Septuagint Sunday: Congratulations to…

This past week I’ve received some 50 entries in a giveaway contest for a study by Myrto Theocharous called Lexical Dependence and Intertextual Allusion in the Septuagint of the Twelve Prophets: Studies in Hosea, Amos and Micah.

You can read more about the book here. I’ve made some progress in reading the book myself this week, and will be offering a review in the near future.

To choose a winner, I assigned a number to every entry (both a comment on this blog and a share of any kind qualified), then used a random number generator to select the winner.

The winner is…William Varner!

Congratulations, William, and enjoy the new book.

Thanks very much to all who entered and spread the word. I write about the Septuagint at Words on the Word at least once a week. You can bookmark this tag for my Septuagint posts; it updates as I add new posts. If you like what you see here, you can subscribe/follow this blog using the button on the right sidebar.

While you’re here, here are some highlights of what I’ve written about the Septuagint:

And coming soon:

  • My own review of Lexical Dependence and Intertextual Allusion
  • A short primer on how to read and understand the Göttingen Septuagint

Thanks for reading, and congratulations again to William Varner!

Book Giveaway Reminder

This is a reminder that Sunday night I’ll be announcing the winner of a study by Myrto Theocharous called Lexical Dependence and Intertextual Allusion in the Septuagint of the Twelve Prophets: Studies in Hosea, Amos and Micah.

If you haven’t already entered the giveaway, there’s still time. Go here to read more and enter.

Free Book! Septuagint Sunday Giveaway: Lexical Dependence and Intertextual Allusion in the LXX 12 Prophets

I am giving away a book at Words on the Word this week. It’s a study by Myrto Theocharous called Lexical Dependence and Intertextual Allusion in the Septuagint of the Twelve Prophets: Studies in Hosea, Amos and Micah. This author had me at the title. (Seriously.) It’s part of the Library of Hebrew Bible/Old Testament Studies series from Continuum/T&T Clark. (Thanks to the publisher for making the giveaway possible.) It’s got nice library binding, good quality paper, clear and easy-to-read Greek and Hebrew fonts.

I’ve been enjoying working my way through it, and in coming weeks will offer a review of the book. You can browse inside by clicking here (Amazon affiliate link). Here’s an excerpt from the publisher’s description of the book:

This book explores various aspects of intertextuality in the LXX Twelve Prophets, with a special emphasis on Hosea, Amos and Micah.

Divided into five parts, the first introduces the topic of intertextuality, discusses issues relating to the Twelve Prophets and their translator and concludes with various methodological considerations. Chapter two deals initially with the lexical sourcing of the prophets in their Hellenistic milieu and tests proposed theories of influence from the Pentateuch.

The rest of the book examines specific cases from the books of Hosea, Amos and Micah.

Theocharous summarizes her book in this short pdf. From what I’ve read so far, I can already recommend it.

I will choose a winner at random this time next week. To enter the drawing, simply comment on this blog post with your greetings, thoughts about the Septuagint or prophets, World Series predictions, etc.

Then if you link to this post on your Facebook, Twitter, blog, etc., come back here to tell me in the comments section that you did, and you’ll receive a second entry. I will announce the winner on the blog before midnight Sunday, October 21.

And you can now like Words on the Word on Facebook.

Leslie C. Allen’s Liturgy of Grief for under $5 (ebook)

Leslie C. Allen’s Liturgy of Grief is under $5 this month in ebook form. It’s here on Amazon ($4.99) and here on CBD ($3.99). It’s a good deal for a great “pastoral commentary” on Lamentations.

I reviewed the book this summer, as well as interviewed the author.

Review of Malachi (Baylor Handbook on the Hebrew Text), part 2

In this post I both explain the jarring Malachi 2:3-4 as well as offer part 2 of my review of Malachi: A Handbook on the Hebrew Text by Terry W. Eddigner (Baylor University Press, 2012). Part 1 of the review is here.

Eddinger begins each passage with his own English translation, then analyzes the Hebrew text verse by verse. Any reader will appreciate that Eddinger prints the full Hebrew text of a given verse, then reprints the various clauses and words when commenting on them. (This eliminates the need to constantly refer to another book when using Malachi.) The Hebrew font is large, clear, and easy to read. It’s fully pointed and includes the Masoretic markings that one would find in the BHS. Though at first I had wished to see the English translation verse-by-verse alongside the Hebrew, Eddinger’s decision to have English translations primarly at the beginning of a passage does force the reader more into the Hebrew itself. For the intended audience of “a second-year Biblical Hebrew student” whose focus is translation, grammar, and syntax, this is a good thing.

I was pleasantly surprised to see that Eddinger discusses textual variants throughout the handbook. He especially focuses on LXX/Septuagint variants that receive attention from the BHS editors. His conclusions regarding variants often end with something like, “X makes sense in context and so should be retained.” Thoroughgoing text critics may be left wanting more evaluation or interaction with variants than this (as I was at times)–but this is a short handbook. The fact that the author highlighted such variants at all was an added bonus, as far as I’m concerned.

Eddinger gives excellent attention to grammatical and syntactical detail–down to an assimilated dagesh lene (1:13)! He treats clauses as wholes–for example, highlighting word order and fronting for emphasis. And he treats individual words and parts of speech. He never loses the forest for the trees, and he gives the trees their due attention, too. In conjunction with the “key words” chart at the beginning of a section and the appendix of all Hebrew words in Malachi, Eddinger often notes rare Hebrew words as such, giving something of their context in the rest of the Hebrew Bible. He seems to have HALOT, TDOT, BDB, and other technical commentaries readily at hand as he comments on the text. On 1:14 he writes,

נוֹכֵל is a rare word in the Masoretic Text, occurring only four times (only here in Malachi) and means “one who acts cleverly” or “deceitfully” thus, “a cheat.”

That is the sort of insight I could come to expect on a regular basis by the end of the handbook. I loved it for that.

In terms of grammar, his discussion of individual words includes syntax and morphology, with every single word parsed / morphologically analyzed and often more detail than that. Eddinger uses the qatal and yiqtol verb classification system. This may not line up with what every Hebrew student has read regarding tense/aspect in their first-year Hebrew class, but it does (at least according to some) carry significant advantages over “perfect” and “imperfect.” (See a mini-primer on the Hebrew verbal system here.)

Regarding the verses from Malachi with which I led off part 1 of this review, Eddinger explains them well:

פֶרֶשׁ refers to the contents of the bowels of sacrificed animals, which the priests were to burn as refuse at a location away from the altar (Exod 29:14; Lev 4:11; 8:17). The phrase [feces upon your faces] is a double entendre in meaning as the act is an act of humiliation and contact with the ‘unclean’ matter makes the priests ‘unclean’ for their priestly duties.

(I allude more to Malachi 2:3 here.)

I’ve found Malachi to be an indispensable companion for reading through Malachi in Hebrew. I do have one minor critique and one larger one, though.

First, the English Bible versification at the end of Malachi gives the book four chapters; it is just three in the Hebrew text. Malachi nowhere notes this (although it does note regarding the last three verses that “some LXX texts have these verses reordered.” Again, this is a handbook on the Hebrew text, but a simple explanatory note here as to why English Bibles have four chapters in Malachi and Hebrew Bibles three would have been beneficial.

Second, I found myself often distracted (though I didn’t want to be) by the presence of typographical errors or comma splices or run-on sentences. I hope future printings can correct these, since they take away from an otherwise great book. There would be no benefit in listing typos here, but there were some 20 or more spots where either a word was misspelled, there was disagreement of number between verb and subject, punctuation was missing, and so on. Fortunately the vast majority of these are in English and so easy enough to spot. (I.e., the reader can trust the Hebrew here.) But the author’s English translation sections especially seemed to be in want of a closer edit. I do hope future printings or editions can make adjustments here; I imagine students of Malachi will want to make use of this book for years to come.

Eddinger in the end is a worthy guide through the Hebrew of Malachi. The prophets often (suddenly!) shifted pronouns or speakers or subjects in their writing. Who is talking now: God, the prophet, both, or the people? Eddinger coolly walks the reader through such grammatical challenges, and others besides.

While the obvious use of Malachi is as a reference work in which to look up a given passage, it reads well as a whole, too. I eagerly await future books in the Baylor Handbook on the Hebrew Bible series.

Thank you to Baylor University Press for providing me a free copy, in exchange for an unbiased review (which ends up being a two-part review in this case–by my choice). You can find the Baylor product page for Malachi: A Handbook on the Hebrew Text here. It’s on Amazon here.

Review of Malachi (Baylor Handbook on the Hebrew Text), part 1

“Because of you I will rebuke your descendants; I will smear on your faces the dung from your festival sacrifices, and you will be carried off with it. And you will know that I have sent you this warning so that my covenant with Levi may continue,” says the Lord Almighty.

–Malachi 2:3-4 (NIV)

Although Words on the Word has since taken fuller shape, two primary motivations in my beginning this blog were (a) to read and review good books and commentaries and (b) to interact with the original Biblical languages. This post offers a good opportunity to do both. Here I review Malachi: A Handbook on the Hebrew Text by Terry W. Eddigner (Baylor University Press, 2012).

The Hebrew prophet Malachi holds a significant place in the Hebrew Bible. Malachi is the last prophet of the Book of the Twelve (minor prophets) and the last book in the Hebrew Bible/Old Testament. The last two verses of Malachi are Yahweh’s promise to send the prophet Elijah–a promise fulfilled, Christians believe, by John the Baptist. It sets up the beginning of the Gospels well.

The Baylor Handbook on the Hebrew Bible series is a deliberately unique contribution to the field of commentaries on the Hebrew Bible. Okay, I suppose all commentary series intend to make unique contributions, but this one really does. It fills a void. Although the student of the Hebrew of the minor prophets is fortunate to perhaps be able to access Baker’s fine exegetical commentary (Malachi is in this volume), there is still a dearth in general of OT commentaries that comment extensively on the Hebrew text and grammar. In that sense I’ve been happy to see the careful attention this series gives to the Hebrew text. (Bonus: this book and some the others in the series that I’ve briefly glanced through give good treatment of discourse analysis.)

It’s important to note from the outset that Malachi (as a book in this series) is not a “full blown commentary.” It’s a “Handbook on the Hebrew Text,” which does “not attempt to replace the second step of consulting commentaries and secondary literature….” In keeping with this aim, Terry W. Eddinger gives the reader a short (five pages) introduction, yet it is plenty to be able to work well within the Hebrew text of Malachi. (And a bibliography with references throughout points readers in the direction of other Malachi-related literature.) Eddinger especially emphasizes the structure and “literary forms and devices” in Malachi. He views the structure of Malachi as consisting of a superscription, six oracles, and two appendices. Literarily, Eddinger says, Malachi is a prose and poetry hybrid, “perhaps the best example of such in the Hebrew Bible.”

There is a linguistic glossary at the back of the book, so when Eddinger says, “Hortatory style is the predominate literary form and is found in all but two verses,” the uninitiated reader can quickly determine that hortatory means “a word, clause, or sentence of direct dialogue.” This is perhaps an over-general or vague definition (the Jonah book in this series has, “Hortatory discourse is meant to exhort someone to act in a particular manner”), but I found that not to be the norm for the succinct and useful glossary.

One commendable feature is the “key words” chart at the beginning of each oracle. Malachi is the first book in this series to offer such a feature. Eddinger highlights important words that the reader will want to know as he or she makes his or her way through a pericope. Then–in what was my favorite part of this book–Eddinger has a chart at the back of the book that lists every Hebrew word in Malachi and verse references for all its occurrences. (Future printings or editions of this book could soup up this chart even more with English glosses of the Hebrew words, for the purposes of vocabulary acquisition.) Several times in making my way through Malachi and this handbook, I referred to the Hebrew word chart.  A second appendix lists all the times the “divine messenger formula” (e.g., אָמַר יְהוָה צְבָאוֹת) occurs in Malachi.

Eddinger begins each passage with his own English translation, then analyzes the Hebrew text verse by verse. In part 2 of this review (to post Monday), I’ll look at the guts of Eddinger’s handbook, that is, the verse-by-verse exposition, including his explanation of the verses that led off this post.

UPDATE: Part 2 of the review is here.

Thank you to Baylor University Press for providing me a free copy, in exchange for an unbiased review (which ends up being a two-part review in this case–by my choice). You can find the Baylor product page for Malachi: A Handbook on the Hebrew Text here. It’s on Amazon here.

Words on the Word Interview with Leslie C. Allen, Author of Liturgy of Grief

Not long ago I reviewed Leslie C. Allen’s Liturgy of Grief: A Pastoral Commentary on Lamentations. The book gently yet steadily coaches the reader in processing grief, expositing and drawing on the rich Biblical tradition of lament. I interviewed Dr. Allen this week.

You write, “Contemporary Western culture provides little space for grief.”  Why do you think this is?

A very good question. Perhaps, in reflection of a technologically advanced and relatively stable society, our culture expects comfort, convenience, and control, and won’t face up to anything contrary. Medication is assumed to be the answer to psychological as well as physical ills. So we feel embarrassed by grieving (and dying) people.

How can churches and worshiping communities better attend to the grieving processes of their community members? In addition to Lamentations and the rest of the rich Biblical tradition, are there other resources available to worship leaders and liturgists to better help them guide their communities through experiences of grief?

One example comes to mind. When I moved my home and started attending a new church some years ago, I found the associate minister’s morning prayer each Sunday was prayed on behalf of those present who were suffering in various ways. It was a different prayer each week, always wide reaching and beautifully crafted. I (and doubtless others) appreciatively felt she was praying for me, at a time when I needed prayer but found it difficult to pray.

You say, “‘Why?’ in the complaint psalms is never an intellectual request for information but a loaded rhetorical question that conveys emotional bewilderment and protest.”  Is there ever an appropriate time for the pastor/chaplain to address questions like “Why did this evil happen?” through a more deliberately theological-philosophical lens?  If so, how does the chaplain discern if and when it’s appropriate to go there?

C.S.Lewis’s The Problem of Pain evidently brought him no help as he penned A Grief Observed. Lamentations felt free to eventually tackle theological issues, using prophetic revelation as the guideline, whereas we and those we try to help are not living in the immediacy of such a situation when prophecy was being directly fulfilled. And Lamentations is able to give a variety of answers, perhaps in the hope that some at least would be found helpful. If a grieving person truly seeks an intellectual answer, one may tentatively broach some thoughts to be tried on for size. Otherwise, it is better considered when the emotional passion of grief does not intrude.

You mention the New Testament story (Mark 4:35-41) where Jesus’ disciples ask, “Teacher, don’t you care if we drown?”  Especially given Jesus’s reply (“Why are you so afraid? Do you still have no faith?”), how can we who worship God know when it’s appropriate to lament or complain in prayer and when it’s not?  This is the “how far is too far?” question with relation to lament and prayer!

If our prayers are to be real, we must pray from where we are, emotionally and in other ways. We miss a tone of voice in the written form of biblical revelation. I suspect Jesus’ reply was mainly meant as reassurance, rather than rebuke, like the examples of “Do not fear” in Isaiah 40:9; 41:13, 14; 43:1-2; 44:2, etc.

I happened to read Allen’s book just before the Colorado movie theater shootings. Reading it inspired me to find and pray two lament prayers in response (here and here). As a Professor of Old Testament and hospital chaplain, Allen in his book provides the reader with good space for grief and Biblically-inspired means to lament.  A Liturgy of Grief is available here.