International LXX Day: An Interview with Dr. Natalio Fernández-Marcos

That widely celebrated occasion is upon us again: Happy 11th International Septuagint Day! As I have in the past, I encourage you to take up your well-worn edition of the Greek Old Testament and read a bit today in recognition of this joyful day.

If you are unfortunate enough to be uninformed about International Septuagint Day, fear not. I have written about it before, which you can read here:

ISD 2016    |    ISD 2015    |    ISD 2014

Celebrating with an Interview

As I did in 2015, today I will celebrate by posting an interview with a scholar in the discipline. This is now my tenth LXX Scholar Interview, and there are lots more in the pipeline. Today we have the pleasure of hearing from Dr. Natalio Fernández Marcos, who is part of the Consejo Superior de Investigaciones Científicas (CSIC) in Madrid. If you have read this blog in the past and his name seems familiar, that is because I have featured the recent Spanish translation of the Septuagint, La Biblia Griega (see here and here).

You may also recognize Dr. Fernández Marcos’s name from the recent interview I posted with one of his students, José Manuel Cañas Reíllo. Let’s hear from Dr. Fernández Marcos.

The Interview

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

After completing my academic studies and doctoral dissertation in the Complutensian University of Madrid, I started working in a research project called Biblia Polyglotta Matritensia, developed in the Consejo Superior de Investigaciones Científicas (CSIC) in conjunction with the universities of Madrid and Barcelona. As a graduate in Classics from the University of Salamanca and in Trilingual Biblical Philology from the University of Madrid, I was appointed to edit a text of the Septuagint for this project. I was introduced to the Septuagint by Manuel Fernández-Galiano, Professor of Classics in the University of Madrid, who was then publishing the editio princeps of some pages of Papyrus 967.[1]

In 1971 I landed in Göttingen with a grant of the Deutsche Akademische Austauschdienst (DAAD) to work in the Septuaginta-Unternehmen under the direction of Prof. Dr. Robert Hanhart. Spain had no recent tradition in Biblical philology, but I was aware of our brilliant tradition in the 16th century. Spanish Humanism had produced the first two Polyglot Bibles, that of Alcalá (1514-1517), and the Antwerp Polyglot (1569-1573).

Given the progress of the series maior of the Septuaginta-Unternehmen in Göttingen, I soon understood that there was no reason to repeat the excellent work done at Göttingen, and no way to compete with such a prestigious undertaking. Consequently I decided, on the advice of Hanhart, Wevers and Barthélemy, to edit, not the Old Greek or the Ur-Septuaginta, but instead a recension, a stage of the text history. The stimulus for this came from an influential article published in 1970 by S. P. Brock,[2] which concluded with the following sentence

“… many scholars would like to see an edition of the LXX as current, say, in fourth century Antioch, to give but one example that might actually be feasible”.

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

Consequently, in order to prepare the Antiochene edition of the Greek Bible, we started with Theodoret’s critical edition of his Quaestiones in Octateuchum (Madrid 1979) and his Quaestiones in Reges et Paralipomena (Madrid 1984). Theodoret was the best witness to the Antiochene text, and we needed a sound criterium to isolate and identify the Antiochene Recension. The lack of critical editions of the Fathers was one of the main obstacles to restore critically the Antiochene text of the Septuagint.

Since there was no Antiochene Recension in the Octateuch (a conclusion shared by Wevers after his edition of the Pentateuch in Göttingen, and by us, after the edition of Theodoret’s Questions to the Octateuch), I decided to edit the Antiochene text in the historical books, where it was clearly defined with a set of peculiar characteristics.
After collation and study of all the Antiochene witnesses, manuscripts, Josephus, and the Vetus Latina, Armenian version and Patristic quotations, we were able to edit in three volumes The Antiochene Text of the Greek Bible for the Historical Books (1-2 Samuel, Madrid 1989; 1-2 Kings, Madrid 1992; 1-2 Chronicles, Madrid 1996). The critical edition was followed by a Greek-Hebrew Index of the Antiochene Text in the Historical Books, in two volumes: I, General Index and II, Index of proper names, Madrid 2005 (see here).

Parallel to this editorial work I published in 1979 my Introducción a las versiones griegas de la Biblia, Madrid CSIC; 2nd edition revised and augmented in 1998. This second edition was translated into English (Brill 2000 and SBL 2009 – see here) and into Italian (2000). I also edited the Proceedings of the Vth Congress of the IOSCS held in Salamanca (1983) with the title La Septuaginta en la investigación contemporánea (Madrid, CSIC 1985).

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

The direction of the research project “Edition of Biblical and Para-Biblical Texts (Biblia Polyglotta Matritensia)” consumed most of my academic time. In the CSIC we are mainly dedicated to research and we offer only sporadically courses for postgraduates in connection with our field of specialization.

In 1991 and 1992 I was invited to give the Grinfield Lectures at the University of Oxford. The revised version of these Lectures was published by Brill in the Supplements to Vetus Testamentum with the title Scribes and Translators: Septuagint and Old Latin in the Books of Kings (Leiden 1994). In 2008 I was appointed to give the Jeremie Lecture at the University of Cambridge. I also published La Biblia griega de judíos y cristianos (Salamanca, Sígueme 2008; 2nd edition 2014 [first edition translated into Italian in 2010]).

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

I would say that the Septuagint studies have experienced a kind of revolution or “democratization”. When I started studying, it was a field limited to a few specialists. At this moment it is a consolidated field within the Biblical studies in constant expansion. In this process I think that the LXX.D project has played an important role not only for Septuagint studies in Germany but also in other countries. Besides, the publication of the Qumran documents has contributed to put the Septuagint in the forefront of research, since the history of Biblical text has to be completely re-written after the new evidence of Qumran and Septuagint (new editions, new papyri, etc.).

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?

Underworked are most of the areas of Septuagint, from the critical editions to the reception, lexicography, grammar, syntax… Deissmann compared at the beginning of the 20th century the language of the New Testament with the language of the papyri. But nobody has continued systematically his work. Since then, a lot of new evidence has been published along the 20th century in the field of the Septuagint and in the area of new papyri. I feel the need of a new program of comparison of the language of the Septuagint in the light of new papyri and inscriptions, with the aim to set the language of the LXX in the context of the history of the Greek language in general, especially of the Greek in the Greco-Roman period. There is also a need for a study of the Septuagint as a literary work of his own.

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

We have just finished the new translation of the Septuagint into Spanish (La Biblia griega. Septuaginta, I-IV, Salamanca, Ediciones Sígueme 2008-2015). At the moment we are revising the first volume on the Pentateuch for the second edition, since the first is out of print. Thereafter we will revise the rest of volumes that will continue to be edited as academic edition. Subsequently, we will revise the four volumes in order to publish them in a single volume manual edition with the whole Septuagint into Spanish and directed to a different audience.

7) What is the future of Septuagint studies?

Although the Septuagint still is not consolidated as discipline in our universities, our students of Classics are more and more interested in the Greek Bible and the history of the Greek Language in late Antiquity. As the Qumran documents have demonstrated, the importance of the Septuagint for the history of the biblical text is becoming fundamental, and no less the indispensable use of the Septuagint for text criticism and literary criticism.

Wrapping Up

I am extremely grateful to Dr. Fernández Marcos for his time, and more so for his excellent work in Septuagint studies. Stay tuned for further interviews with experts who have shaped the discipline.


[1] M. Fernández-Galiano, “Nuevas páginas del Códice 967 del A. T. griego (Ez 28,19-43,9) [PMatr. bibl. 1].” Studia Papyrologica 10 (1971): 7-76.

[2] S. P. Brock, “Origen’s aim as a Textual Critic of the Old Testament”, Studia Patristica = TU 107, Berlin 1970, 215-218.

Announcement: The Tyndale House Workshop in Greek Prepositions

Tyndale House Workshop in Greek Prepositions

djr_0085_17212375711_oI am pleased to announce an event that will bring together experts in a variety of disciplines in order to tackle an age-old problem with new theoretical approaches. This summer those pesky Greek prepositions are getting a lexicographical makeover at a two day “workshop” in Cambridge, England. The event is called:

The Tyndale House Workshop in Greek Lexicography: Cognitive Linguistic Approaches to Lexicography and Theology

This event will take place from 30 June-1 July 2017 at Tyndale House, Cambridge, the biblical studies research library par excellence. Although it is a fairly brief event, this workshop is structured to offer the maximum punch to advance the state of the question in the semantics of Greek prepositions. And, as is evident from the tagline, cognitive linguistics is central to our approach.

The Back Story

Last June I found myself in the small, bible-software-saturated city of Bellingham, Washington, shortly after finishing up a seminar in Septuagint studies at Trinity Western University. The idea for this preposition workshop began to take shape during this visit – naturally, over some delicious local brews. I sat down with Steve Runge, Rick Brannen, and Mike and Rachel Aubrey to discuss collaborating on a longer-term project applying newer linguistic theories to challenges within traditional approaches to Greek grammar.

This workshop will focus on prepositions and is the first in what we hope will be a series of similar events that will subsequently deal with connectives and particles. It remains to be seen whether and how that plays out, but at the moment Steve and I are teaming up to organize a top-notch preposition workshop and then
making the proceedings available in published form.

In case you are wondering: Yes, this workshop is intentionally designed to replicate the Linguistics and the Greek Verb conference held at Tyndale House in July of 2015 (see here). That model of highly-focused and interdisciplinary analysis of a single – albeit multifaceted – issue in Greek proved very effective. It was the genesis for the very well-received volume The Greek Verb Revisited (Lexham, 2016 [Amazon]), edited by Chris Fresch and Steve Runge.

Issues with Greek Prepositions: A Cognitive Answer

What’s wrong with Greek prepositions? Well, nothing.

But scholars have long been aware that they are exceptionally difficult to pin down. And for that reason they often play a pivotal (if seemingly subtle) role in biblical interpretation and theology. [1] Ignore for now the question about what actually counts as a preposition, versus the so-called “improper” prepositions like ἐπάνω that do not prefix to verbs. djr_0242_17025394410_oThe “traditional” Greek prepositions have been enough to constantly challenge biblical lexicographers and exegetes alike as they seek to properly understand them (pardon the pun).

The problem is a semantic one. First of all, what is the best approach to describing the meaning of Greek prepositions given the variety of functions they serve in the Koine period? Second, to what extent are Greek prepositions polysemous and (where necessary) how can we correctly determine the number and boundaries of the senses? Third, by what means can our semantic description of Greek prepositions accurately and accessibly present relevant information in English (i.e., in a lexicon entry)?

These and other questions are largely theoretical in nature. So a central goal of this workshop is to bring the insights of general linguistics – and specifically cognitive linguistics – to bear upon the study of Greek. Unlike other theories, cognitive linguistics approaches polysemy using a structured model known as prototype theory. This reformulates the notion of a single “core” or “basic” meaning, and instead attempts to provide a motivated account of the various senses of a word in terms of a “radial network.” An important assumption of this approach is that meaning is conceptual and embodied. Human experience of the physical world informs the conceptual structure on which linguistic meaning is built. In this account, more basic shemas like DIRECTION are mapped onto more abstract concepts like PURPOSE or RECIPIENT.


A radial network for the English preposition “over.”*

Judging by the often comically long entries for prepositions in Greek lexicons, you might think that these words are so polysemous that it’s barely worth the effort to understand them. (I’ve often felt this way about German prepositions.) But very often, huge lexicon entries are the inevitable consequence of non-isometric semantic overlap between Greek and English. This requires traditional lexicographers to use a wide array of English prepositions – whose meanings do not everywhere overlap with the Greek preposition under discussion – to gloss the various meanings where they ostensibly do overlap.

Thankfully, combining cognitive linguistics and prototype theory can provide a principled and organized account of prepositional semantics without falling into this polysemy fallacy. Doing so, in turn, can help us understand and translate the New Testament (and Septuagint) texts, and fashion better lexicon entries for these words for non-specialists.[2]

Two Relevant Monographs

We will not be the first to attempt to apply cognitive linguistics to the study of Greek prepositions. At least two others have done so in the last fifteen years:

  1. Bortone, Pietro. Greek Prepositions from Antiquity to the Present. Oxford University Press, 2010 (Amazon)
  2. Luraghi, Silvia. On the Meaning of Prepositions and Cases: Semantic Roles in Ancient Greek. Studies in language companion series 67; John Benjamins, 2003 (Amazon)

These books have been deftly reviewed and compared by Mike Aubrey in several posts (start here). If you’re new to this conversation, I highly recommend reading these.

The Details of the Workshop


Steve Runge and I are motivated to make the complicated accessible, and to bring the best of linguistic theory into the service of biblical studies. So we have tried to invite the best on all sides of this cross-disciplinary topic. We are looking forward to participation by two cognitive linguists, two Classical Greek lexicographers, and several biblical scholars. Because of our tight topic and event time frame, we are not issuing a call for papers. But we want to facilitate participation, which is why we have done our best to make this event very affordable, with only a £50 registration fee.

So if you want to know more, or are convinced enough already, head over to our website:

At the moment the event registration is not open. But you can sign up at the right to be notified by email as soon as it is.

And finally: spread the word! You can download a flyer to share here.


[1] For a recent exploration of just one relevant topic, see Con Campbell’s Paul and Union with Christ (Zondervan, 2012 [Amazon]), which explores the theological implications of the phrase ἐν Χριστῷ (interview here). Also see Campbell’s essay in ‘In Christ’ in Paul: Explorations in Paul’s Theology of Union and Participation (eds. M. Thate, C. Campbell, and K. Vanhoozer; Mohr Siebeck 2014 [Amazon]).

[2] But wouldn’t this mean the same problems and solutions would apply to Biblical Hebrew, you ask? Yes indeed. All good things in time.

* Claudia Brugman and George Lakoff, “Radial network,” in D. Geeraerts, D., ed., Cognitive Linguistics: Basic Readings. Berlin: DeGruyter, 2006, p. 129.

Photo credit Doug Robar

LXX Summer School in Salzburg

This summer from 3 – 7 July a summer school will be held at the Faculty of Theology at the Universität Salzburg in Austria. The course will be a fantastic opportunity if you are interested in Septuagint studies, and is entitled

On Biblical Manuscripts and Their Use in Biblical Studies. The Hebrew and Greek Texts of Esther

Because this course will focus on manuscripts in both Hebrew and Greek, it should be very appealing even if you are primarily interested in textual studies of the Hebrew Bible, rather than the Septuagint. Plus, you might be able to get course credits for it.

Don’t Pass it Up

I have brought this up several times in the past, but graduate courses focused upon Septuagint studies are unfortunately quite rare, making it very difficult for interested students to get oriented to the discipline by means of direct instruction. These are rarer still if you only count courses taught by scholars who themselves were trained in the discipline and are currently active in the guild. Personally, I’m thrilled to see this opportunity at the Universität Salzburg and hope they continue to offer it annually.

Aside: Two other courses like this happen occasionally, one at Trinity Western University’s John William Wevers Institute for Septuagint Studies (see here) and another at the Septuaginta-Unternehmen at the Universität Göttingen (see here).

This summer school will be taught by Dr. Kristin De Troyer. Not only is Dr Troyer a very well respected scholar in the Septuagint community, she is also a recognized textual critic who specializes in the Historical Books. So she will make a sure guide for this interesting and intricate subject matter.

Scholars have long recognized the complexity of the textual history of Esther. In almost every verse of the book the Hebrew and Greek texts differ by a word, a clause, or even whole phrases. And it is unclear whether this is the result of a different Vorlage (the Hebrew source text translated), a translator taking liberties (the Greek of Esther is fairly expansive), or the result of textual transmission and revision in Greek. Plus there is the major issue of the so-called “Additions to Esther.” These constitute six long portions (labelled as Sections A-F) of over a hundred verses of text that do not appear in the Masoretic Text (MT), nearly doubling the length of the book.

Just as intriguing to Septuagint scholars, the book of Esther was translated into fairly idiomatic Greek with a style not strictly adherent to the Hebrew syntax of the MT. In other words, Esther was translated into conventional Greek with relatively less concern to mimic the underlying grammatical structure than many other books in the Greek Old Testament. Along these lines, the two royal edicts in Additions B and E constitute some of the most literary Greek found in the Septuagint. There is still uncertainty with regard to whether these (and the other) Additions constitute original Greek compositions, or rather preserve a translation of a now-lost Hebrew text. Moreover, LXX-Esther has a rich array of vocabulary and apparent neologisms awaiting fresh study.

If you are intrigued by Septuagint scholarship – plus good chocolate and hiking for that matter – then you should give serious consideration to applying for this course.

Course Flyer