Monday, February 09, 2009
Happy Septuagint Day
In case you missed it (and you probably did), the 8th of February was International Septuagint Day as decreed by the International Organization for Septuagint and Cognate Studies. Over at the Codex, Tyler Williams has listed the top reasons for studying the Septuagint (a must read).
My own interest in the LXX has accelerated since starting a commentary project on 1 Esdras for a new Bible translation and teaching a Greek texts class which includes part of the Septuagint.
I continue to find the LXX intriguing esp. for its messianism (see Michael Knibb's book on this subject) and its interpretation of the Hebrew text (e.g. look at variations of Dan. 7.13 ,does the one like a son of man come "unto" or "as" the "Ancient of Days"?). Also Paul's midrashic exegesis of Gen. 15.6 and Ps. 32 in Romans 4 is contingent upon them sharing the word logizomai whereas the corresponding words are not shared in Hebrew versions. We should also seriously consider the role of the Septugint, with its own unique textual traditions, as part of the Christian canon since this WAS the Bible of the early church.
We should also keep in mind that "Septuagint" can be used in two senses: (1) The creation and transmission of Old Greek texts of the Hebrew Scriptures; and (2) The books eventually collected and made standardized as the Greek Bible. In other words, don't assume that Paul and the author of Hebrews had a proto-edition of Rahlfs Septuaginta in front of them when they cited Scripture.
The stability of the LXX is of some debate but there was a conscious and gradual effort at bringing the Greek texts into closer conformity to the Hebrew Scriptures over time. Some textual recensions seemed to dominate in certain locales. Jerome wrote that certain Christian regions each adopted their own particular recension of the LXX: "Alexandria and Egypt in their Septuagint acclaim Hesychius as their authority, the region from Constantinople to Antioch approves the copies of Lucian the martyr, the intermediate Palestinian provinces read the manuscripts which were promulgated by Eusebius and Pamphilus on the basis of Origen's labors, and the whole world is divided between these three varieties of text"(Praef. in Paralipp.; compare Adv. Ruf., ii.27).
Remember, only 123 sleeps until International Peshitta Day and only 233 sleeps until International Vulgate Day!