IOSCS Session 1

photo 4The first seminar I attended today was the International Organization for Septuagint and Cognate Studies. I would like to bring your attention to three of the presentations: Miika Tucker, Ben Johnson, and Chris Fresch.

Miika Tucker

photo 1Miika Tucker’s topic for discussion was, “Identifying Intertextual Relationships: The Shared Deuteronomistic Phrases of the Books of Kings and Jeremiah.” Tucker explored the relationship between 2 Kings 24:18-25:30 and Jeremiah 52.

After comparing the two texts in light of lexical selection, the use of transliterations, differences in singular and plural forms, the use of the definite article, and differences in the use of prepositions, Tucker provides the following conclusions:

  • The texts are strikingly similar.
  • Despite the similarities, there are significant differences.
  • The translator of 2 Kings tends towards a word-for-word translation.
  • LXX Jeremiah employs rare lexical equivalents whereas 2 Kings uses standard lexical equivalents.
  • The translator of Jeremiah feels less constrained to provide a wooden representation of the Hebrew text.

Ben Johnson

photo 2Benjamin Johnson presented on “Narrative Sensitivity and the Variation of Verb Tense in 1 Reigns 17:34-37.” Though Johnson agrees with Voitila that the general practice of Septuagint translators was to provide a stereotyped rendering of the verb (wayyiqtol = καί + aorist), there are exceptions to this rule. In the instances of those exceptions, a sensitivity to the narrative context produces interesting readings/translations.

Johnson demonstrates this through a detailed analysis of 1 Reigns 17:34-37 (David’s speech to Saul highlighting his defense of his sheep against lions and bears). Johnson’s analysis sets the verbal patterns of the MT, B-Text, and L-Texts side-by-side for analysis. Consider my abbreviated representation of his charts:

MT

B-Text

L-Text

Qotel + qatal

Pres Ptc +Impf

Pres Ptc +Impf

weqatal

καὶ + x + Impf

καὶ + x + Impf

weqatal

καὶ + Impf

καὶ + Impf

weqatal

καὶ + Impf

καὶ + Impf

weqatal

καὶ + Aor

καὶ + Impf

weqatal

καὶ + Aor

καὶ + Impf

wayyiqtol

καὶ + x + Impf

καὶ + x + Impf

weqatal

καὶ + Aor

Impf

weqatal

καὶ + Aor

καὶ + Impf

weqatal

καὶ + Aor

καὶ + Impf

Within the B-Text, we see a couple of unexpected tense shifts. The use of the imperfect in the first four verbs provides a background setting that stresses the iterative nature of David’s work: wild beasts would come out, would take the sheep, and he would go out after them (i.e. this happened on several occasions).

The fifth and sixth verbs, however, shift to the aorist tense. This shift is not encoded in the Hebrew text. There are no explicit factors within the text that would provoke such a shift. Yet, the translator has shifted. Why?

Johnson argues that the imperfect tense serves to background information. The aorist, however, drives the narrative forward. Actions that occur in the aorist are foregrounded. This means that the translator is highlighting David’s actions of “striking” and “pulling out” in the fifth and sixth verbs.

The seventh verb reverts to the imperfect. More information is encoded as background material: “if it turned out against me.” Verbs eight through ten are aorists. The translator has highlighted David’s actions of “seizing, striking, and killing” the wild beasts.

With this in mind, we can see that the actions highlighted by the Septuagint translator are: seizing, striking, pulling out, and killing. These very actions describe what David plans to do and ultimately does to Goliath. He strikes and kills him. In effect, the translator has not only highlighted these actions; he has foreshadowed Goliath’s defeat.

I thoroughly enjoyed Johnson’s presentation. His detailed analysis and close reading of the text is exactly what attracts me to Septuagint studies. These nuggets are hard to find and require a great deal of work and effort to tease out, yet the insights they offer are thrilling.

I will leave you with one final thought from Benjamin’s presentation. There is often the assumption that the Septuagint translators are novices. Benjamin reminded us that, though this may be accurate, it does not necessitate that the novice translator is a novice interpreterThese translators were very much familiar with the text and the contours of the narrative before them. Sometimes, despite a general tendency towards isomorphism and stereotyped readings, storied translations occur.

Chris Fresch

photo 3Much in line with his presentation on the discourse function of δέ in the minor prophets from SBL 2012, Chris Fresch spoke on “Discourse Awareness in the LXX Minor Prophets.” Fresch argues that the forward pointing conjunctions μέν, ἀλλά, and ἰδου are used by the Septuagint translator in order to draw attention to the context that follows. Chris argues that the use of μέν has no Hebrew equivalent. In the rare instances it occurs, the translator is drawing the reader’s attention to what follows. Ἀλλά, in certain places, translates the Hebrew כי, or כי אמ. This is atypical of the dominate way in which these Hebrew terms are translated in the Minor Prophets and elsewhere. The standard equivalents are ὅτι and διότι respectively. Therefore, when ἀλλά appears in the Minor Prophets, a marked contrast (but rather) is intended. Finally, though ἰδου has a Hebrew equivalent (הנה), there are three occurances where the LXX Minor Prophets read ἰδου where no corresponding הנה is present in the Hebrew text. Again, the translator has taken minor liberties in order to draw his reader’s attention to some aspect of the text.

Though Fresch is not able to explain why this phenomenon happens in some cases but not in others, his contribution to the significance of when it does happen and the interpretive weight it carries is helpful.

As always, the IOSCS was a challenging and reinvigorating experience.

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