Yesterday was the first IOSCS (International Organization for Septuagint and Cognate Studies) seminar of the conference. This session, and subsequent sessions like it, is what I have been looking forward to.
Dr. Larry Perkins presented on the interpretive significance of the shift of clitic word order within LXX Pentateuch. For those of you that does know, a clitic is “a word pronounced with so little emphasis that it is shortened and forms part of the preceding word. In Greek, these words are most often the first and second person pronouns (μου and σου).
Perkins seeks to explain the significance of those instances where the normal Hebrew word order (noun + possessive pronoun) is reversed in the LXX (possessive pronoun + noun). He notes that in these instances the translator has broken from his standard modality of isomorphism. That is to say, the translator’s standard practice is to translate each Hebrew word with an equal stereotyped Greek word in the original Hebrew word order: ביתי = οίκος μου or “my house.”
Perkins contends that when the translator reverses the order from οίκος μου to μου οίκος, that translator has recognized and is so marking a significant development within the narrative. He is marking the text for significance: look at me, pay attention, I’m important! If Perkins is right, and I believe he is, we need to rethink our conception of the translator as a slave to the Hebrew original. Yes, the translator sticks close to the Hebrew parent, but he is skilled. He knows the text. He knows what he has already translated, and he knows what is next.
Talk about a close reading of the text on the part of both the translator and Dr. Perkins. I wonder if I will find the same practice in the text of Ezekiel next semester.