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Is there a commentary on LXX-MT differences?


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#1 jlm

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Posted 25 June 2019 - 11:10 AM

Is there a commentary that explains the differences between the LXX and the MT? I sometimes come across these differences, especially in the Psalms, and wonder fundamentally whether the LXX translation is a reasonable interpretation or just a mistake. Before one could answer that question, one would have to try to understand how they got their translation: a different consonantal text, a different pointing and/or word division, or a different interpretation of the same word(s).

 

Here’s an example to illustrate what I’m talking about. If you don’t have time to read it, just answer the question above.

 

Recently, I was looking at this verse: "They were divided due to the anger of his face, / and his heart drew near; / his words became smoother than oil, / and they are missiles" (Psa. 54:22 NETS).

 

The NRSV has: "with speech smoother than butter, / but with a heart set on war; / with words that were softer than oil, / but in fact were drawn swords" (Psa. 55:21 NRSV). That’s quite different. This may not be the best example, because the MT itself is obscure and has been emended by the NRSV (cf. NET Notes), but the differences in the LXX go well beyond the range of variation in modern translations.

 

Now, unless I get lucky with the NET notes, the only resource I know of is Bellarmine’s Commentary on the Psalms. It’s obviously rather dated, and furthermore, his explanations of these differences are left out of the English translation, so you have to read his Latin. He's explaining the Vulgate's translation from the LXX (the Gallican Psalter) in the light of the Hebrew text. I’ll give you the Latin for those who can read it, but below I’ll explain in English.

 

“Hic versiculus obscurissimus est propter mutationes numeri singularis in numerum multitudinis. In hebræo habetur in singulari: Contaminavit testamentum ejus, diviserunt, sive molliverunt præ butyro os suum, vel os ejus; sed cum dicitur, contaminavit, potest exponi, contaminavit unusquisque testamentum ejus, quod est idem cum illo, contaminaverunt testamentum ejus. Illud etiam, præ butyro, si legatur vox hebraica חמהות chamahoth, per ה, non per א, significabit præ ira, vel ab ira, ut vertunt Septuaginta Interpretes. Illud etiam, diviserunt, potest etiam significare, divisi sunt: nam utramque significationem habet vox חלקו chalecu; sensus igitur hic erit: Deus juste extendit manum suam in retribuendis suppliciis inimicis meis, quoniam illi non solum non voluerunt mutari de vitio in virtutem, sed magis ac magis contaminaverunt testamentum, sive pactum ejus, malis suis operibus, prævaricando leges ejus: propterea «divisi sunt,» hoc est, dispersi ac dissipati sunt ab ira vultus Dei, «quia approprinquavit cor illius,» Dei videlicet, ad eos puniendos.”

 

The first issue he addresses is the fact that the translation uses the plural instead of the singular found in the Hebrew: “They violated his covenant. / They were divided” (Psa. 54:21–22 NETS). He explains this by saying that the translator understands the original as “everyone has violated the covenant,” and thus, “they violated the covenant.” OK, sounds reasonable.

 

Then he comes to a greater difference: that (præ butyro) “more than butter” (“smooth more than butter” “smoother than butter”). If one instead reads the Hebrew word חמהות, with heh instead of aleph, then it means præ ira (“before [his] wrath”), or “from [his] wrath,” as the LXX Interpreters translate. [Here I don’t quite follow him, perhaps in part because my knowledge of Hebrew is fairly basic. I understand that he’s decided the initial mem is a particle, but it looks like he’s stuck a vav (mater lectionis?) in there as well without mentioning it, and I’m not capable of finding the word he’s talking about in a lexicon: חֵמָה is as close as I can get, but I don’t see this form.]

 

He goes on: that word translated “divided” can also mean “they are divided,” for חלקו has both meanings. [Here he’s lost me again. Is there a different vocalization that would make this passive, or is the qal or piel sometimes used with passive force, or is he just wrong?] 

 

He concludes with this explanation: “The sense therefore is this: God justly extends His hand to repay my enemies with torments, because they not only did not want to change from vice to virtue, but violated his covenant more and more by their evil works, transgressing His laws. Therefore, ‘they are divided,’ i.e., dispersed and scattered by the wrath of God’s face, ‘because His (viz., God’s) heart has drawn near’ to punish them.”

 

So there’s an example to give a sense of the questions I have and of my very basic understanding of Hebrew. What I’m looking for is not so much an explanation of this verse in particular, as a commentary that would help me answer questions like this about divergences between the LXX and MT, particularly in the Book of Psalms.


Edited by jlm, 25 June 2019 - 11:11 AM.


#2 Abram K-J

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Posted 25 June 2019 - 01:46 PM

Do you already have or know about the MT-LXX parallel tool? See screenshot--if there appears to be a significantly different Greek reading, it is likely to show you the Hebrew retroversion (i.e., hypothetical Hebrew the Greek was translating).

 

Attached File  Screenshot 2019-06-25 14.47.28.png   491.15KB   5 downloads


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#3 A. Smith

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Posted 25 June 2019 - 01:56 PM

Is there a commentary that explains the differences between the LXX and the MT? I sometimes come across these differences, especially in the Psalms, and wonder fundamentally whether the LXX translation is a reasonable interpretation or just a mistake. Before one could answer that question, one would have to try to understand how they got their translation: a different consonantal text, a different pointing and/or word division, or a different interpretation of the same word(s).

 

Here’s an example to illustrate what I’m talking about. If you don’t have time to read it, just answer the question above.

 

Recently, I was looking at this verse: "They were divided due to the anger of his face, / and his heart drew near; / his words became smoother than oil, / and they are missiles" (Psa. 54:22 NETS).

 

The NRSV has: "with speech smoother than butter, / but with a heart set on war; / with words that were softer than oil, / but in fact were drawn swords" (Psa. 55:21 NRSV). That’s quite different. This may not be the best example, because the MT itself is obscure and has been emended by the NRSV (cf. NET Notes), but the differences in the LXX go well beyond the range of variation in modern translations.

 

Now, unless I get lucky with the NET notes, the only resource I know of is Bellarmine’s Commentary on the Psalms. It’s obviously rather dated, and furthermore, his explanations of these differences are left out of the English translation, so you have to read his Latin. He's explaining the Vulgate's translation from the LXX (the Gallican Psalter) in the light of the Hebrew text. I’ll give you the Latin for those who can read it, but below I’ll explain in English.

 

“Hic versiculus obscurissimus est propter mutationes numeri singularis in numerum multitudinis. In hebræo habetur in singulari: Contaminavit testamentum ejus, diviserunt, sive molliverunt præ butyro os suum, vel os ejus; sed cum dicitur, contaminavit, potest exponi, contaminavit unusquisque testamentum ejus, quod est idem cum illo, contaminaverunt testamentum ejus. Illud etiam, præ butyro, si legatur vox hebraica חמהות chamahoth, per ה, non per א, significabit præ ira, vel ab ira, ut vertunt Septuaginta Interpretes. Illud etiam, diviserunt, potest etiam significare, divisi sunt: nam utramque significationem habet vox חלקו chalecu; sensus igitur hic erit: Deus juste extendit manum suam in retribuendis suppliciis inimicis meis, quoniam illi non solum non voluerunt mutari de vitio in virtutem, sed magis ac magis contaminaverunt testamentum, sive pactum ejus, malis suis operibus, prævaricando leges ejus: propterea «divisi sunt,» hoc est, dispersi ac dissipati sunt ab ira vultus Dei, «quia approprinquavit cor illius,» Dei videlicet, ad eos puniendos.”

 

The first issue he addresses is the fact that the translation uses the plural instead of the singular found in the Hebrew: “They violated his covenant. / They were divided” (Psa. 54:21–22 NETS). He explains this by saying that the translator understands the original as “everyone has violated the covenant,” and thus, “they violated the covenant.” OK, sounds reasonable.

 

Then he comes to a greater difference: that (præ butyro) “more than butter” (“smooth more than butter” → “smoother than butter”). If one instead reads the Hebrew word חמהות, with heh instead of aleph, then it means præ ira (“before [his] wrath”), or “from [his] wrath,” as the LXX Interpreters translate. [Here I don’t quite follow him, perhaps in part because my knowledge of Hebrew is fairly basic. I understand that he’s decided the initial mem is a particle, but it looks like he’s stuck a vav (mater lectionis?) in there as well without mentioning it, and I’m not capable of finding the word he’s talking about in a lexicon: חֵמָה is as close as I can get, but I don’t see this form.]

 

He goes on: that word translated “divided” can also mean “they are divided,” for חלקו has both meanings. [Here he’s lost me again. Is there a different vocalization that would make this passive, or is the qal or piel sometimes used with passive force, or is he just wrong?] 

 

He concludes with this explanation: “The sense therefore is this: God justly extends His hand to repay my enemies with torments, because they not only did not want to change from vice to virtue, but violated his covenant more and more by their evil works, transgressing His laws. Therefore, ‘they are divided,’ i.e., dispersed and scattered by the wrath of God’s face, ‘because His (viz., God’s) heart has drawn near’ to punish them.”

 

So there’s an example to give a sense of the questions I have and of my very basic understanding of Hebrew. What I’m looking for is not so much an explanation of this verse in particular, as a commentary that would help me answer questions like this about divergences between the LXX and MT, particularly in the Book of Psalms.

As far as commentaries go, the best is going to be the Notes on the Greek Text of XYZ published along with the Gott LXX, by the editors of the respective books, generally. Some are available online. https://rep.adw-goe....le-attribute=en


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#4 jlm

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Posted 25 June 2019 - 02:22 PM

Do you already have or know about the MT-LXX parallel tool? See screenshot--if there appears to be a significantly different Greek reading, it is likely to show you the Hebrew retroversion (i.e., hypothetical Hebrew the Greek was translating).

 

attachicon.gifScreenshot 2019-06-25 14.47.28.png

That's very helpful. I do have it, but I haven't used it a lot and didn't know it contained retroversions.



#5 jlm

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Posted 25 June 2019 - 02:38 PM

As far as commentaries go, the best is going to be the Notes on the Greek Text of XYZ published along with the Gott LXX, by the editors of the respective books, generally. Some are available online. https://rep.adw-goe....le-attribute=en

 

Do you mean the Text und TextgeschichteText History volumes? Unfortunately, there isn't one there for Psalms, although I did find a couple of interesting papers in Der Septuaginta-Psalter und seine Tochterübersetzungen.



#6 A. Smith

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Posted 25 June 2019 - 02:48 PM

Do you mean the Text und TextgeschichteText History volumes? Unfortunately, there isn't one there for Psalms, although I did find a couple of interesting papers in Der Septuaginta-Psalter und seine Tochterübersetzungen.

You're correct. I'm sorry. I didn't not pick up that you were looking exclusively for the psalms. 


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#7 Abram K-J

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Posted 25 June 2019 - 02:56 PM

I haven't updated this page in 4.5 years, but at that time I collected and linked to a bunch of LXX Psalms resources, FWIW.

 

A good starting point for background reading could be Albert Pietersma’s article: “The Present State of the Critical Text of the Greek Psalter” (PDF).


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#8 jlm

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Posted 25 June 2019 - 02:57 PM

You're correct. I'm sorry. I didn't not pick up that you were looking exclusively for the psalms.

Mostly, but not exclusively. The other volumes may be useful in the future.

Edited by jlm, 25 June 2019 - 02:58 PM.


#9 lslapides

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Posted 25 June 2019 - 04:31 PM

So if understand correctly, to correctly compare the MT text and the LXX, I would need the BHS as well as Rahlfs Septuagint tagged plus the MT-LXX parallel tool as described by David Lang in his two articles re the parallel tool. Just having the two original language tools will not create all the advantages of the parallel tool from what I am hearing. Does the parallel tool included the original language modules or does it act as a module tool between the two biblical texts?

#10 Helen Brown

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Posted 25 June 2019 - 05:14 PM

The words of both texts are included in the Parallel, without tagging, with footnotes, and in the order of the Hebrew text. You really need both tagged texts as well.


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#11 A. Smith

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Posted 26 June 2019 - 12:55 PM

So if understand correctly, to correctly compare the MT text and the LXX, I would need the BHS as well as Rahlfs Septuagint tagged plus the MT-LXX parallel tool as described by David Lang in his two articles re the parallel tool. Just having the two original language tools will not create all the advantages of the parallel tool from what I am hearing. Does the parallel tool included the original language modules or does it act as a module tool between the two biblical texts?

The parallel text is a unique tool. You can absolutely run the Hebrew and Greek text in two parallel panes just like you would any two English translations. But the Parallel offers you a lot more data about the nature of the LXX translation. If you're not specifically interested in translation studies, MT criticism, or the LXX, it may not be relevant for you. If you just want to see the two texts, you can do that with the two text modules. 


So, here are the two texts simply running parallel to one another. 

 


And here is the MT-LXX module. There is a lot of very specific, technical, and helpful info in these little symbols scattered throughout. The nature of the LXX translation is a unique bird, requiring some unique approaches to translation. We all wish it were as simple as comparing the GNT to the NIV or some such. 

Attached Files


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#12 MattChristian

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Posted 26 June 2019 - 07:58 PM

The BHQ commentary would be helpful too


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Cheers,

 

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#13 jlm

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Posted 27 June 2019 - 02:32 AM

The BHQ commentary would be helpful too

That's good to know, but I don't know Hebrew well enough to justify buying it at this point.



#14 R. Mansfield

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Posted 27 June 2019 - 02:14 PM

Back to the original question, if you’re just looking for a basic discussion of the differences between the Septuagint and the Masoretic Text, I would recommend When God Spoke Greek: The Septuagint and the Making of the Christian Bible by Timothy Michael Law. Unfortunately, we do not have it yet in Accordance (though we have discussed getting it, and I hope we do). This book is written at a non-specialist level but includes sections that offer brief surveys, essentially book-by-book, of the major differences between the LXX and Hebrew Bible. It is also a good general introduction to the LXX.


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#15 jlm

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Posted 28 June 2019 - 10:14 AM

Back to the original question, if you’re just looking for a basic discussion of the differences between the Septuagint and the Masoretic Text, I would recommend When God Spoke Greek: The Septuagint and the Making of the Christian Bible by Timothy Michael Law. Unfortunately, we do not have it yet in Accordance (though we have discussed getting it, and I hope we do). This book is written at a non-specialist level but includes sections that offer brief surveys, essentially book-by-book, of the major differences between the LXX and Hebrew Bible. It is also a good general introduction to the LXX.


Judging from the first chapter and a half, this looks like a good popular introduction, but I'm looking for verse-by-verse commentary on significant differences.

#16 דָנִיאֶל

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Posted 28 June 2019 - 10:28 AM

Hi jlm

 

  I only know of the Psalmi cum odis of Rahlfs which he did as an apparatus. It has some discussion but I looked over it and it does not do a verse by verse comparison I don't think. It does list textual variants though mostly wrt the Greek manuscripts. There is a PDF around but the bulk of the text is German. And then there is this which I found on Amazon with a quick search. I hesitated to post it but perhaps it is along the lines you are looking for but it is only for a single Psalm.https://www.amazon.c...=gateway&sr=8-5

 

Oh and maybe check this out perhaps https://www.jstor.or...b_contents.It'sa little off-topic but might have references of interest in it.

 

Thx

D


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#17 Douglas Fyfe

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Posted 12 July 2019 - 10:20 PM

To be honest I think you're only going to get generalisations and summaries if you're looking for a book discussing the whole OT. 

 

You'll need to be looking more at monographs for that sort of detail, such as https://academic.oup...7/1/203/1646310 on the differences between Jeremiah's Hebrew and Greek Recensions. 

 

The NETS introductions to each book discuss the character of the Greek text versus the Hebrew, and the BHQ fascicles will do the same thing but from the Hebrew perspective. But they will be generalisations.

 

Who knows - perhaps some publisher is working on a series describing the differences for every book of the Bible, but it would seem a mammoth task.


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#18 jlm

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Posted 13 July 2019 - 05:09 AM

To be honest I think you're only going to get generalisations and summaries if you're looking for a book discussing the whole OT. 

 

You'll need to be looking more at monographs for that sort of detail, such as https://academic.oup...7/1/203/1646310 on the differences between Jeremiah's Hebrew and Greek Recensions. 

 

The NETS introductions to each book discuss the character of the Greek text versus the Hebrew, and the BHQ fascicles will do the same thing but from the Hebrew perspective. But they will be generalisations.

 

Who knows - perhaps some publisher is working on a series describing the differences for every book of the Bible, but it would seem a mammoth task.

 

Before I started this thread, I had heard of the two commentary series on the Septuagint (Brill and SBL), and thought that one or both of them might discuss differences between the MT and what the LXX (or Old Greek, where it can be reconstructed) was translating. I've never seen them, but I thought perhaps someone else on the forum might have. A longer shot was the LXX.D's text commentary, which might also take an interest in these issues. German isn't my first (or second) choice for a commentary, but in this case I wouldn't be reading a lot of it: a single volume explanation of an LXX translation can't go into great detail on any particular verse. I've never seen it either: the LXX.D website has front matter and back matter, but I didn't find a single page of translation or commentary.

 

So far the most useful resource is the MT-LXX parallel, which I already had, but hadn't used enough to realize it contained retroversions. I don't have the BHQ (and couldn't justify buying it at this point), but it looks like its critical apparatus also has LXX retroversions.



#19 MattChristian

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Posted 27 July 2019 - 07:40 AM

Before I started this thread, I had heard of the two commentary series on the Septuagint (Brill and SBL), and thought that one or both of them might discuss differences between the MT and what the LXX (or Old Greek, where it can be reconstructed) was translating. I've never seen them, but I thought perhaps someone else on the forum might have. A longer shot was the LXX.D's text commentary, which might also take an interest in these issues. German isn't my first (or second) choice for a commentary, but in this case I wouldn't be reading a lot of it: a single volume explanation of an LXX translation can't go into great detail on any particular verse. I've never seen it either: the LXX.D website has front matter and back matter, but I didn't find a single page of translation or commentary.

 

So far the most useful resource is the MT-LXX parallel, which I already had, but hadn't used enough to realize it contained retroversions. I don't have the BHQ (and couldn't justify buying it at this point), but it looks like its critical apparatus also has LXX retroversions.

The BHQ volumes do and have a good amount of commentary on the apparatus differences. Wherever the critical apparatus has a difference, the volume has an entire section of commentary on that difference


The BHQ volumes do and have a good amount of commentary on the apparatus differences. Wherever the critical apparatus has a difference, the volume has an entire section of commentary on that difference

To clarify- The print copies have this. The Accordance modules are not even tagged yet.


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Cheers,

 

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#20 jlm

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Posted 28 July 2019 - 03:01 PM

The BHQ volumes do and have a good amount of commentary on the apparatus differences. Wherever the critical apparatus has a difference, the volume has an entire section of commentary on that difference
To clarify- The print copies have this. The Accordance modules are not even tagged yet.


In the Accordance BHQ demo video (https://www.youtube....h?v=yvwPDIXXPLQ), it looks like there's a BHQ Commentary tool with the content you're describing. Is there yet another commentary in the print volumes?




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