Göttingen Septuagint (Genesis): Lexus of the LXX

 

The Wire Season 4

 

Man say if you wanna shoot nails, this here the Cadillac, man.
He mean Lexus, but he ain’t know it.

–Snoop to Chris, Season 4, Episode 1, The Wire

 

Having recently re-watched the fourth season of the best television show in history, I need now to amend my assessment two years ago that the Göttingen Septuagint is the Cadillac of Septuagint editions. It’s the Lexus of the LXX.

 

The Göttingen Septuagint

 

Vandenhoeck & Ruprecht in Göttingen, Germany publishes the Göttingen Septuagint, more formally known as Septuaginta: Vetus Testamentum Graecum Auctoritate Academiae Scientiarum Gottingensis editum.

The series of critical texts with apparatus spans more than 20 volumes and covers some 40 biblical books (counting the minor prophets as 12), with more continuing to appear.

But, as I remarked two years ago when I confused Cadillacs and Lexuses, the Göttingen Septuagint is not for the faint of heart, or for the reader who is unwilling to put some serious work in to understanding the layout of the edition and its critical apparatuses.

 

The Contributions of John William Wevers

 

Enter John William Wevers. If Göttingen is the Lexus of LXX editions, Wevers is its chief mechanic. His Notes on the Greek texts of the Pentateuch–though provisional in nature, Wevers intimated–remain some of the best resources for carefully studying the Septuagint. And his Text Histories on those same books (now free online, thanks to the Göttingen Septuaginta-Unternehmen) guide the reader through the transmission of the Greek text in its various manuscripts.

Better yet, before his passing Wevers translated much of his own Göttingen-Pentateuch introductions from German into English. That enduring gift can be found here.

 

Göttingen-Genesis

 

 

Published in 1974, Wevers’s Genesis includes a 70+-page introduction, Wevers’s reconstructed Greek text of Genesis, and two critical apparatuses at the bottom of each page that highlight readings from various manuscripts.

The introduction includes these sections:

  1. The Textual Witnesses (Greek and other versions)
  2. The Text History (“Here only information necessary for the use of this edition is given”)
  3. Re: This Edition
  4. Signs and Abbreviations

A challenge to using the Genesis volume is the scarcity of material available about the Göttingen project in general. Further, the introduction is in German and the critical apparatuses contain Greek, abbreviated Greek, and abbreviated Latin. A few things come in handy:

  • Wevers’s Genesis introduction is here in English.
  • As for deciphering the apparatus and abbreviations, Wevers offers such a key in the introduction, and the print edition comes with a handy insert (in German and Latin, but not unusable to those without command of those languages)
  • Miles Van Pelt has made available his own two-page summary of sigla and abbreviations (here as PDF).
  • Seeing the need, I wrote a two-part primer (here and here, two of my most-visited posts on this blog) to reading and understanding the Göttingen Septuagint–the focus was largely on Genesis, and I draw on those posts for what follows

So equipped, the reader (whether she or he knows German or not) is ready to work through the Greek text itself.

 

Tour of a Page

 

Instead of using a text based on an actual manuscript (as BHS, based on the Leningrad Codex, does), the Göttingen Septuagint utilizes a reconstructed text based on a thorough examination of evidence from manuscripts and translations.

Because it is an editio maior and not an editio minor like Rahlfs, any page can have just a few lines of actual biblical text, with the rest being taken up by the apparatuses. Here’s a sample page from Genesis 1 (image used by permission).

Note the #s 1-4 that I’ve added to highlight the different parts of a page.

 

Page reproduction by permission of publisher (annotations are mine)

 

1. The reconstructed Greek critical text (“Der kritische Text”)

With verse references in both the margin and in the body of the text, the top portion of each page of the Göttingen Septuagint is the editorially reconstructed text of each biblical book. In the page from Genesis 1 above, you’ll notice that the text includes punctuation, accents, and breathing marks.

Regarding the critical text itself, Wevers writes in the Genesis introduction:

Since it must be presupposed that this text will be standard for a long time, the stance taken by the editor over against the critical text was intentionally conservative. In general conjectures were avoided, even though it might be expected that future recognition would possibly confirm such conjectures.

 

2. The Source List (“Kopfleiste”)

 

The Kopfleiste comes just below the text and above the apparatuses in Genesis. Wevers notes it as a list of all manuscripts and versions used, listed in the order that they appear in the apparatus on that page. A fragmentary textual witness is enclosed in parenthesis.

 

3. and 4. Critical Apparatuses (“Apparat I” and “Apparat II”)

The critical apparatuses are where the user of Göttingen can see other readings as they compare with the critically reconstructed text. Because the Göttingen editions are critical/eclectic texts, no single manuscript will match the text of the Göttingen Septuagint.

The first critical apparatus will be familiar in its aims to readers of BHS. Regarding the second apparatus, Wevers writes:

In view of the fact that the materials presented in the second apparatus [are] not at least in theory a collection of variants within the LXX tradition, but rather one such of readings from other traditions, especially from the “three”, which have influenced the LXX tradition, these readings are given in full.

“The three,” sometimes referred to in Greek as οι γ’, are the texts of Aquila, Symmachus and Theodotion.

In other words–there is virtually no stone unturned here in the quest to reconstruct a Greek text of Genesis.

 

Concluding Evaluation

 

Serious work in Septuagint studies uses the Göttingen text, where available, as a base. Wevers’s scholarship and care for the text is clear as one makes her or his way through the Genesis volume. It’s the starting place for studying the Greek text of Genesis.

Vandenhoeck & Ruprecht’s production of the book is stellar, too. It’s got a sewn binding and is beautifully constructed–built to last and look good on the shelf, or in your hands:

 

Goettingen Genesis

 

You can find the volume here at V & R’s site, and here at Amazon. ISD distributes the book, as well, and carries it here.

 

Many thanks to V & R for the review copy of this fine work, given to me with no expectation as to the content of my review. Find more V & R blog posts here.

John William Wevers LXX Text Histories… free .pdf downloads

Yes, this is free
Yes, this is free

File under: I can’t believe this is free.

From The International Organization for Septuagint and Cognate Studies (IOSCS):

The Göttingen Septuaginta-Unternehmen, home of the Göttingen editions of the Septuagint, has announced two initiatives of interest to those dealing with textual criticism of the Septuagint.

Follow the link above to the Unternehmen’s home page. There’s a lot to check out there, including what I would consider the vacation/retreat of a lifetime. (Time with family tops everything, but this school would come in second.)

Back to the “free” part:

Several of the older volumes that have appeared in the series “Mitteilungen des Septuaginta-Unternehmens” are no longer available in print. To meet the wishes of the scholarly community to maintain access to these publications (among them, Rahlfs’ Verzeichnis), the Septuaginta-Unternehmen has published a free PDF scan of the first four volumes on its website.

These resources are available in the Septuaginta-Unternehmen’s new website, which is available in both German and English.

The link noted above (this one) includes, among other things, free downloads of the valuable and difficult to find Text History of the Greek… books by John William Wevers. You can download:

  • Text History of the Greek Genesis (1974)
  • Text History of the Greek Exodus (1992)
  • Text History of the Greek Leviticus (1986)
  • Text History of the Greek Numbers (1982)
  • Text History of the Greek Deuteronomy (1978)

They are large files, but I’m grateful to be able to have them.

The Göttingen Septuagint in Accordance

Septuaginta.band 1Accordance Bible has just released the Esther module in its Göttingen Septuagint. More volumes are on the way and scheduled for this month: Psalms with Odes, Jeremiah, the 12 Prophets, and Sirach. The Göttingen Septuagint is a text criticism workout. I’ve posted here and here about how to understand and use its apparatuses.

When I reviewed Göttingen in Logos earlier this year, I compared Isaiah modules between Logos and Accordance. At that time I wrote that the Logos text was more accurate to the print edition than the Accordance text, because it initially was. I was surprised, and saw this as a fluke for Accordance, whose texts–especially their original language ones–generally are the “research-grade” quality they seek to produce.

There’s been a recent update to Göttingen Isaiah in Accordance, so that it is now quite accurate in relation to the print edition. Accordance has also since dropped the price on its Isaiah module.

Search fields for Göttingen Isaiah Apparatus I
Search fields for Göttingen Isaiah Apparatus I

Where Accordance really excels in its presentation of Göttingen is the multiple ways it offers to search an apparatus. (See image at right.) The most helpful search field is “Manuscripts,” and one can also search by “Greek Content,” which greatly facilitates searching for a given text variant. Searching an apparatus in Logos doesn’t have nearly the options, and manipulating what search results one can get is more difficult.

The “List Text Differences” feature in Accordance is one I’ve used often, to see where Göttingen and Rahlfs differ on Isaiah, for example. Logos has a “Text Comparison” tool, similar to the “Compare” feature in Accordance, but “List Text Differences” is unique to Accordance.

One remaining fix in the Accordance apparatus (at least for the Isaiah module I’ve examined) is a symbol rendering issue. When the apparatus notes a case of homoioteleuton, what appears in print as 1°◠2° shows up in the apparatus as 1°  2°. (UPDATE: See Rick’s comment below; update is planned. UPDATE 12/14/13: This has now been corrected in Accordance.) This renders correctly in Logos.

Logos still doesn’t have the Kopfleiste (Source List) for the Göttingen volumes that have one in print, while Accordance does include it. On the one hand, the Kopfleiste makes most sense in a print edition, but one can imagine that serious students of the Septuagint may still want to be able to access it. Accordance’s Esther includes it, for example.

All the Göttingen volumes that have been published in print are in Logos already, but Accordance seems to be making fast progress of late in completing their own offering. Göttingen is more affordable in Logos (especially if you have their academic discount), but there are more advanced search options available in Accordance (both in the text and the apparatuses) that may make the user want to consider the latter software instead. If one wants just a single volume in Göttingen, that option is currently only available in Accordance.

Speaking of the Septuagint, I’ve just finished Greek Isaiah in a Year with a group of folks, and so will take recommendations for what to read next!

Göttingen in Logos is On Sale Friday

Photo by Logos
Photo by Logos

$369.95 for the Göttingen Septuagint in Logos Bible Software. It’s on sale for International Septuagint Day, all day Friday (midnight to midnight). If you click here, it adds to your cart, and you can purchase from there–whether you already have the academic discount or not. Marked down from $700.

I reviewed the Göttingen Septuagint in Logos here. Its product page is here.

The Göttingen Septuagint in Logos Bible software

Photo by Logos
Photo by Logos

Göttingen. Not just a city in Germany, but a word that instills awe and fear in the hearts of every student of the Septuagint who must eventually consult the set of Old Greek editions by that name.

Okay, that’s maybe a bit dramatic. I do suspect, however, that if one finds it challenging to learn how to read the leading critical edition of the Hebrew Bible–the Biblia Hebraica Stuttgartensia or BHS–the Göttingen Septuagint will prove even more difficult to decipher.

Not impossible, though.

In celebration of International Septuagint Day Friday, here I review the Göttingen Septuagint in Logos Bible Software. The full name is Septuaginta: Vetus Testamentum Graecum Auctoritate Academiae Scientiarum Gottingensis editum. It’s published by Vandenhoeck & Ruprecht in Göttingen, Germany. The Göttingen Septuagint has published over 20 volumes covering some 40 biblical books (counting the minor prophets as 12). Publication of additional volumes, while slow-going, is in progress.

The typical contents of a volume include:

  1. The introduction (“Einleitung”)
  2. The reconstructed Greek critical text (“Der kritische Text”)
  3. The Source List (“Kopfleiste”) (not every Göttingen volume has this)
  4. The First Critical Apparatus (“Apparat I”)
  5. The Second Critical Apparatus (“Apparat II”)

In two previous posts I wrote a primer on how to read and understand the Göttingen Septuagint. In part 1 I wrote about the reconstructed Greek critical text and the source list (full post is here). In part 2 I explained how to understand the first critical apparatus, here. Each of those posts contains additional explication of Göttingen, so the one who is new to it may want to pause here to read more there. Having written at length about numbers 2-4 above, a future post will cover 1 (the introduction) and 5 (the second critical apparatus).

Logos is the only Bible software that has available all of the published volumes of the Göttingen Septuagint. Though Logos offers the set in 67 volumes, that corresponds to the 24 existing print volumes. This includes the 2004 Supplementum, which offers a “list of Greek manuscripts of the Old Testament,” sorted by date, region, writing material, and more, and which also cross-references various editors’ classifications of manuscripts against each other, so that differing systems can easily be compared.

There is, of course, the question of which Bible software to use in general. I’ve written about issues like layout, functionality, cost, and so on here, which includes both praises and critiques of Logos, Accordance, and BibleWorks. So what about Göttingen in Logos?

From what I’ve seen, the text of Göttingen in Logos is the most accurate digital text available. I am aware of others who have found typos in Göttingen for Logos, but based on a verse-by-verse read of Isaiah 1-11, I found just one error in Logos compared to the print text. The Accordance text of Göttingen for Isaiah, by contrast, had 14 spelling mistakes, misplaced words, or wrong inflections in that same span. This was a surprise to me, since Accordance aims to produce “research-grade” texts, a goal which sometimes means their texts take longer to complete than other software companies. (Accordance currently has some, but not all, of the Göttingen volumes that exist in print.) As of right now, as far as the actual critical text of Göttingen, Logos seems to be the best bet for consistent correspondence to the print text.

It’s easy to set up the critical text and both apparatuses in three separate areas in Logos, syncing them to scroll together. One can also easily add a tab with an English translation, Hebrew Masoretic text, and more, so as to use Göttingen in conjunction with other resources. Here’s how I use Göttingen in Logos (click for larger):

Göttingen Isaiah layout

Assuming you have other versions of the Septuagint available in Logos (Rahlfs, Swete, etc.) you can use the Text Comparison feature (top right in the shot above) to see where the critical text of Göttingen differs from another Septuagint text. I’ve found this to be a useful and time-saving feature. (One can do the same with the Compare tool in Accordance, though there’s an unresolved issue with that tool that impacts use of Göttingen. [UPDATE: It’s now resolved.] Accordance’s comparison tool is, however, a bit more versatile with its “List Text Differences” feature.)

You can use the critical text as any other text in Logos–double-click on a word to look it up in a lexicon (I have LEH open at bottom center above), right-click to do a variety of other searches, word study, etc. It doesn’t take long to see how many times the Göttingen text uses a given word.

As to the critical apparatuses, you can mouse over blue hyperlinked abbreviations to find out what they stand for. Or you can have an Information window open, as here (click to enlarge):

Abbreviations spelled out

The apparatus abbreviates Latin and German, which is what the Information tab shows. (The Göttingen introductions are in German.) Miles Van Pelt’s short chart (in English) is helpful with the Latin (pdf here). And there is an English translation of the Pentateuch introductions available here (with Exodus being the most complete one). But there is no mechanism in Logos to translate the German or to decipher the apparatus. Accordance is the same here, and neither Logos nor Accordance offer a German-English dictionary, so one couldn’t even link to that. The general academic assumption, of course, is that by the time someone is using Göttingen in their study of the Septuagint, they are already learning (or have learned) German. (Ah, but academic assumptions….) I’m not sure it’s fair to fault Logos (or Accordance) for this lack, but a German-English dictionary as a future module would help a lot of users.

Speaking of the introduction, the introductions to each volume are nicely laid out with plenty of hyperlinks for easy reference:

Introduction to Isaiah

You’ll have to know German to get very far in the introduction, but note the link above to English translations for some of the introductions. Also, though one ought not to rely too much on it, Google Translate takes the user surprisingly far if she or he simply copies from Logos and pastes here.

One thing lacking in the Logos Göttingen is the Kopfleiste (Source List). Not every print volume has it, but the five Pentateuch volumes, Ruth, Esther, and others do. Accordance, by contrast, includes this feature for the Göttingen volumes that have it. The Kopfleiste makes the most sense in a print edition (since it is a list of manuscripts cited on a given page), but someone doing serious textual research using Göttingen in Logos would still feel its lack. No word yet from Logos on if/when that will come available.

What about searching the apparatuses? Less than ideal here, though not unmanageable. If I want to see every time the First Critical Apparatus in Isaiah cites the Minuscule manuscript 301, I right click to “Search this resource,” but the results are grouped as follows (click to enlarge):

MS301

To my knowledge it is not possible to expand these results in this screen (pane) to see every use of MS 301, which is what I really want to be able to do. (If I am mistaken and find a way, I’ll post here again.) The shortcut command+F (in Mac) or control+F (in Windows) is an alternate way to search a text in Logos. The apparatuses are searchable using this keyboard shortcut; in this case all the instances of MS 301 are highlighted as you scroll through the apparatus, so you can still see all its occurrences.

Accordance, by contrast, offers multiple ways of searching an apparatus: by references, titles, manuscripts (most helpful), Hebrew, Greek, or Latin content, and more. This makes Accordance’s apparatuses really usable and easy to navigate in multiple ways.

accordance search fields

The price for the Logos Göttingen is a bargain. I mean, $700 is not cheap, but considering that the same sum would get you just a few volumes of the print edition, it’s a great deal. The academic program gives you a significant discount in this case, too.

By the way, a tip for using Göttingen efficiently in Logos: Brian Davidson of LXXI has a neat way to set up a Logos layout to include multiple Göttingen books. (They list in the Logos library all as separate volumes, not as one Septuagint.) His suggestion (here) is a good way to go.

All in all, the Logos Göttingen is a worthwhile investment, especially if you primarily want Göttingen for the critical text itself, and for the chance to compare it with other Septuagint editions. The lack of a Kopfleiste is not an immense loss, but the inability to search apparatuses by multiple search fields (and with expandable results) is a drawback. So the potential purchaser will just have to consider what his or her needs are. Accordance nails it in apparatus searching, but their critical text in Isaiah had more mistakes than one who needs an accurate text would like.

Logos has a fully digitized Göttingen Septuagint, so if you need access to everything that exists in print, know that this is the only Bible software where you can get it. Accordance continues production on their volumes and, as far as I know, will see the project through to completion. (Though see here and here, a project of Computer Assisted Tools for Septuagint Studies.)

In Logos it’s convenient to be able to scroll through all of the Göttingen Septuagint with additional resources open and a click away. The electronic availability (and affordability) of Göttingen is a significant step forward in text criticism and Septuagint studies.

Many thanks to Logos Bible Software for the review copy of the Göttingen Septuagint, given to me for the purposes of review, but with no expectation as to the content of my review. Accordance provided me with their Göttingen Isaiah for purposes of comparison.

How to Read and Understand the Göttingen Septuagint: A Short Primer, part 2 (Apparatus)

The one who is serious about getting at the earliest attainable text of the Hebrew Bible will eventually find herself or himself face-to-face with a page like this:

Genesis 1 in Göttingen LXX
Genesis 1 in the Göttingen Septuagint

The Göttingen Septuagint is the largest scholarly edition of the Greek translation of the Hebrew Bible. Its full title is Septuaginta: Vetus Testamentum Graecum Auctoritate Academiae Scientiarum Gottingensis editum. Vandenhoeck & Ruprecht in Göttingen, 

Septuaginta.band 1

Germany publishes the series, which includes more than 20 volumes covering some 40 biblical books (counting the minor prophets as 12). Various editors are working toward the publication of additional volumes.

But if good coffee, fine wine, or well-aged cheese requires work on the part of the one taking it in, the Göttingen LXX makes its own demands of the reader who would use it. The critical apparatuses on each page have Greek, abbreviated Greek, abbreviated Latin, and other potentially unfamiliar sigla. The introductions in each volume are in German.

How to read and understand the Göttingen Septuagint, then? To begin, here is the sample page from above:

Genesis 1 in Göttingen LXX_key
Genesis 1:4-9, reprinted with publisher’s permission

There are four main parts to the page, marked in the image above by the numbers 1 through 4.

  1. The reconstructed Greek critical text (“Der kritische Text”)
  2. The Source List (“Kopfleiste”) (note: not every Göttingen volume has this)
  3. The First Critical Apparatus (“Apparat I”)
  4. The Second Critical Apparatus (“Apparat II”)

In part 1 of my primer, I covered numbers 1 and 2 above. To summarize a bit:

1. With verse references in both the margin and in the body of the text, the top portion of each page of the Göttingen Septuagint is the editorially reconstructed text of each biblical book.

2. The Kopfleiste comes just below the text and above the apparatuses. Wevers notes it as a list of all manuscripts and versions used, listed in the order that they appear in the apparatus on that page. A fragmentary textual witness is enclosed in parenthesis.

Next are the two critical apparatuses. In his introduction to Genesis (conveniently translated into English here, from which I quote), editor John William Wevers speaks of the critically reconstructed text as an “approximation of the original” and “hopefully the best which could be reconstructed.” I previously noted:

[Göttingen] editors have viewed and listed the readings of many manuscripts and versions. The critical apparatuses are where they list those readings, so the user of Göttingen can see other readings as they compare with the critically reconstructed text. (Because the Göttingen editions are critical/eclectic texts, no single manuscript will match the text of the Göttingen Septuagint.)

The International Organization for Septuagint and Cognate Studies (IOSCS) notes (from here):

The Göttingen Septuagint features two apparatuses (as does the Larger Cambridge Septuagint), the first for LXX/OG textual evidence proper and the second for so-called hexaplaric evidence, i.e. “rival” translations/revisions of the translated LXX/OG (such as circulated under the labels “Theodotion,” “Aquila,” and “Symmachus”), preserved largely through the influence of Origen’s Hexapla. For LXX/OG research the importance of both apparatuses is second only to the critical text itself.

The challenge, of course, is that to make sense of the apparatuses and their abbreviations.

3. The First Critical Apparatus (“Apparat I”)

The “textual evidence proper” consists of any readings that the editor deems as variant to the reconstructed text. The editors follow a consistent order in the witnesses they cite. (There is minor variation, volume to volume.) In Genesis Wevers writes:

The witnesses for a variant are always arranged in a set order: a) the uncial texts in alphabetic order; b) the papyri in numerical order; c) the witnesses of the O‘ mss [AKJ: the “hexaplaric group”]; d) the witnesses of the C‘’ mss [AKJ: the “Catena group”]; e) the remaining text families (comp Section B I above) in alphabetical order; f) the rest of the Greek evidence in the following order: N.T. witnesses, Ios [AKJ: Josephus], Phil [AKJ: Philo], followed by the rest of the Greek writers in alpha­betic order; g) La (or the sub-groups, for ex. LaI Las, etc.) [AKJ: Old Latin versions], followed by the other versions in alphabetic order; h) citations of the Latin Fathers, introduced by the sign Lat (these witnesses always stand in opposition to La or a sub-group of La); i) other witnesses or commentaries.

To look at an example of the first critical apparatus, Deuteronomy 6:5 in the Göttingen edition reads:

καὶ ἀγαπήσεις κύριον τὸν θεόν σου ἐξ ὅλης τῆς διανοίας σου καὶ ἐξ ὅλης τῆς ψυχῆς σου καὶ ἐξ ὅλης τῆς δυνάμεώς σου.

(And you shall love the Lord your God with all your mind and with all your soul and with all your strength.)

The apparatus for that verse, in part, has:

om καί  Arab Sa17 | αγαπησης 30; αγαπη σε 527 | κύριον τόν] bis scr 120* | om σου  Tht Dtap | ἐξ 1°—διανοίας] εν ολη τη καρδια Matth 22:37 |

With each unit broken up by line here, the apparatus gives this information about its manuscripts:

  • Arab and Sa17 omit (om) the first () use of καί
  • 30 has αγαπησης; 527 has αγαπη σε
  • 120* has κύριον τόν written (scr) twice (bis)
  • Tht Dtap omits (om) the first () use of σου
  • From the first use () of ἐξ through () the word διανοίας, Matthew 22:37 has rather (]) εν ολη τη καρδια

One has to go to the introduction for information about the manuscripts “Arab” (Arabic version), ” Sa17” (from the Sahidic version), “30” and “527” (minuscule manuscripts), “120*” (also a minuscule manuscript, where the asterisk * refers to “the original reading of a ms,” as opposed to a “correction”), and “Tht Dtap” (Tht=Theodoretus (“Cyrensis=Cyrrhensis”); Dt=his Quaestiones in Deuteronomium; ap refers, Wevers notes, “to readings (variants) in the apparatus of editions”).

Miles Van Pelt has produced a concise two-page summary of sigla and abbreviations. I offer appreciation and gratitude to Miles that I can link to that pdf here. That offers further instruction as to deciphering the apparatuses (both the first and second) in the Göttingen volumes. The introductions to given volumes contain the signs/symbols and abbreviations (“Zeichen und Abkürzungen”), as well.

Boromir had it right:

One Does Not Simply One Does not SimplyOne Does Not Simply

So I’ll write about the Second Critical Apparatus (“Apparat II”) in a future post. Until then….

Thanks to Brian Davidson of LXXI for his helpful suggestions on an earlier draft of this post and the part 1 that preceded it. He is not to be blamed for the inclusion of Boromir in this post.

How to Read and Understand the Göttingen Septuagint: A Short Primer, part 1

The Göttingen Septuagint is the Cadillac of Septuagint editions. It’s the largest scholarly edition of the Greek translation of the Hebrew Bible. Its full name is Septuaginta: Vetus Testamentum Graecum Auctoritate Academiae Scientiarum Gottingensis editum, published by Vandenhoeck & Ruprecht in Göttingen, Germany. The Göttingen Septuagint has published more than 20 volumes spanning some 40 biblical books (counting the minor prophets as 12), and publication of additional volumes is in progress.

But the Göttingen Septuagint is not for the faint of heart, or for the reader who is unwilling to put some serious work in to understanding the layout and import of the edition and its critical apparatuses. A challenge to using Göttingen is the paucity of material available about the project, even in books about the Septuagint. An additional challenge is that the critical apparatuses contain Greek, abbreviated Greek, and abbreviated Latin. The introductions to each volume are in German, though below I cite from English translations of the introductions to the volumes of the Pentateuch.

It is my intention with this post, and a second to follow, to give a short primer or user’s guide to the Göttingen edition. Here I offer suggestions on how to read and understand the text, the apparatuses, the sigla/abbreviations, the introductions, and point to additional resources that will be of benefit to the Göttingen user.

I recently put together a basic orientation to the scholarly editions of the Hebrew Bible and the Greek translation of the same. That is here. It is worth nothing again that the International Organization for Septuagint and Cognate Studies (IOSCS) has a good, succinct article on the various editions of the Septuagint. Below, “OG” stands for “Old Greek.” They write:

The creation and propagation of a critical text of the LXX/OG has been a basic concern in modern scholarship. The two great text editions begun in the early 20th century are the Cambridge Septuagint and the Göttingen Septuagint, each with a “minor edition” (editio minor) and a “major edition” (editio maior). For Cambridge this means respectively H. B. Swete, The Old Testament in Greek (1909-1922) and the so-called “Larger Cambridge Septuagint” by A. E. Brooke, N. McLean, (and H. St. John Thackeray) (1906-). For Göttingen it denotes respectively Alfred Rahlfs’s Handausgabe (1935) and the “Larger Göttingen Septuagint” (1931-). Though Rahlfs (editio minor) can be called a semi-critical edition, the Göttingen Septuaginta (editio maior) presents a fully critical text….

In other words, rather than using a text based on an actual manuscript (as BHS, based on the Leningrad Codex, does), Göttingen utilizes a reconstructed text informed by a thorough examination of manuscript evidence. Göttingen has two critical apparatuses at the bottom of the page of most volumes. Because it is an editio maior and not an editio minor like Rahlfs, a given print page can have just a few lines of actual biblical text, with the rest being taken up by the apparatuses. Here’s a sample page from Genesis 1. Note the #s 1-4 that I’ve added to highlight the different parts of a page. Below I explain #1 and #2; the rest comes in a follow up post.

1. The reconstructed Greek critical text (“Der kritische Text”)

With verse references in both the margin and in the body of the text, the top portion of each page of the Göttingen Septuagint is the editorially reconstructed text of each biblical book. In the page from Genesis 1 above, you’ll notice that the text includes punctuation, accents, and breathing marks.

Like the NA27 (and now NA28) and UBS4 versions of the Greek New Testament, Göttingen is a critical or “eclectic” edition, which “may be described as a collection of the oldest recoverable texts, carefully restored book by book (or section by section), aiming at achieving the closest approximation to the original translations (from Hebrew or Aramaic) or compositions (in Greek), systematically reconstructed from the widest array of relevant textual data (including controlled conjecture)” (IOSCS, “Critical Editions”).

Of the critical text, John William Wevers, in his introduction to Genesis in Göttingen, writes:

Since it must be presupposed that this text will be standard for a long time, the stance taken by the editor over against the critical text was intentionally conservative. In general conjectures were avoided, even though it might be expected that future recognition would possibly confirm such conjectures.

It must be clearly evident that the critical text here offered labored under certain limitations. The mss, versions and patristic witnesses which are available to us bring us with few and small exceptions no further back than the second century of our era. Although we do know on the basis of second and third century B.C.E. papyri something about the character of every day Greek used, our knowledge of contemporary literary Greek is very limited indeed. In other words, the critical text here offered is an approximation of the original LXX text, hopefully the best which could be reconstructed on the basis of the present level of our knowledge. The editor entertains no illusion that he has restored throughout the original text of the LXX.

One cannot simply say, “The LXX says…,” because then inevitably an appropriate response is, “Which LXX? Which manuscript? Which or whose best attempt at reconstruction?” So “approximation of the original” and “hopefully the best which could be reconstructed” are key phrases here.

All the same, especially in the newer Göttingen editions, the volume editors have viewed and listed the readings of many manuscripts and versions. The critical apparatuses are where they list those readings, so the user of Göttingen can see other readings as they compare with the critically reconstructed text. (Because the Göttingen editions are critical/eclectic texts, no single manuscript will match the text of the Göttingen Septuagint.) And although scholarly editions of the Greek New Testament also present an eclectic text, neither the NA27 nor UBS 4 is an editio maior, as Göttingen is. (The Editio Critica Maior is just recently begun for the GNT.) Serious works in Septuagint studies, then, most often use the Göttingen text, where available, as a base.

2. The Source List (“Kopfleiste”)

Not every volume has this feature, but the five Pentateuch volumes, Ruth, Esther, and others do. The Kopfleiste comes just below the text and above the apparatuses. Wevers notes it as a list of all manuscripts and versions used, listed in the order that they appear in the apparatus on that page. A fragmentary textual witness is enclosed in parenthesis.

In the above Kopfleiste, the parentheses around 912 mean that papyrus 912 is fragmentary. The “-” preceding it, Wevers notes, means that its text ends on the page in question. So although this particular Göttingen page has Genesis 1:4-9 reconstructed in the critical text (“Der kritische Text”), “(-912)” in the Kopfleiste indicates that the fragmentary papyrus 912 does not actually contain text for all the verses on the page. Looking up papyrus 912 in Wevers’s introduction to Genesis, in fact, confirms that this third to fourth century papyrus contains only Genesis 1:1-5.

By contrast, the “(D-)” here

indicates that the uncial manuscript D has its text beginning on the page in which it appears in Göttingen. The above shot is from the Göttingen page containing Genesis 1:9-13. The first time D has anything to offer (since it is fragmentary, indicated by its enclosure in parentheses) is at 1:13. This alerts the reader that D has no witness to Genesis 1:1-12. Wevers’s introduction then gives more information about the contents of that manuscript. So, too, with the minuscule manuscript 128 above–the introduction says of 128, “Init [=Latin initium=the beginning] – 1,10 is absent.”

Wevers adds:

Should a piece of text be lacking due to some external circumstance in a particular ms, this is noted in the Source-List. For example if ms 17 lacks the text this is shown as O-17. What this means is that the entire O except 17 (which belongs to O) has the text in question. The abbreviation al (for alia manuscripta) refers to the mss which belong to no particular group, i.e. the so-called codices mixti as well as mss which are too fragmentary to allow classification. The expression verss designates all the versions which have the complete text of Genesis. Versions such as Syh to (31,53) and Pal, whose texts are not complete, are listed at the end of the Source-List (Kopfleiste).

In terms of the order of citing Greek textual witnesses:

In the apparatus the citation of Greek sources appears in the following order: First place is occupied by the uncial texts in alphabetical order, and characterized by a capital letter. Then the papyri are cited in the order of 801 to 999. Then the hexaplaric group [AKJ: “O” above] is given as well as the Catena groups [AKJ: C‘’], with the mss groups following in order as: b d f n s t y z; then the codd mixti, followed by the mss without a Rahlfs number. Next come the NT citations, and finally, the rest of the patristic witnesses in alphabetic order.

In the next part of this Göttingen Septuagint primer, I’ll explore #3 and #4 above, the First Critical Apparatus (“Apparat I”) and the Second Critical Apparatus (“Apparat II”), as well as take a closer look at the contents of the Introductions in the Göttingen editions (“Die Einleitung”).

UPDATE: Part 2 of the primer is here, with still more to follow.

Thanks to Brian Davidson of LXXI for his helpful suggestions on an earlier draft of this post.