Just a brief post here to mention the publication of an excellent new resource for the Septuagint studies community. Just last month Eisenbrauns published No Stone Unturned: Greek Inscriptions and Septuagint Vocabulary (CSHB 5).
Of course, I am somewhat biased in this particular instance, as the author is my supervisor, Jim Aitken. (And no, he is not paying me to do this post). But if you are interested in LXX studies and have not seen this book, you will want to pick it up. At just $26 (here), it’s a great bargain.
I have posted a few times in the past on various matters in LXX studies that have overlapped with the issue of vocabulary. Most notably is the first two posts in my series discussing the approach of modern language translations of the Septuagint (here and here). As I mentioned, there is ongoing discussion among Septuagintalists regarding just how a LXX word is to be defined. Part of the reason that folks differ on that issue is due to differing views on what the LXX actually is (or was meant to be at first), and to what extent that influences word meaning.
Inscriptions & Lexicography
The purpose of Aitken’s new volume, however, it to draw more attention form all parties to inscriptions as a primary resource. In the discipline of Greek lexicography, there are many rooms. Some of these are very heavily trafficked. Word usage and development is extremely well documented for sources like Classical works, the New Testament and related literature (Philo, Josephus, the Fathers). Other rooms, however, are quite dark and forgotten. That is certainly the case with inscriptions, which offer a range of vocabulary and registers from a variety of regions and over may centuries.
That is why inscriptions are so important, and why it is so unfortunate that they have largely been overlooked in the lexicographical enterprise (Another reason being the relatively recent discovery of many of them). Of course, there are major difficulties in dealing with inscriptions, and those wishing to incorporate data from them into their research (such as myself) will have do much of the work de novo. Inscriptions are published in specialized and scattered volumes (with obscure commentary, often in German or Italian), are rarely translated, and employ difficult and fragmentary Greek.
Fortunately, the wonderful opportunities that these challenging primary sources offer are now somewhat more accessible with Aitken’s new book. It helpfully (and briefly!) describes recent discussions in LXX vocabulary and Greek lexicography in general, explains in detail why inscriptions are important, and then describes how to do the work of using them. Grab a copy!