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Discovering the Septuagint: A Guided Reader Hardcover – June 1, 2016
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"We will always have a need for a grammatical/syntactical companion to the Greek New Testament. Past generations have been served well by Zerwick and then Rogers and Rogers. Now I commend Irons to a new generation of students who want to understand not only the individual Greek words but how those words work together to make meaning." (William Varner, The Master's College 2015-06-09)
About the Author
Karen H. Jobes (PhD, Westminster Theological Seminary) is professor emerita of New Testament Greek and exegesis at Wheaton College and Graduate School in Wheaton, Illinois. Her previous publications include Invitation to the Septuagint, coauthored with Moíses Silva.
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This reader includes about 700 verses from nine books from the Greek Old Testament (Genesis, Exodus, Ruth, Additions to Esther, Psalms, Hosea, Jonah, Malachi and Isaiah). Her Exodus examples are divided into two separate chapters (Exod 14-15 and the Ten Commandments from Exodus and Deuteronomy). These selections give the student a wide range of experience in several genres as well as distinctive LXX styles.
Each chapter begins with a short introduction to the book in the Septuagint. Aside from a few obvious general comments, Jobes assesses the translation style of each book. Genesis, for example, is a “strict quantitative representation” of word order and syntax of the Hebrew Bible (19), while Hosea is in some respects quite different than the Hebrew text. This may indicate a different Vorlage or a corrupted text. The introduction concludes with a selected bibliography including a few recommended commentaries as well as monographs or articles on the Greek text of the book. The bibliographies are brief; in most cases these are about a half-page in length.
Each chapter is compiled by graduate students in Jobes’s LXX classes, including Wheaton doctoral students Carmen Imes and Caleb Friedman. After the introduction, the Greek text is presented verse-by-verse with comments on phrases. The Greek is drawn from the Rahlfs-Hanhart critical edition of the LXX. Not every word is glossed, and some a glossed several times with similar comments. For example, the common phrase Καὶ ἐγένετο begins both Ruth and Jonah. In both cases the word is parsed and compared to the conventional Hebrew וַֽיְהִי. In some cases rather simple words are parsed (τὸν ναὸν in Jonah 2:6, for example).
The comments on vocabulary begin by parsing verbs or identifying case, number and gender of nouns and offering a basic lexical gloss not included in Metzger’s Aids for Students of New Testament Greek. But as the introduction observes, some common words are glossed if they appear in unusual forms. In some cases the translation of the NETS is given. Occasionally a syntactical category is given (complementary infinitive, pendant nominative, etc.) The book concludes with a glossary of these terms.
Following glossed verses for a biblical chapter, the editors provide the NETS English translation and a list of quotations in the New Testament where applicable. Some of the examples are not strictly quotations. For example, Jonah 2:1 is presented as cited in Matt 12:40 but this is an allusion to the story of Jonah rather than a formal quotation. The quotation section could have been improved by including the Greek text side-by-side and providing some commentary on any differences between then LXX in Rahlfs-Hanhart and the NA28 Greek text. Although Isaiah 7:14 is quoted exactly in Matthew 1:23, the allusion to Isaiah 54:13 is not as precise.
Perhaps the biggest shortcoming of the book is the lack of engagement with the Hebrew text. There are many times in the examples given where the LXX differs from the MT in significant ways. For example, in Jonah 2:3, the phrase τὸν θεόν μου appears in the LXX but not in the MT. There is no notice of this addition in the reader’s guide to Jonah 2:3. In Jonah 2:6, the LXX translator used ἐσχάτη for the סוּף, reed. The ESV translates the Hebrew word as weeds, “weeds were wrapped about my head.” The LXX translator appears to have read the MT as סוֹף, “end.” The NETS therefore translates the word as modifying the abyss, “the deepest abyss.” The notes indicate only that the “this reading of the Heb results in a different division of the clauses” (245), when the LXX has read a Hebrew word with a different vowel, resulting in a different translation.
Both of these examples were found using Emanuel Tov, The Parallel Aligned Hebrew-Aramaic and Greek Texts of Jewish Scripture (Bellingham, WA: Lexham Press, 2003). In both cases it is possible the translator had a different Hebrew text than what ultimately became the Masoretic text, or the translator added to the text for clarity or theological reasons. A third possibility is the translator misunderstood the text, something most beginning Hebrew students can appreciate. Ultimately this shortcoming is the nature of the book, it is a guided reader for the Septuagint, not a commentary difference between the MT and LXX. Perhaps the book could have been improved if the editors had chosen one or two such examples per chapter in order to demonstrate some of the problems facing those who work on the text of the Septuagint.
Regardless of this criticism, Discovering the Septuagint will be a good textbook for a seminary class on the Septuagint or Hellenistic Greek. I might have preferred a workbook style with more space for students to work out the translations, like Kregel’s Handbook for Intermediate Greek (Bateman) or Koine Greek Reader (Decker). Anyone who has a year or two of Greek could use this book to continue to improve their Greek skills by reading these selections from the LXX outside of a classroom setting.
NB: Thanks to Kregel Academic for kindly providing me with a review copy of this book. This did not influence my thoughts regarding the work.
Published on August 19, 2016 on Reading Acts.
The contemporary student of the Septuagint (LXX) will likewise be well-acquainted with the name Karen Jobes. She is professor emerita of New Testament Greek and Exegesis at Wheaton College and Graduate School and author of Invitation to the Septuagint (with Moíses Silva). Jobes has also done extensive work on the LXX Esther, including her PhD dissertation and the English translation in the highly acclaimed New English Translation of the Septuagint (NETS).
Most recently, Jobes has assisted in bridging a much needed gap for students of New Testament Greek. Discovering the Septuagint: A Guided Reader is a chaperoned tour into the world of LXX Greek, and includes roughly 700 verses from nine LXX books (Genesis, Exodus, Ruth, Additions to Esther, Psalms, Hosea, Jonah, Malachi, and Isaiah). The purpose of the book is to provide advance students of New Testament Greek with a transitional guide into the landscape of LXX Greek.
Each chapter begins with a brief introduction to the book in the LXX, including the translation style from Hebrew to Greek by the LXX translators. The introductions conclude with a selected bibliography. The Greek text (Rahlfs-Hanhart) is then presented to the reader in a verse-by-verse fashion with comments throughout. Because the target audience is assumed to have a sufficient knowledge and understanding of New Testament Greek, the comments are not exhaustive but intentional.
Jobes has curated the volume so that readers will gain a better sense of the LXX style and form, and thus build upon a previously laid foundation. There are occasional comments on vocabulary, including parsing and lexical information not included in Metzger’s Lexical Aids for Students of New Testament Greek. The reader will also encounter a translation of the LXX from NETS, and a list of all texts quoted by New Testament authors.
Discovering the Septuagint: A Guided Reader edited by Karen Jobes is an excellent companion resource for anyone interested in expanding their understanding of the Greek language beyond the New Testament. It is a much needed bridge that has now been built, and Greek students everywhere should rejoice in this long awaited tool. As someone with an intermediate knowledge of New Testament Greek, I found this volume well situated for the task it presents and very helpful in its explanations.
That said, it isn’t a resource for everybody. However, if you are reading this review with interests, then I can almost guarantee that it is a resource that will benefit you. It will keep you sharp in your linguistic pursuits and guide you across a newly constructed bridge that previously required a longwinded jump. For that reason alone, it comes highly recommended!
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This work covers over 600 verses selected from the Septuagint.Read more