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.