Septuaginta: A Reader’s Edition

Septuaginta: A Reader’s Edition offers the complete text of the Greek Old Testament as it appears in the Rahlfs-Hanhart revised Septuaginta, laid out in a clear and readable format. All deuterocanonical books are included, as well as all double-texts, which are presented on facing pages for easy textual comparison. In order to facilitate natural and seamless reading of the text, every word occurring 100 times or fewer in the Rahlfs-Hanhart text (excluding proper names)—as well as every word that occurs more than 100 times in the Rahlfs-Hanhart text but fewer than 30 times in the Greek New Testament—is accompanied by a footnote that provides a contextual gloss for the word and (for verbs only) full parsing. Additionally, an appendix provides a complete alphabetized list of common vocabulary (namely, all the words that are not accompanied by a footnote), with glosses and (as applicable) comparison of a word’s usage in the Septuagint to its usage in the New Testament.

All of these combined features will make Septuaginta: A Reader’s Edition an indispensable resource for biblical scholars and an excellent tool for improving one’s comprehension of the Greek language. In addition, each volume will include two ribbon markers.

Hendrickson has sent along a review exemplar.  I first heard of the project from William Ross at SBL a few years ago (in San Antonio over breakfast with my best friend Jim Aitken)(Jim will judiciously deny that little friend fact of course but it’s true) and was so excited then that I hounded the poor boy mercilessly about it.  I’m so pleased to see all their hard work come to fruition.

The opening sections of each volume (there are two) include the same information:

  1. About Septuaginta: A Reader’s Edition
  2. How to Use this Edition
  3. Advanced Information on Septuagint Studies
  4. Select Bibliography
  5. Acknowledgments

The most extensive description is reserved for the second section.  In it, the editors discuss the text they have chosen to utilize, the chapter and verse system used, The vocabulary apparatus, headings, text divisions, and poetic formatting, and the glossary.

Aesthetically, the volumes are really quite lovely.  The edition in hand is the blue hardcover whose feel is very akin to the Septuagint of Rahlfs (the blue lovely thing that came out decades ago with a cloth feel).  The font is sharp and the binding is sturdy.  Each volume also offers two ribbon bookmarks sewn into the binding.  Unlike other DBG volumes there is no pull-out card including textual data.

The choice of Rahlfs-Hanhart as the base text was a good decision by the editors and I suppose the most practical since, although a reader’s edition based on the Göttingen Septuagint would be brilliant the fact that that edition is not yet complete makes it, as base-text, impossible.  Perhaps one day…

The difficulty with any reader’s edition of the biblical text always comes down to the choice of words used to define the Greek (or Hebrew) text being read.  Words, after all, have usage, not meaning; and how a word is used here or there is thoroughly determined by the context in which it finds itself.  So, for instance, σιωπαω may well suggest ‘keep silence’ at Deut 27:9 it can suggest ‘stop speaking’ (as an interruption of the act of speaking as it occurs) elsewhere.

Every translation, accordingly, is also an interpretation and every translational gloss is an interpretational move.  To be sure, sense and context go hand in hand and most translators have the sense to realize this.  A nonsensical rendering will immediately provoke offense in the mind of the intelligent reader.  Nonetheless, the very choice of gloss is itself a decision of interpretation.  And it’s worth reminding ourselves, and readers of this excellent volume, that this is the case.

The second thing that we need to remind readers of, and the editors do a great job of this, but it bears repeating, is that the glosses provided are merely a rough indicator of the possible range of usages for any word provided.  Taking with absolute seriousness the ‘Reader’s’ part in the title of the volumes, these volumes have as their singular purpose the provision of bare bones lexical data for those who are reading through the Septuagint.  Reading is the aim here, not in depth lexical study.  That task must still be pursued in the lexica and grammars and textual studies.

The volumes at hand, then, are intended to be books that are read.  Read with haste.  Read with vigor.  Read with the purpose of reading and reading along and reading alone and gaining first hand familiarity with the biblical text of the Old Testament in its Greek incarnation.  And they accomplish that aim admirably.

Were I to quibble (and I’m not really given to quibbling) I would have preferred to see fewer repetitions of the same glosses on the same page.  It seems that the same gloss could easily be indicated by the same number.  I.e., every occurrence of βλεπω needn’t have a separate gloss number when 1 or 4 or whatever would achieve the same goal.  And, allow me to hasten to add, I realize that there are computational restraints about which I know nothing.  I’m just mentioning my preferences.

Last century a wise theologian remarked to his students:  “Gentlemen, have you a Septuagint? If not, sell all you have, and buy a Septuagint.” ~Ferdinand Hitzig

You won’t need to sell everything you have to buy this edition of the Septuagint, you’ll just have to skip your daily trip to Starbucks for a few weeks.  Do it.

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