A Handsome Volume and a Valuable Resource

I note with satisfaction that Lexham Press has just produced a new translation of the Septuagint in English. It is of course not the only translation of the LXX on the market. As noted in the book’s Introduction, Lancelot Brenton produced a translation in the middle of the nineteenth century; NETS (or the New English Translation of the Septuagint) produced a volume recently under the supervision of my old Greek prof, Albert Pietersma, the Grand Old Man of LXX studies; and of course the Orthodox Study Bible has its own translation of the LXX. All translations have their own strengths and weaknesses, and none should be disdained. This new translation, bound in a handsome hardcover, proudly takes its place among the others.

The Brenton version is quite old, and was based on now out-dated MSS, and relies on older views of the meaning of some words. The NETS uses a modified New Revised Standard Version, and transliterates the proper names, making it difficult to use for some readers—e.g. “David” becomes “Dauid”, “Shiloh” becomes “Selo”. The Orthodox Study Bible is a revision of the New King James Version, and draws some vocabulary from Brenton. The Lexham book retains the traditional rendering of proper names and is a fresh translation directly from the Greek which does not utilize existing English versions for its base.

Like the NETS version, it aims at producing a clunky English rendering when the original Greek was clunky, and a smooth English rendering when the original Greek was smooth. It also aims at consistency of translation, using the same English word for cognates when the Greek uses the same word in Greek. I also note with satisfaction that it avoids the use of what is sometimes called “inclusive language” regarding gender, opting instead for accuracy of translation. Thus, for example, uios in the plural is translated as “sons of Israel” rather than “descendants of Israel”, since uios almost never referred to both genders in the original. It was used when sons were contrasted with daughters.

As I have written elsewhere, I think that junking the Hebrew text of the Old Testament in favour of the LXX is a mistake. But it would be equally mistaken to ignore the LXX. Its use by the New Testament writers and many of the Fathers means that a volume of the LXX should find a place on our scholarly shelf today. The Lexham book would make a fine addition to such a shelf.

 

9 comments:

  1. Good afternoon Fr Lawrence Farley! I am new to the Greek Orthodox Church (formerly RC) for 1 yr now. I was received last year on Lazarus Saturday. I must say it has been a very deep and learning experience of which I am very blessed to know God called me to this way of life. Even in the RC Church I kept leaning back to the early Church and after Vat 11 popped in, this became increasingly difficult for me to do. I was involved in a variety of ministries including Deaf and Hard of Hearing ministries.

    I read your article understanding it well enough to know that good skillful translation today which is taken from the earliest times is very important. This is one of the main reasons I started my journey into the Orthodox Church; I had an ongoing desire to be close to the early Church, the early writings, the beginnings and so importantly, the meanings of the words that Jesus spoke and lived as well as His apostles.

    Your comment, “Tradition rendering of proper names and is a fresh translation directly from Greek which does not utilize English versions for it’s base” makes me understand that this new book (Septuagint/LXX/Forty) you mention has been carefully and skillfully translated and should be considered a priority to have even though there is goodness in the other books or translations.

    I am just thinking of someone who gave me the Orthodox Study Bible for a gift and said at the same time, “This is your new Bible and when I say Bible, I mean the New Testament.” I didn’t know how to respond and just let it go. Anyhow, this new Septuagint sounds like a book I would prefer after reading your article and I know you are not merely promoting books. *I plan to read 2 Esdras too! Please advise and sorry I was so long winded…..God bless!

    1. I prefer the Lexham translation for the reasons mentioned in my piece, but am happy to consult other versions too. Was your friend referring to an earlier version of the Orthodox Study Bible? The earliest edition simply had the NT and Psalms (and Proverbs?). It was only later that they produced an edition containing the Old Testament as well. In reading 2 Esdras, one needs to make sure which book it is. The OSB “2 Ezra/ Esdras” is different from the 2 Esdras found in (e.g.) the Common Bible. This latter is a little hard to find.

      1. Thank you for your response. Yes, the Study Bible given to me has the Psalms, Proverbs & New Testament, so this is the earlier version as you are mentioning. I did read an older post of yours, titled: Reflections of the Septuagint and plan to re-read it because I also found that very informative. God bless & keep safe!

      2. Sorry….I just remembered another used Bible given to me by a Greek lady whose son used it in Univ for studies several years ago. It is – “The Zondervan Parallel New Testament In Greek and English.” It has a few copyrights – 1958, 1975, 1978 & 1983. Could all these copyrights be various translations or combinations of translations? This particular copy is 1958. The intro says it is placing the Interlinear Greek-English text alongside the classic K James and the newly translation New International Version of the New Testament. If you are aware of this Bible, could you make a comment on it? It does sound like too many versions in one Bible….? Tks and God bless!

        1. I’m not aware of that volume. My own Gospel Parallels dates from my own university days, and the English uses the RSV. The NIV is (or was?) the revised darling of the Evangelicals, used along side the KJV hardliners. Zondervan tends to cater to the Evangelicals, so I suspect that is why those two versions were chosen. But this is only a guess.

  2. Bless Father,

    Thank you for bring this to my attention, I have to say I’m not overly a fan of the NETS translation – though it does have good academic introductions to the texts of each book- so I’ll take a look at this.

    Also Reader Michael Asser has translate the Septuagint from the text used by the Church of Greece into Early Modern (KJV) English. It is titled The Old Testament According to the Seventy [ It, I think, can only be found on LuLu]

    In Christ.
    Daniel,

    1. Like you, I am more a fan of the NETS introductions than the text itself. But I have a sentimental attachment to it, since Prof. Pietersma was my Greek prof back in college and he signed my copy of the NETS book. He has an amazing memory. I was in his class for one year back in 1975, and did not shine as a particularly brilliant Greek student. Yet when he appeared on a LXX panel at a conference at nearby Trinity Western University back in about 2005 I went to greet him during the break. I was dressed in cassock as usual, and my beard (which I didn’t have in 1975) was white, so that I looked nothing like I did back in college. I began, “Prof. Pietersma, you won’t remember me, but I was your student once.” He looked up at me and immediately said, “Oh yes. Larry. How are you?” He must have something like a photographic memory. He was always generous with his time. My commentary on the Catholic Epistles is dedicated to him–an amazing man.

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