M. Theocharous, Lexical Dependence and Intertextual Allusion in the Septuagint of the Twelve Prophets: Studies in Hosea, Amos and Micah

Journal of Hebrew Scriptures - Volume 12 (2012) - Review

Theocharous, Myrto, Lexical Dependence and Intertextual Allusion in the Septuagint of the Twelve Prophets: Studies in Hosea, Amos and Micah (LHBOTS, 570; London: T&T Clark, 2012). Pp. xvi + 292. Hardcover. US$130.00. ISBN 978-0-567-10564-6.

This book was a doctoral dissertation written under the mentorship of Robert Gordon at Cambridge University and examined by Jennifer M. Dines and Sebastian P. Brock. Chapter one is an introduction to intertextuality and the Septuagint Twelve Prophets (LXX TP), with some concluding methodological observations. In this chapter the author is clear that the purpose of this intertextual study is not to restore the Hebrew text; rather it focuses on the translator and his intertextual matrix in order to draw conclusions concerning the interpretation of the biblical text in the circles of the translator. Accordingly, the author states, “the aim of this study is to cover the broad intertextual spectrum, examining all manifestations of influence on the Septuagint of the TP, ranging from lexical sourcing to intertextual allusions” (p. 20). Although the emphasis of the study is Hosea, Amos, and Micah, Theocharous believes her findings may have validity for the rest of the LXX TP, since it is generally believed that one translator was responsible for the translation of all twelve books.

In chapter two (“Lexical Sourcing: Was the Greek Pentateuch Used as a Lexicon by the Greek Translator of the Twelve Prophets?”), Theocharous focuses on Emanuel Tov's proposal that the vocabulary of the Greek Pentateuch served as a lexicon for the translators of later books, especially when they could find help there for the translation of difficult words. Tov also proposed that the contents of the Greek Pentateuch influenced the translators' wording at the exegetical level and in references to the Pentateuch in the books they were translating. Theocharous evaluates the vocabulary of the LXX TP to see if Tov's theory holds true and if there is a demonstrable influence from the LXX Pentateuch on the LXX TP. She divides the words she studies into four categories: (1) neologisms, (2) Greek words with a “forced meaning,” (3) etymologizing, and (4) suitable Greek equivalents available in a Hellenistic culture (p. 27). She finds that similarities in the Greek of the Pentateuch and TP can generally be explained by the access translators of both corpora had to readily available equivalents in their common Hellenistic milieu. In most cases the Greek vocabulary peculiar to these two bodies of literature had probably appeared in the Jewish community before LXX Pentateuch was written down, and thus the translator of LXX TP probably adopted this vocabulary from oral traditions, not from the written translations. This chapter also demonstrates “the translator's familiarity with the language and literary conventions of the Hellenistic period” (p. 241).

Theocharous explains that chapter three (“Standard Translations”) addresses “pre-existing, familiar, formulaic expressions that have become part of the religious jargon of the Greek translator and have their origin in a text other than the one being translated” (p. 67). In each case that she considers, the translator deviates from his Hebrew Vorlage and uses an expression known from other biblical passages. She has three examples: Hos 4:13, Hos 5:11, and a similar expression in Mic 1:6 and 3:12 describing Samaria and Jerusalem. She argues that in such cases the translator was familiar with the Greek expressions in question and may not have borrowed them from the original text containing the expression. Instead, he may have taken these common expressions from a secondary source or from common oral usage. His freedom to bring such stock expressions into his text rather than rendering literally the Hebrew shows he understood there to be a thematic unity between different texts that share similar language.

Chapter four (“Catchword Connections”) is the longest chapter in the book; in it Theocharous aims to understand how the translator of LXX TP allowed some significant words to function as catchwords that generated for him a connection with other biblical texts containing the same words or phrases. Such reading of texts is similar to the rabbinic technique of gezerah shavah, which is rooted in the conviction that verses throughout the Tanakh are intrinsically related to each other and can shed interpretive light on each other. The passages that are examined in this chapter indicate that the Greek translator sometimes employed catchwords and their related biblical passages to understand his source text. However, in some other cases his renderings can be explained as arising from his employment of other tools, such as “contextual exegesis, appeal to Post-Biblical Hebrew/Aramaic nuances for Classical Hebrew words, appropriation of imagery to Greek literary conventions, or, alternatively, from the existence of a different Hebrew Vorlage” (p. 109).

In chapter five (“Non-Catchword Allusions”), Theocharous investigates the intertextual phenomena of allusions to specific biblical stories, events, and characters. These allusions were not triggered by shared catchwords, as the examples in the previous chapter were. But the influence of the intertext is strong enough in these cases for the translator to “manipulate” his Hebrew source text in order to “import” traces of the intertext into his translation (p. 242). Furthermore, the examples in this chapter are important because they give a glimpse of stories and traditions that were of special interest to the translator, and a couple of them “open up a window into the translator's attitude to prophecy and to eschatological expectations current in his time” (p. 242).

At the end of the book, based on her summary of the chapters, Theocharous makes further observations on the translator of LXX TP and his approach to the biblical text. She divides these observations into two sections: (1) “Attitude to the Text” and (2) “Translator's Intellectual Status.” In the first section, she observes that her study justifies the commonly held assumption that the translator of LXX TP worked from a text that belonged to the same family as the MT. Also, the translator was not tied to the consonantal text and the word order in his source text, but neither did he ignore it. His normal practice was somewhere in the middle, which gave him a degree of freedom. His ingenuity, which is observed where he deviates from his source, does not mean he took the source text lightly; rather such deviation indicates his “concern that the full sense of the text be understood by his audience” (p. 242). In the second section of final observations, “Translator's Intellectual Status,” Theocharous observes that the intertextuality she studied reveals the translator's broad knowledge of the Hebrew text and various interpretations of it. The majority of new forms of intertextuality the translator introduced can be explained solely on the basis of his familiarity with the Hebrew text, and clear influence from the Greek versions is rarely detectable. Finally, some of the techniques and methods the translator employed are similar to the techniques attested at Alexandria and Qumran and later employed by the rabbis.

There is one appendix—“Numbers 24:7 and the Extra-Biblical Gog Tradition”—and the book concludes with a Bibliography, an Index of References, and an Index of Authors. The first four chapters do not have summaries of their contents at the end of them, and the book would be easier to use if they did. There are summaries of all the chapters at the end of the book.

This is a valuable book for anyone working in the Twelve Prophets, especially in the Septuagint, and specifically in Hosea, Amos, and Micah. The author's discussion of the words and verses that she uses for examples is rich and deep. Also, she has contributed to the understanding of the linguistic and literary competence of the translator of the Twelve Prophets, as well as his working methods. As such, Myrto Theocharous has made an important contribution to the study of intertextuality in the Septuagint and especially in the Twelve Prophets. Anyone interested in intertextuality or Septuagint studies should consider reading this book.

W. Edward Glenny, Northwestern College