Hebrew

LXX Scholar Interview: Dr. Albert Pietersma

Today I have the pleasure of posting an interview with one of the most well-known and respected scholars in Septuagint scholarship. If you aren’t aware, I have been conducting LXX scholar interviews for a few years now and have compiled something of a library, with more additions to come.

Dr. Albert Pietersma (also see here) is Professor emeritus of Septuagint and Hellenistic Greek in the Department of Near and Middle East Civilizations at the University of Toronto‘s Faculty of Arts and Science. Born in the Netherlands in 1935 and tenured in 1971, Dr. Pietersma has a very long list of publications, and is particularly well known (as you will read about below) for work producing the translation philosophy for the New English Translation of the Septuagint (NETS, also see here) known as the “interlinear paradigm,” its accompanying translator’s manual, and of course the actual published English translation (here). You can get a better appreciation for the scope of his work by looking at his Festschrift, The Old Greek Psalter: Studies in Honour of Albert Pietersma (T&T Clark 2009).

The Interview

1) Can you describe how you first became interested in LXX studies, and your training for the discipline?

As an undergraduate at Calvin College, Grand Rapids, Mich., I fell in love with the Classics, especially Greek Classical literature, and in the seminary my study of biblical Hebrew and the Old Testament added to my fascination with the ancient world. Given that the Septuagint is a Greek translation of the Hebrew (and Aramaic) Bible, to become a Septuagintalist fed these two passions. My interest in the field was further piqued by Professor J. W. Wevers’s visit to Calvin where we could discuss both my academic interests and the realia of Grad School.

As a graduate student in the Department of Near Eastern Studies, University of Toronto, my major area of study was Hebrew Language and Literature, with a first minor in Septuagint (under the tutelage of Professor Wevers) and a second minor in Aramaic-Syriac. The research for my dissertation on the Chester Beatty Biblical Papyri of Genesis (Ra 961 and 962) happily coincided with my Doktorvater’s work on his critical edition of Genesis for the Göttingen Septuagint (1974). Since he placed at my disposal the collation books composed at the Septuaginta Unternehmen (Göttingen), we could both reach beyond the era of the ‘Great Uncials’ (Alexandrinus, Sinaiticus, and Vaticanus) to a much broader range of textual witnesses, in an ongoing quest for the closest approximation to the pristine original.

My text-critical study of the two papyri, together with a new edition of the text, was published as Chester Beatty Biblical Papyri IV and V: A New Edition with Text-Critical Analysis (ASP 16; Samuel, Stevens, Hakkert and Company, Toronto and Sarasota, 1977).

2) How have you participated in the discipline over the course of your teaching and writing career?

Administratively I have served the International Organization for Septuagint and Cognate Studies (IOSCS) as secretary and archivist (1972–1980), president (1980–1987) and honorary president (1993–). As representative of my published work, I would note here just two items. First, there is a volume of collected essays reflecting the trajectory of my career, edited (with introduction) by Cameron Boyd-Taylor, A Question of Methodology: Albert Pietersma, Collected Essays on the Septuagint (Peeters, 2013). As Cameron rightly notes, my preoccupation from the beginning of my scholarly career was methodological in nature, inspired and encouraged by my mentor. At the outset, I focused chiefly on the issue of how, on the basis of available evidence, one might work back systematically to the closest achievable approximation to the original text-form of the LXX. From there the center of my attention gradually began to include text-semantics, exegesis and translation theory, and then the broader issues of the hermeneutics of a translated text, particularly translations characterized by formal equivalence.

Secondly, and more concretely, I would highlight A New English Translation of the Septuagint, and the Other Greek Translations Traditionally Included under That Title (eds. Albert Pietersma and Benjamin G. Wright, Oxford University Press, 2007) (NETS). For this project I had the good fortune of working with the following graduate students: Cameron Boyd-Taylor, Paul McLean, Tony Michael, Marc Saunders, Jannes Smith, Wade White, and Tyler Williams. Without their input and the hard work of the translators, NETS would never have seen the light of day.

Since its inception, the IOSCS (1968) was interested in producing a new ‘Brenton’, an English translation of the LXX, published in 1844 and popular, in its diglot form, throughout the English speaking world, but deemed seriously outdated both textually and linguistically. Although the project remained a dream for many years, it reappeared on the IOSCS’s agenda in the early ’90s, promoted by David Aiken of Uncial Books. Under the joint editorship of Ben Wright and myself, work was formally begun with the publication of the Translation Manual for “A New English Translation of the Septuagint” (NETS) (Uncial Books, 1996). A propaedeutic set of guidelines appeared in BIOSCS 27 (1994): 15–17.

The Greek base text of NETS is the best critical editions, i.e. the Göttingen Septuagint where available and Rahlfs’s Septuagint for the rest. Odes, except for the Prayer of Manasses, was excluded for lack of authenticity as a book and its Christian origins. The English base of NETS is the New Revised Standard Version (NRSV), modified as dictated by the Greek critical text. Most importantly and most fundamentally, NETS is based on the Septuagint text-as-produced, i.e. the earliest retrievable text of any given book, in terms of both text-form and text-semantics. Opting to translate the closest approximation to the ‘original’ form of the text was understood to imply opting for the earliest meaning of that text as well. (For more evidence of my participation in the discipline see here)

3) How have you integrated LXX studies into your work as a professor?

Since my appointment to the Department of Near Eastern Studies (1969) was in “Septuagint and Hellenistic Jewish Literature,” and my role was, together with Professor Wevers, to develop a PhD program in Septuagint Studies — the only one of its kind in the world — , the Septuagint formed a constitutive part of both my teaching and research at both the undergraduate and graduate levels.

4) How has the field changed since you’ve been involved?

While the field has no doubt changed considerably during the past half century, arguably there is also much that has stayed the same (cf. 5. below), representing business as usual. Technological tools and aides such as databases and search engines are the obvious improvements, though scarcely in need of explication. Given that the Septuagint was written in Greek, the Thesaurus Linguae Graecae (TLG) happens to be one of my favorite tools, seeing that Septuagintal Greek must be understood in the context of conventional Greek usage in the Hellenistic world. And then there are new lexica and increasingly more critical editions. Unfortunately, our new lexica and new grammar, presuppose, by editors’ fiat, the Septuagint as an exemplar of conventional linguistic usage, as a result of which the discipline is, in principle, no better off than with Liddell-Scott- Jones.

On a more positive note, Septuagint scholars now have at their disposal whole new disciplines such as discourse analysis (text linguistics) and descriptive translation studies, a discipline that makes it its business to study translation as a cultural phenomenon and as such seeks to describe it in all its ordered complexity. Furthermore, a spate of new translations into modern languages is or is coming on stream, at present including NETS, LXX-Deutsch, La Bible d’Alexandrie, La Biblia Griega, and La Bibbia dei Settanta.

5) For the benefit of graduate students who are potentially interested in LXX studies in doctoral work, what in your opinion are underworked areas and topics in need of further research?

Above (see 2.) I touch on the axiomatic distinction, in the historical study of literature — including translation literature — between the text-as-produced, on the one hand, and the text-as-received, on the other, or between the text-as-configured and the text-as-refigured (Paul Ricoeur, “What is a Text”) in reception history. This distinction, rooted in the constitutive character of the translated text, has profound implications for the entire discipline, but, in particular, for the sub-disciplines of LXX grammaticography, lexicography, and hermeneutics.

As I see it, however, in all three of these sub-disciplines, Septuagint Studies continues to suffer from what might be called a schizophrenic approach to the Septuagint. In my view, the origin of this schizophrenia is an outgrowth of the discipline’s historical origins. In brief, one might consider the following. That these historical origins lie in the study of the New Testament (NT) and more particularly in the conceptualization of the LXX as the Christian Old Testament is scarcely open to controversy. Not only did Christians inherit and transmit the LXX, but, as well, both the Cambridge and the Göttingen editions bespeak, a patently Christian context. Thus the former speaks of “The Old Testament in Greek” and the latter subtitles the Septuagint as “Vetus Testamentum Graecum.” Between these two editions, however, a great gulf is fixed. Whereas the Cambridge LXX is a diplomatic edition, that is to say, a given Christian manuscript functions as the lemma text to which all other witnesses are collated, the Göttingen LXX, on the other hand, is a critical edition, in other words, a text critically recovered and reconstructed, as closely as possible to its pristine originality both in terms of its text-form and its text-semantics. To label this critically reconstructed, Jewish, text “The Old Testament” or “Vetus Testamentum” creates a methodological contradiction between title and contents. One might well ask how this text of pre-Christian Jewry can, in one and the same breath, also be spoken of as the Old Testament of Christianity or, for that matter, the Bible of Alexandrian Judaism. The answer is that it cannot possibly be so designated. In short, while Christianity re-conceptualized the LXX as its Old Testament at some point in its reception history, it cannot possibly lay claim to the event of its production.

A cursory look at Alfred Rahlfs’s Psalmi cum Odis (1932), the first volume in the Göttingen editio maior, may be instructive. That Rahlfs took the first and very courageous step to create a critical edition of a Septuagint book (against the pessimistic assessment of Brooke-McLean [1917], invoking insufficient evidence) and thus effectively launched the Göttingen text-critical enterprise will forever redound to his credit, despite the fact that his critical text was made to include not only the Odes (a patently Christian collection) but also bracketed items of admittedly dubious, and at times Christian, originality (cf. e.g. Psalm 13). Although one may sympathize with Rahlfs’s attempt at forging a compromise of sorts, he clearly failed to make systemic space for the text he critically delineated and re-introduced. In other words, what he should have done was to make an axiomatic distinction between this new, critically reconstructed, Jewish, text, on the one hand, and, on the other, the traditional perception of the Septuagint as the Vetus Testamentum of the Church. Unfortunately, not only was this confusion of texts perpetuated in the Göttingen Septuaginta but as well in modern translations — with the exception of NETS. Thus we have: Septuaginta deutsch, das griechische Alte Testament in deutscher Übersetzung, La Bible d’Alexandrie, La Bibbia dei Settanta, and La Biblia Griega. Therefore, according to their titles, all four profess themselves to be translations, not of the LXX as-produced but of the LXX as-received, an exemplar of reception history. Moreover, this confusion of texts exists irrespective of whether one holds that a translation of a sacred text automatically produces a sacred text or that a translation cannot possibly occupy the same systemic space as its source. What remains in either case is historical order and logical priority. Typically the confusion of texts takes the form of superimposing the text-as-received on the text-as-produced, i.e. treating the latter as though it were a freestanding entity. On the above see also, Pietersma, “Codex Sinaiticus and the Book of Psalms,” in Codex Sinaiticus: New Perspectives on the Ancient Biblical Manuscript (eds. Scot McKendrick, David Parker, Amy Myshrall and Cillian O’Hogan, The British Library and Hendrickson Publishers, 2010), 41–49.

So, yes, I do see at least one (large) underworked area and a central topic in need of further research: the hermeneutics of the Septuagint qua translation, in distinction from the Septuagint qua text, i.e. the Septuagint as an entity directly dependent on its source in distinction from the Septuagint as an independent entity, cut loose from its historical moorings and thus parallel to its erstwhile source. Moreover, not only is NETS based on the distinction of these two texts, but so is SBLCS (see here and here).

6) What current projects in Septuagint are you working on, if any?

While I have effectively put myself out to pasture academically, together with Cameron Boyd-Taylor and Ben Wright I am working on a second edition of NETS, which is currently under advisement by Oxford University Press. NETS was published in 2007, reprinted with corrections in 2009, and again reprinted in 2014. This time, however, corrections were made instead to the digital text online. The aim of the editors is to subject NETS to a comprehensive review in light of its guidelines as well as feedback from its readers we have received over the years.

Furthermore, for four books (1 Supplements, Routh, Ecclesiast and 4 Makkabees) new critical editions have either appeared or are pending. As work on the Society of Biblical Literature Commentary on the Septuagint (SBLCS) proceeds, feedback from commentators is anticipated. Not surprisingly, sometimes what seemed a good rendering when translating, proves to be less good when writing a commentary. I empathize! Further improvements are under advisement by the editors.

7) What is the future of Septuagint studies?

Increased interest, better tools, and bright young scholars should spell a bright future. Yet I am troubled by the fact that Septuagint Studies seems to be a discipline that continues to be divided against itself. Labels like “minimalist” and “maximalist” as applied to the interpretation of the Septuagint point to a deeper ambivalence or schizophrenia about just which Septuagint is at issue. First to be answered is that very question. As I see it, in principle we can speak of only two Septuagints, (1) the Septuagint-as-produced, a patently Jewish production, and (2) the Septuagint-as-received, accepted at some point in its reception history as the Vetus Testamentum of the Christian Church. (For another instance of the text-as-received cf. Letter of Aristeas §311.)

For our discipline to flourish and grow, the methodological contradiction at its core must be resolved.

Wrapping Up

There is a lot to glean from this interview, and from Dr. Pietersma’s expertise in the discipline. I hope this will serve readers well by providing food for thought, and encouragement to look more deeply into the issues mentioned.

2017 Septuagint Summer Course at Trinity Western University

Another great opportunity has arisen for those interested in the Septuagint as a student. As in previous years, (see here and here), there will be a week-long seminar in Septuagint studies held at Trinity Western University’s John William Wevers Institute for Septuagint Studies, near Vancouver, B.C. I have done this twice now and found it very useful. This year the seminar will be taught by Dr. Robert Hiebert (see interview here).

As I have mentioned before, the Wevers Institute is the only place in North America where a full-fledged Septuagint degree is offered, as both a Master of Theological Studies and the shorter Master of Theology. If you are interested in LXX studies, you should definitely look into this program. The Wevers Institute also benefits from several excellent scholars, not only including Robert Hiebert (director and this year’s instructor), but also Drs. Larry Perkins and Dirk Büchner, each of whom are working on Pentateuchal commentaries in the SBLCS.

Seminar Details

The seminar will be 3 credit hours and is entitled Exploring Septuagint Origins and Texts, and the provisional texts include  taken from Aristeas, Genesis, Exodus, Psalms, 2 Reigns, Daniel, Esther, Proverbs, and 4 Maccabees. The seminar will be held from May 8–12 of this year. The Vancouver area is a beautiful region that you won’t regret visiting. But if you can’t swing the trip, the Wevers Institute is also offering live-streamed video sessions. The course description from Robert Hiebert is as follows:

“The basic plan of the course is to start by reading the Letter of Aristeas (all of it in English, parts of it in Greek), which presents a second century BCE story regarding the translation of the Septuagint (among other things) and to consider how that story squares with the nature of the translation products that we now have in that corpus. Thereafter we will read selections from the Septuagint, parts of it in Greek and parts in English, to get a sense of the different parts of the translated corpus as well as some of it that was written in Greek from the outset rather than translated from the Hebrew. Finally, there will also be a component that involves working with an important Psalter papyrus text (Papyrus Bodmer XXIV) that will include transcribing a column of text (from a high resolution digital image) and doing some reading on what is involved in papyrological study.”

If you’re interested, email acts@twu.ca. Check out the poster below for more details:

 

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; manuscripts 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.