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Wednesday, January 10, 2007 

LXX Scholars of Old

One of the books that I have been reading lately is Invitation to the Septuagint by scholars Karen Jobes and Moises Silva. It has been on the whole an enjoyable read. The first half of the book caters towards readers who have little or no knowledge of the LXX while the latter half is intended for students (and scholars) more familiar with Septuagintal studies and who possess at least an intermediate reading level of Greek and Hebrew. (For my own part I could not completely finish the chapter entitled "Interpreting the Septuagint" because my reading knowledge of Hebrew and Greek was not on par with this section.)

However, I do not wish here to engage in a book review principally because my language skills are not such that I feel qualified to do so. But I do want to say a word about the chapter entitled "Our Predecessors: Septuagint Scholars of a Previous Generation". As the title indicates this chapter is devoted to briefly examining the important contributions of various scholars of old to LXX studies. In fact, the current state of LXX work would not exist had it not been for the intellectual efforts of these men as the authors note:

"this chapter introduces some of the prominent scholars who have set the agenda for LXX studies and on whose work the discipline still stands" (239).

The scholars discussed include Friedrich Constantin von Tischendorf:known especially for his important collection (and collation) of manuscripts, especially one of the most important for NT textual criticism, namely, Codex Sinaiticus; Edwin Hatch: produced (along with Henry Redpath) a still widely used concordance for the LXX; Paul A. de Largarde: considered by many to be the father of modern LXX textual criticism principally due to his invaluable work on the Greek text of Proverbs and Genesis; Alfred Rahlfs: a student of Lagarde who took up the mantle of finishing the work his mentor left incomplete by reconstructing a LXX text based on the unicals B, S, and A; Max Leopold Margolis: a Jewish scholar who devoted his entire scholarly life to a reconstruction of the orginal Greek text for the Book of Joshua.

The thing that is most impressive about these scholars is their philological skills. For instance, Lagarde in his lifetime published works in Latin, Syrian, Babylonian, Arabic, Coptic, Persian, and Armenian while Margolis wrote his entire dissertation in Latin on the textual criticism of the Jewish Talmud! At the least, most of these scholars had an excellent reading knowledge of four or five ancient languages. To be sure, many of them already had acquired a working knowledge of Greek and Latin from secondary school, something the school systems here obviously lack. Nonetheless, these scholars knowledge of ancient languages would readily put many of us to shame. I must admit that upon reading this chapter I became a bit depressed. It forced me to realize just how little philological skills I possess in comparison with these erudite scholars of old.


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