TRANSLATIONS OF THE OLD TESTAMENT
John A. L. Lee
University of Sydney, Australia
The first translation of the Hebrew Bible into another language was made into Greek by Egyptian Jews in the course of the third to first centuries BC. This version (the “Septuagint”, “Old Greek”) forms not a single work, but a collection of books varying in date, translation method, style, and language level; the content and genre also vary in line with the original. We know nothing of the translators except through the work they left behind. We do know that there was no unified approach to the task but that each translator, or group of translators, set an individual stamp on the book that he or they worked on. Translation methods, the subject of close study in modern times, range across a spectrum from “literal” to “free”. Naturally, the freer the translator's method, the more scope there was for introduction of features not present in the original, but all the books, in that they are translations and not free compositions, inevitably reflect their original to some degree. In fact, the Septuagint is characterized gen erally by faithfulness to the original, as is only to be expected in the translation of a sacred text. This general fidelity extends to the style and rhetorical shape of the original.
The Hebrew Bible is untouched by Graeco-Roman rhetoric. Al though speeches figure prominently, and there are “signs of oral, persuasive intent”, the rhetoric is “preconceptual” and conscious analysis of the processes is absent.1 The Hebrew Bible has its own techniques, but they are not those of Graeco-Roman rhetoric. Our quest then is for features that may have been introduced by the trans lators independently of their original. There might well have been
1 Kennedy 1980:120–21.