Sunday, February 15, 2009

Orthodox Study Bible, My Turn IV

Continued from parts one, two, and three.

It is widely known that the Septuagint was the Bible of the early Church, the version of the Old Testament cited by both the authors of the New Testament and the early Fathers. It is also known that the Greek of the Septuagint sometimes varies from that of the Hebrew versions. What might not be so well known is that a number of the key Messianic "proof texts" used by the early Christians differed from the Hebrew texts favored by contemporary Jews. In such cases it is essential that Christians today be, at the very least, aware of how such verses were read in the early Church.

One such example is found in Genesis 49:10. Here I quote from Ronald E. Heine’s invaluable recent study Reading the Old Testament with the Ancient Church:
The wording of the text of Genesis 49:10 differs as reported by various church fathers, all of whom were reading the Septuagint. The difference is rooted in a variation in the wording of the Hebrew text of Genesis 49:10 itself. The majority of the ancient copies of the Hebrew text have the word shiloh in the third clause of the verse. The was treated as the name “Shiloh” by later Jewish interpreters. Some copies of the Hebrew text, however, have shelo, which can mean either “he to whom it belongs” or “that which belongs to him.” The first stresses the person and the second stresses the “belongings.” In my translation of Genesis 49:10 from the Hebrew text and the Septuagint that follow, I have italicized the clause in question. The Hebrew text, as we have it today reads: “A scepter shall not depart from Judah nor a commander from between his feet until Shiloh comes and the obedience of the peoples is his.” What “Shiloh” means puzzled the ancient interpreters and translators as much as it does us today. The Septuagint text that we have reads: “A ruler shall not depart from Judah and a leader from his thighs until the things which have been stored up come to him and he is the expectation of the nations” (i.e., the Gentiles). It would appear that the translators of the Septuagint had a Hebrew text that contained shelo and that they understood the expression to mean “the things which belong to him.”
Professor Heine goes on to demonstrate that other ancient translations followed a reading similar to the Septuagint, including St Jerome’s fourth-century Vulgate and the Syriac Peshitta. Indeed, as Dr Heine notes, the “Targum Onqelos, a Jewish interpretive translation of the Pentateuch into Aramaic made in Palestine in the late first or early second century AD, renders the phrase, 'until the Messiah comes, to whom the Kingdom belongs, and whom nations shall obey.'” St Justin the Philosopher argues with Trypho (Dialogue with Trypho 120.4-5) over precisely this verse, although he asserts that the clause in question should be “until he comes for whom it has been stored up” rather than “until the things which have been stored up come to him” (a variant of which Origen was aware). All subsequent Fathers, to my knowledge, follow some variant of the Septuagint reading; none of them worries about the identity of “Shiloh.”

Considering the frequency with which Genesis 49:10 is cited by the early Fathers, as well as the solid philological basis for the Greek reading, it would seem to be beyond question that any translation prepared for the purposes of the Orthodox Church would follow the Septuagint reading. The NETS – which, although not prepared for the liturgical use of the Orthodox Church, at least is in fact a translation of the Septuagint – renders this verse as follows:
A ruler shall not be wanting from Ioudas
and a leader from his thighs
until the things stored up for him come,
and he is the expectation of nations.
Even the NIV largely follows the Septuagint:
The scepter will not depart from Judah,
nor the ruler’s staff from between his feet,
until he comes to whom it belongs
and the obedience of the nations is his.
The NIV gives a rendering from the Hebrew in a footnote: “Or until Shiloh comes; or until he comes to whom tribute belongs."

Here, however, is the OSB's rendering:
The scepter shall not depart from Judah.
Nor a lawgiver from his loins,
Until Shiloh comes;
And to Him shall be the expectation of the nations.
This is simply the NKJV, without a word changed. How could the editors (or "translators") of the OSB have possibly missed this? What, really, is the point of producing an "Orthodox" Bible if is does not correspond to the Septuagint even when rendering essential Messianic texts? Very, very shoddy work.


aaronandbrighid said...

Wow, that's pretty ridiculous!

Kevin P. Edgecomb said...

Not just ridiculous, but unconscionable. At the very least it is false advertizing to call this thing a "translation of the Septuagint." It consistently ignores those characteristics of the LXX text that are distinctive.

Welcome back to the trenches, Father!

Kevin P. Edgecomb said...

By the way, even in HALOT (the Koehler-Baumgartner Hebrew-Aramaic Lexicon of the Old Testament), the standard Biblical Hebrew lexicon these days, the preference is for that same reading represented in the LXX, etc, and not the reading chosen by NKJV/OSB.

Firstly, even in the Hebrew text, Shiloh is ketiv (what is written), but the qere (what is to be read) is shi-lo. And though that in itself goes a long way toward clearing it up, the versions really do.

The following is presented as the most likely reading in HALOT:
[quote; with abbrevs. expanded and orig. language phrases mostly removed]
With versions, read [shel-loh], corresponding to [shel-lo], “until the one comes to whom it (the sceptre) belongs”; see Sept.RA [TA APOKEIMENA AUTW]; Sept.MSS [W APOKEITAI]; Vetus Latina (Cod. Lugdun.) qui reposita sunt; Pesh. “the one to whom it (authority) belongs”; Tg. Onq. “until the Messiah comes to whom the kingdom belongs”; so e.g. Holzinger Genesis 258; Zorell Lexicon 838a; Müller loc. cit. 278, and 277(2), where further adherents of this view are mentioned. Compare with Tg. Onq. also the Qumran text 4Q Patr. 3f (Lohse Qumran 246, 247): “until the one anointed with righteousness comes, the scion (offshoot) of David”, on which see also Maier Texte 2: 164.
[unquote; write me if anyone wants the references expanded.]

"shel-lo" means simply "of him/it" or "belonging to him/it" or "his/its" or even "his/its (unidentified stuff)." Literally, with this reading, that phrase is best read "until he comes whose it is," with "it" being the scepter/staff of rulership.

NRSV and ESV both choose one of the more unlikely readings requiring emendation, with no versional support. They split the consonants and repoint them to read "tribute to him." Not likely. Some people are emendation-happy by nature, but it should be a last (and only quite desperate and always hypothetical) resort.

So we see too that the NKJV/OSB option is passé scholarship. More embarrassment!

Michael said...

Stop it Father, just stop it! You have taken this criticism of the OSB and our good-hearted/well-intentioned Orthodox brethen way too far. Don't you know you are being divisive and getting in the way of a great outreach opportunity to the evangelical world?! After all if you don't like it, don't buy it!!


Welcome back Father. I don't know you but I have been praying for you, greatly concerned about your health due to your absence.

After all, where else will I read about how Orthodox preaching should be every bit as vigorous as any heterodox form of Christianity? Imagine what the Bishop will think when he hears me on the day of my ordination :-) Amen!

Phil said...


Is there, then, an English alternative you would recommend if the OSB is so sloppily translated?

Welcome back!

Felix Culpa said...

Kevin: The Russian "Tolkovaia Biblia" that you recently discovered online actually has an excellent note on this verse as well.

Phil: Unfortunately, there is no single alternative that I could endorse.

Joseph Schmitt said...

I was taken aback by the OSB's translation of Zechariah 12:10. I do not have the greek text in front of me, but I've never seen this verse translated any other way than "they will look on me whom they PIERCED." The OSB has it rendered "mocked" instead of "pierced." Could someone shed some light on this potential blunder?

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Sibyl said...

When GOD speaks, there are often layers of meaning, double, triple entendre. We can never plumb the depths of meaning, symbol, inference, metaphor, etc. of God's 'literary genius.' The study of numbers in Scripture shows yet another facet of God's message. Shiloh means peace, shelo, belonging is possible the LORD means both and even more that we are not given to understand now.

This verse seems to be a prophecy of Jesus' words upon entering Jerusalem: "If thou hadst known, even thou, at least in this thy day, the things which *belong* unto thy *peace*! but now they are hid from thine eyes." (Luke 19:42)