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Wagner, J. Ross
Reading the Sealed Book. Old Greek Isaiah and the Problem of Septuagint Hermeneutics.
Tübingen: Mohr Siebeck 2013. XI, 295 S. = Forschungen zum Alten Testament, 88. Lw. EUR 95,00. ISBN 978-3-16-152557-5.
Ronald L. Troxel
J. Ross Wagner notes recurring debates over whether study of the OG should focus on its text-linguistic character or on the relation-ship between the product and its source. The choice between these determines a scholar’s interpretation of the translation, but also tends to eclipse questions of the translation’s prospective function and the culturally shaped expectations that guided the translator.
W. reviews Boyd-Taylor’s application of DTS to translations as diverse as Aquila – the prototype for an interlinear translation model – and Job, which aims »to produce an acceptable translation at the linguistic, textual and literary levels of the target system« (27). Observing that OG-Isaiah stands closer to Job than Aquila, W. sets out to describe its constitutive character through a close reading of its first chapter and, through that, to divine its prospective function (35).
Because the norms that guided the translator belonged to a particular culture, W. adopts U. Eco’s conception of language as a »cultural encyclopedia.« Although meanings can cross cultural boundaries, cultures have distinctive linguistic and cognitive frameworks for describing the world. Proper understanding of how a text structures meaning requires reading in accord with the cul-tural encyclopedia assumed by the author implied by the text: its »model author.«
Parallel to Eco’s equation of the »model author« with meaning as structured by the text, W. posits that »the intention of the model translator coincides with the textual strategy of the translated work« (43). Successful reading requires identifying the strategies utilized in the translation. This means not simply evaluating the process of transforming the Hebrew of Isaiah into Greek, but also the effects of the translator's choices on the literary structure of the product.
Accordingly, W. devotes his third and fourth chapters to a close reading of the OG of Isaiah 1, beginning with a discussion of its sense divisions, viewed against those marked in Hebrew and Greek manuscripts. W. determines his own delimitation of units »pri-marily on the basis of discourse markers in the Greek text« (66).
W. highlights the discourse effects of the translator’s choice of particles, such as his discriminating use of καί and δέ in 1:2b–3 to clarify logical relationships between clauses. He weighs whether δέ following Ισρεαηλ in v. 3b reflects a waw in the Vorlage (as in 4Q63) but stresses that even if that were the case, the translator »has made a choice that enhances the structural parallelism between vv. 2b–c and v. 3« (72 n. 25). Such careful consideration of what might have stood in the Vorlage – rather than simply assuming that the translator inserted δέ unilaterally – enhances the credibility of W.’s judgments about the effects of the translator’s choices.
W.’s analysis of the translator’s choice of lexical equivalents also attends to parallelism, involving both phrasing and aurality. A prime example is the OG of Isa 1:5b, where πᾶσα κεφαλὴ εἰς πόνον καὶ πᾶσα καρδία εἰς λύπην translates יוד בבל לכו ילחל שׁאר לכ. »By rendering יוד (v. 5bβ) with the prepositional phrase εἰς λύπην, G crafts a close counterpart to the phrase εἰς πόνον in the preceding stich« (86). At the same time, while employing standard lexical equivalents (πᾶς/לכ; κεφαλή/שׁאר; καρδία/בבל), the translator produces »an antiphonal alliteration of ›π‹ and ›κ‹ that carries on into the next verse: π=ᾶσα κ-εφαλὴ εἰς π=όνον κ-αὶ π=ᾶσα κ-αρδία εἰς λύπ=ην ἀπ=ὸ π=οδῶν ἕως κ-εφαλῆς […]« (86). W.’s argument might be enhanced by noting that this alliteration benefits from the col-lapse of לגר ףכמ into ἀπο ποδῶν, in comparison to ἀπὸ ἴχνους τῶν ποδῶν in Deut 28:35 and ἀπὸ ἴχνους ποδὸς in 2Sam 14:25.
W. also highlights examples of the translator’s expansions to enhance literary structure. In the Hebrew text, 1:21–26 is clearly demarcated as a unit by the recovery of Jerusalem’s status as ›the faithful city‹ (הנמאנ הירק) characterized by ›righteousness‹ (קדצ) in v.26, over against the assertion of v. 21 that Jerusalem had forfeited these very epithets through her wickedness. The translator enhances this connection, first, by insinuating the name ›Zion‹ into v. 21: Πῶς ἐγένετο πόρνη πόλις πιστὴ Σιων / הנמאנ הירק הנוזל התיה הכיא. Then in v. 26 he finds a way to incorporate Σιων again, by connecting the first word of v. 27 in the Hebrew text with v. 26: μητρό-πολις πιστὴ Σιων / ןויצ ׃הנמאנ הירק. Although the translator’s Vorlage would not have marked verse divisions, making the connec-tion of ןויצ with v. 26 less dramatic than this description suggests, his insertion of Σιων in v. 21 shows that he deliberately enhanced the inclusio structure (188), while his translation of הירק by μητρόπολις in v. 26 »endows the parallelism between v. 21a and v. 26b with a feeling of movement and progression« (189). Moreover, the translator exhibits his sense of a need to explain the connection of v. 27 to these verses by inserting a conjunction: μετὰ γὰρ κρί-ματος σωθήσεται ἡ αἰχμαλωσία αὐτῆς (191). Such expansions go beyond providing an adequate rendering of the Vorlage in the target language, suggesting that the translator attended to the li-terary acceptability of his translation, producing »a text crafted to be heard and experienced on its own« (234).
W. provides a helpful prod to move beyond discussions of the process of translation to considering the product. Whereas much discussion of the process has focused on the use of novel versus standard lexical equivalences and has sought to account for how the translator moved from Hebrew to Greek, W. focuses on the liter-ary effects of those choices. Even though I am sometimes skeptical about W.’s description of the translator’s reason for choosing equivalents (such as his argument that the translator’s selection of ἀθετεῖν to translate ﬠשׁפ in 1:2, on the one hand, and רקשׁ in 63:8, on the other, »creates an intratextual link between the two passages and the stories they tell« ), his overall emphasis on the literary effects of the translator’s decision as betraying the prospective function of the product is salutary.
W.’s proposal to use Eco’s model of a cultural encyclopedia to explain the product is reasonably executed through his assump-tion that literary effects provide a measure of the translator’s attempts to achieve acceptability. However, W. also notes ways the translator’s word choices might reflect cultural issues, as in the translation of םיגיסל by ἀδόκιμον in 1:22, which would have resonated with the problem of coinage in third century Egypt (156–57). These types of cultural allusions have been noted previously and certainly provide a good foundation for suspicions that the translator was indebted to a particular cultural encyclopedia. In my view, W.’s literary inquiry should be a spur to a careful comparison of the (admittedly, slight) body of extant comments by scholars of the museum on interpretation of Homer. What clues might be gleaned from Callimachus’s construction of his Pinakes and his ideas of appropriate reuse of Homer, as well as Aristarchus’s notions of interpretation, that might help elucidate the norms that influ-enced the translator of Isaiah?