The International Organization for
Septuagint and Cognate Studies

A Prospectus for

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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.

    (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 the Greek.

    (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.

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]

A model outline for each book (or unit) follows:

I. Introduction. [I.e. to individual books]

    A. Date, Provenance, (Authorship), and Questions of Unity.

      [Critical interaction with published views on a given book's compositional unity, whether a translation (e.g. [Gk] Jeremiah) or an original (e.g. 2 Maccabees), including questions about the original language of component parts (e.g. Esther). If "Title" requires considerable coverage, that would also be done under this heading, rather than ad loc.]

    B. Literary Character and Contents.

      1. Structure of the Book or Structural Relationship to MT.
        [E.g. major differences in order, contents, i.e. major additions, omissions, transpositions vis-a-vis MT and resultant differences in numbering of chapters and verses]

      2. Literary and/or Translational Profile.
        [Matters of language, style, literary form, characteristics of the translator's modus operandi, such as transcriptions; neologisms; hapax legomena; calques, stereotypes, isolates (syntactic as well as semantic) -- in so far as any of the preceding can be said to be characteristic of the book.]

      3. Themes and Major Concerns of the Author/Translator(s).
        [The rule of thumb for treatment here vs treatment ad loc. is whether an item is perceived to be thematic rather than incidental; included here would be such items as specialized terminology (e.g. "basileus" vs "archon" for "melek" in Deuteronomy), intertextuality (e.g. use made of the Greek Pentateuch or Psalms), (anti-)anthropomorphisms, geographical orientation, weights/measures/coinage, cultural matters, etc.]

    C. Textual Relationship to the Parent Text(s).

      [MT, SamPent., Peshitta, Qumran; relationship of the parent text of the Greek particularly to non-MT textual traditions, if such a relationship is of more than a sporadic nature.]

    D. Text and Text History.

      1. Printed Editions of the Greek.
        [Basically a list of (non-critical) editions from Gutenberg through the polyglots to Cambridge.]

      2. State of the Text.
        [Discussion of the best critical text (Rahlfs, Margolis, Goettingen) or the closest approximation thereto; discussion may include an assessment of how the critical text was arrived at or where/how it is likely to be uncovered]

      3. Textual History.
        [Where critical editions exist the materials can be summarized; for others, some attempt at establishing the text history ought to be made.]

      4. Non-Septuagint Greek Traditions.
        [Though "the three" (et al.) are by and large irrelevant except in certain details, in some books they intrude significantly on the history of the so-called LXX.]

    E. History of Scholarship and Bibliography.

      1. Text Editions.
        [MT, SamPent., Targums, Peshitta, Vulgate, Qumran]

      2. Exegetical commentaries on the Hebrew Bible
        [both modern commentaries of particular relevance to the LXX, and medieval Jewish (e.g. Rashi).]

      3. Studies of the Greek Text.

        a. Discussion of major (interpretive/exegetical) treatments.

        b. Annotated bibliography of other items.

      4. Grammars and Lexica.

    F. Sigla and Abbreviations.

      1. commentaries,

      2. other books and articles,

      3. journals,

      4. biblical books

        [for LXX books we propose Gen, Ex, Leu, Num, Deut, Ies, Judg, Routh, 1-4 Rgns, 1-2 Par, 1-2 Esd, Esth, Idt, Tob, 1-4 Makk, Ps, PrMan, Prov, Ekkl, Song, Iob, Wis, Sir, PsSal, Hos, Am, Mich, Ioel, Abd, Ion, Na, Hab, Soph, Hag, Zach, Mal, Esa, Ier, Bar, Lam, LetIer, Iezek, Sus, Dan, Bel, a set which will also be used in NETS],

      5. other ancient literature,

      6. miscellaneous.

II. The Commentary.

    A. Chapter-and-verse reference of pericope

      [e.g. Gen 1:1-2:4]

    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 pericope.

      [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.

      [I.e. smallest coherent unit of text, typically a verse]

      1. Hebrew or Aramaic Text
      ........(native font)........
      2. Greek Text
      ........(native font)........

      3. NETS Translation

      4. What the verse-by-verse commentary should contain.
        [When the text is a translation rather than an original composition, one should take an essentially two-pronged approach: First, because it is a translation, the contextual sense of Greek words or expressions may have suffered interference from the Greek's close relationship to the parent text. Consequently, one may be forced to treat the Greek text as being disjointed. Second, because, in spite of its precise relationship to its parent text, the Greek text is nevertheless a new entity, one should treat it, as much as is warranted, as a unitary whole]

        a. Matters of the Greek critical text.

          [Including any deviations from the critical text; strict text-critical procedure is presupposed. Principle (1) of the Preamble applies here]

        b. Matters of lexicography, grammar, exegesis, and intertextuality
          [Native fonts used for Greek and Hebrew. Principles (2), (3), (4), (5) of the Preamble apply here. Also included here will be a discussion of any deviations from the NETS translation which the commentator feels must be made.]

III. Excursuses.

    [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]

IV. Indices.

    [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.

Planning Committee:
Albert Pietersma (convener)
Claude Cox
Moises Silva
Benjamin Wright
David Aiken
John W. Wevers (consultant)