Volume 1 of the HTLS Now in Print

Wonderful news for biblical scholars everywhere: The first volume of the Historical and Theological Lexicon of the Septuagint (HTLS) is now available from Mohr Siebeck! Check out the picture of this beauty, sitting on the kitchen table of the editor, Eberhard Bons.

What is the HTLS, you ask? Excellent question.

Septuagint scholars have known for a long time that the Greek vocabulary used in the corpus stands in need of a good lexicon. It was one of the first items of discussion when the IOSCS was formed over fifty years ago. It wasn’t until the late ’90s that some actual progress began with the appearance of the first fascicles of lexicons but Lust, Eynikel, and Hauspie (now published as LEH) as well as Muraoka (now published as GELS). But even with these two excellent resources to hand, the scholarly debate has not ended and the task remains unfinished.

There are many aspects of Septuagint lexicography that present challenges. It is a huge corpus of words, of course, and a great many of them do not appear in the New Testament, much less any other major Hellenistic literary author we know of. So scholars have long recognized the importance of non-literary evidence for getting a hold on word meaning in many cases for Septuagint vocabulary. There is a huge amount of this so-called documentary evidence, mostly in papyri and inscriptions (but also ostraca, coins, and other ancient bits and bobs) and mostly in a fairly raw state. All acknowledge it’s importance while also recognizing how daunting it is to go swimming through it all.

This is where the HTLS comes into play. At least to a certain extent.

The Purpose of the HTLS

At the latest report, the HTLS is planned to span four volumes in full. The first volume now in print includes entries for the letters Alpha through Gamma. However, there is an important caveat. The HTLS provides entries only for “each important word or word group of the Septuagint” (here). What counts as “important”? Fair question, and I can’t say I have heard that explained. But I believe they tend to be words with more overt theological or sociocultural significance. (I’m hoping to post an interview with Eberhard Bons soon, so I will be sure to ask him.)

Of course, this means that the HTLS will not be “the” answer to all of the questions in Septuagint lexicography. But given its deliberate attention to the documentary evidence, it will be a major step forward, one that the discipline sorely needs.

Each word entry has three parts:

  • Word use in Greek literature
  • Word use in papyri and inscriptions
  • Word use in the Septuagint

I have posted a scan of a sample entry for ἄκακος, ἀκακία below.*

I’m really looking forward to getting my hands on this volume and having a closer inspection. (That will probably help as I prepare to write a few entries for Volume 2!)


* This is drawn from a little pamphlet that was being handed out at the Mohr Siebeck booth at SBL 2019, which does not contain any front matter or copyright information. If you’re an employee at Mohr Siebeck and want me to take this down, just let me know! You can also find a sample entry for ᾄδω by Ralph Brucker in the volume The Reception of Septuagint Words in Jewish-Hellenistic and Christian Literature (Mohr Siebeck 2014).

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