As is well known in the field of Septuagint studies, certain books developed over time into distinct textual forms. That is, in some cases there are what look like two different Greek versions of the same book in the Septuagint corpus. In such cases, the manuscript evidence preserves two textual traditions that are substantially different enough that Rahlfs decided to differentiate them in his edition of the Septuagint.* Since we decided to use Rahlfs-Hanhart as a base text, when it came to producing the Reader’s Edition we had to ask ourselves how we would handle these “double texts,” as they are often called.
Will Ross on how we went about constructing the vocabulary apparatus for our LXX Reader’s Edition. Including a fancy chart that I no longer know how to explain even though I did it, as well as a short sample from Exodus.
Probably the most obvious question to ask about a reader’s edition is “What vocabulary do you provide?” After all, that is the basic function of this kind of book—to supply the reader with guidance on the form and meaning of difficult vocabulary.
So obviously that’s what we did.
But how did we define “difficult vocabulary” for Septuaginta? It was actually a pretty tricky issue to address. Let me explain.
During the Spring 2017 term at RTS-O, I taught an elective called “Septuagint Readings.” Each week ~14 students gathered to read various portions of the Greek OT. During one of the classes, I was struck with something I had seen before but not really internalized: the variations in the ordering of the 6th, 7th, and 8th commandments in Greek Exodus 20, Greek Deuteronomy 5, and the Hebrew behind the ESV/NIV/etc. None of them matched. I began to probe this…and one thing led to another, and this inquiry turned into an article that was recently published in the Journal of the Evangelical Theological Society (61.1).
This morning I presented as part of the New Testament Canon, Textual Criticism, and Apocryphal Literature Section of this years meeting of the Evangelical Theological Society. The section is chaired by Dr. Michael Kruger (RTS-Charlotte) and Dr. Stan Porter (McMaster). It was a privilege to be a part of the session along with my other NT colleague, Dr. Charles Hill.
Tonight I got to spend part of the evening with a group of students at Reformation Bible College, as part of their biweekly Abide fellowship. Lots of familiar faces from my church were there.
I did a short talk on how to read (at least some of) the psalms in the way Jesus (and other NT writers) guide us to read them. Not merely as anticipating him, but as giving voice to his own words and in many ways shaping his identity.
Christ Church Cambridge is hosting a variety of seminars (see full listing) this autumn, covering a range of biblical and church-related topics. I am leading a 4-week series covering how and why we consider the biblical books authoritative for faith and practice. Specifically, we will be covering the following questions, among others:
What exactly is canon, and why does it matter?
Who “picked” the books (if anyone), and on what grounds?
Who decided we needed a canon in the first place, and who “closed” it?
Why are some books considered part of the biblical canon and not others?
Why do the Protestant, Roman Catholic, and Orthodox churches have different canons?
What are we to make of all the other works that are roughly contemporaneous with the OT/NT but which were not received as canonical?
How can we know we have accurate copies of the right books?
The seminar audios and handouts for each class will be posted below as they become available. If you would like the full set of teaching notes, feel free to email me.
I was fortunate to have the opportunity to attend a full day seminar at Cambridge before Christmas dealing with ancient manuscripts and writing systems (papyrology and paleography), hosted by the Tyndale House. During the conference we spent several hours working on reading old Greek manuscripts, including both biblical texts (Septuagint and NT) and non-biblical texts. It’s quite a demanding task for the newbie who is used to reading nicely printed, uniform Greek text in print (yes, I know, that’s a very first-world problem to have).
One of the most fascinating parts of the seminar involved reading an old fragment of the Greek translation of Deuteronomy 31, during which one of the professors in attendance made what we thought was a joke about early Christians misreading the name for the LORD in the synagogue and saying “Pipi.” Turns out…he wasn’t joking. The reason behind this embarrassing mistake provides a nice little (short) tour into the world of scribal habits and ancient manuscripts.
In general, you can learn a lot about people based on what is on their bookshelf, whether they even have a bookshelf, and how many bookshelves they actually have. The literature that one reads – from nothing at all to vampire fiction to romance novels to classical literature to anything by dead Russians – reveals a lot about one’s interests, passions, hobbies, and so on. Or, viewed from the other direction, that which we read plays a large role in shaping and molding us: expanding our experience base, informing us about myriad subjects, and, ultimately, influencing our worldview. One might even say that the things we read the most are the best indicators of the factors and values that make us who we are.
This presents an odd little conundrum for the Christian reader. Unless you have shelves full of well-marked copies of the Bible, or unless you can honestly say that you spend more time reading Scripture than anything else (newspapers, instruction manuals, work-related documents, and cookbooks included!), then you have this peculiar little mismatch between what you actually read and the single book which, in theory, is the most formative influence on your life. For instance, even if you spent an hour a day studying the Bible vigorously this past week, chances are you spent at least twice as much time reading other writings, both religious and non-religious. Does that mean you undervalue the Bible? That it is not the most important of all? Can you measure the importance of your literary influences based on number of copies, or number of minutes spent reading them in a given time frame?
It is pretty obvious that, in general, the answer is “no.” While we all would admit that we should spend more time studying God’s Word than we typically do, it is pretty reasonable to conclude that we do not have to spend numerically the most time reading it than anything else in order to prove that we value it more highly than anything else we read. Put differently, God’s Word can be the definitive, rock-solid authority in our lives without negating the possibility that we can benefit and learn from other texts.
Strangely, this seemingly simple truth seems lost on many biblical scholars who draw puzzling conclusions about the nature of early Christianity by taking a look at what I’m calling the “early church bookshelf.”