Thoughts on K. Jobes “Discovering the Septuagint” (Released Today)

Back in November I posted an interview with Dr. Karen Jobes, emerita Gerald F. Hawthorne Professor of New Testament Greek & Exegesis at Wheaton College. (Also see this interview on her work in Septuagint scholarship generally.) In advance of the upcoming conferences at that time, I wanted to shine a spotlight on Karen’s two forthcoming volumes. Since that time, her 2nd edition of Invitation to the Septuagint, coauthored with Moisés Silva (here) has been released and is certainly well worth your money. Even if you have the 1st edition already, a lot has happened in the discipline in the intervening 15 years!

Karen’s second book dealing with the Septuagint is available as of today, Discovering the Septuagint: A Guided Reader (here). Karen acted as the editor of this volume, bringing her longstanding expertise in the field to the contributions of a group of her graduate students. The book blurb states:

This reader presents, in Septuagint canonical order, ten Greek texts from the Rahlfs—Hanhart Septuaginta critical edition. It explains the syntax, grammar, and vocabulary of more than 700 verses from select Old Testament texts representing a variety of genres, including the Psalms, the Prophets, and more.

What is it?

This book is a “guided reader,” which means that it presents a selection of texts, in this case all from the Septuagint, and provides various aids for reading. Most people whose experience with Koine Greek is limited to the New Testament will need help when they dip into the Septuagint. A wide array of unfamiliar vocabulary and syntactical features await, and this is precisely the issues that this book will help clarify. However, it is worth noting that this book is not introductory: it assumes some experience in NT Greek.

What is in it?

After a brief introduction to the Septuagint in general, this book includes over seven hundred verses from nine books of the Septuagint, presented in the Greek canonical order. These were selected to give “a taste of different genres, an experience of distinctive Septuagintal elements, and a sampling of texts later used by writers of the New Testament” (9). At the beginning of each section of text from a new book of the Septuagint (Rahlfs-Hanhart), there is a short introduction to the distinctive features found in it, along with select bibliography.

The format of the reading is broken into units of text treated verse-by-verse, with itemized discussions of various elements found along the way. Almost all words not found in Metzger’s Lexical Aids are glossed and parsed, along with more difficult forms. At the bottom of each section of text that was discussed in this fashion Jobes presents the NETS translation for readers to check their work, noting places where the reading aids differ from the NETS translation.

Also to be noted are the two appendices that include a glossary of technical grammatical terms, and an index of Septuagint verses cited in the New Testament.

A Sample:

Here is a taste of what you get with this volume, taken from Genesis:

Gen. 1.6 snip

And another:

Gen 3.5 snip

And here is an example of the table of NT references (where appropriate) for a given text section:

Text Section NT Refs snip

You can read more sample text by downloading a PDF excerpt of the volume free from Kregel (or here), which is where these snips come from.

What is it not?

Now that we’ve seen what this book is, we should also consider what it is not. The most obvious point is that this book is not a “Reader’s Edition” like the Greek New Testament: A Reader’s Edition published by Hendrickson (here), for example, or their Biblia Hebraica Stuttgartensia: A Reader’s Edition (here). While these books provide the entirety of their ancient corpus in standard, running text with footnotes throughout keyed to vocabulary, the Discovering the Septuagint volume that Jobes has edited is much more selective and incremental.

It is also worth pointing out that the majority of what this “guided” reader presents is lexical glosses and parsing, with very sparse commentary. Occasionally there is an exegetical comment of some sort, but usually these pertain to the biblical story in general, rather than any social or historical context of the Greek text per se as a translation. For more detail and a similar sort of textual and linguistic guide, one might consult F. C. Conybeare and G. Stock’s Grammar of Septuagint Greek (1905, but now in an updated version), which contains large portions of text for reading.

Evaluation

Conybeare and G. Stock presume significantly more familiarity with the Greek langauge in general, as well as grammatical terminology, than does Jobes’ edited volume, Discovering the Septuagint. For that reason, Jobes has provided a very good resource for students whose experience with the language is limited to NT Greek, even if they have completed two semesters. Even at that level, students generally have a very limited grasp upon Greek as a language in all its diversity (lexical and syntactic).

To my mind, however, the general level of reading aids given in Jobes’ volume are still fairly elementary, even for second semester NT Greek students. Additionally, sometimes the commentary seems somewhat far afield, and therefore possibly unhelpful for actually reading Greek (or inaccurate). For example:

Odd Comment snip

An Alternative

If one is looking for a more supplemented guide to reading Koine Greek than, for instance, the Greek New Testament: A Reader’s Edition, one might also consider McLean’s Hellenistic and Biblical Greek: A Graded Reader, which is the same price as Discovering the Septuagint. Not only that, but it includes a number of texts drawn from the Septuagint, along with the New Testament, Apocrypha, Church Fathers, Hellenistic literature, and even papyri and inscriptions. As a result, you get to read about the “everyday life of Hellenistic Greeks, with themes such as sexuality, slavery, magic, apocalypticism and Hellenistic philosophy” from a much wider selection of Koine Greek texts.

Conclusion

Nevertheless, I think that Dr. Jobes has done a service to the growing community of people familiar with NT Greek, but whose interest in the Septuagint is growing. Her care to format this volume for use in an academic year is laudable, and I sincerely hope that it will be taken up by many even at the college or seminary level.

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