New Article in Biblica

A new article of mine has been published in the first fascicle of Biblica 98.1 (2017): 25-36. It’s an honor to have some of my work included in this journal, which has been publishing material on all aspects of biblical studies since 1920 through the Pontifical Biblical Institute in Rome.

The article is called “Style and Familiarity in Judges 19,7 (Old Greek): Establishing Dependence within the Septuagint,” and it was a result of some of my research in the book of Judges. My dissertation is focused on the language of the Septuagint from a lexical semantic viewpoint, and evaluates a few case studies of systematic vocabulary change over the course of the textual history of the book in Greek. As I was working through one particular issue, I came across a striking phrase in chapter 19:

Μηδαμῶς, ἀδελφοί, μὴ πονηρεύεσθε (19:23)
Certainly not, brothers, you must not do evil!

Now, if you open up your copy of Rahlfs-Hanhart, you won’t see this phrase, but something else. In fact, you will see two different options, since when he compiled his Septuagint, Rahlfs believed the Alexandrinus and Vaticanus codices contained irreconcilable versions of Greek Judges, and thus included both (with various other witnesses) in his edition with the understanding that they reflected two separate original translations. Scholarly opinion is now almost completely contrary to to this view, and a particular group of witnesses is thought to represent the original translation (or “Old Greek”) with fair reliability. What you see above is my reconstruction of the OG using those witnesses.

I digress. When I read this text, it reminded me of the very similar narrative in Genesis 19, when Lot unwittingly hosts divine messengers and protects them from the wicked “men of the city” (Sodom). The intertextual influence between Genesis and Judges – likely deliberate on the part of the author of Judges – is very well acknowledged. And there is evidence that biblical interpreters as far back as the Early Church were aware of the parallels. So I began to wonder whether even the OG translator of Judges might have been aware of this as well, and possibly been familiar enough with the Greek translation of Genesis to be influenced by it in his translation of the Judges pericope.

The short answer is “apparently, yes.”

The longer answer is … you guessed it: in the article. I can’t post it here, but if you are interested I am permitted to distribute copies personally, so email me. In short, what I do in this article is establish four criteria for determining that a Septuagint translator knew and was influenced by a Greek translation done chronologically earlier of another text. This may sound fairly straightforward, but it’s actually something of a mind-bender (at least if you’re being cautious and evidence-based), particularly because it is difficult to say for certain whether influence on a later translator comes from another text in Greek or Hebrew. Hence the need for criteria.

I believe that is precisely what happened when the OG translator of Judges set out to render chapter 19 into Greek. He not only knew the parallel narrative in Genesis 19, but he knew it in Greek, and he knew it well enough that when it came to the climactic moment in the narrative, he chose to put the exact words of Lot (Gen. 19) into the mouth of the old man in Gibeah (Judg 19). In part this interesting because it shows that the OG translators were not robots incapable of doing anything but mechanically represent their Hebrew Vorlagen into pseudo-Greek code. There were literary influences involved in their decisions and use of the language that took advantage of more stylistic elements in conventional Greek.

Here’s the abstract:

This article develops and applies criteria to determine intentional, inner-Greek dependence in the Septuagint, using the parallel narratives in Genesis 19 and Judges 19 as an example. The OG translator of Judges is familiar with and imitates a Greek rendering from OG Genesis 19,7 at the point where the narratives converge. The Genesis translator demonstrates both his occasional preference for Greek idiom over word-for-word translation, as well as competency in Greek style. In turn, the Judges translator demonstrates how the language of the Greek Pentateuch occasionally exerts greater influence than that of his Hebrew Vorlage.


N.B. In a final draft I had changed each instance of the word “tone” in the article to “modality” to be more linguistically accurate. Unfortunately, only the first instance of “tone” was changed in the published version, so please read “modality” wherever “tone” remains.

Article Contribution to SBL Volume

I was glad to finally receive proofs last week of a piece I wrote nearly three years ago. Over the summer of 2013 I conducted research for a paper that I presented in Munich at the triennial IOSOT congress, in the IOSCS Section. This work was aimed at preparing myself for the sort of research I am currently involved in with my dissertation, namely Septuagint lexicography and the textual history of the book of Judges. You can read a bit about my preparations and reflections on the congress if you want.

The paper, which is entitled “Lexical Possibilities in Septuagint Research: Revision and Expansion,” picks up the lexicographical torch from John A. L. Lee’s dissertation by reinvestigating Koine documentary evidence contemporary with the translation of the Septuagint (~3rd c. BCE – 1st c. CE) for occurrances of ὁράω and βλέπω. Lee found a semantic shift and replacement between the former and latter in his own work, and I basically set out to find new instances of the words in the evidence since Lee to see if his conclusions hold up. Spoiler: they do.

Here’s the paper abstract:

This paper reviews the findings of John A. L. Lee regarding historical linguistic investigation of Koine Greek documentary evidence in his published dissertation. With the passage of over three decades since Lee’s work, much more papyrological and inscriptional evidence has surfaced. Moreover, a significant amount of the data is now digitized and searchable. Therefore, this paper begins to pursue the course set out by Lee himself in the introduction to the published version of his dissertation where he suggests it could surely “benefit from revision or expansion” in light of new data. To do so, here the digital databases of documentary evidence are investigated for occurrences of ὁράω and βλέπω that are additional to those found by Lee. After assessing the use of the two words in new evidence, a “revision” of Lee’s conclusions is offered. Even in light of new data, Lee’s conclusions prove remarkably accurate, suggesting the potential of his methodology for further application and even “expansion.” Accordingly, this paper also discusses the difficulties inherent in documentary evidence research and possible ways forward, with particular attention to the double text of LXX-Judges.

Me right between some schnitzel and a stein of Munich’s finest

If you’re really interested, you can read the paper on Seeing as I just got proofs this week, it will hopefully be published before the SBL conference in November. It will appear in XV Congress of the International Organization for Septuagint and Cognate Studies (IOSCS), Munich, 2013. Edited by Wolfgang Kraus, Martin Meiser, and Michaël van der Meer. SBLSCS 64. Atlanta, Ga., SBL Press, 2016.