Three Septuagint books I’m reading

There are three good (so far) books I’m reading on the Septuagint. Links and publisher’s descriptions are below.

1. LXX-Isaiah as Translation and Interpretation: The Strategies of the Translator of the Septuagint of Isaiah, by Roland L. Troxel (Brill, 2007)

LXX-Isaiah_TroxelThis book offers a fresh understanding of how Isaiah was translated into Greek, by considering the impact of the translator’s Alexandrian milieu on his work. Whereas most studies over the past fifty years have regarded the book’s free translation style as betraying the translator’s conviction that Isaiah’s oracles were being fulfilled in his day, this study argues that he was primarily interested in offering his Greek-speaking co-religionists a cohesive representation of Isaiah’s ideas. Comparison of the translator’s interpretative tacks with those employed by the grammatikoi in their study of Homer offers a convincing picture of his work as an Alexandrian Jew and clarifies how this translation should be assessed in reconstructing early textual forms of Hebrew Isaiah.

2. The Reception of the Hebrew Bible in the Septuagint and the New Testament: Essays in Memory of Aileen Guilding, edited by David J.A. Clines and J. Cheryl Exum (Sheffield Phoenix Press, 2013)

Reception of Hebrew Bible in LXXAileen Guilding was Professor of Biblical History and Literature in the University of Sheffield from 1959 to 1965, and was known especially for her monograph The Fourth Gospel and Jewish Worship: A Study of the Relation of St. John’s Gospel to the Ancient Jewish Lectionary System (Oxford, 1960), which enjoyed a succès d’estime in its day as an exceptionally fascinating and learned book. She is celebrated in Sheffield as the first female professor in the University; she was also the first woman to hold a chair in theology or religion in the United Kingdom. After her death at the age of 94 a conference on themes relevant to her special interests was held in Sheffield as part of a meeting of the Society for Old Testament Study, and the papers read there are presented in this volume, published in the 101st year after her birth.

3. Messianism in the Old Greek of Isaiah: An Intertextual Analysis, by Abi T. Ngunga (Vandenhoeck & Ruprecht, 2013)

Messianism Old Greek IsaiahAbi T. Ngunga explores the theme of messianism in the entire corpus of the Old Greek of Isaiah (LXX-Isaiah). This is done through the lens of an intertextual hermeneutic employed by the Isaiah translator as a mode of reading this text.

Its introductory chapter looks at the need in scholarship to investigate the topic of messianism in the Greek Bible in general, and in the whole of the LXX-Isaiah in particular. After dealing with a few issues related to the LXX-Isaiah as a translation, Ngunga also surveys thoroughly the topic of intertextuality from its inception to its use in biblical studies including LXX research. Particular attention is given to its application in research done, to date, on the Greek text of Isaiah.

Chapter two re-examines a few arguments pertinent to the scholarly opinion that messianic hopes were not prominent among the Alexandrian Jews in comparison to their co-religionists in Palestine. It also explores the relationships between the non-Jewish citizens of the Ptolemaic kingdom and the Alexandrian Jews, with the aim to ascertain the legitimacy of investigating the theme of messianism in a piece of Jewish literature such as the LXX-Isaiah authored in the Hellenistic period. Chapter three analyses in-depth nine selected messianic passages within the LXX-Isaiah (7:10–17; 9:1–7 (8:23–9:6); 11:1–10; 16:1–5; 19:16–25; 31:9b–32:8; 42:1–4; 52:13–53:12; and 61:1–3a). The study concludes by highlighting the detected particular messianic imprints left on the LXX-Isaiah. Given the results, the study dismisses any doubt concerning the contention that there is a dynamic messianic thought running through the whole of the Greek Isaiah. It also sheds some light on the understanding of some of the messianic beliefs later echoed in early Christianity.

Reviews of each of these three will come soon.

A Quick Tip for Understanding Word Frequency Stats in the Dictionary of Classical Hebrew

The Concise Version
The Concise Version

Recently I’ve been paying more attention to the Dictionary of Classical Hebrew and its Concise counterpart (see here).

It took me a little while to figure out how to read the frequency stats in DCH/CDCH. So I’m posting this little tidbit here to save some folks a bit of time.

The introduction to the concise version of the lexicon reads:

2. Statistics. Next comes a notation of the number of occurrences of the word in each of the four corpora of ancient Hebrew: the Bible, Ben Sira, the Dead Sea Scrolls, and the Inscriptions. Thus the notation 334.5.13.32 means that the word occurs 334 times in the Bible, 5 times in Ben Sira, 13 times in the Dead Sea Scrolls and 32 times in the Hebrew Inscriptions. If there is only one number in the statistics, the word occurs only in the Hebrew Bible, and if the notation is, for example, 0.0.7, it means that it occurs only in the Dead Sea Scrolls, and that 7 times. In the case of verbs, occurrence statistics are also given for each of the voices (or, binyanim).

The entry for נתן has a frequency count of “2015.62.228.26.” That’s straightforward enough. But then with the entry for תרומה the frequency given is “76.2.18.” This means it occurs 76 times in the Bible, 2 in Ben Sira, 18 times in the DSS, and 0 times in the Inscriptions. Another entry that has “11.4″ means 11 times in the Bible, 4 times in Ben Sira, 0 in DSS and 0 in the Inscriptions.

What took me a little while to figure out is that some entries have counts like “376.0.1,” which means 376 occurrences in the Bible, 0 in Ben Sira, 1 in DSS, and 0 in the Inscriptions.

The 0s are not noted, then, if there is not still a number to come after it that is 1 or more. In other words, you’d have “376.0.1,” but never “376.1.0.0″ or even “376.1.0.” That would be abbreviated instead to “376.1.”

It would have been easier if all the 0s were inserted in every case, so that you were always looking at 4 actual numbers (thinking of 0 as a “number” for the moment), but I am guessing that this is because the longer DCH (at 8 volumes in print) likely couldn’t afford to be filled with 0s, where they could otherwise be deleted.

In summary, the four corpora in this lexicon are:

  1. Hebrew Bible
  2. Ben Sira
  3. Dead Sea Scrolls
  4. Hebrew Inscriptions

Committing that sequence to memory (and better understanding when a 0 is used and not used) makes use of the lexicon even easier. I appreciate DCH/CDCH’s inclusion of frequency statistics, as I use it to build my Hebrew vocabulary.

I use the Concise DCH for regular Hebrew reading in Accordance, but have just recently been really getting to know it as a lexicon. The print version of The Concise DCH is here; in Accordance it is here. The full 8-volume set from Sheffield Phoenix Press is here, found also here at Accordance.

A New Standard Lexicon for Hebrew?

HALOT has been the scholarly standard in Hebrew lexicons, but might that change?

The mammoth 8-volume Dictionary of Classical Hebrew (DCH) is another major lexical source for readers of biblical Hebrew to consult. What is unique about the DCH is that lexicons like HALOT and Brown-Driver-Briggs (BDB) cover solely the Hebrew found in the Hebrew Bible. DCH, by contrast, covers a wider corpus–“from the earliest times to 200 CE,” it says. According to its product page:

It is the first dictionary of the classical Hebrew language to cover not only the biblical texts but also Ben Sira, the Dead Sea Scrolls and the Hebrew inscriptions. It is the first dictionary to analyse the exact sense of every occurrence of every word, to follow every Hebrew word or phrase with an English equivalent, to print a frequency table of occurrences of each word, and to provide an English-Hebrew index.

Not least among its features is its addition of more than 3500 new words to the stock of the Hebrew lexicon, together with an extraordinarily rich bibliography surveying special lexicographical studies over the last century.

The Concise Version
The Concise Version

The 8-volume set in print is high-priced, as one would expect. It is much more affordable (as “affordable” goes, in these contexts) in Accordance, which is currently the only Bible software to carry it. The concise version seems to be financially within the reach of many students and pastors.

What is remarkable about the concise version of the dictionary is: “All the words in the full Dictionary of Classical Hebrew are to be found in the CDCH.” Of course, there are less instances of a given word’s occurrence listed, but that every word of the 8-volume set is treated in its 500-some-page younger sister is impressive.

The publisher notes:

The CDCH thus contains not only the c. 8400 Hebrew words found in the standard dictionaries, but also a further 3340+ words (540 from the Dead Sea Scrolls, 680 from other ancient Hebrew literature, and 2120+ proposed words for the Hebrew Bible not previously recognized by dictionaries).

By way of comparison, here is an entry for the same (rarely occurring) word in the concise and full dictionaries, respectively:

Full DCH
Full DCH
Concise DCH
Concise DCH

I use the Concise DCH for regular Hebrew reading in Accordance, but have just recently been really getting to know it as a lexicon. (UPDATE: see another post here on word frequency statistics in the lexicon.) The print version of The Concise DCH is here; in Accordance it is here. The full 8-volume set from Sheffield Phoenix Press is here, found also here at Accordance.