The Septuagint and the Cultural World of the Translators

Programme

The Septuagint—a collection of Jewish writings dating roughly from the last three centuries BCE and encompassing both works translated from Hebrew and Aramaic and works originally composed in Greek—is an important corpus. It is the form in which the Hebrew scriptures first came to the attention of the wider world and a fundamental document to understand Hellenistic Judaism. It eventually became the “Old Testament” of the early church. 

The translation of the Hebrew Scriptures involved momentous changes. Translation can be viewed as a process of cultural exchange: with the creation of the Septuagint, new concepts and ideas entered the Hellenistic world; but at the same time, the Greek language and culture transformed the content of Israel’s writing into something different. 


The research unit aims to recover processes of cultural exchange reflected in the Septuagint. The Septuagint’s words, expressions, and stylistic usages are like so many windows on to the thought world of the translators, seeking to situate themselves as Jews in a Hellenistic context, struggling to preserve what they perceived to be unique in their Jewish heritage while also accepting what they came to value in Greek thought and culture.

 

Keywords:

Septuagint, Greek Language, Papyrology, Translation Studies

Chairs

Romina Vergari
University of Florence

Anna Angelini
University of Zurich

Member Area

Toulouse 2022

For the EABS 2022, the unit will focus on the following topic:

Royal decrees, jurisprudence, and biblical law in Hellenistic times

 

The biblical idea of a divine origin for the law is alien both to ANE and Greek traditions, where the source of the law was respectively the king or the polis.


While the Hebrew Bible gives evidence that law and order was maintained in Israel and Judah at least in part by royal decrees, we have few hints of such decrees, either because they were most likely filtered out, or because they were embedded within the Pentateuch under the guise of Mosaic authority.


Starting from this assumption, this thematic unit aims at investigating the main trends of development and elaboration of the idea of law within the Hebrew Grecophone Hellenistic milieu, with a main, albeit nonexclusive, focus on the Septuagint and Jewish Hellenistic writings. Three relevant areas of investigation have been identified, which intend to:


(1) Detect processes of removal/censorship and incorporation/reinterpretation of laws which might have originated in governmental royal activity (monarchic governance) or in juridical praxis (activities of the judges) within the Hebrew Bible itself.

(2) Compare how and to what extent such “redactional” policies continued in early Rabbinic exegesis tradition and identify possible parallels or differences with respect to the Greek exegetical tradition.

(3) Analyze the same processes within the context of the Septuagint and other Jewish- Hellenistic writings, to highlight how the idea of divine law is reinterpreted through Greek semantic and cultural categories.


Insofar as the understanding of the specific cultural world of the LXX is de facto the result of a contrastive analysis of different conceptual systems in dialogue with each other, the proposed

topics require interdisciplinarity. Therefore, each topic can be addressed through different approaches (Semantics, Philology, Papyrology, History, Philosophy, Juridical Studies, etc.) and the research can be based on different textual corpora (ANE, Ancient Greek Literature, Hellenistic Papyri and other documentary sources, Ancient Hebrew Literature, Septuagint and other Jewish-Hellenistic writings). An important goal of the panel will be to stimulate discussion between experts of various disciplines and research fields.