Academic journal article Journal of Biblical Literature

The Curious Case of ... and ...: An Inquiry into Septuagint Translation Patterns

Academic journal article Journal of Biblical Literature

The Curious Case of ... and ...: An Inquiry into Septuagint Translation Patterns

Article excerpt

(ProQuest: ... denotes non-US-ASCII text omitted.)

The Hebrew noun ..., which for certain key passages is rendered by "Branch" in modern English translations,1 has been widely recognized as one of many messianic metaphors of the OT, along with scepter, star, shepherd, root/stump, horn, and stone.2 Though the root ... as found in Jer 23:5 (par. 33:15), Zech 3:8, and Zech 6:12 had likely already assumed such status in the postexilic period, it became essentially a technical term for the messiah at Qumran and in rabbinic literature.3 The translation of the Hebrew, however, has proven challenging. Since the turn of the twentieth century, many English commentators and lexicons (though not translation committees) have shifted away from the KJV's long-standing gloss "Branch"-which denotes a vegetative appendage from the stem of an existing plant4-toward something like "Sprout," "Scion," or "Shoot," each of which carries a sense of new growth from the ground.5 This modern English-language debate echoes a similar set of challenges found in the ancient versions, especially the Septuagint.6 Although ... in the MT typically denotes vegetative growth, the term ...-which on the surface carries the sense of dawn/sunrise, east, or rising of a luminary-is used in the LXX renderings of Jer 23:5, Zech 3:8, and Zech 6:12. The question asked by modern scholars is this: Why did the translators choose a noun with an apparently different semantic field to render such an important term, when other candidates such as ... (Aquila), ... (Symmachus), ... (cf. Dan 11:7 LXX), or ... (cf. Isa 11:1 LXX) were available?7 Further, how should we render the word in modern LXX translations?8

Two possible solutions to this curious translation pattern have been proffered, and this article will challenge both of them. The first is that the LXX translators quite simply got it wrong-or, in a softer version, changed the metaphor. The second posits that the underlying Hebrew ... itself carries a dual "glow/grow" meaning, and that the translators' choice of ... simply captures the purported "glow" half of the Hebrew semantic field.9 By pursuing a fresh semantic analysis of both Hebrew ... (noun/verb) and Greek ...-while paying particular attention to the words' contribution to the metaphors found in the passages under consideration-this article aims to achieve two objectives: to call into question both of the above positions, and to provide a plausible case that, in effect, the LXX translators got it right. While it is impossible to get inside the translators' minds and answer the question "why," we can demonstrate that their use of ... is a semantically valid gloss that accurately captures the fundamental ... metaphor in these passages: that of emergence/arising.


For the three principal ... passages, see table 1 below. Note that Aquila reads ... in Zech 3:8 and 6:12 and ... in Jer 23:5, and Symmachus reads ... in Zech 6:12 and ... in Jer 23:5.10

Historically, there has been little substantive disagreement that the three ... passages above are broadly messianic or kingly.11 With respect to Jer 23:5 (and par. 33:15), the ... is usually seen to be a future king who would arise from the lineage of David and would restore the now fallen monarchy of Israel.12 In the Zechariah passages, the main question has centered on the referent of ...: Joshua the priest, Zerubbabel, or a future figure. The Joshua option retains little support, but there are ardent defenders of both Zerubbabel and a future figure as referents, with some commentators proposing a hybrid whereby Zerubbabel is an intermediate fulfillment of the future king represented by 16....

The LXX translation of these texts has received little coverage in the commentaries and monographs that focus on the Hebrew side of the equation.17 In Septuagint studies, however, the issue has been addressed in light of long-standing debates regarding the extent to which the translations evince "messianization" or "demessianization" relative to the Hebrew Vorlagen. …

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