The Book of Psalms: Composition and Reception

By Peter W. Flint; Patrick D. Miller Jr. | Go to book overview

SEPTUAGINTAL EXEGESIS AND THE SUPERSCRIPTIONS
OF THE GREEK PSALTER

ALBERT PIETERSMA

Some years ago I had occasion to write a review of Joachim Schaper's, Eschatology in the Greek Ρ'salter.1 In that review I took exception to Schaper's view on a number of, what I perceived to be, fundamental issues in Septuagintal exegesis. In this essay I would like to continue that discussion, not so much contra Schaper as in the larger context of Septuagintal hermeneutics.

In the broadest of terms one tends to find the field divided between “minimalists,” on the one hand, and “maximalists,” on the other. In his book Schaper takes particular aim at the so-called Finnish School of Septuagint studies, because of its propensity — so Schaper — for “not seeing the woods for the trees.” He takes issue with what he regards as its essentially mechanistic view on the Greek translator's role which (to Schaper) entails that a translator is not “in any way … influenced by his religious and cultural environment,” but instead is a “mere medium.”2 I do not myself think that Schaper's assessment of the Finnish School is accurate or fair, but for my present purposes it will do as a characterization of a “minimalist” approach to exegesis in the Septuagint. Schaper's own approach, by comparison, might then be characterized as one that “does not see the trees for the woods.” That is to say, the Greek translator is effectively elevated to the status of an author and his work becomes the same kind of replacement for the original as, for example, an English translation of a novel by Kazantzakis. So Schaper writes in the introduction to his book:

We shall attempt to look at the Septuagint Psalms not merely from a phi-
lological point of view, but also from the perspective of the history of
ideas. Tracing the development of early Jewish eschatology … and trying
to assign to the Greek Psalter its proper place in this development will

1 Joachim Schaper, Eschatology in the Greek Psalter (WUNT 2.Reihe 76;
Tübingen: Mohr Siebeck, 1995). For my review, see Bibliotheca Orientalis 54
(1997) 185-90.

2 Schaper, Eschatology, 21.

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