Friday, January 27, 2006

"The Greek Bible & the Jews" Nicholas de Lange

This was a lecture I attended at King’s College (located on The Strand - see pics below) on Thursday evening.

Had I realised it was given under the auspices of Kings as well as the The Maccabeans society, I might not have been expecting him to touch on the manuscript transmission tradition of the Christian church - which he didn’t - except to say the Byzantines probably purchased old reject Greek manuscripts from the Jews.

I also might not have been surprised that he said next to nothing on  the LXX (except to pay it a compliment by mentioning there was evidence that so-called Hebraisms of  the LXX Pentateuch probably were not Hebraisms after all but proper Greek usage of the time).  

The lecture was basically a subdued plug for Aquila (surprise, surprise) with added personal speculation about some “lost tradition of translation” distinct from that of Aquila and the LXX.

Before I mention some of the key points of the jam packed hour long lecture, here are a few biographical facts presented to us by way of introduction by Judith Lieu:

“He wrote ‘Origen and the Jews’ circa 1970’s.
He is also translator of Amos Oz’s novels.
He studied classics then taught Hebrew.”

Now for some bullet points from the lecture itself:

  • Justinian I issues an edict in mid-6th century A.D. concerning a quarrel among Jews in Constantinople over the usage of Greek or Hebrew translations. The nature of the controversy is not completely understood but seems disputes arose in Constantinople to impose a Hebrew reading. Prior to the 8th century A.D. there is no evidence of Hebrew Scripture usage. By the 1st millennium A.D. the usage of Hebrew is established mainly due to Justinian’s exclusion of Jews from Greek schools.

  • Sextus Julius Africanus (& Origen?) report that the Aquilas translation is preferred among the Hebraists.

  • Origen refers to the translations by Aquila, Symmachus & Theodotion as “The Three”

  • Byzantine Judaism:  had a high regard for tradition as well as an openness to new ideas”. 11th century as schism arose in opposition to the Karaites. The Byzantine Greek Bible has not come to us in its entirety only two 14th century manuscripts of “Jonah” in existence. Otherwise, there is not a full book. What is available shows “a careful literal translation”. Soncino in Constantinople prints the Torah in Greek. Earliest Jewish Biblical Glossary dates from c.900A.D. as a manuscript in the Fitzwilliam Museum Library (from ‘Negroponte’ ?) with fabulous glosses in the margins.

  • Cairo Geniza fragments: a depository of manuscripts dating from the 10th to the 13th centuries. The translation of Ecclesiastes into Greek was made in Israel in the 2nd century A.D. possibly by Aquila himself. In Aquila the Gk participle “sun” is used in the accusative while usually in Gk it is used as the direct object of a verb – and so highly unusual and characteristic of Aquilas. Geniza fragment circa 1000A.D. uses “sun” in the accusative – the only place outside of Aquila.

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