The T&T Clark Companion to the Septuagint

9780567031341Having arrived for review some time ago, this important and encyclopedic resource:

The Septuagint is the Greek translation of the Hebrew Bible and the scriptures read by early Christians. Septuagint studies have been a growth field in the past twenty years. It has become an area of interest not only for textual criticism of the Hebrew Bible but as a product of Judaism in the Graeco-Roman world. It is even being utilized occasionally by scholars of Greek religion. At the same time renewed interest in the daughter versions (Syriac, Vulgate, Ethiopic, Coptic etc.) has thrown new attention onto the Septuagint.

This Companion provides a cutting-edge survey of scholarly opinion on the Septuagint text of each biblical book. It covers the characteristics of each Septuagint book, its translation features, origins, text-critical problems and history. As such it provides a comprehensive companion to the Septuagint, featuring contributions from experts in the field.

There can, I’ll suggest immediately, be little doubt that this volume will become at some not too distant date in the future THE go to reference volume for students of the Septuagint.  A glance at the list of contributors indicates from the very beginning that one should, and can, expect first rate academic involvement in the project.  James Aitken needs no introduction and neither does T.M. Law, nor does Hector Patmore nor Joachim Schaper nor Loren Stuckenbruck nor Benjamin Wright.  Lesser known (at present at least) junior scholars are also involved resulting in a volume that enjoys the efforts of both the seasoned and the newly minted.

The volume is comprised of the table of contents, which follows the canonical order; the list of contributors; the glossary; an introduction; and then an analysis of each biblical book.

Each analysis follows the same methodological steps: a listing of relevant Greek editions of the LXX along with modern translations of the LXX; 1, General Characteristics; 2, Time and Place of Composition; 3, Language; 4, Translation and composition; 5, Key Text-Critical Issues; 6, Ideology and Exegesis; and 7, Reception History.  The inclusion of the seventh section demonstrates the editorial decision to offer readers a point of contact with the latest trends in academic biblical scholarship.

The font utilized for the Hebrew text, the Greek text, and the English text is exceptional.  Indeed, it is quite lovely.  I suppose many readers will not notice the artistry of the page but those of us who appreciate such things as fonts and church architecture and the more sublime contributions to a better and richer environment certainly will.

Footnotes are kept to a bare minimum and distract the reader only when absolutely essential.  A bibliography of the most up to date resources is affixed, finally, at the end of each chapter and the only index to be found is a scripture index at the conclusion of the volume.

So much, then, for the technical appearance of the volume.  Now a few observations concerning the content itself.  I’ll focus here on Jeremy Corley’s work on Judith.  He lists the standard Greek editions of that book, what he calls ‘other Greek editions’, and modern translations.  He takes up, then, in order, the seven aforementioned topics which are offered for each of the Biblical books.  He writes, for instance

… the tale of Judith is a Jewish novella from the Second Temple Period (p. 223).

… most scholars date the book of Judith between 161 and 63 B.C.E. (p. 224).

The story’s Koine Greek is strongly influenced by Hebraic syntax and idioms, as well as by phraseology from earlier Septuagintal books (p. 225).

The figure of Judith is often depicted in Western art (p. 234).

These very brief citations are simply meant to illustrate the completeness of the volume’s treatment of the books which are found in what we call the Septuagint.  Every conceivable important topic is discussed.

It is also worth noting that, even thought the seven point structure is followed by every contributor, when those strictures are too constricting, authors are free to expand them into further subdivisions and even, as in the case of Tobit, into a quite extensive discussion of each of the versions of the book which are presently known.  And, in the notorious case of Jeremiah, when versification is a monstrosity of confusion, Shead gives us a useful table showing the versifications of Ziegler, Rahlfs, and the MT of Jeremiah.

One oddity does strike this particular reviewer as being in need of addressing in future editions: in the treatment of Genesis, Scarlata utilizes Arabic numerals when indicating the seven topics analyzed but in all of the rest of the books treated, Roman numerals indicate the various analyses.

This volume, as suggested above, is a funhouse of Septuagintal joy.  It is a true companion volume which readers will find so incredibly useful that their actual human companions may find its readers distant and distracted and spending more time with it than them.

If any volume recently produced might at some point be brought to the attention of a divorce court, it may be this one.  It’s easy for me to imagine the following dialogue:

Judge: What brings you two to divorce court today.
Husband: She is unhappy with me for spending too much time with my companion.
Judge: Shame on you!
Wife: It’s not actually that kind of companion your Honor, it’s a book.  He spends more time with it than he does with me.  I tried to get rid of it but he kept hiding it and when I found him days later reading it he would literally sigh, and pet it, and mutter things under his breath to it.  I found it too much.
Judge: Shame on you, sir!  I’m granting your wife’s petition, and in the order of the disposal of property I’m ordering that she retain the companion book.  Hopefully, this will teach you to value people more than books!
Husband (under his breath):  I’m going to get another one anyway.*

You may regret it at some point because it will keep you from human interaction- but if you’re a serious student of the Septuagint, you cannot do without it.

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* This dialogue is a tongue-in-cheek light hearted attempt to underline and highlight the importance and usefulness of this book. Please don’t neglect your spouse because of it- though the temptation will be great

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