LXX Scholar Interview: José Manuel Cañas Reíllo

It’s an exciting day here at Septuaginta &c. (notice that I have finally given this blog a name), as I continue with my ongoing series of interviews with Septuagint scholars of note. Most of those I have interviewed thus far are known for their influential publications in the discipline. Today, we meet someone likely less familiar, even to those well-entrenched in LXX studies: José Manuel Cañas Reíllo.

I became acquainted with José Manuel through my work in LXX-Judges when I found out that he is the man working away at the Göttingen critical text for Judges. After exchanging several emails, I had the pleasure of meeting him personally last July at the 2016 LXX.D Tagung in Wuppertal, Germany (here and here).

The Septuaginta-Unternehmen

José Manuel is based at the Centro de Ciencias (CSIC; also here) but also works at the Göttingen Septuaginta-Unternehmen. The latter of which was founded in the early 20th century by Alfred Rahlfs and Rudolf Smend and has been a major center of Septuagint scholarship ever since. The main production of the Septuaginta-Unternehmen has been a critical edition of the Septuagint, known as the Göttingen Septuagint (or, more accurately, the Septuaginta Vetus Testamentum Graecum). This edition takes into account every known textual witness to date. Despite the fact that over a hundred years after the project began there are still Septuagint books for which there is no critical edition, the Göttingen volumes are the gold standard of the discipline, as they reflect a text that hypothetically precedes all recensions.

I asked José Manuel about his training and work as a Septuagint textual critic. Enjoy hearing from one of the best!*

1) Can you describe how you first became interested in LXX studies?

My academic background is that of a philologist, primarily in Classical Philology and then in Biblical Philology. I started my research career in the field of the Vetus Latina (the Old Latin version), with my doctoral thesis on marginal glosses of the Vetus Latina in the Spanish Vulgate bibles for 1-2 Maccabees. In that work it was necessary to take account of the Greek text of the LXX, and since then I have been interested in it, especially in subjects related to textual criticism and textual history.

This interest has only grown since 1997, when I started to work in the Indice griego-hebreo del texto antioqueno de la Biblia griega with Natalio Fernández Marcos and Maria Victoria Spottorno Diaz-Caro. Thereafter the three of us formed a research team on Septuagint at the CSIC.

The Indice was published in 2005, and thereafter I was part of the team for the project of the Spanish translation of the Septuagint [La Biblia Griega], coordinated by N. Fernández Marcos and M. V. Spottorno. The translation began in 2006 and finished in 2015 with the publication of four volumes [here, here, here, and here].

In this project I undertook the translation of twelve books of the Bible (Numbers, Deuteronomy, Joshua, 1 and 2 Chronicles, 1 & 2 Maccabees, Job, Proverbs, Jeremiah, Lamentations and Daniel) and this gave me a very broad picture of the diversity and complexity of the different books of the Septuagint.

2) Can you tell us your area of specialty within the field, and how you were trained for it?

My specialty within the field is textual criticism. I received my training as a graduate student in Classical Philology and Trilingual Biblical Philology. Since the ’90s I have been fortunate to be a part of the project Edición de textos bíblicos y parabíblicos at the CSIC, led by Dr. Natalio Fernández Marcos, in which textual criticism is the central focus.

Also my studies of the Vetus Latina brought me to this conviction: It is necessary and crucial to take into account the textual criticism of Septuagint together with the Vetus Latina, because, as research has shown, progress in the field of Septuagint has impact on the Vetus Latina and vice versa. A perfect illustration of this is the importance of the Vetus Latina for the textual criticism of the Book of Judges, or for tracing the influence of the Antiochene text in the Historical Books.

3) Can you tell us about the Septuaginta-Unternehmen and how you became involved?

In 2012, I was recommended as editor of Judges by Dr. Natalio Fernández Marcos. In 2013 the Septuaginta-Unternehmen formally invited me to undertake the critical edition of Judges, and since November of that year I have been working on that project. As my expertise is textual criticism, I think assembling a critical edition is, at base, comprehensively philological, because the existence of critical editions enables progress in other areas such as language studies, especially lexicography, and literary criticism. An edition such as the Greek book of Judges is possibly the best type of work for a philologist dedicated to textual criticism.

4) Can you describe the overall process of compiling a critical edition of a book of the Septuagint?

The starting point of the task is the “Kollationshefte” of Greek manuscripts for Judges that have been made in the Septuagint Unternehmen over the years. [Editors note: These are hand-written volumes of all the variants within all the Greek witnesses for each biblical book.] In total, nearly one hundred Greek witnesses are available for Judges: eight uncials, ninety-two minuscules and two papyri, plus of the old editions Aldina, Complutense and Sixtina, to which I have added a few fragments that had not bee collated: Rahlfs 442 (= Madrid, Universidad Complutense E.1, No. 10), which was considered lost, and the palimpsest fragment K in St. Petersburg (Rus. Nat. Bibl. Gr. 26).

The first step of the work, which I have already completed, involved the revision of the collations. In this work, some questionable readings must be revised directly with manuscripts, when necessary.

The second step, now almost completed, has been the incorporation of the indirect Greek witnesses (e.g., Josephus and Patristic authors) into the collation of the manuscripts, in order to obtain a global view of the Greek transmission. Simultaneously, I have been preparing the Hexaplaric apparatus, much of which has also been collated at the Septuagint-Unternehmen.

The third step, which I am now working on, is the collation of ancient translations made from the Septuagint, in order of importance: Vetus Latina, Syrohexapla, Coptic, Armenian, Ethiopic, Georgian and Arabic. For the first three, I use the editions currently available. For the last four, the situation has been more complex. I use existing editions as points of reference (e.g., the Zohrab Bible for the Armenian; Dillman for Ethiopic; Bakari for the Georgian Bible), but I continuously have to collate the readings from the manuscript tradition. This is especially important in the Ethiopic versions, because, thanks to EMML, many manuscripts preserved in Ethiopic monasteries have been made available to researchers, and they may substantially affect the text of Dillman’s edition. Another special case is the Arabic version. We have the polyglot texts of Walton and Paris, but both are of poor quality, so I also checked the only Arabic witness translated directly from the Greek (ms. Rome, BAV, Vat., Ar. 449). Of course, this has forced me to learn Armenian and Georgian in record time, but that allows me to collate their manuscript evidence. Regarding the other languages (Coptic, Ethiopic and Arabic) I already had prior knowledge of these, and their collations are now finished.

All this has allowed me to establish groups of manuscripts and detect Lucianic and Hexaplaric texts more accurately, to isolate the text traditionally called “B” (which is not always transmitted by Codex B) and above all, to establish other marginal groups that allow us to reach a much more accurate genealogy of the texts, and to trace the history of the text in great detail.

5) Can you describe what your typical work day looks like?

Due to the organizational structure of the Consejo Superior de Investigaciones Científicas (CSIC) of Spain – the institution where I conduct my work – I am devoted full time to research without teaching duties, except for occasional doctoral or specialized courses and participation in conferences.

So most of my working time is devoted to research, though not exclusively. Besides the LXX-Judges critical edition, I am the Principal Researcher of a project funded by the Spanish government entitled “Reception, Transmission and Tradition of the Bible in Greek and Latin: Edition and Study of Texts” (2015-2017), carried out by a team of fourteen people at several universities in Spain, the United States, and Mexico.

I also have other positions, such as Head of the Department of Greek and Latin Studies at the Institute of Languages and Cultures of the Mediterranean and the Middle East at the CSIC, secretary of the collection “Manuales y Anejos de Emerita,” and committee member of Emerita and of the collection “Textos y estudios Cardenal Cisneros.”

6) Are you involved in any other teaching or research?

Currently, besides the edition of LXX-Judges, I am developing other works that are part of that project, such as a Greek-Latin lexicon of books of the Vetus Latina texts in Maccabees, a critical edition of 1-2 Maccabees (Vetus Latina) in the Palimpsest of Leon, studies on the Latin version of the Aramaic Targum Onkelos at the Poliglotta Complutensis, and the interlinear Latin version of the text of the Septuagint in this edition.

I am also supervising two doctoral theses, one of which will defend in early 2017 at the UNED and the other possibly in 2019 at the Istituto Biblico Pontificio (Rome).

7) And finally, when do you expect your critical text to be complete?

I think that very likely the Göttingen edition of LXX-Judges will be completed in 2020. I already have a very clear idea of the criteria to be followed and, above all, I am convinced that from the point of view of current research and the available texts, it will be possible to edit a single text of Judges. [Editor’s note: this last point is quite significant because it has been debated for some time whether Rahlfs’s so-called A- and B-Texts of LXX-Judges go back to an original OG, or represent two genetically distinct translations. The latter position has been defended as recently as LaMontagne’s piece in the recent IOSCS Congress Volume]

Wrapping Up

Well, if you didn’t know much about what it looks like to actually produce a critical text (I didn’t!), hopefully you do now. Thanks to José Manuel for his willingness to answer these questions and shed some light on what is likely a black box to most of us in Biblical Studies. Our discipline would not be the same without textual critics.

______________________

* José Manuel was kind enough to write his responses in English, which I improved slightly in matters of style only.

4 comments

  1. Wow, this look into the life of a scholar is amazing! I continue to be astonished at the dedication and skills that these men and women bring to and develop in order for us to be able to know more fully!
    Thanks for the interview!

    Tim

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