Tuesday, September 26, 2006

Palmer on LXX Zechariah

It is with regret that I announce that James Palmer, one of the very earliest members of this blog, is retiring from the blog. However, he's retiring for a very good reason: he's gone to be a missionary in Santiago and will therefore be spending less time in cyberspace.

Since he's going to be a missionary, he's also had to make the decision not to spend the time preparing his Cambridge PhD thesis for publication. However, lest this opus be lost to the world parts of it can be accessed in two ways:

1) A long abstract will appear in the Tyndale Bulletin 57.2 (2006) 317-320 (PMH will correct me if any details are wrong).

2) A shorter abstract and table of contents appear below. Though I haven't read the work I can vouch for James' diligence and am sure it is a work that can be read with much profit.

Title: 'Not made with tracing paper': Studies in the Septuagint of Zechariah. Supervisor: Prof. R.P. Gordon, Cambridge University, 2004.

The first part of the study is concerned with arriving at a clearer estimation of the Greek translator of Zechariah, through a detailed study of aspects of his translation practice, and the second part seeks to explore certain theological themes and concerns within that framework. After the introductory chapter 1, chapters 2-4 attempt to draw a portrait of the translator of the book. In chapter 2 we start by considering the types of literalism which are possible in an ancient biblical translation, and state briefly how the translator of LXX-Zech fits within this typology. Chapter 3 looks at the different ways in which the translator dealt with words in his Hebrew Vorlage that he was apparently unable to comprehend. The excursus that follows demonstrates that more care is needed if we are to talk about the influence of the LXX-Torah on the vocabulary of LXX-Zech. Chapter 4 considers the process of transforming a written text into such a state that it could be translated, looking at the translator’s practice in the areas of vocalisation, discernment of sense and word division. The boundary between conscious and subconscious alterations to the text is seen to be very thin, if it was existent at all. Chapters 5, 6 and 7 explore more ideologically focussed themes in the translation, namely the importance of Jerusalem and the future orientation of blessing (chapter 5), the return of the Diaspora and the incorporation of the nations into the worship of the LORD (chapter 6), and the translation of language about God (chapter 7). It is concluded that the translator intended to translate the sense of the text as he understood it, showing neither a demonstrably conscious theological agenda, nor a concern to represent every detail of the Hebrew Vorlage.


1 Midrash and the Text-Critical Use of the Septuagint
(a) Textual Criticism and the Septuagint
(i) Orientation
(ii) Ulrich
(iii) Aejmelaeus
(b) Midrash and the Septuagint
(i) Orientation
(ii) Schaper
(c) The Textual Evidence for Zechariah
(d) Argument

2 Both Literal and Free: The Paradox of Translation
(a) Literalism in Biblical Translation
(i) Barr
(ii) Tov
(b) Paraphrase
(i) Paraphrase of the Verbal Form
(ii) Change of Word-Class
(iii) Paraphrastic Shortening
(iv) Interpretative Paraphrase
(c) Stereotyping and Variety in Translation
(i) Elegant Variation
(ii) Interpretative Variation
(iii) Counter Examples
(c) Word Order
(d) Summary

3 Reading Without Dictionaries: The Semantic Understanding of the Translator of LXX-Zech
(a) Did the Translator Always Understand his Hebrew Vorlage?
(i) Untranslated Words
(ii) Contextual Guesses
(iii) Contextual Manipulation
(iv) Parallelism
(v) General Words
(vi) Etymological Renderings
(α) Root-Linked Renderings
(β) Etymological Guess
(b) Summary and Analysis

EXCURSUS Did the Septuagint Translation of the Torah Serve as a Lexicon in the Translation of Zechariah?
(a) Common Vocabulary
(b) Allusions
(c) Summary and Analysis

4 Believing is Seeing: Homonyms, Homographs and Word Division
(a) Homonyms
(i) The Translator’s Understanding of the Hebrew
(ii) The Immediate Context
(iii) The Wider Context
(b) Homographs
(i) The Translator’s Understanding of the Hebrew
(ii) The Immediate Context
(iii) The Wider Context
(c) Word Division
(i) The Translator’s Understanding of the Hebrew
(ii) The Wider Context
(d) Summary

5 ‘A Future and a Hope’: Jerusalem and the Restoration of Israel
(a) Jerusalem and the Restoration of Israel in the MT
(b) The Distinctive Emphases of LXX-Zech
(i) A Future Hope
(ii)(α) The LORD’s Return
(β) The Exiles’ Return
(iii) Jerusalem: The Apple of His Eye
(α) The Centrality of Jerusalem
(β) Counter Examples
(c) Summary

6 ‘Worship God in Truth’: The Return of the Exiles and Ingathering of the Gentiles(a) The Jewish Diaspora and the Nations in the MT
(b) The Distinctive Emphases of LXX-Zech
(i) The Exiles Will Return to Jerusalem
(ii) The Nations Will Join Israel to Worship the LORD in Jerusalem
(iv) The Canaanites Will Be Excluded
(v) The Influence of Israel Will Expand
(c) Summary

7 Euphemism and the Glory of God: The Theology of LXX-Zech
(a) The Doctrine of God in the MT
(b) The Distinctive Emphases of LXX-Zech
(i) Euphemism and the Visibility of God
(α) Previous Scholarship
(β) LXX-Zech 9:1
(γ) LXX-Zech 9:14
(ii) Euphemism and the Majesty of God
(α) LXX-Zech 12:10
(β) LXX-Zech 11:8
(iii) Two Powers in Heaven (LXX-Zech 13:7)
(d) Summary

8 ‘Not Made With Tracing Paper’: Faithful and Free Translation in LXX-Zech
(a) Summary
(b) Conclusions



  1. It is not often that I am interested in recent scholarly publications, but I must admit that this outline by Palmer has gained my interest. I have never read Zechariah in the LXX - only the Hebrew text. But I think I just might.

  2. I'm sorry to hear that James has decided not to move ahead with publication.

  3. hello James here,
    it's a time thing. It's just not practical here for a while. I have not given up on the idea altogether (which pleased RPG), but it's not going to be soon (in the next year or two). Maybe after...
    I have a few other things nearly finished which I will try and do first like a paper on the idea of inerrant OT autographs, which one or two of you have seen (the essay, not the autographs, unless PMH found them in the binding of a book somewhere). I wrote it at RTS last year and had Bruce Waltke read it for me :)
    That's much more likely to see the light of day in the next few years