When the new Reader’s Septuagint arrived, I picked up right where I left off in Rahlfs, somewhere in the middle of Exodus. This morning I read Leviticus 1. After slowly reading through the chapter out loud, jotting down some thoughts along the way, and having closed the book, I sat and thought to myself just how thankful I am.
I’ve been wanting a reader’s Septuagint for over a decade, since the time I first started enjoying a reader’s GNT. Having spent several hours in the reader’s version of Exodus, Psalms, Leviticus, and 1 Maccabees, my initial impression is delight and overwhelming gratitude for Ross and Lanier’s hard word. You guys killed it.
I think this is the way the LXX was intended to be read. You are supposed to read it like a book, as Greek, not a distorted reflection of the Hebrew. It is hard for biblical studies people to read it that way because we have that built in reflex to wonder about the underlying Hebrew. The reader’s text makes it so much easier to stay in the text and simply read and reflect on the Greek text.
The Greek Bible is a joy, and the reader’s text makes it easier to truly read. Thank you!
There is nothing exactly like Discovering the Septuagint: A Guided Reader (DLXX). This resources is aptly titled because it isn’t just a “reader’s edition.” It is a guide to reading the Septuagint. Reader’s editions of the Bible typically provide only vocabulary and parsing helps. Working through DLXX is like sitting down and reading with someone that has experience. As you read together, a whole host of topics are covered. The majority of the conversation focuses on what you need most, vocab and parsing helps, but there are also comments that speak to the underlying Hebrew, comments about the similar uses of words or phrases in other LXX passages, comments related to syntax, suggestions for translation, and more. Despite the fact that Hendrickson published a full, two-volume Septuagint Reader’s Edition this month, the variety of comments offered in DLXX makes it a unique, helpful resource for students who have only a little experience reading Greek.
Every portion of the print book is included in the Accordance edition of DLXX. As the picture above shows, the table of contents pane, which can be shown or hidden, allows you to easily navigate to all the front and end matter and each passage in between.
DLXX includes readings from Genesis, Exodus, Ruth, Additions to LXX Esther, Psalms, Jonah, Malachi, and Isaiah. When someone picks up a Septuagint — whether Rahlfs’ edition or the massive two-volume reader’s edition — it’s common to ask, “Where should I start?” DLXX is helpful at this point. Karen Jobes explains,
The texts were selected to give readers a taste of different genres, an experience of distinctive Septuagintal elements, and a sampling of texts later used by writers of the New Testament. It is intended to aid students who have had at least three semesters of koine Greek begin to read the Greek Jewish Scriptures as found in the Rahlfs-Hanhart critical edition of the Septuagint.
The Septuagint is huge and its contents are so varied and vast. I appreciate that DLXX allows readers to experience some of this variety.
Regarding the Notes
I’ve only had a little time to spend with DLXX so far, but I can say that I do indeed think the notes will help students move from the New Testament to the Septuagint. I learned to navigate the Septuagint during years of PhD seminars, but I was not so fortunate with classical Greek. For classical, the work of Geoffrey Steadman has served as my “guided reader.” Up to this point there has been nothing like Steadman for biblical studies. I think DLXX takes a step towards meeting this need.
Each section starts with an introduction to the book and a bibliography for further reading. At the end of each passage, the NETS translation is included for reference.
In the section on Exodus 20:1–21, Carmen Imes has formatted the text so that the reader can easily see how the ten commandments passage in Exodus differs from the Deuteronomy account.
The textual notes below are based on the Exodus version, but differences in Deuteronomy are included in brackets. If the text in brackets replaces text appearing in Exodus, the replaced text is underlined. If a word or words from Exodus are lacking in Deuteronomy, the brackets enclose a dash [-] and the missing text is underlined. Other material in brackets is unique to Deuteronomy. The verses that precede and follow the Deuteronomy Decalogue have not been included here. The simultaneous presentation of both versions of the Ten Words should allow easier comparison.
One could say that this sort of formatting clutters the text and is distracting, but that would be to judge the work as though it were intended to be a pure reader’s edition. DLXX is not a pure reader’s edition, and so I think this feature is really nice.
I also appreciate how the editors comment on how certain LXX passages are used in the New Testament. Here is a screenshot of a chart that appears at the end of the Psalm 21 passage. I long-held on one of the hyperlinked NT passages to have the NT passage popup.
Regarding the Electronic Version
Because the notes for each verse are listed directly underneath the individual verses, the Accordance electronic edition is most easily read on a bigger screen. Here are screen shots of the same passage on a 15” laptop, a 10.5” tablet, and a 6.5” phone:
As you can see, some scrolling up and down would be required to see all the notes for Psalm 21:1, but I think this is a better option than having users click on a little footnote reference to see each note.
One fantastic feature of the electronic edition is being able to click on the verse reference and pull up the passage in the new text browser.
This allows you to quickly see the verse you are studying in whatever editions and translation you have in your library.
Accordance always does a great job with their electronic editions. Quality is always the first priority. You don’t have to worry about buying DLXX in Accordance and finding that it is a quick scan, typo-ridden, sub-par version of the print copy.
I do, however, wish the individual verses were morphologically tagged. Since the Septuagint text is from Rahlfs and Accordance has a fantastic tagged Rahlfs text, I hope morphological tagging will be added to each verse in a future update. Having the text tagged, even if Accordance had to charge a little extra, would greatly increase the value and usefulness of the electronic edition.
The editors state in the introduction that this book is intended for those who have had three semesters of New Testament Greek. After three semesters of fast-paced seminary Greek, most students are still struggling with the basics of Koine grammar. They still need help with parsing and recognizing the principal parts of common words; they have no experience with the oddities of the Septuagint. For this audience, DLXX is a fantastic personal guide. It’s also ideal for anyone who has started down that path and turned back because of the strange sights and sounds found in Rahlfs’ big blue abyss.
I experienced a passage in Exodus this morning as I never have before. I was reading Exodus 32, and verses 17–18 seemed to jump off the page. I have read this passage before in the Septuagint, but perhaps I was moving a little too fast. I was reading for comprehensive exams the first time, and that sort of reading is rarely reflective. Here’s the passage:
And when Joshua heard the sound of the people crying out, he said to Moses, “That’s the sound of war in the camp! [Moses responded] and said, “It’s not the sound of those marching ahead with force or of those turning to run. But the sound of those marching headlong into wine is what I hear.”
Now, that’s my idiomatic translation, and it captures the way I experienced the text. Rendering ἐνάρχομαι in verse 18 is difficult to do in an idiomatic way. It translates three instances of IV.ענה, to sing. Here’s the Hebrew of verse 18:
It’s not the sound of conquering or the sound of defeat; it’s the sound of singing I hear.”
Whatever you do with ἐνάρχομαι, it seems pretty clear to me that the Septuagint is a little more explicit about what is happening. I hear more contrast and perhaps frustration with the addition of ἀλλά and especially the addition of οἶνος, wine — a word that makes explicit the real reason the people were in such an uproar.
So, I’m drawing no major text-critical conclusions here; it’s just striking. This verse made me stop and reflect and visualize the scene as I never had before. I had to check the Hebrew to see if the Septuagint text was different in any way, and as it turns out, it is just different enough from the Hebrew to at least partially explain why the passage seemed so fresh and new.
Incidentally, I was reading in the new Septuagint Reader’s Edition, which you can still get for a fantastic price at CBD. More on that edition in the coming weeks.
I listened to a twenty-two year old speak for over an hour this morning (Sunday morning). Every word, apart from names, was in ancient Greek. You are probably like me and find that hard to believe. I too would have been skeptical eight days ago, but the σύνοδος has happened. I saw it, heard it, experienced it. I can’t undo this week.
I’m leaving the σύνοδος feeling like I have seen my future. I simply did not know this was possible. I could continue reading and teaching as I always have, but what I learned this week is that if I go that route, I and my students will read only a small fraction of the Greek that would be possible by learning to speak Greek fluently.
One of the objections that I had before this week, and one I frequently hear from others, is that this is a waste of time because you are just learning a bunch of words that refer to modern things you will never encounter in texts. This is one of the most unbelievable parts of it all — almost every single word I heard and spoke this week is in LSJ! It really is ancient Greek. Sure, there were no cars in the first century, but there were contraptions in which you sit and ride. A car is just a ἅμαξα (LSJ gloss: wagon). Christophe uses ancient Greek words, but he simply applies them to new contexts. Yet another aspect of the week I couldn’t have believed until I saw it.
Today (Monday), I started working through the Polis Greek book. The one other post I want to write is a post that lists everything I plan to do in the coming year to prepare for next year’s σύνοδος.
Today seemed to be a turning point. When we had discussions about texts and pictures, everyone was eager to talk and ask questions. The whole week has been marked by generosity, humility, and sincerity on be part of both the students and teachers. It’s really been remarkable. Until today, however, you could see and feel a sense of apprehension when Stephen or Christophe would stop speaking and ask if anyone has questions. Not only did people feel free to ask questions today, but we all had plenty to say.
The highlight of the morning was when Stephen had us discuss a story about a goddess that essentially took the life of her sons because their work was so difficult. By taking their life, she ushered them into a glory-filled, grief-free existence. I think every student in the class shared an opinion concerning whether it was right for the mother to do this or not. The thoughts shared were not just short little random bursts. Rather, when someone shared a thought, another would follow up with a question or an affirmation or another perspective. In short, we actually had a dialogue in which everyone participated. Stephen has done such a fantastic job leading us in these discussions this week.
The remainder of the morning we learned another host of everyday words. We moved from how to speak about getting dressed, to words that take us to the bus stop and then to work, which for most of us is a school of some sort. After lunch, Stephen directed our discussion of a few comedic pictures, and we worked in small groups of two or three to discuss them. Each time he cut us loose, I got lost in conversation with the person sitting next to me.
The biggest portion of the afternoon was spent with Christophe reading to us Hansel and Gretel. An illustrated version of the story in Greek was projected on the board, and Christophe read it to us slowly and in such a charmingly animated way. It was a long telling of the story, and almost all the vocabulary were common, Hellenistic words. The combination of the familiar vocabulary and Christophe’s ability to read in such a vivid way made the whole evening enchanting. We were not allowed to touch our lexica. Christophe was the lexicon. He would go to great lengths to explain the words by acting out the meaning or running to the kitchen to grab an example of the word. No English glosses were given, of course. Rather, he portrayed the meaning by acting out boisterous illustrations marked by a myriad of ancient Greek words. Greek flows out of Christophe like bourbon flows out of Kentucky. We spent about two and a half hours listening to this story and asking him whatever questions came to mind.
I left the σύνοδος today with a full heart and a worn out mind. Our teachers are such kind souls, full of so much life and joy. The students are here to learn and I cannot think of one situation I’ve been in that was marked by pretense. I have yet to find a good way to say the word “fun” in Greek, but Stephen did help me find a way to say something pretty close: ἀπολαύω τούτου, I’m enjoying this.
It’s time to relax a little before working on tomorrow’s readings.
Today was so much better. I drove home to see the family this evening so just a few thoughts tonight.
First thing this morning we all drove to the university arboretum, and after Christophe talked about the basic parts of a tree, we split off into our beginner and advanced groups. Walking together made a huge impact on how readily students were willing to talk with one another. I had a couple long conversations, and because these were with fellow students who share the same low-level conversational skills I was able to converse for about half an hour with understanding. This felt fantastic.
In the afternoon we discussed several pictures and texts, and Christophe continued to teach us everyday vocabulary. We talked about how to set a table for dinner and how to speak about getting up in the morning and getting dressed.
Yesterday felt like a disaster, but today felt like a success. The long conversations at the arboretum with fellow students is a highlight of the week. Yesterday, conversing in ancient Greek felt impossible, but today I was able to have a continuous half hour conversation. I also felt like I was able to more easily hear with understanding.
Well, I left the σúνοδος today wondering what I could use for an appropriate metaphor of violence. I said I was “dragged through the mud” yesterday. Maybe impaled works for today.
I spent about 15 minutes — felt like 60 — in front of the class completely at a loss as to what the teacher wanted me to do. I knew the vocabulary, but we were acting out a story and I just could not understand what it was he wanted me to do. I committed the cardinal sin. I got so frustrated at one point I was blurted out in English, “Say what?!” My mind was boggled. It was a mayday.
What really helped me turn the corner was when he started telling me, by writing the forms on the board, that εἶπεν is the aorist of λέγω. At this point I moved past my mind being boggled. The fact that I very well know how λέγω conjugates in all its tenses reignited my mind and allowed me to communicate again in Greek. I spat out λέγω’s principal parts and told him in Greek, “I know all the words, but what I don’t know is exactly what it is you want me to do.” He would slow down for a sentence or two, but then there would be another burst of quick speaking, and I was lost again.
It’s not his fault. I think this episode highlights the severity of my main problem, which I explained yesterday. Hearing is far more difficult than communicating. It’s not that vocab isn’t an issue, but we all have our own internalized Greek lexicon. I can use the words I know to communicate. Even still another person has a different lexicon. I do need to know more vocab, especially common, everyday, communicative words. I still feel, however, that my main issue is that hearing with understanding seems like a completely different skill than seeing with understanding.
Of course, all of this is very humbling, and when your inability to hear with understanding is on display in front of everyone, it’s humiliating, too. We could all use our egos lowered a bit, so that is fine. The question I’m left with here at the end of day two is this: Will I actually be able to do this? If I went to Jerusalem and did the two year Greek course, I’m sure I would have enough time to get out of this awful “I can’t hear well” phase. But will that happen by the end of this week? Probably not. So when I return home, what will I do?
Already, Dickey’s composition book seems so much more approachable — that’s a win. Earlier in the summer I began regularly listening to the GNT as I walk in the evening. I need to keep this up. I could frequent the forums and the Google Hangouts I have learned about this week — places online where people converse in ancient Greek. Will that do the trick? As I told one of the more advanced students today, “Σήμερον, τοῦτο φαίνεται ἐμοί ἀδύνατον.” Today, this seems impossible. It’s not; I know. But it seems that way.
I can very clearly see the gulf that Seumas has been talking about for so long — the gulf between the grammar-translation approach and communicative methods. Today it seems that communicating in ancient Greek requires completely different skills than reading through the lense of grammatical knowledge. I know, Seumas has been saying this forever, but I really feel the weight of the issue today.
Much of the day went really well, for the record. I enjoyed the other sessions where we spoke in Greek to describe the scenes portrayed both in Greek texts and in various images. I think we are headed to a garden of some sort to converse about plant life tomorrow. I’ll be driving some of the students, and I really hope that I can focus and not crash the car while people are trying to talk in Greek. I’m going to nurse my wounds and show up tomorrow ready for another beating.
I just finished day one of a journey I have been looking forward to all year. I am taking part in a conversational Greek class at UK this week. Day one was even harder than I expected. My brain is fried so I’m just going to offer a couple thoughts here because I promised myself I would post everyday about this.
I expected this to be difficult, and I expected that I would be a beginner of beginners when it comes to speaking and hearing ancient Greek with understanding. I underestimated just how difficult it would be to hear ancient Greek spoken at a conversational pace. That is the hardest part. If I have a few minutes, I can piece together what I want to say, but listening to those who are more advanced is very difficult.
One unexpected obstacle is the letter omicron. I have always said it like the short o in got. They insist I say it more like the long o in go. There are a lot of omicrons in a lot of words so I’m getting corrected on just about every sentence I speak! I welcome the correction, but what am I going to do in the coming school year? It seems I am going to have to shift my classroom pronunciation to /ō/ and ōmicron!
What did we actually do today? Well, the first couple hours were dedicated to introducing ourselves and learning how to say basic things like, “Get up, sit down, lie down, sleep, pick up the toothbrush (!), brush your teeth,” etc. Later in the day we spent some time talking about various animals and what they are capable of doing (jumping, swimming, etc.), and towards the end of the day we looked at some cartoons and provided captions in Greek.
One thing I was really curious about going into the meeting was what exactly we were going to do with the Greek texts that were given to us beforehand. We were emailed several texts and were instructed to read them beforehand. But what were we going to do in class? We certainly weren’t going to translate them into English! God forbid. When it came time for working through the first text, Christophe called on someone to read the text, he asked us questions about the text in Greek, and he had people act out the scenes using the vocabulary of the provided text but in the inflections necessary to actually carry out the actions in real time.
As I said, I have been beaten down and dragged through the mud today. I learned a lot, but I have a very long row to hoe this week. Beaten down but not dismayed. I’m determined to get better at this. I’ll let you know about day two tomorrow.
In print, each volume is very expensive. I’ve always wanted to own copies, but with the price — a couple hundred bucks a piece if I remember correctly — there was just no way. To have each volume in a quality PDF is so fantastic.
Give them time to download. The files aren’t that big, but they took a bit longer to download than I expected. I should note that they are all in French. Here’s the permalinks: