“Contemporary Translations of the Septuagint: Problems and Perspectives”

Wolfgang Kraus has provided his reader with a brief guide through the available translations of the Septuagint.  He focuses on their guiding methodologies which lead to certain strengths and weakness.

At the outset we encounter the tension between a translation as dependent upon its parent text and the translator’s intentional or unintentional changes to the text as well as the life breathed into the text by those who utilize it.

Kraus, based on the work of Marguerite Harl, identifies two polar extremes when identifying translational approaches to the LXX: upstream and downstream.

The upstream perspective is interested in 1) the translator and how he understood the text before him, 2) reconstruction of the translation technique utilized by the translator, 3) the text-critical use of the Septuagint.

In stark contrast to this approach is the downstream perspective.  The translator’s concern lay primarily in the text’s reception.  The Septuagint, according to this view, is independent and autonomous and should be treated thus when translated into a new language.

This information is important when he addresses two main translations on the market: New English Translation of the Septuagint and La Bible d’Alexandrie.

= Upstream/an Interlinear/text is tied to Hebrew parent text.

= Downstream/Concern for how Jewish and Christian Communities came to understand the Greek OT.

Having classified these translations according to opposite ends the “translation perspective” continuum, Kraus, a chief contributor of the Septuaginta-deutsche project, is able to steer a mediating course.  Kraus argues that neither a reader-response nor an inter-linear (my terms) approach to the Septuagint is sufficiently capable of reconciling the extant data (i.e. the document’s textual-linguistic makeup).

There is no doubt the text shares uncanny similarities with an interlinear, almost to the point of unintelligible isomorphism (equal/same form).  But the textual makeup of the Septuagint also includes four elements that suggest more than an interlinear approach is in play: 1) intentional plot changes, 2) intended enculturation to the milieu or the social environment of the target language (avoiding anthropomorphisms, harmonization of texts), 3) intended shift in theological conceptions (the book of Esther’s conception of God), and 4) intended modifications concerning theological topics (Israel and the Nations, Temple).  All four of these elements suggest that the translator’s theology and social setting are factors in the resultant translation.

The author concludes by reassuring us that a committee is working on the translation of the Septuagint in German with an accompanying volume full of annotated explanations for their choices in translation.

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One Response to “Contemporary Translations of the Septuagint: Problems and Perspectives”

  1. Nathaniel says:

    In regards to this post: Excellent! In regards to this blog: I love it. Keep up the good work!

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