Some Sundays (though not nearly 70 or 72) have gone by without a Septuagint Sunday post, an erstwhile major focus of this blog. Today rectifies the paucity, at least for this week.
William Ross, a doctoral student at the University of Cambridge, interviewed James K. Aitken just after Christmas. Aitken is the editor of the exciting T & T Clark Companion to the Septuagint. The companion, to my knowledge, marks a first in Septuagint studies, as it presents a “handy summary of features for each of the Septuagint books.”
The interview is fascinating and enjoyable, and you get a sense of a scholar who is both rigorous in his study and writing, yet also approachable.
Aitken offers encouragement to those interested in Septuagint studies by suggesting the field still has much ground (bad pun, all mine) to till:
I do not think there is any area that is overworked in LXX studies, so that any aspect of the field is possible. Currently for most books of the LXX, there has been only one or two monographs in the past century – an enviable position in biblical studies! Some books have now received more attention (Isaiah, Psalms, Minor Prophets) but there is still plenty to do even for them. So, a student may pick any book and still have plenty to say.
Conybeare and Stock’s Selections from the Septuagint According to the Text of Swete is a classic–if somewhat dated–work in Septuagint studies. You may also know it as Grammar of Septuagint Greek.
The grammar section is short, and leaves one desiring a properly full grammar of Septuagint Greek. But it’s the best starting point there is, so the Septuagint student will still want to read it. It is chock-full of Scripture references (and quotations), which in the print edition will require a fair amount of looking things up. (The need for this is obviated if you buy the Accordance or Logos edition.)
The grammar section is dense–if selective in its treatment–but not overly obtuse. There is a 20+-page introduction on the Septuagint, its origin, the Letter of Aristeas, transmission, and so on. It offers succinct coverage of the “long process” of the “making of the Septuagint.”
After the introduction there are “Accidence” and “Syntax” sections, the former covering morphology and the latter addressing sentence structure. To get a feel for how much coverage a section has, here is part of a page on “number” in Septuagint Greek:
One oddity that appears to be a printing error is that the Table of Contents for the Grammar appears after the Grammar, on about page 100 or so.
The grammar, then, is a good enough starting point, but won’t really take one deeply into study of a particular grammatical or syntactical feature of the text. Would that T. Muraoka might give us a full Septuagint grammar! (Wait–the day after I drafted that sentence, I saw this. Awesome.)
However, Conybeare and Stock more than make up for any lack in the comprehensiveness of the grammar proper with their guided reading section. It is still the most thorough resource of its kind available for the Septuagint. (Though that looks set to change this fall.)
With the Septuagint texts there are reading helps at the bottom of each page. Especially for those who have only read New Testament Greek, this is a great next step. Here is what “The Story of Joseph” looks like (click to enlarge):
You’ll note the attention to grammatical detail, especially, in the notes. And the introductory mini-essays before each reading were a pleasant surprise. These selected readings have definitely helped me keep my Greek going, or ramp it back up after some delays in using it.
You can find Conybeare and Stock’s little gem at Amazon here, or at Wipf and Stock’s product page here.
Another LXX print resource from Wipf and Stock is A Handy Concordance of the Septuagint: Giving Various Readings from Codices Vaticanus, Alexandrinus, Sinaiticus, and Ephraemi.
It’s what you’d expect: a compact, easy-to-carry-around concordance to words found in the Greek Old Testament. To boot: there is an appendix featuring words from Origen’s Hexapla that are “not found in the above manuscripts.”
Of course, a “handy” concordance cannot include every LXX word. Pronouns and prepositions and the like do not occur here. Those engaged in academic study of the Septuagint will probably cringe at this line:
All reference to the Apocrypha has been omitted; principally because it was judged that the Apocryphal books should never have a place with the Holy Scriptures.
There is the offer that if “the apocryphal parts are thought to be needed, any one so disposed can carry out that work.” (Bible software to the rescue!) But Codex Vaticanus, on which the concordance is primarily based, includes what Protestants consider “Apocrypha.” That those books should be omitted on theological grounds seems an unfortunate decision.
Otherwise the book is easy to carry and doesn’t require electricity or software updates, so Apocryphal omission aside, it could have its place in the LXX student’s library. Here’s what part of a page looks like:
You can find the LXX concordance at Amazon here, or at Wipf and Stock’s product page here.
Thanks to Wipf and Stock for the review copies of both books, given to me for the purposes of reviewing them, but with no expectation as to the content of this post.
There won’t be flying cars, but the next best thing: today at 1:00 p.m. (EST) I’ll be leading a free Accordance Webinar covering basic Greek word study and setting up Workspaces. You can sign up here to join in. See the rest of Accordance’s upcoming Webinars here.
Ever wonder how to do intermediate and advanced Greek searches and set up some high-octane Greek Workspaces in Accordance? Yesterday I led a Webinar on that very topic.
Here is the .pdf handout of what I covered, which includes some links to helpful resources. And Accordance allows you to share Workspaces with others, so if you want any of the Workspaces mentioned in the .pdf (notation is WS), just let me know in the comments or reach me here and I’ll set you up!
It’s been a quiet week at Words on the Word. Don’t worry–I’ve been working on some future posts, not the least of which is a review of the new Caspian record. In the meantime, just for fun, here are the top six posts that keep people coming back to the blog, based on traffic, in increasing order.
On the one hand, the burgeoning field of Septuagint studies still has few enough publications that any new work is potentially significant. On the other hand, there still seems to be an acute need for works that bridge the gap between New Testament Greek readers and LXX specialists.
I’ve been asking Kregel for probably three years now whether they’d consider publishing a dedicated Septuagint reader. Little did I know one was already in the works.
It releases this fall. Karen Jobes is its author. Here’s some copy from Kregel that describes the book:
Interest in the Septuagint today is strong and continues to grow. But a guidebook to the text, similar to readers and handbooks that exist for students of the Greek New Testament, has been lacking. Discovering the Septuagint: A Guided Reader fills that need. Created by an expert on the Septuagint, this groundbreaking resource draws on the editor’s experience as an educator to help upper-level college, seminary, and graduate students cultivate skill in reading the Greek Old Testament.
This reader presents, in canonical order, ten Greek texts from the Göttingen Septuaginta Vetus Testamentum Graecum and the Rahlfs-Hanhart Septuaginta critical edition. It explains the syntax, grammar, and vocabulary of more than 700 verses from select Old Testament texts representing a variety of genres, including the Psalms, the Prophets, and more.
The texts included in this volume were chosen to fit into a 15-week semester, reading about 50 verses a week. The texts selected 1) Are examples of distinctive Septuagint syntax or word usage and/or 2) Exemplify the amplification of certain theological themes or motifs by the Septuagint translators within their Jewish Hellenistic culture and/or 3) Are used significantly by New Testament writers.
Each study includes:
Introduction—briefly discussing the particular Greek text and its key features.
English translation—using the New English Translation of the Septuagint.
Text notes—providing verse/phrase–level explanations of the Greek syntax and grammar.
Use in the New Testament.
Parses more difficult verbal forms, gives alternate ways of reading the text, and discusses significant critical issues of the text.
Calls attention to vocabulary and syntax unique to the Septuagint.
References standard Septuagint grammars, lexicons, and other resources.
No cover art yet, but the book is a-coming. You’ll hear more here later.