There is no sign of a recession of interest in the study of the Septuagint. In 2012 alone, I received seven requests by North American students to begin a doctorate in the LXX, and colleagues elsewhere are routinely turning back prospective applicants. The Septuagint naturally appeals to a large swathe of those interested in religious studies, particularly those in Old Testament and New Testament, in early Judaism and early Christianity.
Nonetheless, there is still a pernicious prejudice against the Greek Bible. Tessa Rajak was spot on in her Translation and Survival: The Greek Bible of the Ancient Jewish Diaspora, when she moaned and protested that the Septuagint is still seen as a mere text critical guide to the Masoretic text of the Hebrew Bible. The elevation of the rabbinic Hebrew Bible in Christianity, first in the work of Jerome (though he had predecessors) and later in its apogee in the Reformation, dictates scholarship.
Hang on before you impale me: I’m not, as a friend once said to me of herself, “one of those people who want to abandon the Hebrew Bible for the Septuagint.”
I am, however, joining Tessa’s vociferation, demurring the silencing of a witness, which would, let us be clear, narrate OtherwiseUnknownTales of the development of the Hebrew Bible. Instead, the Septuagint is sent out of the room after being given permission to offer a trivial clarification of how the ancients might have read the unpointed consonants. The witness can say no more because witnesses like these could mess up the whole case for the Defense.
Tides turn slowly, but they do turn. Ralph Klein’s new commentary on 2 Chronicles furthers an argument found in some hidden places (hint: articles by a certain Spaniard) but ignored by the majority of scholars who do not work with the Greek: the Chronicler’s source of Samuel-Kings is very close to the Hebrew Vorlage of the Septuagint translator of Samuel-Kings (1-4 Kingdoms). A recent Emory grad, author of Monotheism and Institutions in the Book of Chronicles: Temple, Priesthood, and Kingship in Post-Exilic Perspective, said to me: “It’s tempting to follow that line.” Just do it, my friend, there are pots of gold on the other side.
The task of turning these tides requires more access to scholarship on the Greek Bible. And I’m happy to say there has been a step forward.
Jay Treat and Ben
Sira Wright have now scanned the issues of the Bulletin of the International Organization for Septuagint and Cognate Studies (BIOSCS) from 1968 to 2000. The Bulletin has recently become the Journal of Septuagint and Cognate Studies (JSCS), an improvement not only because it recasts the journal as a journal and not a small organizational bulletin, but also because no journal should have ten words in its title. These issues are now available as PDFs here, and I applaud Ben and Jay for this achievement.
I do hope the issues from 2001-the present will be made available and, in the spirit of the day, in a freely accessible format. A start could be for the JSCS to release its book reviews to another publisher who specialises in open access, online publishing, who can make the reviews available to more people in a week than the number of those who would read the reviews in the entire life of the print journal. If this research continues to be offered only to paying subscribers, the study of the Septuagint will excite only the Septuagilluminati.