Monday, April 16, 2018

New Light on ‘Proto-Theodotion’

8ḤevXII Col 31
Jan Joosten has posted an intriguing paper to to be published in a congress volume, “New light on Proto-Theodotion. The Psalms of Solomon and the Milieu of the Kaige Recension.” It is worth reporting on some of the salient points in this piece.

Joosten begins by surveying scholarship on the questions of Theodotion, proto-Theodotion, and the kaige-group (mainly the work of D. Barthélemy) and he isolates three open questions: (1) the first century CE date of this revisional activity, (2) the location of the revision in Palestine, and (3) the revision’s relationship to proto-Rabbinic exegesis.

He then turns in an “unexepected” direction to the Psalms of Solomon. Most scholars believe that the Psalms of Solomon were originally composed in Hebrew, but Joosten and E. Bons believe that the work could have been composed originally in Greek. He locates the composition in Judea, freshly after the Roman invasion around the middle of the first century BCE.

What are the connections between the kaige group and the Psalms of Solomon? First, Joosten discerns a unique, common vocabulary between Ps. Sol. and members of the kaige group. Second, Ps. Sol. often employs and alludes to the Old Greek of biblical books, but on occasion the allusions veer away from the Old Greek and align with the Theodotionic and Aquilinic revisions of the Old Greek or at least align with their translation equivalents of the proto-MT elsewhere. For example (on p. 9):
Ps. Sol. 17:3 ἡμεῖς δὲ ἐλπιοῦμεν ἐπὶ τὸν θεὸν σωτῆρα ἡμῶν
      But we will hope in God our savior
Mic 7:7 Εγὼ δὲ… ὑπομενῶ ἐπὶ τῷ θεῷ τῷ σωτῆρί μου
      But as for me… I will wait for God my savior
MT אוֹחִילָה “I will await”
Note יחל – ἐλπίζειν in θ´ Job 14:14; Isa 42:4; Mic 5:6; α´ Job 14:14; Isa 42:4. The expression ὁ θεὸς σωτήρ is found in the Greek Bible only in these passages. This makes it very likely that the Ps. Sol. passage alludes to Mic 7:7. The constellation is the same as in the previous one, except that the revised reading is not extant for this precise verse in Micah. The equivalence יחל – ἐλπίζειν is attested elsewhere in Theodotion and Aquila, however. In Job 14:14, ὑπομένειν in the LXX was changed to ἐλπίζειν in θ´α´.
Here, we do not have extant evidence of the revisers for Mic 7:7, but Joosten has probably detected correctly that Ps. Sol. has adopted their approach (as members of the kaige-group) to the translation of scripture rather than the OG’s.

At the end of the article, Joosten returns to the open questions with which he began, quite cautiously drawing conclusions. First, if Ps. Sol. is dated to the second half of the first century BCE and there is a connection to kaige, then the kaige activity is more probably dated to the first century BCE, thus a minor correction to Barthélemy’s first century CE date. Second, Joosten notes that Ps. Sol. might now present new evidence for the kaige activity occurring in Palestine. Third, and most intriguing, Ps. Sol. expressed opinion that appears to be consonant with the Pharisees (e.g. resurrection of righteous in 3:11-12; 13:11), which might then link it—and now the kaige group—with the proto-Rabbinic movement.

There is much to consider in this piece, and generally, it seems right to me. The same tradition or group that revised its sacred scriptures and made new translations of some of them could have also generated new psalms and collections. Probably, the major challenge to this argument would be that Jews in Judea composed Ps. Sol. in Greek, not Hebrew, a challenge that Joosten himself notes. Another aspect of Joosten’s discussion that’s worth revisiting is the language of “Theodotion.” His article depends only on Ps. Sol. originating with the kaige tradition not necessarily “Theodotion” or proto-Theodotion. It may be best to remove the reference to Theodotion and continue to use kaige tradition or group. But this is a minor point, and I don’t want it to detract from Joosten’s overall intriguing piece.


  1. John,

    "God my Savior."
    Luke 1:47 uses ἐπὶ τῷ θεῷ τῷ σωτῆρί μου" translated as "in God my Savior."That same phrase is found in Odes 4:18 and 9:47 exactly. The Micah 7:7 and Habakkuk 3:18 has "ἐπὶ τῷ θεῷ τῷ σωτῆρί μου," but is translated as "for the God my salvation." This reflects the underlying Hebrew, "לֵאלֹהֵ֣י יִשְׁעִ֑י".

    God my Savior.
    This found 6x in 6 verses; all of them in the Pastoral Epistles (1:1, 2:3; Titus 1:3, 2:10, 3:4) and Jude 25. The grammatical structure will vary in form, "θεοῦ σωτῆρος ἡμῶν" (I Tim. 1:1), "τοῦ σωτῆρος ἡμῶν θεοῦ," (I Tim. 2:3; Titus 1:3, 2:10 and 3:4). Jude 25 is a little different in that the phrase "μόνῳ θεῷ σωτῆρι ἡμῶν" is translated as "to the only God, Our Savior" with a comma in English separating μόνῳ θεῷ, σωτῆρι ἡμῶν."
    The 6 uses in the NT of God our Savior alludes to Psalm 106:21, "τοῦ θεοῦ τοῦ σῴζοντος αὐτούς," "They forgot 'God their Savior" which is rendered in Hebrew as "שָׁ֭כְחוּ אֵ֣ל מֹושִׁיעָ֑ם".

    Thus, I wonder if the differences are more theological or the using of common religious terminology?

    1. Bryant, thanks for this comment. I think Joosten is only concerned with the Greek level for the phrase "God my Savior," since Ps. Sol., on his view, was written in Greek. Thus the NT references and the Odes would probably come from the OT and perhaps Ps. Sol.

      Hab. 3:18 is another interesting use of "God my Savior," but it doesn't have the verb "to hope" or "to wait." Thus, it may not be as exact a parallel for Joosten to mention it. Still, I think this is another interesting use of the phrase. Thanks again for commenting.

      Does this get to your question or point?

    2. John,

      Thanks for your reply.

      I think that the references given would expand on what Joosten has written since he is looking at the differences between Theodotion, Proto-Theodotion, and the kaige.

      It would seem that the reason of Habakkuk 3:18 does not have "hope" mentioned is due to the parallelism, ἀγαλλιάσομαι and χαρήσομαι,
      18 ἐγὼ δὲ ἐν τῷ κυρίῳ ἀγαλλιάσομαι, וַאֲנִ֖י בַּיהוָ֣ה אֶעְלֹ֑וזָה
      χαρήσομαι ἐπὶ τῷ θεῷ τῷ σωτῆρί μου, אָגִ֖ילָה בֵּאלֹהֵ֥י יִשְׁעִֽי

      It is interesting that the NIV does translate it as "God my Savior;" while the others (NASB, KJV, RV, RSV, ISV and ESV) have "God of my salvation."

      Again, thanks.