A while back I began a series of posts to overview the major contemporary translation projects of the Septuagint. Thus far I have dealt with the recent English translation, known as NETS (see here). Before moving on to the French translation project, La Bible d’Alexandrie (BdA), however, it makes sense to discuss one of the commentary series that is associated with English projects in the Septuagint. Note that there are two Septuagint commentary series (that I know of), distinguished below.
As I have been thinking about preparing a post for BdA, it struck me that I will need to discuss the fact that it is not merely a translation into French, but also a commentary. So when it is time for that post I will most likely make it two parts, one treating the translational approach into French, the other dealing with principles underlying the commentary, although they are of course inseparable.
And if I am going to talk about the commentary in BdA, then I also need to mention the similar efforts in the ongoing in English. So that is what I will start here, to be completed in two parts. For one, there is the IOSCS Septuagint Commentary Series (SBLCS), which I will treat at a later point, and which is associated with the NETS project and interlinearity as a method. In this post I discuss the Brill Septuagint Commentary series (BSC), which is under the general editorship of (who else?) Stan Porter. The first volume on Joshua came out over a decade ago, and since then a number of other installments have appeared, even though completion is in the remote future.
(As an aside, one of the contributors to the BSC, W. Edward Glenny, will be the subject of one of my future LXX Scholar Interviews)
Brill Commentary Series (BCS) Methodology
One of the major ways in which the BSC differs from the work of BdA and SBLCS is in terms of the text used. As I will discuss in more detail in other posts, BdA employs Rahlfs’s Septuaginta as its base text, while the SBLCS uses critical editions such as Göttingen or the Cambridge Larger Septuagint (for details on which see here). The BSC on the other hand uses one of three main uncial codices – Vaticanus (B), Alexandrinus (A), and Sinaiticus (א). For example, the Genesis commentary is based upon Alexandrinus, as the other two uncials are defective in much of the book.
The rationale here is the aim of BSC to be a “literary commentary” on the Septuagint, which is thus treated – rightly so in many respects – as itself an early commentary on the Hebrew Bible and a source for New Testament study. As such, the LXX represents the reception of the Old Testament in a given community, Jewish or Christian, in the Greco-Roman world.
To this end, the BSC aims to provide “a commentary on the Septuagint in its own right,” and therefore makes reference to the Hebrew text “only when necessary” (Brayford 2007, 25). As far as I can tell, making reference is “necessary” in order to discuss features of the Hebrew that agree with the Greek version to provide coherence, and also to understand occasional differences. While there are points at which the BSC deals with text critical issues, commentators never claim one text tradition is “better” than another. Rather, “the Commentary examines the text as it is and interprets it in its own right from literary, historical, social, and theological points of view” (ibid, 26). One of the primary stated goals of the BSC series in this sense is to determine how that Greek text of the Septuagint functioned in its literary and religious community, although drawing such conclusions is often quite speculative since it is difficult to know the details of a given textual community.
In any case, the BSC approach is motivated by the conviction that it is impossible to discern the intention of the author or translator (not to mention the readers) of the Greek version of the Old Testament, which by contrast is the distinct aim of the SBLCS. Instead of the text-as-produced by the translator, the BSC focuses on the text-as-received by a community, or the Greek version as it could have been read and interpreted, according to a given text tradition. In that way, while presuming for the most part that the Hebrew Vorlage of the Septuagint was a proto-MT, the actual relationship between the Hebrew and Greek versions is not of primary importance, as the BSC is essentially reception historical in its approach.
Others to Come
As mentioned, I will also outline the approach of the other Septuagint commentary series in due course. Doing so, I hope, will provide a useful primer for the uninitiated to the major contours of contemporary LXX scholarship.
Brayford, Susan. Genesis. Septuagint Commentary Series (Leiden: Brill, 2007).