LXX Translations Part III: La Biblia Griega

It is time for an overview of the third major modern translation of the Septuagint. If you haven’t been following along, I have been working on a multi-part series detailing the differences between  four recent or ongoing translations of the Greek Bible. Thus far we have done two of the four: NETS, and BdA (Part I and Part II). In this post, we’re going to move on to the Spanish translation, La Biblia Griega, or LBG.

This scholarly endeavor is published by Ediciones Sígueme in Salamanca under the directorship of eminent scholars Natalio Fernández Marcos and María Victoria Spottorno. The translation team is made up of ten to twelve scholars operating through the Consejo Superior de Investigaciones Científicas (CSIC) in Madrid. There will be no fewer than four volumes in this series when it is completed, and possibly a Companion volume in due course as well, a hefty printed set that will rival the German translation endeavors – no small feat!

The Modern Spanish Version

There are three volumes that have come out so far

I. Pentateuco (2008)   |   II. Libros históricos (2011)   |   III. Libros poéticos y sapienciales (2013)

CaptureThe fourth volume, IV. Libros proféticos, is yet to be produced but hopefully will soon. You can also read the samples from Volume IVolume II, and Volume III, which include the full Prologue and General Introduction for each. These introductions are very useful, exceeding those of NETS and on par with the introductions in Septuaginta Deutsch in terms of quality in my opinion, although with less bibliography.

The best thing about these volumes, besides the high caliber scholarship involved, is the price for each, which ranges from €29-49. If you are working in a particular part of the LXX corpus, these are well worth having on your shelf at that price point. I have Volume II for my work in LXX-Judges, and can confirm that they are nicely bound hardback volumes.

The LBG Approach to Translation

The real mastermind behind LBG is N. Fernández Marcos, whose statements regarding the Septuagint give clues to what the general translation approach is. He says, “I consider the Septuagint as a Classic” in Greek literature, and points to Luke “who imitates and adapts the Septuagint just like Virgil imitates Homer and adapts his work to the new situation” (2008, 284). Nevertheless, he qualifies himself by stating that each book is a “regular literary unit but we cannot consider the whole Septuagint as a literary unit. It is a heterogeneous work, translated or created by different authors in different times in places” (ibid, 288).

With respect to the Historical Books in particular, Fernández Marcos makes some pointed observations regarding what he understands as the autonomous nature of the Greek version of the OT. Within this corpus alone a variety of changes occur only in the LXX, such as the reorganization of the books, the inclusion of new books or added parts that are missing in the Hebrew Bible (e.g. I-III Maccabees, the additions to Esther), the presence of double texts like Judges, and the appearance of exegetical features in the textual transmission of the Greek that “notably modify” the Hebrew for contemporary needs (2011, 11). He states that these new elements

ponen de relieve una vez más la riqueza y originalidad de la Biblia griega como obra literaria autónoma respecto de la Biblia hebrea … En otras palabras, los Profetas Anteriores de la Biblia hebrea no sólo han sido traducidos, sino también transformados y ampliados* (ibid, emphasis mine).

Apples and Oranges?

N. Fernández Marcos

I structured this series as I did for a reason. Setting forth the principles of NETS and BdA first provides a study in contrast; two ends of a spectrum, so to speak, of the modern translation projects in Septuagint studies. NETS and BdA stand in relief most drastically, with LBG and LXX.D falling somewhere between. Fernández Marcos points this out when he says

We have taken a middle road between the English and French projects with regard to the emphasis put on the source language or on the reception of the Septuagint. In this respect, our approach is closer to the German project (2008, 288).

Translation of the Greek with Hebrew Context

The translation they aim to produce in Spanish is one that is “faithful to the original Greek” rather than the underlying Hebrew,” since only with this procedure will the specific features of the Greek Bible emerge” (ibid). While the original Hebrew is consulted at times for context, LBG is rendered “from the Greek text which we have in front of us, not from the Hebrew text that is behind it” (ibid, 289). The goal of this process is so that a reader with no Greek knowledge can access the LXX in content, but also in form and style. Speaking of this translation process, Fernández Marcos points out in somewhat enigmatic but agreeable prose that “the modern translator needs not only to dominate the target language but also to display a certain amount of fantasy in order to find the appropriate expressions” (ibid, 289).

The LXX as Independent Scriptural Replacement

In this way, LBG translates the Septuagint as a literary, independent work at the level of the book. The LBG team does not understand the Septuagint to have been meant to replace the Hebrew Bible or serve as “an ancillary instrument, pace Pietersma [and the NETS team], to read the Hebrew” (ibid). They take it that the LXX was meant for Jews who could not read Hebrew. Putting their approach in nice contrast with both NETS and BdA, Fernández Marcos states that

Unlike NETS that emphasizes the aspects of the LXX as interlinear translation from the Hebrew, subservient to the source langauge and in which the Hebrew is the arbiter of the meaning, and unlike La Bible d’Alexandrie that considers the LXX as an independent work and puts the accent on the reception history, our translation views the LXX as a literary work that replaced the Hebrew Bible in the Jewish-Hellenistic world (ibid, 290).

The emphasis of LBG, then, falls on the meaning of the Greek text for the Jewish-Hellenistic community within their own cultural and linguistic world.

The Spectrum of Modern Translations

I hope that by now, even with these very brief overviews, the “spectrum” of translation approaches to the Septuagint is becoming clearer, which now looks something like this, with the horizontal axis signifying the degree to which the Septuagint is conceived of as independent from the Hebrew text:

NETS     –>     LBG     –>     BdA

I will flesh out this “spectrum” (which will probably become a chart somehow) in time with other posts. As I pointed out at the beginning of this series, translating the Septuagint into a modern language is bound up with all kinds of other assumptions about the Greek of the Septuagint and the purpose for which it was to serve (and did serve). As Fernández Marcos puts it quite proverbially: “We should bear in mind that translating a translation is not simply translation” (ibid, 288).

Stay tuned for a review of the German translation, Septuaginta Deutsch (LXX.D).

__________________________

*  … once again set in relief the richness and originality of the Greek Bible as an autonomous literary work with respect to the Hebrew Bible … In other words, the Former Prophets [Historical Books] of the Hebrew Bible are not only translated, but also transformed and amplified …

Natalio Fernández Marcos, “A New Spanish Translation of the Septuagint, ” pp. 283-91 in Translating a Translation, edited by H. Ausloos, J. Cook, F. García Martínez, B. Lemmelijn and M. Vervenne (Leuven: Peeters, 2008).

Fernández Marcos, Natalio, and María Victoria Spottorno Díaz-Caro, eds. La Biblia Griega Septuaginta. Vol. II. Libros Históricos. Biblioteca de Estudios Bíblicos 126. Salamanca: Ediciones Sígueme, 2011.

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