Anneli Aejmelaeus (University of Helsinki)

Translation Technique and the Recensions

In his dissertation from 1951, Ilmari Soisalon-Soininen took up a problem that already had a long history of research, the relationship between the different text-forms in Judges. As is well known, in the early 1950’s, before the discovery of the Naḥal Ḥever Minor Prophets Scroll, it was not yet possible to give the final solution to the puzzle. The study by Soisalon-Soininen was however not without result. In order to be able to adequately compare the different text-forms he developed his translation-technical method. His fundamental idea was that a translation – its language as well as its textual history – needs to be studied in relation to its Vorlage. The most revealing examples were found in the areas of syntax and idiom, in which the two languages concerned, Hebrew and Greek, differ the most, and the interference from the source language is at its greatest. As for Judges, his study made it clear that it was not a question of different translations but of one translation and recensions thereof. One of these recensions was what we call today the Kaige recension. A great deal has been written about it during the last half-century, most of it however from the view-point of vocabulary. In order to get deeper in our understanding of this recension, we should continue where Soisalon-Soininen left off and apply his translation-technical methodology to the study of recensions.

James K. Aitken (University of Cambridge)

Standard language and the place of the Septuagint within Koine

The Septuagint is still seen by some as Greek written by those struggling with the language or intentionally writing peculiar Greek as an identity strategy. This is despite the fact that it has been established that the Greek is typical of post-Classical Greek, if showing some interference from translation technique. Due attention to variationist linguistics may help in appreciating the diversity of post-classical Greek and especially the changes from Classical Greek in the language by this time. It is proposed that a more complex typology is required and this will be explored through two examples. First, breach of concord could be seen as an error from those less familiar with the Greek case system or a contact-induced feature (with both Egyptian and Hebrew), but it also can be explained in linguistic terms. It therefore can be explained as a non-standard Greek feature of lower level writing. Second, the development in the use of discourse markers is explained in the light of the history of the language and the decline in the use of particles. Certain discourse markers seem distinctive of non-literary Greek and the choice of markers indicates something of the individual translator’s attempted register. From such features we gain a clue as to the individual translator’s preferences, but we can also see that the Septuagint provides evidence for the history of the language as well.

José Manuel Cañas Reíllo (Departamento de Filología Griega y Latina CCHS – CSICC)

Recensions, textual groups, and vocabulary differentiation in LXX-Judges

Nothing could be more appropriate for this conference in honor of Soisalon-Soininen than a paper on the Greek book of Judges. Soisalon-Soininen demonstrated on the basis of the study of the Greek vocabulary in this book, that is possible to go back to a single original text, as opposed to the duality of A and B texts in Rahlf’s edition. Then Barthélemy’s research on the “kaige” recension confirmed that very idea, that is, that the B text is very close to it.

The differentiation of vocabulary in Judges is a fundamental element for the establishment of textual groups from the manuscript evidence. The aim of this work is to characterize the vocabulary of each of the main textual groups detected in Judges (A L O B), as well as other textual groups that I have isolated mainly in the field of mixed and catena manuscripts in my work as editor of this book for the Septuaginta-Unternehmen (Göttingen).


Jan Joosten (University of Oxford)

Grammar and Style in the Septuagint: On Some Remarkable Uses of Preverbs

Studies of translation technique often set out from syntactic features in the Hebrew Bible and trace their treatment in the Septuagint. However, it is also possible adopt a reverse orientation. In some of his papers, Soisalon-Soininen focuses on Greek features that have no precise equivalent in Hebrew. The translators’ use of such features is not induced by the Hebrew source text, but reflects their creativity and their competence in the target language. Thus, attention to typically Greek features opens up an avenue to analyse the style of the version – an area of Septuagint studies that has attracted relatively little attention. In the footsteps of Soisalon-Soininen, I will in the present paper explore aspects of another feature peculiar to ancient Greek, namely the use of “preverbs” attached to simple verbs and inflecting their meaning.

Srecko Koralija (University of Cambridge)

Notions of Paradise, Enjoyment and Heaven in LXX

The aim of the paper is to evaluate to what extent the Septuagint can serve as a source for understanding the notions of paradise, enjoyment and heaven within the larger lingustic and socio-cultural context of the Hellenistic period, since the religious terminology of the Greek Bible is characterized by a high degree of different usages.The question to be pursued is to what extent can one distinguish variations of the meaning of these concepts with respect to both Hebrew Vorlage and (Jewish) Greek heritage. The main interest is to observe these concepts in a historical perspective in order to see how the usual meaning of a particular concept does (not) fit within the context. Examples will be given from the Septuagint and non-biblical usage of the words concerned. The paper will use Translation technique to evaluate the passages.

John A. L. Lee (Macquarie University)

Back to the Question of Greek Idiom

My title echoes that of a 1990 paper by Soisalon-Soininen, ‘Back to the Question of Hebraisms’ (ET by Th. van der Louw). He concluded that in order to study the differences between translators, it is not enough to identify ‘Hebraistic’ renderings, but ‘the question which renderings are Hebraistic or idiomatic [is] a key factor in our research.’ Idiomatic Greek was also observed in other studies, such as that on the genitive absolute (1973), which Soisalon-Soininen saw as offering a glimpse of ‘the true language competence of the translators.’ The present paper attempts to refine the identification of idiomatic Greek in the LXX-Pentateuch, by dividing renderings into three categories: 1) those that match the Hebrew and are also not natural Greek, and therefore are a result of interference; 2) those that match the Hebrew but are also consistent with natural Greek, and therefore may or may not result from interference; 3) those that do not match the Hebrew and are natural Greek, and therefore are free of interference. Selected phenomena will be used to illustrate the categories and to demonstrate the presence in the LXX-Pentateuch of incontestable cases of idiomatic Greek (type 3), as well as others of possible idiomatic Greek (type 2). The outcome is not the characterisation of translators but proof of their perfect control of idiomatic Greek.

Philippe Le Moigne

Une tournure syntaxique fréquente en Ésaïe-LXX : substantif abstrait + λήμψεται + complément d’objet direct

Dans la LXX d’Ésaïe, on trouve 13 fois le tour qui consiste à donner au futur de λαμβάνω — ou, bien plus rarement, à un de ses préverbés — à la troisième personne du singulier, λήμψεται, un substantif abstrait pour sujet. Si l’on regarde la concordance de Hatcht-Redpath, on s’aperçoit que ce verbe λαμβάνω a de nombreux correspondant différents ; par ailleurs le sens même des versets est souvent très différent en grec et dans le TM — ce qui ne saurait étonner quand on connaît la manière de faire de l’auteur d’Ésaïe-LXX. Il s’agira dans un premier temps d’identifier la matrice de ce tour — qui pourrait être trouvée en 40.24 : LXX καὶ καταιγὶς ὡς φρύγανα ἀναλήμψεται αὐτούς, TM « et le tourbillon les enlèvera comme du chaume ». Ensuite le traducteur aurait étendu ce tour à d’autres passages, ce qui montre au passage que sa traduction tient compte de l’ensemble du livre, et qu’il ne traduit pas de manière myope verset par verset. En conclusion, il se serait saisi d’un passage pour étendre à d’autre versets cette manière de dire.

Theo van der Louw (SIL International, Americas Area)

The Mechanics of Segmentation in the Greek Pentateuch

Pursuing Soisalon-Soininen’s pivotal research on segmentation has great potential to illuminate central questions with respect to the LXX Pentateuch. Its Greek exhibits many translational peculiarities that are best explained by the hypothesis that the text was translated in small segments, because they illustrate its three basic characteristics:

losing touch with the content of preceding segments, occasioned by an overload of the short term memory (STM);

  1. room for considerable freedom within segment boundaries;
  2. relative ignorance of coming segments, i.e., lacking hindsight (sometimes confused with #1).

Distinguishing between inter– and intra-segmental inconsistency helps to reduce what we usually call “inconsistency” to manageable proportions. For it appears that intersegmental inconsistency is related to, inter alia, translational development or STM limitations, and intrasegmental inconsistency principally to STM limitations. Issues related to STM are typical of interpreting rather than translating, which suggests that the source text was orally delivered in segments, and translated by an interpreter to a scribe. In sum, the notion of segmentation is key in relating macrolevel to microlevel “inconsistency.”

Silvia Luraghi (University of Pavia) and Chiara Zanchi (University of Pavia/ University of Bergamo)

New meanings and constructions of prepositions in the Septuagint: A comparison with Classical and New Testament Greek

Various construction involving cases and prepositions in Biblical Greek are considered Semitisms. In view of the complex translation process and of the possibly different background of translators, each innovation with respect to Classical Greek must be considered separately. In our paper we will review the various meanings connected with the preposition ἐπί in the Septuagint. This preposition, which was very frequent in Classical Greek, remains frequent in the language of the Septuagint. Besides the (mostly spatial) meanings encoded that the biblical translators took over from classical literature, there are new meanings, especially connected with certain verbs. An example is καὶ ἐπί τῇ μαχαίρῃ σου ζήσῃ ‘By your sword you shall live’ (Gen. 27.40): the verb ζάω ‘live’ does not take ἐπὶ with the dative in the meaning ‘live by, live on’ in Classical Greek. We will compare the new constructions found in the Septuagint with the Hebrew texts (in this specific case, ἐπί translates Hebrew, but it also somewhere translates), and with corresponding constructions in the New Testament. We will pay special attention to the expressions ἐπὶ τῷ ὀνόματι and ἐν τῷ ὀνόματι. While the two constructions are equivalent in the New Testament, they show different meanings in the Septuagint, as is also evidenced by Jerome’s translation in the Latin Vulgata, who uses in both for ἐπὶ τῷ ὀνόματι and ἐν τῷ ὀνόματι in the New Testament, but not in the Old Testament.

Patrick Pouchelle (Centre Sèvres)

Did the Greek Translators Know the Pi’el Stem, and How They Rendered it?

The exact meaning of the Pi’el stem is notoriously difficult to determine. Whereas it was traditionally thought to convey intensive action (e.g., the famous grammar example: שָׁבַר « he broke » and שִׁבֵּר « he smashed »), the current dominant opinion, mainly based on the study of Jenni, Das hebräische Pi’el, considers it as having a factitive/resultative meaning (שִׁבֵּר « he makes broken »). On the contrary, Kouwenberg, The Akkadian Verb and Its Semitic Background, suggests that it is not possible to unify all usages of the pi’el. Even if this stem may have originally meant an intensive action, it has evolved into various uses.

An analysis of how the Greek translators rendered this stem may enlighten this issue by helping us to understand how they were conscious of its specificity. Indeed, the lexical study of ἀποστέλλω and ἐξαποστέλλω, pursued at the occasion of the Historical and Theological Lexicon of the Septuagint edition, gives some arguments in favor of the fact that some Greek translators used ἀποστέλλω to render שָׁלַח, whereas ἐξαποστέλλω was used to translate שִׁלֵּח. This way is not systematic, however, as שָׁבַר mainly corresponds to συντρίβω whatever the stem of the Hebrew root was.

This paper will delve deeper into this topic. It will discuss some cases and focus on methodological issues. First, apart from the participle, the pi’el differs from the qal by the vowels only, so that the difference can only be known to the translator from an oral reading of the text. Second, we don’t really know what the exact Vorlage of the translator was, so that the translator may have a qal where the Masoretes read a pi’el, and vice versa. Third, each book may be a case in itself; some Hebrew books may have used either qal or pi’el, while others may have only a few or no cases of one of these stems. Furthermore, some translators may be sensitive to these subtleties, others not.

Then, if a Hebrew verb in MT corresponds to two different Greek verbs or expression so that the pi’el in the MT rather corresponds to one Greek verb and the qal to the other, one should assess whether this is due to the fact that the translator has knowledge of a feature we call pi’el or not. Therefore, a criterion should be build based on statistical testing theories and apply for several Hebrew lemma. According to the number of occurrences of the Hebrew lemma, a definition of what is a significant correlation between the MT and the LXX will be given. With such criterion, one could assess whether the percentage of correspondence between a specific Greek syntax to a specific Hebrew stem could be considered as deliberate and one could quantify the probability of it. Then paper will answer the question asked by the title. Even a negative answer will be a contribution to the Septuagintal research.

William A. Ross (University of Cambridge)

The Semantics of ‘Youth’ Vocabulary in the Septuagint 

This paper will analyze the lexical semantics of various words used for the youth, child, and servant conceptual domain(s) in Koine Greek. A wide range of such vocabulary appears in the Septuagint, but this paper will be limited in scope to examining the language of the book of LXX-Judges. The lexical items νεανίας, νεανίσκος, παίς, and παιδάριον will be evaluated in particular, since patterns of selection and replacement appear among the textual evidence for the book’s OG version and later revision. In order to postulate the possible motivation for such lexical change in LXX-Judges, this paper will examine the development of the “Youth” vocabulary within its context of usage in contemporary Greek sources, both literary and nonliterary. The nonliterary evidence, constituted mainly by Ptolemaic papyri and inscriptions, will receive special attention, with a view to supplementing and, wherever necessary, modifying the conclusions of Simpson (1976).

Christian Seppänen (University of Helsinki)

Renderings of the Preposition min in the Greek Pentateuch

In this paper I provide an overview of how the Hebrew preposition min is translated in the Septuagint Pentateuch. The aim is to understand translation process by using ‘translation technical method’. The usage of the preposition min in the Pentateuch is divided into seven groups: 1) Local cases; 2) Metaphorically local cases; 3) Partitive cases; 4) Temporal cases; 5) Causal, instrumental, and agent cases; 6) Verbal syntax cases and 7) Special cases. The renderings are studied in each group and the translations in different books of the Pentateuch are compared with each other. Besides, the question of hebraisms in the translations is discussed.

Seppo Sipilä (Finnish Bible Society)

Soisalon-Soininen meets Grice: The Cooperational Principle and the Septuagint Syntax

Paul Grice introduced the so-called cooperative principle in his seminal article ”Logic and Conversation” in 1975. The idea of the principle is that communication in order to be effective must obey certain rules or maxims dictated by the social situation in question. The principle has gained wide acceptance in social science and in linguistics especially. Even though Grice concentrated on the spoken conversation, it is clear that the principle is applicable to a much broader field of communication, or human interaction in general.

My paper aims to evaluate the usefulness of the cooperative principle in the LXX studies, especially in studying the syntax of Septuagint Greek. Ilmari Soisalon-Soininen laid down the foundation of the contemporary way we study the Septuagint as a translation in his main studies published between 1951 and 1965. According to Soisalon-Soininen the solid foundation of the syntactical analysis of the Septuagint is based on three factors: the Hebrew syntax, the Greek syntax, and the translator, who strikes a balance between the two other factors. I should add that he naturally assumes the wording of the base text and the target text in his starting point. There cannot be any other way of working, if we are to take seriously the fact that the Septuagint is mostly a collection of translations. What Gricean principle can bring in, is the point of view of the translation as taking place in a social setting. The main question therefore is, can we get any further help in our analyses, if we take into account the social dimension of any communication.

Raija Sollamo (University of Helsinki)

The Usage of the Article with Nouns Defined by a Nominal or Pronominal Genitive

The usage of the article is an example of grammatical differences between Hebrew and Greek. In Greek, the noun is usually understood as defined if it is followed by a genitive, be it a noun or pronoun in the genitive, and this understanding is marked with the use of the definite article. In Hebrew, the noun is also understood as defined if it is in the status constructus form before another noun in the status absolutus, which is the way how the genitive is expressed in Hebrew. But opposite to the Greek practice, the Hebrew locution leaves the article out under the understanding that the definition is self-evident. One does not need to mark it with the article, unless in the connection with an adjective attribute. The main focus of my paper does not, however, lie on the contrastive grammar, even if it might be very interesting. It is the translation technique of the Pentateuch translators that comes to the fore. The question is whether the translators followed the Greek grammatical rules in the usage of the definite article or whether they worked more mechanically on the basis of Hebrew and left the article out as often as there was no article in the Hebrew Vorlage. The number of cases is huge. In order to interpret correctly the translators’ working habits and thinking Muraoka’s new Syntax of Septuagint Greek is a helpful tool in giving some categories of the usage of the article in the Septuagint on the Greek basis.

Miika Tucker (University of Helsinki)

The Infinitive in Septuagint Jeremiah

A significant issue concerning the Septuagint text of Jeremiah arises from the disparity of lexical equivalents between the two halves of the book, a phenomenon which has been documented in studies by Henry St. John Thackeray and Emanuel Tov. Thackeray also noted a difference regarding the use of infinitives in the book: the anarthrous infinitive rarely occurs in the first half of the book, while it is used frequently in the second half. The genitive articular infinitive, on the other hand, is used throughout the book. In his study on the infinitives in the Septuagint, Ilmari Soisalon-Soininen did not consider this difference in Jeremiah stark enough to support a conclusion of multiple translators. In this presentation I will survey the use of the infinitive in Septuagint Jeremiah and explore possible explanations for the increased use of the anarthrous infinitive in the second half of the translation.

Anssi Voitila (University of Eastern Finland)

Middle Voice as Depiction of Subject’s Dominion in the Greek Pentateuch

In this paper, I will discuss the usage of the middle aorist of the verb τιθέναι (e.g., θέσθαι), comparing it with the related active and middle usages; the intention is to be able to more profoundly establish the meaning of this middle form and how it is used in the Septuagint Pentateuch. The middle aorist is chosen because in the Greek language there is a distinguishable passive form in the aorist. The verb τιθέναι is selected because its indirect reflexive middle meaning does not differ from the active as clearly as would the so-called direct reflexive or reciprocal middle meanings. Therefore, the middle aorist of the verb τιθέναι lends itself to a more specific analysis of the other relevant factors that may separate it from its active and passive aorist counterparts.

Ricardo Maldonado has claimed that the middle voice “focuses on the subject’s dominion”, “corresponds to situation types implying only the subject”, while the use of reflexive pronouns indicates the split representation of the subject’s/agent’s self. In this paper, I will demonstrate how this conception of the meaning of the middle voice explains more convincingly than the subject-affectedness meaning, in my mind, the use of the middle aorist forms of the verb τιθέναι in the Greek Pentateuch. I do not want to deny that the subject-affectedness would not function most of the time but I will show that there are instances in which the subject’s dominion meaning better explains all the relative factors. It will be shown that the translator has used the middle construction to highlight the subject’s position as agent, his close relation to the action and to the beneficiary of the action.

Chiara Zanchi (University of Pavia/University of Bergamo)

See Luraghi and Zanchi