Monday, October 16, 2017

Matthew 2:15 and the Hexapla

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We all know Matthew’s citation of Hosea 11:1 in Matthew 2:15, ‘Out of Egypt I called my son’ ἐξ Αἰγύπτου ἐκάλεσα τὸν υἱόν μου.

The exact form of the citation is not how you find it in your Septuaginta as edited by Rahlfs, which reads ἐξ Αἰγύπτου μετεκάλεσα τὰ τέκνα αὐτοῦ. A reasonably straightforward conclusion might be that Matthew translated straight from the Hebrew, which reads וּמִמִּצְרַ֖יִם קָרָ֥אתִי לִבְנִֽי.

Wouldn’t it be nice to see how other translators rendered the Hebrew? Enter Origen’s Hexapla, a third-century work setting the Hebrew, a transliteration into Greek, and four different Greek versions in parallel columns next to one another. Besides some rewritten fragments, most of the Hexapla is still lost though we have quite a few marginal comments.

Rather surprisingly, we have a good version of Hosea 11:1 tucked away within a commentary section in a manuscript in the Vatican, Barb.gr.542 (which is a rich source of Hexaplaric material anyway – Rahlfs 86). On folio 17v we find this:



The first line gives the title of this little sub-section ἐκ τῶν ἑξαπλῶν, ‘from the Hexapla’.
The next line gives us five sections, which are the five columns of the Hexapla written in Greek letters. First, we get the transliteration, then the reading of Aquila (marked by α), followed by Symmachus (ς), the Seventy (oἱ ο̃), and Theodotion (θ); for νιπιος read νηπιος, note the nomen sacrum ιηλ for ισραηλ (as in the transliteration ισραηλ).

In the next two lines Theodotion’s reading is apparently the same as first Aquila’s and then Symachus’s, though it is convenient that the otherwise too long a line now fits on a single one. We see the various translations diverging: ἀπό and ἐξ, the presence of the conjunction καί, and in the next line, after ἐκάλεσα, Theodotion adds αὐτόν. This becomes important when we take this together with the next line, as Theodotion reads ἐκάλεσα αὐτὸν ὑιόν μου, ‘I called him as my son’. In the son line (starting with the transliteration λαβανι), only the reading of Aquila contains a nomen sacrum for ὑιόν, but that seems to me a scribal phenomenon more than anything else.

As things stand, none of the versions follows Matthew exactly, though every element in Matthew is reflected somewhere. There is little remarkable going on here as this is a basic sentence in which you cannot do that much wrong. There is of course always the possibility that things have gone wrong in the transmission of the Hexapla, so that we may not have the exact texts of the Greek versions, or already in the texts that Origen had available wording may be corrupted. Did Theodotion really read αὐτόν or is this a corruption of the article τόν as in Aquila and Matthew? Anyway, once the commentator has given this fragment of the Hexapla, he continues saying that Matthew did the same.

It is fun, I think, to see that at times New Testament text and the sometimes arcane field of Hexaplaric studies come close to overlapping. And perhaps more of us could use this example in our ‘Old Testament in the New’ lectures.

13 comments :

  1. This is what we were looking at in our seminar at Tyndale House last Friday. In two weeks time we might have something similarly interesting: ancient Greek-Greek lexica on the biblical text.

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  2. Thanks for this, Dirk. Good stuff. So what do you conclude? Did Matthew render the Hebrew or use an already existing hebraizing revision of Hos 11:1?

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    1. Too early for a conclusion yet. Nice to have this bit of data, something else will fall into place sooner or later.

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    2. True: 'sooner or later.'

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    3. Thanks, John. This is a good question!

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  3. Very nice work here, Dirk. This example of the Hexapla is much appreciated. I look forward to more on the "ancient Greek-Greek lexica on the biblical text." - regards, Alistair.

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  4. This is sort of tongue in cheek, but mostly not... Any plans for a Tyndale House Greek Old Testament?

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  5. We'd love to. However, the project would be vast.

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  6. The Tyndale Greek Old Testament would only work, if they called it The Tyndale Septuagint edited by Peter Williams et al :).

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  7. Oh that wouldn't be so bad as it wouldn't go beyond the Pentateuch. How about editing 'Witnesses to the translation attributed to the 72 Elders'?

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  8. Already the workload is getting easier!

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  9. Sounds like we've got a plan. ;-)

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