Tuesday, July 30, 2019

A Preview of Peter Gentry’s Septuaginta Ecclesiastes

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A critical edition with its critical text and apparatus tells a text’s narrative history. If that is true, the new Ecclesiastes of the Septuaginta series is no exception. In this post, I want to provide two examples of places where Peter Gentry’s critical text differs from Rahlfs. Peter Gentry tells me that there are seventy-two differences in all between his and Rahlfs’ text, and he plans to publish these in his forthcoming English Introduction to the Edition. Here are two examples with screen shots from the edition itself.

Παραβολάς “parables” or παραφοράς “madness” in Ecclesiastes 1:17b?

Below is the page out of the new Edition, and we are looking at the word παραφοράς in 1:17b. Rahlfs chose παραβολάς as the original reading on the weight of the majority of witnesses (note ‘rel’ in the apparatus), but the translator’s formal and consistent approach to the Hebrew text has given scholars pause over the years (note Gordis’ conjecture in 1937 mentioned in the apparatus). Since the translator consistently renders Hebrew words from III הלל with περι-/παραφερ- words, it is probable that the translator would have rendered הוללות “madness” with the noun from the same word group, παραφορά or περιφορά. Although the translator preferred the latter term, in this case, παραβολή, shows he actually chose the former term since παραβολάς naturally derives from παραφοράς due to certain phonological factors [see mine and Peter’s argument here]. The reconstruction of παραφοράς was actually confirmed in the reading above the line in MS 788.

Does “a fool speak from excess” in Ecclesiastes 2:15f?

Between 2:15e and 15g in Rahlfs’ Edition, there is the line: διότι ἄφρων ἐκ περισσεύματος λαλεῖ “Because a fool speaks from excess.” But one will notice that the editor has relegated the line to the apparatus and that the apparatus is very dense for this variant. The line itself has several textual problems, but the most significant issue is that in our witnesses it appears both after the new v. 15f (e.g. B/Vaticanus; papyrus 998) and before it (‘rel’ thus A and S among other MSS have it here and so Rahlfs followed these). Several observations from the apparatus reveal why the editor chose not to include this line: (1) it’s not in the Hebrew (see the second apparatus for the marginal note showing that ancient scribes also knew this); (2) the variant appears in different forms in the MSS and in two different places showing the likelihood that it is a secondary gloss to the text; (3) finally, the editor supplies the probable source and inspiration for this gloss in Matthew 12:34 (cf. Luke 6:45). Thus in all probability the line is a secondary gloss that entered the text in different places through its transmission.


In addition to revising the text of Rahlfs, it is clear even from these two screen shots what this edition will offer over Rahlfs. The text and first apparatus are the main features, but the second apparatus presents a complete update to Field’s work for the hexaplaric materials of Ecclesiastes.

This edition will be the departure for any serious work on the book of Ecclesiastes and its textual history. I would make sure your library knows it has been released and that it acquires the volume for its collection.

12 comments

  1. Glad to hear an English introduction is in the works! Gentry has published various case studies over the years, for example in the Septuagint and Cognate Studies series.

    Regarding the second variation unit, I've seen various cases where Christian corruptions in the text of the OG are possible or probable, but don't recall seeing a dedicated study of the matter anywhere. Does anyone know of such a study that I've missed?

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    1. I'm glad to see that about the English intro too.

      John, do you know if that intro is to be included in a later edition of this work, or is to be published separately?

      Also, if I recall correctly, there is no English intro for the whole Göttingen Septuaginta set. That also would be a great project for someone with the requisite expertise to work on .

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    2. Stephen and Eric, I believe the English Intro is set to be published separately. The original will be in the German Edition itself.

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    3. i am unable to find any comparative table listing the differences between rahlfs and the Gottingen LXX edition. does peter have a page number in the german edition?

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    4. Jim, he mentioned to me that this would be in the forthcoming English intro to the work. I think that will be more expanded than the German Intro for the volume. But I don’t know for certain. Sorry, I can’t help more.

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  2. In Ecc 2:15, I like Gentry's decision, and I like the reasoning, up until the suggestion of Matt 12:34 as the inspiration. That seems unlikely to me, first because I think if it were the inspiration then the addition would match the wording and word order of Matt 12:34 more closely, and second because I don't think it really fits the sense of Matt 12:34, which implies that both good and evil things are spoken out of the abundance of one's heart depending on what abounds there, whereas the gloss in LXX Ecc 2:15 implies that it only fools who speak out of abundance.

    What seems more likely to me is that the gloss in Ecc 2:15 was written (perhaps in the margin originally) in order to explain 2:15f, and especially why the word περισσὸν was used there. Without the gloss, that line, and especially that word in the line, seems odd and cries out for explanation.

    Perhaps the real explanation is that περισσὸν in 15f was translated from יוֹתֵ֑ר, which really belongs with 15e (at least if we follow the MT accents). But later Greek scribes would not think of that.

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    1. Eric, I think you might be right and we actually agree. I just didn’t mention the marginal note as the exact step. That’s possible. But that would still be a secondary gloss on the Greek text by Greek Christian scribes, right? In other words, I think the addition entered the text by Christian Scribes who knew Greek and the New Testament, who didn’t have immediate recourse to the Hebrew text (that came later as the marginal scholion “not in the Hebrew” shows. Thus we are looking at an inner-Greek variant that has nothing to do with the Hebrew, it seems to me. Does this help?

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    2. Yes, and I think we do agree.

      And, since it would have been Greek scribes who would have been familiar with the words of Jesus, I suppose that there could have been a kind of subconscious assimilation to those words, even though I don't see a conscious attempt to bring either that saying or its general sense into Ecc 2:15.

      And yes as well on your last sentence. The one place where I do see the Hebrew factoring in is in the way that περισσὸν got into 15f. That bit was done by the OG translator. And what the translator did there introduced something into the text that set the stage for what later Christian scribes, totally unaware of the Hebrew, would do by adding the gloss of 15e/g.

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  3. Hmm...seventy-two differences between his and Rahlfs' text sounds almost too...septuagintal. Someone should investigate!

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    1. Haha! Jean, I was waiting for someone to seize on this symbolic numerology. Thanks for not letting me down :-).

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  4. Does anyone have an answer for Stephen's question?

    "Regarding the second variation unit, I've seen various cases where Christian corruptions in the text of the OG are possible or probable, but don't recall seeing a dedicated study of the matter anywhere. Does anyone know of such a study that I've missed?"

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  5. Is it Ralph that on screen? I have not found Superscript letters in Ecclesiastes of 2.15.

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