Wednesday, September 17, 2014

Augustine on Osteen

This is a good word from Ray Van Neste.  Follow this link.

His post was a healthy reminder to me about what is the gospel, and as the Apostle Paul say, is another gospel, which is in fact not a gospel at all! (Gal. 1)


Tuesday, September 2, 2014

Dialogue on When God Spoke Greek: Chapter 7

MosisMose Dialogue on When God Spoke Greek links: Intro to Dialogue - Ch. 1 - Ch. 2 Ch. 3 - Ch. 4 - Ch. 5 - Ch. 6

 Main Reviewer - Chris Fresch:

In his seventh chapter, titled E Pluribus Unum, Law effectively brings to a close what could be "Part 1" of his book.  The chapters after this one move beyond the translation of the Septuagint and its origins and begin to explore its use and reception in the New Testament and the Church Fathers.  The issue of textual plurality will get picked back up as will the questions of Scripture and Canon, but for all intents and purposes, chapter seven serves as the capstone to Law's narrative history of the Septuagint up to the dominance of the MT textual tradition.

This chapter is divided into two parts: "The Illusion of Merging Streams" and "The Masoretic Text of the Hebrew Bible."  I will discuss the salient points of each in turn.

The Illusion of Merging Streams

Law begins by discussing the significance of the Greek manuscripts from the Judean Desert, particularly with regard to manuscripts that reveal a desire to revise the Old Greek to conform, in both language and text, to a type of Hebrew text like we find in the later MT.  He concludes by making the salient point: "Without the multiplicity of divergent text forms we have discussed thus far, there would have been no need to revise" (76).  There is implicit evidence for textual plurality here.  Granted, it does not necessarily tell us more than that, but the revision efforts do at least attest that there was were streams of differing text traditions in this period.

When I first read WGSG a year ago, this section is what stuck with me the most.  Law makes an important point that needs to be considered and remembered in Old Testament textual research, and in fact, is a helpful reminder to anyone working in most any field.  He writes:

"Although it appears there was a widespread movement to bring all texts into alignment with the sources that would make up the Hebrew Bible, we are led to this conclusion only because we look at the earlier history through the lens of a later reality.  We then see a picture of all these revisions as a shared tendency to move in the direction of the later Hebrew Bible.  But since the text form of the Hebrew Bible was eventually adopted by the early rabbinic movement and soon displaced all other variations, we should expect nothing less than a distortion of the picture of the earlier variety.  There may not have been a widespread desire to align with the sources of the Hebrew Bible any more than to any other text, but since these revisions agree with the Hebrew Bible that later became standard we should expect they would have been preserved and thus be more surprised to have any traces of variety left at all." (76, emphasis mine)

When I think back on what I learned from this section, I usually compress it into one imperative sentence and one exclamatory sentence:

  1. Be cognizant of how the ultimate movement and outcome of history may be coloring and interpreting the past for you.
  2. It really is astonishing that we have so many witnesses to alternative textual traditions!

At this point, the reader comes to realize the significance of the chapter title and this section's title.  We know how history worked itself out.  There was one tradition (MT) to rule them all.  Because of the revisionist efforts, it is easy to look back and see all the streams merging with and conforming to the MT, but Law's warning should be taken seriously here.  History's outworking is coloring our interpretation of the events of the past, and we ought not let it.

In the latter part of this section, Law discusses the importance of the Minor Prophets Scroll from Nahal Hever.  This scroll is especially interesting as it shows that revision efforts were being made on existing translations before the final books that make up the Septuagint (Ecclesiastes, Ruth, Song of Songs, Lamentations) were even translated for the first time (77)!

Law finishes this section by briefly discussing the Kaige recension (a topic without which no book on the Septuagint would be complete) and the work of the Three (Aquila, Symmachus, and Theodotion).  He has some interesting ideas regarding other revisional activity that was going on at the same time as the Three that are reasonably postulated, but I would like to speed ahead to the next section!

The Masoretic Text of the Hebrew Bible

What does it mean to establish a canon?

This question has modern implications.  Consider the recent decision from Disney regarding the Star Wars canon.  True Star Wars fans (notice my qualifier there?) are upset about Disney's decision to demote the entire Expanded Universe, which has been built up over the past 30 years or so, to the status of "Star Wars Legends" while maintaining that only the movies and new TV show(s) are canonical.  This creates beneficial boundaries for Disney.  It allows them to tell the stories they want to tell, the way they want to tell them, and still regard the older non-cinematic stories as part of the overall mythos but without being constrained by them.

"Establishing a canon presupposes the existence of variability and testifies to the desire to end all variety." (79)

Too true, Michael, too true.

Sorry, getting off my Star Wars soap box now.

But that is the first point Law makes in this section: The fact that a canon is eventually established necessarily indicates that there was some kind of diversity and a desire to end it.  In the case of the OT, we have two types of diversity: text traditions and accepted books, both of which were being made narrower by the canonization process.

What forced the canonization process?  Why did it need to happen?

Law spends the next couple pages attempting to answer those questions, tracing out what happened to bring an end to textual plurality, though he is careful to remind the reader that "this is a suggestion, not an unimpeachable interpretation" (80).  Though only a suggestion, it is rather reasonable and has some explanatory power.  There is not space to discuss it all, but there are two points in the latter bit of this historical recreation that I would like to at least mention in passing as I found them to be especially salient:

  1. The text tradition that ended up becoming dominant may have been chosen only because it was the one available (80, emphasis mine)
  2. Those who were making these decisions were excluding some texts that were used by other Jewish groups farther away from Jerusalem. (80, 81)

The first point reminds us that we should be careful to not simply assume just because the MT became dominant, that meant it was regarded as the best.  Perhaps it was simply the most convenient or the most widespread. (History may look back on us and actually think we chose VHS over Betamax because it was the better format!)

Regarding the second point, the lens through which we view the past makes it easy to regard history's outworking as a collective Jewish movement, but what we may be looking at are the decisions of the few in power in Jerusalem.  Granted, as Law notes, no one could approve a canonical list that had not been accepted by a number of adherents (83), but this would still only be reflective of the Jews living in Palestine.

The last few pages of the chapter continue to be thought provoking.  Law helpfully reminds the reader that the concept of a canon is "inescapably retrospective" since it is applied well after the books have been written and since "before the creation of the canon there was no way to tell which would eventually achieve authoritative status" (82).  This latter point is a good reminder.  The question of how to delimit a canon would have probably sounded absurd to those earlier and outspread communities who enjoyed gleaning from a wide variety of texts.  Law then goes on to discuss the use of non-canonical books outside of Palestine and the social, religious, and historical issues that probably all played a part in the text- and canon-centeredness that emerged in Judaism.  There is not space to discuss it all here, but it is worth reading and thinking through!

Responder #1 - Aaron White

I feel like I may again be forced into the role of the crotchety fundy, but before I get to enjoy that again, I would like to give acknowledgment to Chris', so-far, many and well used analogies.  The observant reader has noticed four, or so, thus far, and a skilled correction of my attempt to do the same!  It makes reviews more fun to read!  I, for one, am becoming a Star Wars fan via my three sons' wild interest in the series.  So this all makes sense to me now!

As for the chapter, I would also like to agree with Chris that I was struck by similar presuppositional things.  I am often reminding people in the church, and outside the church, that there is always a context informing the way they see things, and this chapter does a great job demonstrating this.

In that same vein, also, we continue to see that Law views canon from a certain perspective, and with specific presuppositions that are virtually unstated.  Canon for Law is chosen by a chance (?) via some expedient process and/or powerful party (83).  This is against a more historically Christian perspective that views canon as the recognition, not selection (!), of the books that are God's word and inspired by the Holy Spirit.  So, according to the latter view, canon is not about spiritual superiority nor limiting anyone's liberty concerning what they can and cannot read, but about what has been indicated divinely as the word of God (this means there is no sliding scale of inspiration, too, cf. 81 - it either is or is not inspired).  This latter view may seem awfully simple-minded and vanilla vis-a-vis the sexy diversity and freedom that is offered if we characterize canon according to the first presupposition, then reject it.  (I hate to do it) But it made an exciting blockbuster!  However, in all due respect to those who hold this view, because many of my friends do (hopefully they still like me!), it is not the only view that a scholar must hold in order to adequately, objectively, and thoroughly handle the evidence (and, I should be clear, Law does not claim this - it is simply stated because this confessional view is not too popular in academic circles).  In fact, the latter view would contend that all this evidence simply means more investigation must happen, and it endorses this exploration because they take the inspiration of a specific canon so seriously.This view, like the former, sees evidence as an exciting building block of knowledge, but not, in addition, as a type of tool of deconstructionism, here, of a view of canon.

Finally, concerning variety and diversity, I understood what Law was trying to say, and what Chris was reporting, but I am not sure what end Law has in mind.  Does this mean we leave our options open for any book that claims divine origin, and receive them as equal in spiritual value and/or historical accuracy, etc.?  I wasn't sure.  Also, as diversity and variety goes, one may have a hard time understanding why the canon we hold needs more of these things, if it is claimed that it resists it.  The genre and origins represented already is quite staggering!  I understand, however, that some have not recognized this, which gives a tall platform for some skeptical scholars who come to town and proclaims that "THERE IS GENRE IN THE BIBLE!" - and everyone is like, "variety, diversity, genre?! What?!" But, while Law is not necessarily speaking about this, I was curious to know what the end is that he is seeking by deconstructing canon because the "desire [of constructing a canon is] to end all variety."  I simply don't know if a statement like that is helpful for this discussion, or true of what the role of canon in fact is. 

But, I do not want to throw out the proverbial baby with the bath water.  This is a good chapter.  I think there are classic historical-critical presuppositions that color it, but one should not disregard it because of this.  The chapter demonstrates that our job is not simply done with the discovery, reconstruction, transcription and publication of texts.  Rather, we as biblical scholars, have an embarrassment of riches, and these texts need explored for what they can tell us about the texts we already have (and vise versa), and see what they can tell us about how God spoke to his people in ages past, and how He is still forming our worldview in the 21st century through a inspired texts.

Responder #2—Ed Glenny
This is another valuable chapter, and I am again indebted to Timothy Michael Law for his work. He has made me think seriously about several issues. He presents in summary the thesis that the canon of authoritative books in Judaism is an accident of history, based on available manuscripts and political decisions made by the Hasmoneans (2 Macc 2:13-15). Chris has explained well the thesis of the chapter, but my main response is to note that Law is clear that this explanation of the Hebrew canon is what “some scholars have suggested” (83). It is one way to explain the evidence. And it is based on the idea that those who espouse the “merging streams” understanding of the development of the Hebrew canon are reading later ideas about the canon back into the earlier historical evidence. As I said above, I thank Law for making me think about this; however, if one does not share his presuppositions, there is little hard evidence to persuade one to accept his conclusion that the choice of the authoritative books of Judaism was an accident of history. For me the evidence from the Greek Minor Prophets Scroll from Nahal Hever and other tendencies to change texts to be more like the MT or proto-MT suggest that the authoritative status of the MT was more than an accident of history. 
            An issue that needs more discussion is the relationship of canonicity to books and texts. Does the canon refer only to a collection of books, or does it also refer to the texts of those books? My understanding of what Law is saying in this chapter is that he thinks canon involves authoritative books and texts. Tov talks about this issue in relationship to the Hebrew Bible in the article Law quotes at the beginning of the chapter (“The Status of the Masoretic Text in Modern Text Editions of the Hebrew Bible”), and he seems to conclude that the original text should not be linked with the canonical status of the MT (esp. 247-249); thus, the canon refers to a collection of books that could be represented by different texts. Among other things Tov comments that the MT is represented by many textual witnesses from the third century B.C.E. to the Middle Ages, and it contains many early errors which were preserved by later scribes (242-243). I understood Law to be referring to canonical books and texts in chapter seven, and I would love to hear more from him to clarify this.

            This is another helpful chapter, and I am thankful for T. M. Law keeping our minds in the Septuagint; thanks also to Chris Fresch for his review and to Aaron White for his response. I should note that I am responsible for the delay in the posting of the discussion of this chapter, and I apologize to Chris and Aaron for that.

Thursday, June 5, 2014

Dialogue on When God Spoke Greek: Chapter 6

MosisMose Dialogue on When God Spoke Greek links: Intro to Dialogue - Ch. 1 - Ch. 2 Ch. 3 - Ch. 4

Main Reviewer - Aaron White:

This chapter is about the writings that fall under the category of "apocrypha" and "pseudepigrapha."  TML is interested to study these writing as an exploration of a body of writings written between 200 BCE and 200 CE, that for some "early Jews and Christians" were viewed as "scripture" (58, 59), but were ultimately left out of the Hebrew canon.  This chapter will be a reference I go back to as a quick and dirty overview and intro to many important Jewish writings.  As seen in earlier chapters (3, 5), if TML has an agenda, it is to challenge a set "canon" by establishing the appearance of a quite plural "canon."  This chapter works in a similar direction.
Concerning the titles of these writings as "apocrypha" and "pseudepigrapha," TML believes these designations inherently are pejorative in nature.  He supposes that some may have viewed them as no less inspired than other, particularly canonized, writings.  Interestingly, he suggests that the 24 books counted in 2 Esdras do not necessarily need to be in reference to "the exact composition of the Hebrew Bible."  (59)  He supposes other books like the Letter to Jeremiah may have taken the place of Esther, for example.  That is tough to respond to, isn't it?  One could must simply say, "I guess..."  Or, I imagine one could say that Narnia is reported by Tolkien, friend of Lewis, as 7 books, but it could have been that "The Silver Chair" may have been a replacement for "Perelandra" in its original order.  I don't know...  
I do appreciate, however, that he does acknowledge in this point that collections of writings were "intended only for a select readership." (59)  Even though for a moment he eases off the "accidental" language of chapter 3 and 5, and it feels nice.  But then returns to that horrid (sarcasm) "accidental" language at the conclusion of this chapter, saying, "By the end of the period, one of the available Hebrew traditions will have been chosen, perhaps unintentionally, so that almost all of the witnesses after the second century have the appearance of uniformity." (74, emphasis mine)   
For TML, there is a high value on plurality and unintentionality in canon formation.  I have to admit that I too am interested in issues of canon plurality, especially in the 21st century catholic (universal) church.  It can bring helpful, if may at least, interesting conversation across (mus-placed)lines.  I also at times do feel a sense of injustice when I am confronted with the Hebrew (MT) canon bias stemming mainly out of the Enlightenment and Reformation.  I want to say that another look at the LXX MSS must be taken and their ordering and translation must be explored before we "go all in" on the MT.  But I am still attempting to understand what TML's investment is in making this canonization process seem so haphazard.  Even when I am reading his book, how he presents the facts, and working according to the rules of his world, I am still having trouble seeing such pure plurality and accidental-ness.  
I want to say that I think often times a differing view of how canon happens is in play.  I would say that canon is revealed and is recognized by the church, but TML would say it is chosen (it seems).  I wonder aloud, how acceptable it is to say canon is reveal in scholarship? Eta Linnemann asks a similar question in her book on Historical Criticism.  I am willing to accept when I read books like TML's that I will encounter throw-away statements like "Their pseudonymity, however, does not fully explain their exclusion from canonical literature: some books enen within received canons of scripture are pseudonymous -- Daniel, Ecclesiastes, Ephesians, and 2 Peter, to name but a few..." (59).  And, as one of my fellow reviewers has noted, TML does and admirable job at calling a spade a spade.  He assesses the evidence for what it shows.  But part of the evidence is God and is his people across time.  To this point, TML seems to play advocate for more possible writings that some viewed as scripture back this four-hundred year period.  But, in the end, it seems more compelling that if across such a wide-breadth of time and geography God's people have agreed on such a close core of primary Scriptures (not a secondary thing like the Catholic church), this is evidence.  Also, the convenantal faithfulness of God in scripture should be primary evidence.  That is, the motif that moves towards the hope of a kingly-Messiah and LORD, is itself a sure test of canonicity -- which is sure why Luther, and others have challenges books like Esther, but ultimately left them alone.   

I guess, I am both rambling but also asking for another book.  Both bad things... But I think when MSS are looked at, and stats are taken, and conclusions are made upon these in the abstract, maybe I could see where TML is coming from, maybe.  The story of canon is bigger than that, however.  And there is much more intentionality both divinely and ecclesiastically than this book admits, so far, as well as there is not as broad of a plurality that it seems that TML is expressing in these chapters.   

Responder #1: Chris Fresch
Like Aaron, I appreciate the Law's summaries of the deuterocanonical books.  It is very helpful to have on hand, and I am sure that for the reader who has never engaged with these books, the summaries and contexts Law provides help concretize what is being discussed as well as show how an ancient community could have regarded these as authoritative works.
I do find Aaron's critique regarding the 2 Esdras quote a little on the unfair side.  If I may push back on his example:
It would make no sense for Tolkien to refer to Narnia as a seven book collection that includes Perelandra but not The Silver Chair.
1) Perelandra is a work of science fiction whereas The Silver Chair is a work of fantasy just like the other six books of Narnia.
2) There are consistent characters, worlds, and themes between the other six books in Narnia and The Silver Chair but not Perelandra.
I am not trying to be pedantic; the situation of what books the Hebrew Canon comprises is quite a bit different.  Most of the books in the Protestant Hebrew Bible share one or both of the common features of theme (YHWH and his relation to Israel) and attribution to an authority (whether Moses, Isaiah, Solomon, etc.).  Most, if not all, of the deuterocanonical books can reasonably be fit under this umbrella (some may argue that they fit better than books like Song of Songs and Ecclesiastes).  Thus, this is a much less clear-cut situation than what books the Narnia or Space Trilogy collections comprise.

And just to add to the difficulty here, consider that a twenty-two book canon is posited in Josephus' Against Apion 1.37-43 and seemingly in Jubilees 2:23-24 [especially when one looks at the (expanded?) quotation of it in ch. 22 of Epiphanius' On Weights and Measures].  What's being left out?  What books are included?
So, I agree with Law that there is no way to prove the 24 books mentioned in 2 Esdras are the same 24 books we have today, especially as Law notes, since some books like Ecclesiastes and Esther were being debated for centuries.  It would not be at all surprising for Baruch or 1 Maccabees to have been included for some communities (or Bel and the Dragon — I mean, come on, who doesn't want that story as a part of their Scripture?!).  However, at the same time, I do think Aaron is right to counter from the other side of the coin: There is no way to prove that they are not the same 24 books we have today.  In my mind, then, we are left at a standstill.  24 books are mentioned.  We can confidently say that many of them are the same as what we have today, but we certainly cannot argue from this that the 24 books mentioned and the 24 books we have today are completely coextensive.  It's not a very exciting conclusion, I suppose, but I think it is a fair one.

Regarding the issue of an unintended canon formation, when Law writes "unintentional" or "accidental," I do not get the same "haphazard" feeling that Aaron gets.  I think Law's purpose with such language is just to point out that one textual tradition might have prevailed over another not because it was better or more original or theologically more accurate but rather just because of time, place, and who was using what tradition as Jewish culture shifted from a mostly oral dominant culture in the direction of being a text-dominant culture (see Walton and Sandy's The Lost World of Scripture for a good introduction to the topic of the shift from oral dominance to textual dominance).

Lastly, Aaron writes, "But, in the end, it seems more compelling that if across such a wide-breadth of time and geography God's people have agreed on such a close core of primary Scriptures (not a secondary thing like the Catholic church), this is evidence."  I must push back on this.  I do agree with Aaron that the movement of God's Spirit in his people should be a piece of evidence that we consider in this discussion (though, this is not what Law is doing nor do I criticize him for it given that his book is not intended to be a theological reflection on these issues), however, I feel that he is only looking at this from a Western Protestant perspective.  What about the Catholic deuterocanon and the canons of the Orthodox Churches (Armenian, Syriac, Coptic, Georgian, Slavonic, Ethiopian, and Greek) (See WGSG, 60)?  Why is it that the Western Protestant tradition (which, granted, goes farther back in time than the term "Protestant") is elevated while we ignore the Bibles that our brothers and sisters from other traditions read all around the world?  If we want to consider as evidence how God's people have been guided through time, I'm on board, but only if we are equally considering all streams of the Church.

[P.S. After I wrote this response, I listened to TML's recent entry to his podcast The Septuagint Sessions titled "A problem with the Apocrypha."  Excellent discussion from him and very relevant!  -  Aaron:  Thanks Chris for such a lively response.  I will also listen to this podcast to gain more clarity on your last point.]

Responder #2 —Ed Glenny
Thanks once again to TML for giving us WGSG. It is a great pleasure to read a book written by an expert who has a broad grasp of a subject (as is evident from the content and footnotes in his book) and yet has digested and summarized the material so that it is easy to understand, interesting, and enjoyable to read. Thank you TML. Thanks also to Aaron and Chris for their helpful comments on chapter six. I would like to offer two comments.
First, I think the title of this chapter is very apt, and it argues against one of TML’s main points in the chapter. There are stories about “Bird Droppings, Stoned Elephants, and Exploding Dragons” in the narrative or historical sections of the Apocrypha. (I will only discuss the Apocrypha and not the Pseudepigrapha, because that is the focus of this chapter and that is the discussion most relevant to the LXX.) Such stories are entertaining; however, to me many of these stories do not have the ring of credibility, authenticity, or weightiness I sense in the stories in the books in the Jewish canon. Thus, I am a little surprised when TML says in the first paragraph of chapter six, “There is nothing intrinsic to the books that would hint they should have been separated from the others [the books in the Jewish canon].” When I read the Apocrypha I find many things that do not seem to be intrinsically or inherently on the level of the books in the Jewish canon, and my students seem to agree when we read the Apocrypha together. Furthermore, the secondary nature of the books in the Apocrypha is implied from the fact that some of these books “intend to resolve perceived difficulties in the Hebrew version” of the books to which they are related (61) and some additions to books were “added where it was felt the Hebrew version was deficient” (63). In Law’s words describing the book of Judith, “the historical claims of the story are incredulous.” Perhaps when Law writes “there is nothing intrinsic to the books that would hint they should have been separated from the others” he is referring to their genres and other literary features, but how does one not include the general content in what is intrinsic to books? To me there are things in many of the books of the Apocrypha, like mistakes, aberrant theology, and a general lack of creditability and gravity that hint at why they would have been separated from the other books.
Second, although “during the centuries of the Septuagint’s formation there was nothing like the Apocrypha, as we know it today” (59) that does not mean it is a term scholars should not use today to describe a collection of books called the Apocrypha. Nor does it mean that it is wrong to consider these books as a unit or to separate them on the basis of their essential character from the rest of the LXX, which was translated from the Hebrew Bible. TML seems to be arguing that they should not be so distinguished. However, the evidence does not support the idea that Christians made no distinction between the books today called the Apocrypha and the books translated from the Hebrew Bible by the Seventy-two. David deSilva writes, “The ‘Septuagint’ codices…cannot be used as evidence for an Alexandrian Jewish canon that included the Apocrypha. These manuscripts are fourth- and fifth-century Christian works, fail to agree on the extent of the extra books, and seem to have been compiled more with convenience of reference in mind than as the standards of canonical versus noncanonical books….As ‘church books,’ they may have sought to contain what was useful rather than what was strictly canonical.” Thus, the inclusion of books from what we call the Apocrypha in Christian codices does not prove they were considered to be on the same level as the other books of the Septuagint. Furthermore, Jews limited their canon to the 39 books later included in the Protestant canon, although Jews count them as 24 (or 22) books, rather than 39. And Christians believed the “oracles of God” had been committed to the Jews (Rom 3:2; 9:4) and believed Jesus was the fulfillment of those same 39 books, making those books the authoritative basis of their faith. When Christians quoted Jewish writings as Scripture in the books of the New Testament their quotations did not go beyond those same 39 books. And the few suggested textual references to the Apocryphal books in the New Testament are not strong connections. Thus, there is good evidence that for both Jews and early Christians the Jewish Scriptures were understood to be limited to the same 39 books. Christians valued and used other books, including some of those we today include in the Apocrypha and Pseudepigrapha. But the arguments used to support the expansion of the Christian Old Testament beyond the Jewish Scriptures to include apocryphal books is not convincing. The evidence suggests Christians accepted as Scripture the same 39 books that make up the Jewish Scriptures, and that inclusion of other books in Septuagint codices did not indicate those books were Scripture or canonical. Septuagint codices do not appear to have been intended to define the canon of Scripture.
The apocryphal books have devotional and historical value, and are useful for our understanding of the LXX. Also various apocryphal books were included in many of the Christian codices. But there is strong evidence they were distinguished from the Jewish Scriptures by Jews and Christians (and also at Qumran, which I cannot develop here; see deSilva, 32). The advice of Cyril, “you are to read the Old Testament books of the Septuagint that have been translated by the Seventy-two….Stay away from the Apocrypha” (Catechetical Lectures 4.33, 35; ca. A.D. 350), clearly differentiates between the translations of the books in the Hebrew canon and the apocryphal books and is representative of the feelings of many of the fathers. Apocrypha is not a perfect term, but it does give us a category to make the distinction between books that Cyril advised. And such a distinction seems to be required by the character of the books called apocryphal and by the separation the Jews and early Christians made between canonical and non canonical books.

Monday, May 12, 2014

Dialogue on When God Spoke Greek: Chapter 5

MosisMose Dialogue on When God Spoke Greek links: Intro to Dialogue - Ch. 1 - Ch. 2 Ch. 3 - Ch. 4


Chapter Five Review—Ed Glenny

This chapter is a survey of the books of the Septuagint translated from Hebrew texts in order to highlight the places where the Greek of the Septuagint differs from the Hebrew (MT). Law correctly summarizes that these differences were caused by different Hebrew texts, intentional changes made by the translators, and errors in translation. The key point Law seeks to demonstrate in this chapter is that “before the second century CE the biblical text was characterized by variety and that the forms of scripture used by the New Testament authors and early Christians in the church’s formative stages undermine the impression of stability gained from reading modern Bibles” (44-45). Thus, it seems the goal of the chapter is to challenge “the myth of textual stability” (45-46) with respect to the Hebrew Bible that is often accepted naively by modern readers of the Bible. The remainder of the chapter is a survey of important differences between the Hebrew and Greek texts that is divided into four sections: the books of Moses, the books of Israel’s history, the prophets and poets, and the final translations (the Five Festal Scrolls).
         I appreciate this chapter, and I know I will refer to it again when I want to reference a discussion of the differences between the Septuagint and the Hebrew. The chapter is packed with helpful information, and the discussion is generally balanced in its approach to the differences between the Greek and Hebrew texts. Law warns the reader that even though we will learn in this chapter that the form of the Septuagint differs from the Hebrew “we should refrain from exaggeration because much of the Septuagint is indeed very similar to the Hebrew Bible and thus to our English versions” (44). The chapter points the reader to some of the main sections of the Septuagint where its Vorlage differs from the Hebrew texts that later made up the Hebrew Bible, like the books of Samuel and Kings, and it also gives several examples of differences between the Greek and the Hebrew that can be traced to the translator. The chapter is in many ways a broad survey of the character of the translation of the various parts and books of the Septuagint. And in that regard I would compare it to Jennifer Dines’s helpful survey of the character of the books of the Septuagint (The Septuagint, 13-24).
Despite Law’s attempts in this chapter not to exaggerate about the differences between the Hebrew and Greek texts, I came away from it with the impression that his reading of the differences between the Hebrew and Greek texts was not a sympathetic one. Here I may be biased by the facts that in my study of the Septuagint I have focused on the translation technique employed and that the focus of my Septuagint study has been the Minor Prophets, a section of the Jewish Scriptures where the Vorlage of the Septuagint is generally thought to be very similar to the modern Hebrew text (see my Finding Meaning in the Text: Translation Technique and Theology in the Septuagint of Amos). But I feel Law tends to underestimate the importance and value of the study of translation technique for understanding the differences between the Hebrew and the Greek and overemphasize the variety in the early text forms. For example, I found in my study of translation technique in Amos that virtually every Septuagint reading that differed from the Hebrew could be explained by the translation technique employed; and to this point of my study (in Hosea, Amos, and Micah) I would argue that is also usually the case elsewhere in the Minor Prophets. I know translation technique will not explain the differences between the Greek and Hebrew in many places in the Septuagint, but I am not convinced that the differences between early text forms is as great as Law implies in this chapter. To his credit in this chapter he does clearly acknowledge the part the translators played in the differences between the Hebrew and Greek texts, but he still feels compelled to state that in the Torah features attributed to the translators “are often exaggerated to support the myth of the textual stability” (46). No doubt some have exaggerated these features, but the number of differences between the Hebrew and the Greek that could be attributed to the translator, which Law points out in the chapter, supports my impression that this is a common cause of divergence in many of the books. In fact, I think one topic that Law does not develop enough in his book that would help readers understand the Septuagint better is the translation technique of the Septuagint translators. This chapter introduces the idea and gives some examples, but I think more discussion of translation technique would help balance the perspective of the book. This chapter is as close as he gets to that topic, but from the general discussion in this chapter it is very difficult for the reader to understand the complex issues the translators of the Septuagint faced and the diverse means they employed to try to solve them. And an understanding of such issues and the various tendencies of the different translators is crucial for making informed decisions about the source texts that they employed for their translations.
I highly recommend this chapter. It is a valuable summary of some of the key differences between the Hebrew and Greek texts. But I would also recommend readers consider some of the studies of the translation technique of the Septuagint translators and the discussion of Septuagint variants and pseudo-variants in the works of Emanuel Tov (e.g., The Text-Critical Use of the Septuagint). These sources will contribute to further understanding of the number and type of differences between the Hebrew and Greek that could be attributed to the translator, and this understanding will result in greater ability to evaluate the evidence concerning diverse early Hebrew text forms.  

Response #1: Aaron White

I agree with Ed, this was a helpful chapter, and one that I wish I would have wrote!  Especially important about Ed's review is his interaction about the diversity Law senses, and Ed believes is overplayed.  This is a key discussion from two world-class experts on these issues.   That is priceless stuff!
In our arrangement, I am supposed to be responding to Ed's review, but I find myself in awe of the discussion that just took place, and without much to add and/or challenge.
I do, however, have a couple nit-picky things I would like to point out and hear other's thoughts on.
 Immediately in this chapter, Law returns to language like "accident," or "randomly chosen."  In an earlier review on chapter 3 (I believe), I pointed out this same language used by Law to describe the multiple Hebrew versions of Scripture.  I pointed out that it is hard to say that any collection of normative texts came together in any collection due to random or accidental events.  I am curious what Law means when he uses this language.  It seems simply inaccurate.  It seems to be rhetoric that supports Law's diversity-of-texts view.  But in the end, as a reader, I have to take it at face value, and I cannot be sure.  Some community, somewhere, even just a small group of interested readers may have put collections together, or preserved books, that were to them authoratative for their community.  That's something, for sure, but not something governed by a chance occurrence.
 Second, on the Minor Prophets, Law claims "each of these prophesies was individually composed..." (53).  I do not think that is something one can declare.  We do not have in extant many of these texts individually.  And while, some suppose that these texts were at some point collected in a single scroll because of their short length (hence, minor), this is only a theory since the textual evidence is yet wanting.  The idea that these are individual texts is a relatively recent product largely of historical-criticism, and unknown, it would seem to the first readers of the LXX-MPs (and MT-MPs).

Response #2: Chris Fresch

Like Ed and Aaron above, I thoroughly enjoyed this chapter and will frequently refer back to it.  Law's discussion of the differences in the Greek and Hebrew versions of the Old Testament books is a very helpful one to have on hand, especially as it does call us to ponder how stable the respective texts were during this period.  What amazes me is thinking about this: Had the Septuagint instead been translated only a few centuries later, we would have no knowledge of some of the alternative textual traditions!  Even more amazing is that we do know about them yet they are so often disregarded or ignored!
I did appreciate Ed's comments on translation technique.  I agree with him that a little more engagement with the issue would have brought some balance to Law's discussion as well as have benefitted his readers (especially considering that his readership likely includes interested undergraduate and graduate students trying to get a feel for the field).  Granted, keeping an excursus on translation technique brief would be a difficult task, moreover, making it interesting for your non-specialist readers would be daunting.  Still, though, not all differences between the Greek and Hebrew can be boiled down to divergent texts, intentional changes, and errors (44).  The study of translation technique is one of our primary tools for discerning what truly are differences between the versions and then what kinds of differences they are [e.g., in my IOSCS Congress paper last September ("The Peculiar Occurrences of οὖν in Septuagint Genesis and Exodus"), one of my conclusions was that the study of the two translators' translation technique suggests that, contrary to some Septuagint scholarship, the use of οὖν in Genesis and Exodus when there is no lexical equivalent in our Hebrew text is not sufficient evidence for restoring a Hebrew reading.  Rather, the translators employ οὖν naturally, according to their conception of the flow of the discourse, to mark developments between connected text-chunks, even when lacking an equivalent in their respective Vorlagen.  This may be a small issue, but it does highlight an example in which the difference is not a change, nor due to a divergent text, nor an error].  Because studying and understanding translation technique is so crucial to the entire field of Septuagint studies, it was unfortunate to not see a few pages devoted to it.
In similar fashion to Aaron, I have little to add in response to Ed.  I am right there with him in his appreciation of this chapter, and I resonate with his desire to see a bit more balance from a discussion on translation technique.





Saturday, March 29, 2014

Falshcards and how to Ditch Them

I found this post helpful. 

When I tutored many guys and ladies Greek in grad-school, I always found the inductive drilling of flashcards, paradigms, and grammar learning
to be very backwards to how we actually learn languages.  Of course, one must do a bit of this to get started, but one is started and seeks to maintain their language skills, using the language and learning in this way is more practical than "going back through a grammar" - as I have heard many students say they would do, and never actually do... I learned Ionic and Attic Greek deductively, and now Greek is much like riding a bike.  All that is to say, check out this blog post and take it to heart!

Wednesday, March 26, 2014

Some Good Resources for Better Understanding Reformed and Covenant Theology

I have been convinced lately that Reformed Theology is very misunderstood, and thus the popular responses have been equally misled.

Primarily, when referring to "Reformed" generally do not understand the theology fully explained and defined. Thus there are a couple camps that call themselves "Reformed" that don't actually represent a fully, nor historically Reformed position.

For one, many calling themselves "Reformed," simply think being "Reformed" means signing on to a version of TULIP (I was one of these folks once).  This mostly has to do with the "young restless and reformed" movement of primarily the "Reformed Baptist" persuasion.  See this book and this blog for an Arminian response to this movement (a different response than I am giving here, or course).  Unfortunately, those who respond to this movement, are not actually responding to "Reformed Theology," just a segment of it (and even that is more than I would like to concede).  But for some who have understood that Reformed Theology cannot be fully grasped without an understanding of covenants, there has been a movement of (what I call) closet-covenant theologians, proposing a type of "progressive dispensationalism."  However, many of these progressive-types are not all "Reformed" (to muddy the water).  This final group, is actually quite vocal right now - more than my Covenant Theologian brothers!

Second, there is another, less visible, camp that comes from a historic Reformed background, but like many Reformed-congregationalist churches, now mostly in the UCC, were and are more influenced by their culture and their presuppositions than their Reformed Theology.  This "less visible" camp believes being "truly" Reformed is informed by many conservative, Second Great Awakening, American, evangelical, pietistic notions...  That's a mouth full!  But it describes the position pretty closely.  This view is not really published, per se, other than some blogging that seeks to maintain a status quo of some sort. 

In light of this, last week I engaged in a dialogue about what Reformed Theology actually is. I essentially stated that Reformed Theology perceived correctly cannot be understood without understanding Covenant Theology.  The conversation went into the direction of asking what books are actually out there that would be good to read on Covenant Theology, and that is the essential purpose of this blog post.  Specifically, what should we read as a good education in Reformed and/or Covenant Theology, and what can we offer to others, especially our congregants, as good reading on this theology and its implications?  This was a tougher question than I realized, but I came up with a list with the help of Greg Perry at Covenant Seminary:

Before the list, I would say it is my opinion that anything polemical, as in, "why I am," "why I am not," "against X" and "for X" have their uses, but fall back into the trap of TULIP and the endless debates that really do not characterize Reformed Theology is the right light. 

Also, as the list below will suggest.  I believe that Reformed/Covenant Theology is best defined by Genesis 1-4 and Colossians 1, more than (though not without) Romans 8-11 or Rev. 20 (I am resisting saying that "Reformed/Covenant Theology is best defined by the Bible").

So I suggested (again, with the help of Greg):

Creation Regained  by Albert M. Wolters

Far as the Curse is Found by Michael Williams

Not the Way It's Supposed to Be by Cornelius Plantiga

The Mission of God's People by Chris Wright
Center Church by Tim Keller

Reformed Dogmatics by Herman Bavinck (for a longer read, which I agree with but it is not one to just read quickly - you're welcome Frank!)

Covenantal Apologetics by K. Scott Oliphint (yesterday I saw a review of this new-ish book, reviewed by my friend Peter Green.  [disclaimer] I have not read the book yet, but telling by Peter's review, it would be a good one to add to the list.)

Each of these books above would give a fuller understanding of what Reformed Theology actually is by also defining Covenant Theology.  I am interested in other books to add to this list.  What are your suggestions?

I will add as a parting shot what I normally tell folks about my "Reformed Theology journey": For a long time I claimed to be "Reformed," but the moment I knew I was truly "Reformed" was the moment I felt closest to a "tree-hugger" (this was also the moment that I had my last 3-10 hr predestination vs. free-will debate!).  That is, there is much more to "Reformed" than your soteriology.