Author: William A. Ross

Assistant Professor of Old Testament, Reformed Theological Seminary (Charlotte, NC)

A Septuagintal Smattering

It’s that time of year when academics begin to emerge slowly from the malaise that sets in between SBL and New Year’s Day. I count myself among that number, as it seems like the last two weeks have suddenly burst into new activity, much of which is follow-up from the conferences in late November. 

So in that spirit, I thought I’d post a kind of round-up for all things Septuagint — at least those things that have come to my attention. Here’s the rundown:

New Septuagint Publications

There have been a few new Septuagint publications that are worth being aware of. 

  • The Septuagint in its Ancient Context: Philological, Historical, and Theological Approaches

This is an entirely new series for monographs and edited volumes with Brepols, one of the oldest publishing houses in Europe. The aim of this series is as follows:

The scope of this series is to publish monographs and multi-author works dealing with the Septuagint and its philological, historical, and theological context. In particular, the volumes of the series promote a multifaceted approach of the Septuagint including analyses on vocabulary and style, research on textual history (the Septuagint and its later recensions), investigations on Jewish-Hellenistic society, comparative studies taking into consideration non-biblical sources (e.g. literature, papyri, epigraphic evidence), and research on the reception history (in particular the influence on later Jewish and Christian thought).

I learned about this from Eberhard Bons, and am glad to see that there are already two volumes in print:

      1. Leonardo Pessoa da Silva Pinto and Daniela Scialabba, eds., New Avenues in Biblical Exegesis in Light of the Septuagint (SEPT 1; Brepols, 2022)
      2. Stefanie Peintner, Gott im Bild: Eidôlon – Studien zur Herkunft und Verwendung des Begriffes für das Götterbild in der Septuaginta (SEPT 2; Brepols 2023)

This is a new publication in a longstanding series. Here is a translation of the (originally French) book description:

Traduire une traduction was written in parallel with the annotated translation of the short Greek text of the book of Job (forthcoming). The distinctive of this book is that it is a critical reflection on the notions typically used by scholars, both concerning the Greek text (literal translation, free translation, summary, paraphrase) and the presumed Hebrew text (repetitive, difficult, obscure, poetic). This critical reflection is preceded by a discussion of the problems with the Greek version and is followed by the procedure underlying the annotated translation of the short Greek text. In the field of research on the biblical corpus, the theory of translation is often sidestepped. The material and social conditions of research – and its demands – put the challenges of the act of translation in the background. The author has attempted to make the terms of this question explicit in the last section of the book.

The book is fairly short, just under 100 pages, but sounds promising, particularly in the enticing indication that there is an annotated translation of Greek Job also in production.

  • Miika Tucker, The Septuagint of Jeremiah: A Study in Translation Technique and Recensions (De Septuaginta Investigationes 15; Vandenhoeck & Ruprecht, 2023)

I’m very glad to see this book in print, as it is the result of Miika’s hard work in his doctoral research in Helsinki. The book description is:

Miika Tucker comprises a translation technical study of the Septuagint version of Jeremiah for the purpose of characterizing the translation. The conclusions draw from different types of changes that occur between chapters 1–28 (Jer a’) and 29–52 (Jer b’). Certain differences between the two reflect the revisional characteristics of the kaige tradition, which suggests that they were produced by a reviser who was invested in a revisionary tradition similar to kaige. Other differences constitute a change toward more natural Greek expression, which is the opposite of what one would expect from a revision since Greek idiom usually does not correspond to the formal characteristics of Hebrew. Such differences are to be understood to reflect a change toward more intuitive use of the Greek language by the first translator. Changes toward less formal equivalence of the Hebrew and the growth of the Hebrew text after the initial translation combined to form conducive conditions for revision.

This is an important book that will shape Greek Jeremiah research into the future. Miika is still at Helsinki, now as a post-doc, working as the editor of the forthcoming Jeremiah volumes in the Biblia Hebraica Quinta edition and The Hebrew Bible: A Critical Edition.

Trinity Western University Septuagint Summer School

Those within the orbit of Septuagint scholarship know of the John William Wevers Institute of Septuagint Studies that is based at Trinity Western University in Langley, British Columbia. I have written about TWU over the years (see here), and one of the yearly events of note is their summer school on the Septuagint. I have participated in some of these myself and also posted these each year for a while now (see the posts here: 2021, 20202019201820172016, and 2015).

This year the summer school will be taught by Andrew Krause and focus on Josephus and the Septuagint. Here’s the flyer:

Wacky Twitter Takes on the Septuagint

I was on Twitter for a year there and then dropped off. But I still get tons of Twitter news from friends. The other day, I was alerted to this wackiness by Andrew Keenan.

I have no idea who runs this account. But I do know the Lexham Septuagint guys and I am highly skeptical that there is any formal connection there. I wanted to draw attention to this, not for its many typos, but rather because almost everything in this set of “slides” (or whatever they are) is either half-true or just completely wrong. Some of it is worse than wrong and edges into libelous (see especially Part III). It represents a sort of “best of” collection of weird myths about the Septuagint that are, unfortunately, still very much alive and well. In a sort of depressing way, it’s an encouragement for Septuagint scholars to keep at it.

The Language of Colour in the Bible (A Short Review)

Today I want to draw attention to a fascinating new book dealing with linguistic theory and biblical lexicography, two areas of research that are near and dear to my heart. This volume, entitled The Language of Colour in the Bible: Embodied Colour Terms Related to Green, was edited by a team of scholars that includes my friend and colleague in philology, Anna Angelini, who was kind enough to send me a copy. 

The volume was produced through The Language of Colour in the Bible study group based at the University of San Pablo (also here). Although the title may tempt you to think that this is a very narrow topic, in fact it touches on quite a wide array of issues. For one, there is the matter of biblical interpretation in general, and reception history more particularly. As the editors put it: 

Colour is present in the biblical text from its beginning to its end, but it has hardly been studied, and we appear to have forgotten that the detailed study of the colour terms in the Bible is essential to understanding the use and symbolism that the language of colour has acquired in the literature that has forged European culture and art.

With that in mind, the editors articulate their goals clearly, and these are “to provide the modern reader with the meaning (both literal and symbolic) of the colour lexemes found in the biblical corpus (in Hebrew, Greek, and Latin), and thereby approximate the worldview of the listener/hearer in biblical times” (p. 29). Of course, approaching this kind of study requires some sort of theoretical framework, method, and practical outputs, and this volume has all three.

As for theory, I was very pleased to see Cognitive Linguistics brought to bear in this project. There are numerous points of overlap between the scholars involved in this volume and the ongoing Diccionario Griego-Español del Nuevo Testamento project, which is being carried out within a structuralist framework. (See my RBL review of a relevant volume here.) As the editors of The Language of Colour in the Bible rightly recognize, however, that approach, while effective for some tasks, presents “insurmountable obstacles for the study of colour language” (p. 22). So instead, the editors chose cognitive linguistics as their theoretical framework, which was (in my humble opinion) the correct decision. (If you’re interested, a classic discussion of color categories from a cognitive linguistic perspective is the first chapter of John R. Taylor, Linguistic Categorization.)

On top of good theory, this volume also has solid practical lexicographic practice as well, with well structured essays/entries, detailed (Hebrew, Greek, and Latin) philological analysis, definitions (not just glosses), and even the occasional full-color image. Two of the overarching conclusions are articulated in the last chapter, where the two essential characteristics of color language in the biblical corpus are described as:

  1. colour lexemes in the Bible are never used in isolation, but are instead intimately linked to the entities they describe. From this, it can be affirmed that colour terms are embodied lexemes and it is therefore necessary to analyze each of the pericopes in which a given lexeme appears, together with the entity it describes;
  2. each colour lexeme typically suggests a broad chromatic spectrum or pantone, from which it may be deduced that most are polysemic. (p. 208)

My hearty congratulations to the editors for this excellent volume. I can only hope others of similar quality will follow in due course.

New Article Surveying Septuagint Research

Back in April, I posted something that I very modestly entitled An Absolutely Gigantic Septuagint Bibliography, because that’s what it is. I’ve had some good response to it over the last few months and, yes, I am keeping a list of additions, which stack up at an alarming rate.

Anyhow, I mentioned in that post how the impetus for the bibliography was linked to my work on producing an updated survey of the last decade of Septuagint scholarship for Currents in Biblical Research. The last such bibliography had been written by Kristen De Troyer and stopped in 2012. But what I did not mention previously is that the impetus for writing this survey at all actually arose while I was hopped up on heavy-duty narcotics last Christmastide, following a sudden and rather drastic spinal surgery (from which I have fully recovered, d.g.). Now that I’ve completed the task, I humbly recognize that it is only something that sounds reasonable in such a drug-induced state. (more…)