Reading the LXX as It Was Intended

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!

Accordance Edition of Discovering the LXX

screen-shot-2018-11-14-at-11-06-10-am.png

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.

What’s Included

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.

Screen Shot 2018-11-15 at 12.55.36 PM

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:

Ps 21:1 in DLXX on a 15” laptop
Ps 21:1 in DLXX on a 10.5” tablet
Ps 21:1 in DLXX on 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.

Conclusion

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.

Encountering Exodus 32 in the LXX

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:

καὶ ἀκούσας Ἰησοῦς τὴν φωνὴν τοῦ λαοῦ κραζόντων λέγει πρὸς Μωυσῆν Φωνὴ πολέμου ἐν τῇ παρεμβολῇ. 18 καὶ λέγει Οὐκ ἔστιν φωνὴ ἐξαρχόντων κατ᾿ ἰσχὺν οὐδὲ φωνὴ ἐξαρχόντων τροπῆς, ἀλλὰ φωνὴν ἐξαρχόντων οἴνου ἐγὼ ἀκούω.

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:

וַיֹּאמֶר אֵין קוֹל עֲנוֹת גְּבוּרָה וְאֵין קוֹל עֲנוֹת חֲלוּשָׁה קוֹל עַנּוֹת אָנֹכִי שֹׁמֵעַ

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.

Critique textuelle de l’Ancien Testament Online

Charles Jones posted notice that the University of Zurich has made available all five volumes of Dominique Barthélemy’s Critique textuelle de l’ancien Testament.

There is nothing quite like this work. I’ve posted in the past on the Hebrew Old Testament Text Project, which led to these volumes, and on the unique role Bathélemy played in the committee’s work. These five volumes are the most comprehensive treatment of the textual problems in the Hebrew Bible ever produced.

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:

  • Volume 1 (1982) Josué, Juges, Ruth, Samuel, Rois, Chroniques, Esdras, Néhémie, Esther
  • Volume 2 (1986) Isaïe, Jérémie, Lamentations
  • Volume 3 (1992) Ézéchiel, Daniel et les 12 Prophètes
  • Volume 4 (2005) Psaumes
  • Volume 5 (2015) Job, Proverbes, Qohélet et Cantique des Cantiques

Among Anxious Friends Who Fail

A translation and comment on Mark 8:14–21:

They forgot to bring bread. Except for one loaf, they didn’t have any bread with them in the boat.

Jesus began to warn them, “Be careful. Watch out for the leaven of the Pharisees and the leaven of Herod.”

They began to talk with one another about how they didn’t have any bread.

When Jesus realized this, he said to them, “Why are you talking about how you don’t have any bread? Do you not yet understand? Don’t you get it? Do your hearts not work? You have eyes, but do they not see? You have ears, but do they not hear? Don’t you remember? When I broke the five loaves into five thousand, how many baskets full of left-overs did you pick up?

“Twelve.”

“When the seven loaves became four thousand, how many baskets full of left-overs did you pick up?”

“Seven.”

“Do you not yet get it?”

They could not hear what Jesus was saying because their minds were swirling with anxiety. They failed to bring bread. Jesus was speaking to them, but they had messed up in an everyday sort of way. The problems of the day caused them to hear Jesus’ words in a way that ratcheted up their anxiety instead of turning it down. Quite a normal, human experience.

Jesus realized what was happening and addressed them with a series of questions. The way you hear this series of questions depends on how you personally relate to Jesus. Is he understanding and sympathetic? Or does he point out your faults and walk away? When verse 17 says Jesus became aware of their mistakes, at that moment in the story you assume something about Jesus. His awareness is accompanied by either sympathy or disgust. In the previous paragraph, Jesus was said to inwardly groan at the Pharisees’ unbelief. Is that the way he relates to his friends?

All Jesus’ questions are intended to communicate that when you are with him, you will be taken care of. You are safe. He will provide even when you mess up. I don’t think he could communicate this if his tone were filled with scorn.

Jesus wanted to talk about the kingdom, his mission and their hearts. They were blinded by the problems of daily life, in this case food. They didn’t need to be told that they are stupid. They needed to be told they are taken care of, and that’s exactly what Jesus said. We are free to pursue the “impractical” because we are worth much more than sparrows.

Jesus is Determined or He’s Sympathetic

That’s the choices in my mind. Granted, he’s both in the big picture of who Jesus is, but when it comes to how you read the Greek of Matthew 26:50, which character trait is more prominent? Here’s the text of verses 49–50; the key phrase is in bold:

καὶ εὐθέως προσελθὼν τῷ Ἰησοῦ εἶπεν· χαῖρε, ῥαββί, καὶ κατεφίλησεν αὐτόν. 50 ὁ δὲ Ἰησοῦς εἶπεν αὐτῷ· ἑταῖρε, ἐφ᾿ ὃ πάρει. τότε προσελθόντες ἐπέβαλον τὰς χεῖρας ἐπὶ τὸν Ἰησοῦν καὶ ἐκράτησαν αὐτόν.

Judas approaches Jesus, he greets him, kisses him, and he says either (1) “Friend, do that for which you are here,” or (2) “Friend, why are you here?”

If you think of Jesus in this moment as resolute and determined to drink his cup of suffering, you might read it as “Do that for which you are here.” I, however, because of my default way of thinking of Jesus like to read it, “Friend, why are you here?” The language could go either way, and that is why the translations almost always offer both options. They print the “determined-Jesus” reading in the text and usually offer the “sympathetic-Jesus” reading in the footnotes.

I imagine Jesus in this moment broken at the sight of his close friend being caught up in the destructive pattern he is living out. I imagine the scene with the camera zoomed in on Jesus’s face. His eyes are heavy and tired and perhaps tearing up. Face to face, he looks into Judas’s eyes and with one last attempt to disciple him he speaks to Judas’s confusion, “Friend, why are you here?”

I’ve always read it this way. I’ve never done any extensive study of the phrase in contemporary literature. I just think the sympathetic reading makes the most sense. I think the Gospels portray Jesus as one who bears with and is a friend of sinners, one who meets them in their moments of weakness, and because of that my primary reading is the translations’ alternate reading. I read this line as one of the most emotion filled, tense, dramatic moments in Matthew. It’s beautiful and heartbreaking.

Angels & Fiery Guides

Matthew’s star — the one that led the magi and “stood over the place where the child was” — has a long history of being interpreted as an angel. The language in Matthew of a star stopping in some way over the location of the holy family raises questions. How could a star so high in the sky indicate the exact location of a few people? This morning I was reminded of a parallel story while reading Exodus 14.

Exodus 13:21 says that during the day God led Israel through the wilderness by a massive cloud and at night by a fiery pillar. 14:19, however, refers to the guiding presence as the angel of God. Early interpreters of Matthew’s star weren’t just making things up. Exodus refers to a divine guide in one place as a blazing fire (similar to a star) and in another place an angel. There is precedent in scripture for understanding fiery guides as angels.

Dale Allison explains the history of interpretation in “The Magi’s Angel,” which you can check out via this Google Books search. Start with page 17 and you should be able to see the whole article.

Reading with a Print Text & Digital Lexicon

Over the summer I did a series of posts about different ways of reading Greek and Hebrew. I said that my the summer time tools of the trade are a print text and a print lexicon. During the school year, however, I am rarely able to read in my home office. To continue reading with a print text and lexicon would mean that everyday I have to carry multiple heavy books around campus. My favorite way to read hasn’t changed, but during the school year I’m really happy to settle for a print text and digital lexicon.

Print text

NA28, Rahlfs’ Septuagint, a Loeb Crito, and Steadman’s Lysias 1 & Crito are in my bag on most days, but because Rahlf’s Septuagint is so thick, sometimes it gets left behind. I prefer a print text because I think holding a book and flipping pages is more enjoyable, unless the book is old and gross. I realize that sometimes an old book is great, but I am not a fan of mold and other people’s finger grime — for example, crusty library copies of Migne or seminary library copies of a GNT.

Digital lexicon

For New Testament, Septuagint, and classical Greek there are a couple really great, affordable iOS options: Logeion & Protagoras. Logeion is free and includes LSJ, Middle Liddell, big Lewis and Short, little Lewis, and several other Greek and Latin lexicons. Protagoras is only a couple dollars, and for Greek it includes LSJ, Middle Liddell, Slater, and Autenrieth. For Latin it has both the full Lewis and Short and the smaller version by Lewis.

Logeion is amazing because of the way it interacts with Attikos, and because the user interface allows for quick entry and easy movement back and forth between the last few words you’ve looked up. Logeion hasn’t yet been updated for the iPhone X, however.

Protagoras, on the other hand, looks great on the iPhone X, and the developer has formatted the text in a way that makes a big difference for longer entries. Every portion of each entry that was originally in italic type appears in Protagoras as bold-italic. This means that as you scan a long entry your eyes can easily jump from gloss to gloss. For quick reading, this is such a timesaver. The bold glosses and iPhone X support means that I’ve been using Protagoras as my digital lexicon more often than not. One additional feature of Protagoras: it has a bookmark feature. As you are looking up words, you can bookmark them, and after your reading session, or maybe at the end of the week, you can go back to review.

For any lexicon not found in Protagoras or Logeion, I turn to Accordance. It is much more expensive, but it is worth every penny. With Accordance you are looking at a price tag much closer to what you would expect to pay for a print text, and this is completely understandable for works that are still in copyright and/or works that they have labored in house to tag in various ways. BDAG and HALOT, for example, are lexicons that I would do whatever necessary to have digitally and in print.

One final note about the digital options: I appreciate the ability in Protagoras and Accordance to type the Greek word you are looking up in beta code. This just saves the step of having to change your keyboard.

Experience

When reading this way, I usually access a digital lexicon on an iPhone, sometimes on an iPad. The bigger screens on the iPhone X or one of the plus models turns thousands of pages with tiny print into a much more readable, handheld reading companion.

This …

becomes this:

I know that the thought of your phone lying directly on top of the book you are trying to read sounds repulsive to some. Random notifications are a real threat, but they’re something that can be muzzled. Waiting for the ideal reading conditions just means you will not read as much text, and the number one thing most people need coming out of their first year of Greek is time in the text reading quickly. For more in that line of thought, see this post on reader’s texts.

Conclusion

Whether you are fresh out of your elementary courses or you’ve been doing this for decades, reading with a print text and digital lexicon is comfortable on the go. Sometimes even at home you just want to sit on the couch and relax with a text and lexicon that makes a small footprint but still gives you all the info you need. This way of reading fits those situations well, too. The print text allows an immersive reading experience and provides all the memory benefits of the sensory experiences that go along with holding a physical book, and the digital lexicon gives you portable, quick access to the vocab you need to keep moving.

This is the primary way I’m reading these days. Read however you like.

Just read.

Off-Campus Oxford Handbooks Online Ready

Thanks to John Merritt, off-campus access to Oxford Handbooks Online is ready to roll.

Head over to the databases page, and you will see it in the New Databases section on the right side of the screen and in its permanent home in the O-section. Click the link, log in with your normal SBTS login information, and you are good to go.

At the top of the Oxford Handbook Online page you will see a Browse by Subject section. You have access to the religion, philosophy, and history handbooks.

Go ahead and save a bookmark to this address, and next time you can go straight to the login page: http://www.oxfordhandbooks.com.ezproxy.sbts.edu.