texts known to us already existed. It all establishes that what became the Masoretic text belonged to certain circles in Early Judaism and that we do not know to which (other) Egyptian or Palestinian circles the Hebrew scrolls used by the LXX translators belonged. But as Tov writes, the High Priest Eleazar (who according to Aristeas sent the scrolls to be translated) would certainly have promoted the Proto-Masoretic text for this enterprise.18
The last part of the introduction is a detailed index of the conjectures in the Göttingen Septuagint and in the Septuagint edition of Alfred Rahlfs/Robert Hanhart, produced by Siegfried Kreuzer, also discussing the nature and relevance of correcting the wording of a text even where there is no justification for it in the manuscripts. The very technical nature of this chapter makes a summary difficult.
Coming to the introductions and commentaries to the various books, the overall impression of a highly useful handbook is confirmed. The editors really are to be praised for having allowed the authors to do their job somewhat differently. Thus the reader always is also informed about the identity of who has written what and it means a well done personal touch. Some of the introductions even develop to more principal treatises. But of course they all more or less contain the same disposition, although varying in accordance with the individual character of the various books. General remarks about the book and its name and content are followed by a discussion of its Hebrew original (if any), characteristics of its language and the way they are translated, the estimated time and place for the translation and a short view of its reception. 19 Read con-tinually and with the corresponding introductions in the translation volume in mind, one gets an outstanding impression of the varieties between the translations of the various books and the growing tendency towards an ever more literal rendering. Every introduction is supplied with a longer or shorter bibliography, as are each section of the commentary.
The commentaries are a useful mixture of remarks on the Greek in the translation and its relation to the (if any) Hebrew original, information about persons, places and events, and in between rather long discussions of possible understandings and of conceptions, sometimes marked as shorter or longer excurses.20 The volumes really also function as short commentaries to the books of the LXX. The following remarks reflect what the present reviewer has found especially interesting, but I am fully aware that many other items deserve remark as well.
It goes without saying that the translations of the first books, Genesis and Exodus, became fundamental for the following work. It is also remarked that normally it is possible to trace but one translator of each book. And naturally – as it is said with regard to Genesis – the translation is much more homogenous than the original. It is further important to recognise to what degree the individual translator is influenced by his cultural and philosophical context and mirroring his own time and geographical outlook. Not surprisingly, the great majority of the books are supposed to have been translated in Alexandria.
The introduction to Exodus is one of the examples of a more treatise-like treatment.21 The author, Joachim Schaper, who has also written the commentaries, departing from the research his-tory, treats not only the language and translation technique but also offers an overview of the composition and themes of the book. His discussion of the transmission of the Greek text and its relation to the Hebrew and of the question of Exodus and intertextuality in the LXX contains several principal topics. Schaper also reminds us of the dictum of one of the pioneers of modern LXX research, the Jewish scholar Isaac Leo Seeligmann (1907–1982) claiming: »It is […] as ancient testimonies of the Jewish exegesis that the Books of the Septuagint must be investigated and understood.«22 With regard to the reception history, the LXX version of the Pentateuch is often said to have been foundational for later translations. This, however, pertains especially to the LXX version of Exodus.
In the commentary to Leviticus its author, Martin Vahrenhorst, also places two instructive excurses analysing the terminology in the Pentateuch concerning sacrifice and purity respectively, showing how systematically the translators have worked. That the old translation also witnesses to the fact that already at the time of this translation Jews did not pronounce the tetragrammaton is seen from the rendering of Leviticus 24.16, where »blaspheme« in the Hebrew text has become »mention« (ὀνομάζειν). This recognition was new to me and it is exposed in an excursus (by Martin Rösel).
When in the introduction to the Book of Ruth it is said that the tradition of placing this book among the Megilloth to be used at the celebration at the Pentecost is not yet reflected in the LXX, it has to be remembered that this liturgical custom apparently first turned up in the early Middle Ages.
Another example of a more thorough treatise is the introduction (by Markus Witte) to the Book of Job which, however, concentrates much on the textual characteristics of the complicated LXX version, but also remarks that as with regard to the translation technique it is a masterpiece, literarily free in its rendering and not literal. In the introduction to the Book of Sirach the fact is noticed that Jesus Sirach/Ben Sira is the first writer in Israel known to us; his name and office thereby also indicating his time. It places him clearly below Josephus’ chronological borderline for holy books being the time of Artaxerxes ( Contra Apionem II.37–41). Interestingly, Hebrew fragments of great parts of this apocrypha have been found, first in the Cairo Geniza in 1898, since in Palestine.
The introduction to the Book of Habakkuk by Heinz-Josef Fabry clearly reflects the importance of Hab 2.4 for the New Testament where the reception in Paul’s letters and the Letter to the Hebrews respectively shows different possibilities of understanding. Likewise the introduction to the Book of Isaiah (Arie van der Kooij and Florian Wilk) is heavily marked by the importance of this book in New Testament reception. As mentioned above the translation of the Book of Isaiah stands out as being highly influenced by the ideology and theology of the translator(s). It is even said (2497) that the New Testament reception of Isaiah and the LXX version of Isaiah belong to the same line of interpretation. Conspicuously Deutero-Isaiah is provided with two sets of commentaries, the first (by Klaus Baltzer according to a preliminary work by Jürgen Kabiersch) illuminating the special character of this part of the Book of Isaiah as reflected also in the translation, the second showing the unity of the prophetic book in the LXX version.
Somewhat out of character for the project, incidentally, the first set of commentaries is followed by an evaluation (2645) speaking of how »wonderful a literary document the LXX version of Deutero-Isaiah is, making the process clear in which the biblical testimony was translated into a new language and was further developed. To this day it is a document of faith and knowledge.«
In an excursus, »Prophecy at the transition from the Hebrew to the Greek language« (placed after the commentary to the Book of Isaiah, 2691–2695), Andreas Vonach notices how the prophetic books especially showed themselves open to actualising interpretation through reworking and for a transformation of prophecy understood as God’s message to the contemporaries of the prophet to become predictions of future events thus paving the way for the later apocalyptic. The practise, not so much to produce brand new prophetic writings as much more to actualise and elaborate on existing books as in the case of the Book of Isaiah, particularly has asserted itself in the translation of the prophetic literature from Hebrew into Greek, whereby this translation also became an interpretation. This also gave rise to the concept of the »inspired interpreter« describing a person able to address the message of the in-spired Scripture to his contemporaries. Vonach here refers to Sirach 24.33 and Josephus’ remarks in Contra Apionem I.37 but likewise could have pointed to the Teacher of Righteousness as described not least in 1QpHab VII.
The thorough introduction (40 pages) to the Book of Jeremiah by Andreas Vonach offers a detailed argument for the LXX version being an abridgement of the Hebrew original, whereas 4QJerb cannot carry the weight for supposing a shorter Hebrew version. This understanding also opens the possibility that we see the translator as independently reworking (rewriting) the prophetic book in accordance with his own theological program.
LXX.D is an impressing achievement only to be compared with La Bible d’Alexandrie, which, however, is not yet finished.23 Hopefully this account and discussion of the introductions to the translation volume and the companion volumes respectively also have offered an impression of the nature and theological impact of the LXX, justifying the relevance of the project not only for biblical scholarship but altogether for a theological interpretation of the Bible.24 LXX.D demonstrates convincingly that the Old Greek translation witnesses to an important development of Early Ju-daism,25 in many ways leading up to Christianity as the result of a new interpretation of Judaism soon to make possible the inclusion of people from the surrounding pagan world. It also serves to emphasize that the LXX, as a part of the canonical Old Testament of the Christian church, ought to be accessible to a modern reader not conversant with Greek just as has been the case with the Hebrew Bible. Not least so because the LXX often constitutes the Bible of the New Testament authors.
For indispensable and generous help with revising my English I want warmly to thank Dr. Jim West.
1) Septuaginta Deutsch. Das griechische Alte Testament in deutscher Übersetzung. In Zusammenarbeit m. E. Bons, K. Brodersen, H. Engel, H.-J. Fabry, S. Kreuzer, W. Orth, M. Rösel, H. Utzschneider, D Vieweger u. N. Walter hrsg. v. W. Kraus u. M. Karrer. Stuttgart: Deutsche Bibelgesellschaft 2009 (2., verb. Aufl. 2009). XXVIII, 1507 S u. Anhang m. Ktn. 23,8 x 15,8 cm. Geb. EUR 64,00. ISBN 978-3-438-05122-6. Septuaginta Deutsch – Erläuterungen und Kommentare zum griechischen Alten Testament. In Zusammenarbeit m. E. Bons, K. Brodersen, H. Engel, H.-J. Fabry, S. Kreuzer, W. Orth, M. Rösel, K. Usener, H. Utzschneider u. F. Wilk hrsg. v. M. Karrer u. W. Kraus. Bd. I: Genesis bis Makkabäer. Stuttgart: Deutsche Bibelgesellschaft 2011. XXXIV, 1476 S. m. 1 Abb. 23,8 x 15,8 cm. Lw. EUR 64,00. ISBN 978-3-438-05142-4. Bd. II: Psalmen bis Daniel. Stuttgart: Deutsche Bibelgesellschaft 2011. XXXIV*, S. 1477–3151. m. 1 Abb. 23,8 x 15,8 cm. Lw. EUR 68,00. ISBN 978-3-438-05143-1.
2) The letter is transmitted in Eusebius’ Historia ecclesiastica IV.26.13–14. If accidentally or not, Melito does not mention the Book of Esther, while Lamentations and the Book of Nehemiah apparently are subsumed under Jeremiah and Ezra respectively. Earlier Josephus, Contra Apionem I.37–41 enumerates five books of Moses, thirteen books by the prophets, and four with hymns to God and precepts for the conduct of human life, while 4 Ezra 14.44–46 mentions 94, of which, however, only 24 [it is the books of the BH] should be re-published by Ezra after they were burnt at the destruction of Jerusalem in 587. The difference in counting is probably due to the counting or not counting of Ruth and Lamentations as independent books.
3) This nomenclature goes – according to the companion volume II, 1943 – back to Sixtus of Siena (1520–1569).
4) For more details concerning the Church fathers reception and discussion of the creation of the Septuagint, see Mogens Müller, The First Bible of the Church. A Plea for the Septuagint. JSOTSup 206 = CIS 1 (Sheffield: Sheffield Academic Press, 1996 [Danish edition, 1994]), esp. chapter 4.
5) Cf. Mogens Müller, Die Septuaginta als Teil des christlichen Kanons, in: Martin Karrer & Wolfgang Kraus (eds.), Die Septuaginta – Texte, Kontexte, Lebenswelten, WUNT 219 (Tübingen: Mohr Siebeck, 2008), 708–727 (723).
6) The »before« is well described in Wolfgang Kraus, Hebräische Wahrheit und Griechische Übersetzung. Überlegungen zum Übersetzungsprojekt Septuaginta-deutsch (LXX.D), ThLZ 129 (2004), 989–1007.
7) Cf. Marius Reiser, Die Stellung der Evangelien in der antiken Literaturgeschichte, ZNW 90 (1999), 1–27 (6): »Man kann das Neue Testament geradezu als den literarischen Höhepunkt dieses Traditionsstroms betrachten.« Further 7 and 20–24.
8) See for instance Adrian Schenker, Das Neue am neuen Bund und das Alte am alten. Jer 31 in der hebräischen und griechischen Bibel, FRLANT 212 (Göttingen: Vandenhoeck & Ruprecht, 2006), arguing that the plural »laws« in the Greek text of Jeremiah 38.33 may be older than the singular »law« now appearing in the Hebrew Bible Jeremiah 31.33. Cf. also A. Schenker, Gibt es eine graeca veritas für die hebräische Bibel? Die »Siebzig« als Textzeugen im Buch Haggai als Testfall, in: H.-J. Fabry & D. Böhler (eds.), Im Brennpunkt. Die Septuaginta, Band 3: Studien zur theologie, Anthropologie, Ekklesiologie, Eschatologie und Liturgie der griechsichen Bibel, BWANT 174 (Stuttgart: Kohlhammer, 2007), 57–77.
9) 1 Esdras, in the German tradition as in the Vulgate labelled 3 Esra, occupies a special role in this regard. Although often reckoned to the Old Testament Apocrypha, it does not figure in this group in the Western tradition. Thus in the Vulgate it is placed in an Appendix together with 4 Ezra, The Prayer of Manasseh and Psalm 151 (and the New Testament Letter to Laodicea), and it is not included in the Apocrypha in the Luther-Bibel or other of the Reformation Bibles. Cf. the introduction to the complicated Ezra-literature in the companion volume I, 1165–1175 (Dieter Böhler).
10) From remarks in the companion volumes I have learned that the Russian Orthodox Church left the Apocrypha out of its canon during the era of Peter the Great (1672–1725), himself being influenced by Enlightenment and advised by another adherent to this school of thought, Feofan Prokopovič (1681–1736), from 1720 bishop of Novgorod.
11) The now ongoing discussion if the present order of the books in BH is not in some instances relatively late, is also reflected in LXX.D, for instance in the introduction to the Book of Daniel, where it is mentioned that for Josephus and the author of the Gospel of Matthew this apocalypse seemingly belonged to the Prophets.
12) Understandable as it may be it nevertheless blurs the impression of the Pentateuch as in the LXX not being what it is in BH.
13) I have not detected many errors in this volume. However, it must be one when on p. 1 the years of the reign of Ptolemy II are reduced to eleven. The reader could, however, be a little confused when the years of Philo on p. 1008 are said to be c. 25 BC to 50 AD, on p. 1504 c. 15 BC to after 40 AD.
14) M. Rösel, Überzetzung als Vollendung der Auslegung. Studien zur Genesis-Septuaginta, BZAW 223 (Berlin: De Gruyter, 1994).
15) A. Schenker, Wurde die Tora wegen ihrer einzigartigen Weisheit auf Griechisch übersetzt? Die Bedeutung der Tora für die Nationen in Dt 4:6–8 als Ursache der Septuaginta, FZPhTh 54 (2007), 327–347. The translation is from The Holy Bible. Revised Standard Version (London: Thomas Nelson and Sons Ltd, 1952).
16) According to Kreuzer, this revised reading is the background of the gospel Son of Man sayings while the original reading is reflected in the Apocalypse (1.12–16). This is at best a very summary solution to the Son of Man problem.
17) Marten J. J. Menken, Matthew’s Bible. The Old Testament Text of the Evangelist, BEThL 173 (Leuven: University Press, 2004), thus solves the question raised by Matthew’s quotations showing differences to the Septuagint, claiming that for some Old Testament books this author had access to revisions.
18) Formally I find it a little inconvenient that Tov’s article contains an abbreviation (TCHB) not listed at the beginning of the volume, but only in the attached bibliography referred to in the first instance.
19) A charming example of the reception is found in Martin Meiser’s reference to how the grotesque story about Elisha’s revenge on the naughty boys in 4 Kingdoms (= 2 Kings) 2,24 according to Maximus the Confessor by many interpreters was softened down: it was not Israelite children, but they came from another tribe, and it was not children with regard to their age, but according to their intellect; Maximus himself, however, preferred an allegorical interpretation letting the two bears be ἡδονή and ἐπιθυμία respectively.
20) Of the eleven announced in the translation volume p. XXIII note 38 only five actually turn up as excurses. Some have been changed into chapters in the general introduction, others have been incorporated in the introductions to the various books. When the total number nevertheless is twelve, it is because seven new themes have been treated in excurses.
21) With the risk of unjustly passing over other worthy candidates, especially I also want to mention the introductions to Chronicles (Antje Labahn and Dieter Sänger), 4 Maccabees (Hans-Josef Klauck). Thus the truth is that I have found them all interesting reading.
22) I. L. Seeligmann, The Septuagint Version of Isaiah. A Discussion of its Problems, MEOL 9 (1948), 121 (quoted on p. 267).
23) So far 17 volumes have appeared. The design of La Bible d’Alexandrie is, however, even more ambitious. Of course it is one of the continual interlocutors for the authors of LXX.D. In the introduction to the commentaries to Zechariah, Thomas Pola replaces two paragraphs with references to the treatment in the relevant volume of La Bible d’Alexandrie (2448 and 2450); cf. also the references 2451 and 2452.
24) A reviewer is expected also to point out misprints and failures. I have found but a few. Among them is the reference to the non-existent Zechariah 2.2 on p. 2285, to be repeated in the reference index.
25) Cf. the words of Fernández Marcos, The Septuagint in Context. Introduction to the Greek Version of the Bible (Leiden: Brill, 2000), 68, quoted by A. Vonach in his introduction to the Book of Jeremiah, 2713 n. 75, that »the Bible of Alexandria which the Greek-speaking Jews used cannot be considered a simple reproduction of the original Hebrew text but an autonomous literary work organised around a new constellation of meanings within the Greek system. And it can be said that the discrepancy between the original and its reproduction appeared right from the first moment of translation.«
26) Besides the article mentioned in note 2 see also Mogens Müller, Biblia semper interpretanda est – the role of the Septuagint as a Hellenistic version of the Old Testament, in: Gillian Bonney & Rafael Vicent (eds.), Sophia-Paideia. Sapienza e educazione (Sir 1,27). Miscellanea di studi offerti in onore del prof. Don Mario Cimosa, Nuova Bibliotea di Scienze Religiose 34 (Roma: LAS, 2012), 17–31. Cf. also the quotation brought by J. Schaper (272) from Fernández Marcos, The Septuagint in Context, 339: »The LXX was the Bible of the authors of the New Testament. Its ubiquity can be seen not only in the quotations from the Old Testament in the New, but also in the hermeneutic techniques and in many other forms of influence.«