A Prospectus for
A COMMENTARY ON THE SEPTUAGINT.
THE INTERNATIONAL ORGANIZATION FOR
SEPTUAGINT AND COGNATE STUDIES.
Since the early part of the twentieth century, the Septuaginta
Unternehmen in Goettingen, Germany, has been systematically
reassembling and reconstructing, from the heterogeneous textual
evidence extant, the original form of the Greek text of
all the books of the Septuagint. No parallel effort for the
entire corpus has as yet been undertaken to delineate the
meaning of that same text as conveyed by the translators
who produced it. That is to say, though other scholarly work has
been undertaken with a focus on the Septuagint at various stages
of its reception history or on the original meaning of individual
books, a sustained effort, for the whole of the Septuagint, to
understand the text at its point of inception remains, we
believe, a desideratum. One may note in this connection La
Bible d'Alexandrie, of which a number of volumes has already
appeared, and the recently announced Septuagint Commentary
Series (Brill, Leiden), only the prospectus of which has thus
far been made public. Both series, however, are based on
principles different from those enunciated below.
More akin in principle to what is here proposed are individual
efforts such as R. R. Ottley's Isaiah according to the
Septuagint (2 vols 1904 and 1906), and especially J. W.
Wevers' Notes on the books of the Pentateuch. In these
cases, however, comment on the text, by design, is limited to
"Notes," as a result of which the scope is more limited than what
is envisaged for the present series.
The desideratum for full-fledged commentaries on the books of the
Septuagint is the greater since -- as is the case with the form
of the text -- how the Septuagint was interpreted along its
historical path can be seen most clearly against the backdrop of
what the text meant originally. It is fully recognized, however,
that although the books of the Septuagint have in common certain
features of translation and interpretation, the collection as
such can best be described as an anthology, rather than a
homogeneous whole. Yet, for the sake of convenience the term
"Septuagint" has been employed in the title of the proposed
series as well as in the Prospectus.
In view of the above, the proposed commentary may be said to be
based on the following principles:
(1) the principle of original text, which is understood to mean
that though for any given book the best available critical
edition will form the basis of interpretation, commentators shall
improve upon that text where deemed necessary, and thus assist in
the ongoing quest for the pristine Greek text.
For the scope of the term "Septuagint" we refer to Article 3 of
the NETS Statement of Principles:
". . . the term Septuagint is understood to be exemplified
by, but not in all respects . . . congruent with, Alfred
Rahlfs'sSeptuaginta (1935)." [Odes, with the exception of
the Prayer of Manasse (Ode 12), is excluded]
(2) the principle of original meaning, which is understood to
mean that although commentators may make use of reception history
in an effort to ascertain what the Greek text meant at its point
of inception and may from time to time digress to comment on
secondary interpretations, the focus shall be on what is
perceived to be the original meaning of the text.
(3) the principle of the parent text as arbiter of meaning, which
is understood to mean that though as much as possible the
translated text is read like an original composition in Greek,
the commentator will need to have recourse to the parent text for
linguistic information essential to the proper understanding of
(4) the principle of "translator's intent," which is understood
to mean that, since the language of the translated text is the
only accessible expression of "the translator's mind," the
linguistic information -- whatever its source -- embedded in the
Greek text shall form the sole basis of interpretation. Stated
differently, any linguistic information not already seen to be
embedded in the Greek text, even though perhaps recognized as
such, on the practical level, only by recourse to the parent
text, shall be deemed inadmissible.
(5) the principle of linguistic parsimony, which is understood to
mean that, as a general rule, no words or constructions of
translation-Greek shall be considered normal Greek, unless
attested in non-translation writings.
A model outline for each book (or unit) follows:
I. Introduction. [I.e. to individual books]
II. The Commentary.
A. Chapter-and-verse reference of pericope
B. Summary statement on what the pericope is about.
[Re translations: whether the contents are different from MT or
not; normally not to exceed 10 lines.]
C. Questions of interpretation that pertain to the whole
[E.g. for Ps 1 one may want to discuss briefly what its
introductory role to the Psalter looks like from the point of
view of the Greek; or matters of psalm superscription.]
D. Bibliographical items specific to the pericope.
[Care should be taken that this does not duplicate E. 3. b. of
the Introduction; moreover, this is intended as a simple listing,
since the contents will be utilized in E. 4. below]
E. Verse-by-verse commentary.
[See Preamble third paragraph and Principle (2).
These would appear at the end of larger blocks of text, or at the
end of a given book, in the case of relatively short books]
[To appear at the end of the volume]
e.g. (1) scripture index, (2) Greek words and phrases discussed,
(3) Hebrew words and phrases discussed, (4) non-biblical ancient
literature, (5) general subject index.
Albert Pietersma (convener)
John W. Wevers (consultant)