It’s always hard to believe another year is over. But it’s also a great time to think about reading goals for the year to come. I’m not talking about secondary literature (although I do plan to post a “What I Read in 2019” list soon), but about primary literature. When people ask me why they should care about the Septuagint, one of the things I mention is its language. If you are a student of postclassical (Koine) Greek, then the Septuagint is a natural next step (so too are the Patristic writers). That was a major reason why Greg Lanier and I set out to produce Septuaginta: A Reader’s Edition (Hendrickson 2018).
So with that in mind, I thought I’d present two good ways to begin (or continue) reading the Septuagint in 2020.
1. Going Deep in One or Two Books
The first possibility is to choose a book (or two) and simply dive in at the beginning with the intention of reading all the way through. This can be an intimidating prospect for a few reasons. You may be asking, “I have no clue where to begin — which books are managable based on my knowledge of NT Greek?” That’s a question we anticipated when we created the Reader’s Edition, and one we didn’t have a good answer to. So we gathered data and found answers.
Below is a ranking index of each book of the Septuagint (in a few cases, groups of books) that moves from easier to harder. The criteria we used to help create this index were objective. Things like range and frequency thresholds of vocabulary used in the book, the degree of overlap between that range and NT vocabulary, average length of sentences, number or participles per sentence, and even the amount of time that it took us to produce the draft for each chapter of the book in the Reader’s Edition (yes, we timed ourselves).
So using the index, you can select a book based on your general confidence level and just go for it. Here’s the index:
And for some more detail on the Twelve Prophets corpus, here’s an index with each individual book ranked:
Answer: Yes. But there’s a solution! The solution is our Book-by-Book Guide to Septuagint Vocabulary (Hendrickson 2019). We designed the book to work hand-in-hand with the Reader’s Edition. We created a number of strategic lists for the whole Septuagint corpus, and for each individual book, so that the more vocabulary you get under your belt, the easier your reading experience will be. Put differently, the more vocabulary lists you memorize for, say, the book of Genesis, the less often you will have to look down to consult the lower apparatus with parsing and contextual glosses as you read. You will be surprised how much a little good-old-fashioned memory work can do!
2. Reading Across the Whole Corpus with Increasing Difficulty
A second strategy for getting into the habit of reading the Septuagint is to work across the entire corpus in small chunks. Last year I posted a graded reading plan that is designed for exactly this purpose, and I repost the plan below.
Now, you may be saying, “Come on, Ross. Why didn’t you re-do the plan so we have fresh readings to work with?” Well, to be honest, I didn’t really feel like it. But also, the very fact that you have the graded difficulty index (above) means that you don’t really need me to plan out reading chunks for you. In fact, you don’t even need the guide that I created (although it does have a few convenient features). You can simply use the index to work your way up the curve of difficulty in small selections of your own choosing.
But if you didn’t use the plan last year — or fell off the bandwagon — or hit a wall at some point when you felt you weren’t able to handle the Greek — here is the plan in full. Have another stab at it!
Please share this reading plan freely!
Whatever way you choose to do it, I hope that these resources help you get into the Greek language and text of the Septuagint in new ways this coming year!