ἰῶτα in Matt 5:18: Which “Law”?

It’s interesting that Matthew quotes Jesus as saying that not a ἰῶτα will pass away/fall away/disappear from the law. That’s a Greek letter. Could this mean Matthew/Jesus are referring to the Septuagint translation of the Torah, specifically? Or at least had the Greek translation in mind, alongside the Hebrew Torah?

More questions, maybe unanswerable: Was Jesus speaking Aramaic here? Or Greek? Or Aramaic and then said ἰῶτα in Greek?

Here’s John Nolland, from his NIGTC commentary:

“To what does Matthew intend ἰῶτα to refer? While ἰῶτα is the simplest of the Greek letters (a vertical line), it does not make a particularly striking image for a tiny detail of the wording of the Law. The synagogue practice of giving the reading from the Law in Hebrew, followed by translation, may suggest that Matthew has the Hebrew text in mind. In that case ἰῶτα could represent yod (as frequently claimed), the smallest of the Hebrew consonants, and one which sometimes contributes nothing to the meaning.”

I find this less than compelling. If Matthew had the Hebrew Law in mind, couldn’t he have put a Greek transliteration of yod (or some other Hebrew letter) on Jesus’s lips?

Or is Nolland right, and Matthew simply translated Jesus’s “yod” into Greek, much as he would already be translating Jesus’s Aramaic speech into Greek (assuming Jesus did, in fact, primarily speak Aramaic)?

The larger interpretive question of what Jesus means theologically doesn’t seem to hinge on these language-specific questions, but I find them interesting all the same.

Coming Soon(ish): Historical and Theological Lexicon of the Septuagint

 

From publisher Mohr Siebeck:

Edited by Eberhard Bons and Jan Joosten (Université de Strasbourg)

This large-scale collective and interdisciplinary project aims to produce a new research tool: a multi-volume dictionary providing an article of between two and ten pages (around 600 articles in all) for each important word or word group of the Septuagint. Filling an important gap in the fields of ancient philology and religious studies, the dictionary will be based on original research of the highest scientific level.

This project has benefitted from funding from the Agence Nationale de la Recherche (French Research National Agency), the Maison Interuniversitaire des Sciences de l’Homme – Alsace (Strasbourg), the Melanchthon-Stiftung (Tübingen), and the Armin Schmitt Stiftung (Regensburg).

The first volume is projected to be published in 2018.

You can check out a lengthy PDF sample here, with a “Wordlist of the First Volume,” as well as some sample articles.

February 8: Happy International Septuagint Day!

International Septuagint Day

 

Today is February 8, which can only mean one thing: International Septuagint Day. Happy LXX Day! Take some time to read part of the Septuagint today, in Greek or English.

Here are few more links to explore:

A Review of Discovering the Septuagint: A Guided Reader (Jobes)

Discovering the LXX

 

At long last Karen Jobes’s Discovering the Septuagint: A Guided Reader, has been published by Kregel Academic. The TL;DR version of my review is: while the resource has a few noticeable flaws (easily fixable for a second edition), its addition to the world of Greek reading and Septuagint studies is long overdue.

Below is a longer review of the book, in what I hope will be easy-to-scan Q & A format.

 


 

What books of the LXX are covered?

There are ten, intended to “give readers a taste of different genres, an experience of distinctive Septuagintal elements, and a sampling of texts later used by writers of the New Testament” (9). Discovering the Septuagint treats nearly 700 verses from:

  1. Genesis (80 verses)
  2. Exodus (79 verses)
  3. Exodus 20:1–21 // Deuteronomy 5:6–21 (10 Commandments)
  4. Ruth (85 verses)
  5. Additions to Greek Esther (73 verses)
  6. Psalms (67 verses)
  7. Hosea (56 verses)
  8. Jonah (48 verses)
  9. Malachi (55 verses)
  10. Isaiah (81 verses)

 

For whom is this book?

Jobes says it “contains everything needed for any reader with three semesters of koine Greek to succeed in expanding their horizons to the Septuagint” (8). I think this assessment is right, as I found the book easy to understand (though I’ve had more than three semesters of Greek).

 

How is the book structured?

Each LXX book has a short introduction. Then there is the passage, verse by verse, with the Greek text re-printed in full. Under each verse are word-by-word and phrase-by-phrase comments on the vocabulary, usage, syntax, translation from Hebrew (the book is strong here), and so on. Following each passage is the NETS (English translation). The end of the book has a three-page, 33-term glossary and a two-page “Index of New Testament LXX Citations” for the books included in the reader.

 

What does a sample entry look like?

Here’s Jonah 4:6:

jobes-on-jonah-lxx

 

What’s commendable about Discovering the Septuagint?

It shouldn’t go without saying that the very existence of this resource is a boon to Greek readers. There is Conybeare and Stock, as well as some passages in Decker’s Koine Greek Reader, but readers of the Septuagint have far fewer resources than readers of the Greek New Testament.

The margins are plenty wide for students to jot down their own parsings, translations, and notes.

Notes on the verses are often answers to questions I’ve had as I’ve read the Greek text. In this sense the reader is a great guide. For example, here is a comment from Genesis 1:4:

ἀνὰ μέσον . . . ἀνὰ μέσον | Idiomatic prep phrase, “between.” This is a Hebraism, so there is no need to translate the second of the pair as NETS does.

And another helpful nugget from Genesis 1:11:

κατὰ γένος | Prep + neut sg acc (3rd dec) noun, γένος, kind. Remember the nom and acc forms are identical in this paradigm. Agrees with and modifies σπέρμα.

Whether or not a fourth semester Greek student should remember that nominative and accusative forms are identical in the third declension is another issue. That the reader reminds me as much is welcomed.

 

What is lacking?

The glued binding doesn’t do justice to a book like this, but that seems to be the way many publishers have gone recently, even with reference works in biblical studies.

Parts of the book feel under-edited or rushed to print:

  • a few typos (missing periods, etc.)
  • referring to the Rahlfs-Hanhart text as a “critical edition of the Septuagint” (9), which is technically true, but potentially misleading, as “semi-critical” is better (text criticism is not a real concern of the book)
  • a peppering of vague statements like this one on “the image of God” in Genesis 1:26: “See a commentary or study Bible” (31)
  • the typesetting on the epsilon just seems off to me. I’ve tried to convince myself it’s just me, but I haven’t since been able to unsee what just looks like a flattened ε or a backwards three, rather than an actual Greek letter:

     

    screenshot-2016-10-31-22-06-57

     

    By contrast, look at the letter in this screenshot, taken from Accordance Bible Software:

     

    screenshot-2016-10-31-22-08-42

     

    The layout and Greek font are nice otherwise! (Though a couple times in the typesetting of the book, a letter from another language intrudes mid-word.)

  • Introductory issues are quite sparse–whether in the introduction to the Greek of the Septuagint itself (just two pages) or in the introductions to books. I would have liked it if the contributing writers had offered more for each book–even three or four pages would have gone further than the one or two that are here.

This last point deserves just a couple more lines. A number of the introductions adapt or “abstract” their text from the NETS book introductions, which readers could easily enough have found on their own. In some ways the book introductions read just like exam study guides you might have made yourself for a grad-level class on the Septuagint. That may be, in fact, how they started! (Jobes is chief overseer of the book, with many contributors.) This does not make the introductions not valuable, but it will probably leave readers wishing for more detail.

All in all, Discovering the Septuagint is worth owning. The number of times I’ve gotten grammatical or morphological help from the comments far outweighs any of the volume’s weaknesses. And there is a lot of Greek help to be had here. I’ll be making repeated use of this book by Jobes and company, and am glad it’s finally on the market.

Discovering the Septuagint is available from Amazon, as well as from Kregel.

 


 

Thanks to Kregel for sending the review copy, provided to me so I could write about the book, but with no expectation as to the content of my review.

It’s Prohibitively Expensive, But…

Brill LXX

 

…the Brill Septuagint Commentary Series is nearing availability on Logos Bible Software.

Here is how Brill describes its series:

This multi-volume series fills a significant gap in biblical studies by providing a literary commentary on the Greek text of the Septuagint. The Septuagint is widely recognized as one of the most important interpretations of the Old Testament and one of the most important sources for New Testament study. Whereas there has been much attention devoted to the two testaments, with numerous commentary series having been written, the Septuagint has been virtually neglected as a set of primary texts used by Jewish and Christian religious communities in the Greco-Roman world.

All 13 published titles will be released in late July through Logos, now available for the steep pre-order price of $1,773.99. It’s a good time to consult your local theological library. All the same, I’m encouraged to see the expanding availability of electronic resources for Septuagint studies.

Find out more here.

Discovering the Septuagint: A Guided Reader (Jobes) Is Now Available

Discovering the LXX

 

For Greek reading I’ve been so knee-deep in Ephesians that I haven’t been much in the Septuagint of late. That will change with the release of Karen Jobes’s Discovering the Septuagint: A Guided Reader, just published by Kregel Academic. I have known about this for a long time, so am happy to see it released into the wild! I think a lot of folks will benefit from it, especially those ready to freshen things up or go a step deeper in Greek learning.

While it’s available for pre-order from Amazon, it’s shipping now from Kregel, so what are you waiting for?

At Last: Muraoka’s Syntax of Septuagint Greek

Muraoka Syntax of LXX Greek

 

At last, an up-to-date, full-on Septuagint grammar: Muraoka’s Syntax of Septuagint Greek.

I mean, just take a look at the Table of Contents! Thank you, T. Muraoka, for writing it.

It is undoubtedly worth every penny, though it does cost many pennies, as you might expect.

Here’s what the publisher says about it:

This is the first ever comprehensive analysis of the morphosyntax and syntax of Septuagint Greek. The work is based on the most up-to-date editions of the Septuagint. The so-called Antiochene version of Samuel, Kings, and Chronicles as well as Judges has been studied. Though this is a synchronic grammar, and though not systematic, comparison with Classical Greek, the Greek of contemporary literature of the Hellenistic-Roman period, papyri and epigraphical data, and New Testament Greek has often been undertaken. Even when analysing translated documents of the Septuagint, the perspective is basically that of its readers. However, attempts were made to determine in what ways and to what extent the structure of the Semitic source languages may have influenced the selection of this or that particular construction by translators. At many places it is demonstrated and illustrated how an analysis of the morphosyntax and syntax can illuminate our general interpretation of the Septuagint text.

Here it is at Peeters Publishers. Here‘s the Amazon page.