Translation Technique

LXX Scholar Interview: Dr. W. Edward Glenny

It has become one of my favorite tasks for this site to put together a post for my Septuagint Scholar Interview series. It’s always a pleasure to learn more about others who have been active in the field for some time. We are now on the fourth installment, and if you pop over to the interview page using that link up there, you’ll see that I have a few others lined up that should be interesting reading.

Dr. W. Edward Glenny

Dr. W. Edward Glenny

But today we have a great interview with a real, live Septuagint scholar, Dr. W. Edward Glenny. I met Ed several years ago at an IOSCS session at the SBL national meeting, and we have gotten to know each other through that venue ever since. Ed and his wife also spent several months at Tyndale House, Cambridge, where I conduct my research, so he has become a good friend. He is also a fellow member of the steering committee for the brand new Septuagint Studies session at the annual ETS national conference.

For the past four years Ed has been the endowed professor of New Testament Studies and Greek at the University of Northwestern, St. Paul. He is one of those rare breeds that holds not one, but two doctoral degrees, both Th.D. from Dallas Theological Seminary and Ph.D. from the University of Minnesota (as you’ll read about below). As you can see by flipping over to his faculty page, Ed has a long list of academic publications, many of which are related to the Septuagint, especially his focus area, the Twelve.

The Interview

Without further delays, let’s hear from Ed.

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

My first contact with the LXX was through a class on the LXX with Allen Ross during my doctoral program at Dallas Seminary. I audited the course with Dr. Ross, and it was partly because of that course that I wanted to write a dissertation on the use of the OT in the NT for my doctoral program at Dallas. I began to use the LXX in my dissertation at Dallas on the use of the OT in 1 Peter. After I finished that project I felt like I wanted to learn more and improve my language skills further, so I enrolled in a graduate program in classics at the University of Minnesota. I majored in Greek, and my second ancient language was Hebrew. So, with my emphasis on those two languages the LXX was a natural topic for my dissertation at Minnesota, and I wrote on the translation technique in LXX-Amos. That dissertation was published in Brill’s Supplement to Vetus Testamentum series (Finding Meaning in the Text: Translation Technique and Theology in the Septuagint of Amos), and it was really my entry into LXX studies. I was able to spend time at Tyndale House at Cambridge University while I was researching and writing my dissertation on the LXX, and Robert Gordon and some of his students who were working in the LXX were a great encouragement and help to me in my work.

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

I have presented papers in the IOSCS section at the annual SBL meetings, and I have also presented at the triennial international meetings of the IOSCS. I have also had the privilege to write several book reviews, articles, and books on the LXX. In addition to my dissertation I have published three commentaries in Brill’s Septuagint Commentary series, the commentaries on Hosea, Amos, and Micah. Among other articles, I contributed the article on the Introduction to the Twelve in the LXX in Brill’s forthcoming work The Textual History of the Bible. In the days ahead I am looking forward to writing several other volumes for Brill’s Septuagint Commentary series, as well as a handbook on the LXX of Amos for Baylor University Press.

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

I think that I can give a general answer to this question. The field is becoming more sophisticated and complex, and scholars continue to build on the work of previous generations and go to greater levels of depth in the study of the LXX text. Continued study has resulted in more comparison of the LXX with other contemporary literature and with more detailed studies of the Septuagint itself.

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? I think that the area of translation technique is one of the most important areas of research that will continue to provide opportunities for work in the LXX for years to come. This is because the study of translation technique is wide-ranging and complex and can be applied to a LXX text in many different ways.

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

My main LXX project right now is a review of the T&T Clark Companion to the Septuagint, edited by James K. Aitken. I published a commentary on LXX-Micah in early 2015, and now my main project is a New Testament commentary (1 Peter). But as I mentioned above I am looking forward to working in earnest on the LXX again in a year or so.

7) What is the future of Septuagint studies?

The future of Septuagint studies is very bright! There are many young scholars working in this area, and previous generations of scholars have provided them with some excellent tools to use in their studies and more LXX resources and studies are being published every year. I anticipate that the field will continue to grow and flourish.

Wrapping Up

Thanks to Ed for being willing to answer these questions! As I mentioned, stay tuned for further interviews in the near future. If you have a suggestion for a later interviewee, or a question you’d like to see added, please let me know in the comments.

New Article on Old Testament Textual Criticism in ZAW

Today I wanted to focus on something that I mentioned back in my Spring Update post quite a while back. (If you’ve published in academic journals then you know how long it can take for these things to finally surface in print.) I am pleased to have had an article accepted in Zeitschrift für die alttestamentliche Wissenschaft, or simply ZAW for those less inclined to pronounce long German phrases. The journal is published quarterly, and my piece will be in the upcoming September issue (127/3). According to their website, ZAW “has been the leading international and interconfessional periodical in the field of research in the Old Testament and Early Judaism for over one hundred years.” Needless to say, it is an honor to have my own work included in this journal.

The Main Points of Argument

My article is entitled “Text-Critical Question Begging in Nahum 1,2-8: Re-evaluating the Evidence and Arguments.” In it, I examine the text of Nahum 1, where many scholars have drawn attention to what is almost an acrostic (in the Hebrew text). There are a few letters missing, namely daleth, zayin, and yod lines, and so it is fairly common in critical commentaries for scholars to suggest various ways of emending the Hebrew text in order to “restore” the acrostic to its supposed proto-form. While this may sound somewhat reasonable, this near acrostic is also, admittedly, a partial acrostic. This means that it only spans part of the alphabet (just the first half) even in its theoretical “original” form. In my view, that makes the whole assumption that it is, in fact, supposed to be an acrostic, much more speculative and therefore suspect.

So what I do is examine each of the three places where there is a “wrong” letter and where emendations are usually proposed. I summarize common arguments for altering the Hebrew text in a way that “restores” the acrostic. For the most part these must build on versional information (mainly the Septuagint, but also Latin and the Peshitta), since there are no proper variants in the extant Hebrew manuscript tradition. Then, I examine the text of the acrostic in the Old Greek version of Nahum (Zeigler’s text) to evaluate the translation technique that characterizes that unit of the book (1:2-8). I show that the divergences in the Greek version from the Hebrew MT are better accounted for as features resulting from the process of translation rather than a different Vorlage, namely one that contained the theoretical “acrostic.” Finally, I martial the results of other scholars’ studies conducted in the LXX-Twelve Prophets, which is thought to have been translated by a single individual, to demonstrate how their characterization of the translation technique of the entire Twelve further corroborates the translational and textual trends present in LXX-Nahum 1:2-8 (and therefore my argument against a different Hebrew Vorlage).

Why Bother?

I don’t see any acrostic on that scroll, do you?

In the end, the “payoff” of my paper is to seriously challenge what has become a tradition of messing with the Masoretic text of the Hebrew Bible unnecessarily. While it is certainly true that the MT does occasionally need emending (based as it is upon a 10th century codex), making the decision to actually alter the Hebrew text is one that must be preceded by much careful investigation, constantly reevaluated in light of further textual evidence. One of the reasons for my interest in Septuagint studies stems from my concern for the Hebrew text of Scripture. When examined from a text-critical standpoint, scholars of the Hebrew Bible must reckon with the Septuagint. Yet so often this does not happen, or does not happen very convincingly because of the technical nature of many aspects of Septuagint scholarship. (Hence, in part, this blog!)

When it comes to the so-called “acrostic” of Nahum 1:2-8, I find it much more interesting and exegetically rewarding to reckon with the possible reasons that the text is, in fact, nearly an acrostic … but not quite. I believe Tremper Longman’s view is fairly satisfactory here as he takes a literary critical approach: in the context, the judgement and wrath of the Lord brings upheaval upon all of creation to such a massive extent that even the very text involved in describing it is jarred and disrupted.* To me this approach to the text of Nahum 1 rightly expects much of the literary capabilities of biblical authors, and of the competence and meticulousness of later scribes.

Unfortunately, I can’t distribute the article itself in PDF form. But you can find it shortly in the forthcoming ZAW.

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*Tremper Longman, “Nahum,” in The Minor Prophets: An Exegetical and Expository Commentary, ed. Thomas E. McComiskey (Grand Rapids: Baker Academic, 2009): 765–830.

LXX Translations Part III: La Biblia Griega

It is time for an overview of the third major modern translation of the Septuagint. If you haven’t been following along, I have been working on a multi-part series detailing the differences between  four recent or ongoing translations of the Greek Bible. Thus far we have done two of the four: NETS, and BdA (Part I and Part II). In this post, we’re going to move on to the Spanish translation, La Biblia Griega, or LBG.

This scholarly endeavor is published by Ediciones Sígueme in Salamanca under the directorship of eminent scholars Natalio Fernández Marcos and María Victoria Spottorno. The translation team is made up of ten to twelve scholars operating through the Consejo Superior de Investigaciones Científicas (CSIC) in Madrid. There will be no fewer than four volumes in this series when it is completed, and possibly a Companion volume in due course as well, a hefty printed set that will rival the German translation endeavors – no small feat!

The Modern Spanish Version

There are three volumes that have come out so far

I. Pentateuco (2008)   |   II. Libros históricos (2011)   |   III. Libros poéticos y sapienciales (2013)

CaptureThe fourth volume, IV. Libros proféticos, is yet to be produced but hopefully will soon. You can also read the samples from Volume IVolume II, and Volume III, which include the full Prologue and General Introduction for each. These introductions are very useful, exceeding those of NETS and on par with the introductions in Septuaginta Deutsch in terms of quality in my opinion, although with less bibliography.

The best thing about these volumes, besides the high caliber scholarship involved, is the price for each, which ranges from €29-49. If you are working in a particular part of the LXX corpus, these are well worth having on your shelf at that price point. I have Volume II for my work in LXX-Judges, and can confirm that they are nicely bound hardback volumes.

The LBG Approach to Translation

The real mastermind behind LBG is N. Fernández Marcos, whose statements regarding the Septuagint give clues to what the general translation approach is. He says, “I consider the Septuagint as a Classic” in Greek literature, and points to Luke “who imitates and adapts the Septuagint just like Virgil imitates Homer and adapts his work to the new situation” (2008, 284). Nevertheless, he qualifies himself by stating that each book is a “regular literary unit but we cannot consider the whole Septuagint as a literary unit. It is a heterogeneous work, translated or created by different authors in different times in places” (ibid, 288).

With respect to the Historical Books in particular, Fernández Marcos makes some pointed observations regarding what he understands as the autonomous nature of the Greek version of the OT. Within this corpus alone a variety of changes occur only in the LXX, such as the reorganization of the books, the inclusion of new books or added parts that are missing in the Hebrew Bible (e.g. I-III Maccabees, the additions to Esther), the presence of double texts like Judges, and the appearance of exegetical features in the textual transmission of the Greek that “notably modify” the Hebrew for contemporary needs (2011, 11). He states that these new elements

ponen de relieve una vez más la riqueza y originalidad de la Biblia griega como obra literaria autónoma respecto de la Biblia hebrea … En otras palabras, los Profetas Anteriores de la Biblia hebrea no sólo han sido traducidos, sino también transformados y ampliados* (ibid, emphasis mine).

Apples and Oranges?

N. Fernández Marcos

I structured this series as I did for a reason. Setting forth the principles of NETS and BdA first provides a study in contrast; two ends of a spectrum, so to speak, of the modern translation projects in Septuagint studies. NETS and BdA stand in relief most drastically, with LBG and LXX.D falling somewhere between. Fernández Marcos points this out when he says

We have taken a middle road between the English and French projects with regard to the emphasis put on the source language or on the reception of the Septuagint. In this respect, our approach is closer to the German project (2008, 288).

Translation of the Greek with Hebrew Context

The translation they aim to produce in Spanish is one that is “faithful to the original Greek” rather than the underlying Hebrew,” since only with this procedure will the specific features of the Greek Bible emerge” (ibid). While the original Hebrew is consulted at times for context, LBG is rendered “from the Greek text which we have in front of us, not from the Hebrew text that is behind it” (ibid, 289). The goal of this process is so that a reader with no Greek knowledge can access the LXX in content, but also in form and style. Speaking of this translation process, Fernández Marcos points out in somewhat enigmatic but agreeable prose that “the modern translator needs not only to dominate the target language but also to display a certain amount of fantasy in order to find the appropriate expressions” (ibid, 289).

The LXX as Independent Scriptural Replacement

In this way, LBG translates the Septuagint as a literary, independent work at the level of the book. The LBG team does not understand the Septuagint to have been meant to replace the Hebrew Bible or serve as “an ancillary instrument, pace Pietersma [and the NETS team], to read the Hebrew” (ibid). They take it that the LXX was meant for Jews who could not read Hebrew. Putting their approach in nice contrast with both NETS and BdA, Fernández Marcos states that

Unlike NETS that emphasizes the aspects of the LXX as interlinear translation from the Hebrew, subservient to the source langauge and in which the Hebrew is the arbiter of the meaning, and unlike La Bible d’Alexandrie that considers the LXX as an independent work and puts the accent on the reception history, our translation views the LXX as a literary work that replaced the Hebrew Bible in the Jewish-Hellenistic world (ibid, 290).

The emphasis of LBG, then, falls on the meaning of the Greek text for the Jewish-Hellenistic community within their own cultural and linguistic world.

The Spectrum of Modern Translations

I hope that by now, even with these very brief overviews, the “spectrum” of translation approaches to the Septuagint is becoming clearer, which now looks something like this, with the horizontal axis signifying the degree to which the Septuagint is conceived of as independent from the Hebrew text:

NETS     –>     LBG     –>     BdA

I will flesh out this “spectrum” (which will probably become a chart somehow) in time with other posts. As I pointed out at the beginning of this series, translating the Septuagint into a modern language is bound up with all kinds of other assumptions about the Greek of the Septuagint and the purpose for which it was to serve (and did serve). As Fernández Marcos puts it quite proverbially: “We should bear in mind that translating a translation is not simply translation” (ibid, 288).

Stay tuned for a review of the German translation, Septuaginta Deutsch (LXX.D).

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*  … once again set in relief the richness and originality of the Greek Bible as an autonomous literary work with respect to the Hebrew Bible … In other words, the Former Prophets [Historical Books] of the Hebrew Bible are not only translated, but also transformed and amplified …

Natalio Fernández Marcos, “A New Spanish Translation of the Septuagint, ” pp. 283-91 in Translating a Translation, edited by H. Ausloos, J. Cook, F. García Martínez, B. Lemmelijn and M. Vervenne (Leuven: Peeters, 2008).

Fernández Marcos, Natalio, and María Victoria Spottorno Díaz-Caro, eds. La Biblia Griega Septuaginta. Vol. II. Libros Históricos. Biblioteca de Estudios Bíblicos 126. Salamanca: Ediciones Sígueme, 2011.