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Ausloos, H. - Cook, J. - García Martínez, F. - Lemmelijn, B. Vervenne, M. (edd.), Translating a Translation. The LXX and its
Modern Translations in the Context of Early Judaism, Leuven Paris - Dudley (MA): Leuven University Press - Peeters
(Bibliotheca ephemeridum theologicarum lovaniensium 213), 2008;
pp. x + 317. ISBN 978-90-429-2038-5.
The Centre for Septuagint Studies and Textual Criticism at the
Katholieke Universiteit Leuven sponsored a conference on the Septuagint
entitled Specialists’ Symposium on the Septuagint Translation. Scholars of
the Septuagint were invited to discuss the objectives and methodologies of
their various translation projects. This volume assembles the proceedings of
the Leuven symposium that took place from 4 to 6 December 2006 and is
divided into five sections: I) Introductory Methodological Section with
papers by Johann Cook, Raija Sollamo and Hans Ausloos; II) La Bible
d'Alexandrie with contributions from Gilles Dorival, Katrin Hauspie and
Cécile Dogniez; III) Septuaginta Deutsch, presented by Martin Karrer,
Wolfgang Kraus, Eberhard Bons and Heinz-Josef Fabry; IV) A New
Translation of the Septuagint, introduced by Albert Pietersma, Dirk Büchner
and Cameron Boyd-Tayler; and V) Other Septuagint Perspectives,
comprised of papers read by Harry F. Van Rooy, Jacobus A. Naudé, Andres
Piquer, Pablo Torijano and Julio Trebolle Barrera. Natalio Fernández-
Marcos' contribution was entitled "A New Spanish Translation of the
This reviewer would like to comment on the 4 major translation
projects discussed at the Leuven conference, (La Bible d’Alexandrie, The
New English Translation of the Septuagint (NETS), Septuaginta Deutsch,
and La Biblia Griega Septuaginta).
It it is fitting that we begin our discussion of the translations of the
Septuagint with the French project, La Bible d’Alexandrie.2 Thanks to the
assiduous and indefatigable work of Marguerite Harl, whose interest in the
Septuagint dates back several decades, and is described in detail in a 2004
As of this writing sections of three of the translation projects have been published: The New English
Translation of the Septuagint and the other Greek Translations Traditionally Included under that Title,
Albert Pietersam and Benjamin G. Wright (edd.), has appeared in its entirety (Oxford University Press
2007); Septuaginta Deutsch. Das griechische Alte Testament in deutscher Übersetzung. Herausgegeben
von Martin Karrer und Wolfgang Kraus (Stuttgart, 2009); and volume one (El Pentateuco) of La Biblia
Griega Septuaginta. Natalio Fernández Marcos y María Victoria Spottorno Díaz-Caro (edd.), (Salamanca
2008). In addition to these, there are other modern translations of the Septuagint, some of which are
incomplete and others which are in in various stages of preparation. The Italians have published Il
Pentateuco, a one-volume work edited by Luciana Mortari (Dehoniane; Roma 1993). The Greek text of A.
Rahlfs is presented side-by-side the Italian translation. Readings from the Göttingen editions of J.W.
Wevers are sometimes adopted and are indicated in the footnotes. Mortari also edited an Italian translation
of the Psalter, Il Salterio della tradizione : versione del Salterio greco dei LXX (Piero Gribaudi; 1983). The
LXX versions of Hosea, Amos and Micah have been likewise translated into Italian. See Sandro Paolo
Carbone and Giovanni Rizzi: Il Libro di Osea: secondo il testo ebraico Masoretico, secondo la traduzione
greca detta dei Settanta, secondo la parafrasi aramaica del Targum (Dehoniane; Bologna 1992); Il Libro
di Amos (Dehoniane; Bologna 1993); and Il Libro di Michea : secondo il testo ebraico Masoretico;
secondo la versione greca della LXX; secondo la parafrasi aramaica targumica, (Dehoniane; Bologna
1996). At the Leuven conference there was a brief mention of projects to translate the LXX into Japanese,
Korean, Modern Greek and Ukrainian. Peter Dubovsky of the Pontifical Biblical Institute is presently
supervising the Slovak translation of the LXX.
The title La Bible d’Alexandrie, hereafter BA, was proposed by the former literary editor of Cerf, NicolasJean Séd, in order to distinguish the translation into French of the LXX from the French translation of the
Hebrew Bible, La Bible de Jérusalem, carried out under the auspices of the École Biblique de Jérusalem.
publication,3 the scholarly world has had in recent years a French translation
of several books of the LXX at its disposal. With the 1986 publication of La
Genèse, Le Lévitique in 1988, and L’Exode in 1989, BA has been in many
ways the reference point for subsequent translations and commentaries on
the Septuagint.4 The other LXX translations that have appeared in the BA
series as of this writing are as follows: Le Deutéronome (1992), Les
Nombres (1994), Jésus (Josué) (1996),5 Premier Livre des Règnes (1997),
Les Douze Prophètes 4-9: Joël, Abdiou, Jonas, Naoum, Ambakoum,
Sophonie (1999), Les Juges (1999), Les Proverbes (2000), Les Douze
Prophètes: Osée (2002), L’Ecclésiaste (2002), and Baruch, Lamentations,
See M. Harl, La Bible en Sorbonne ou la revanche d’Erasme (Cerf; Paris 2004). Harl describes her
discovery of the LXX thanks to her reading of the Greek Fathers and Philo of Alexandria. Her encounter
with Dominique Barthélemy in 1966 and her long scholarly association with him was crucial in providing
her with the impetus for the eventual formation of an équipe of Hellenists that included Monique Alexandre,
Cécile Dogniez, Gilles Dorival, Alain Le Boulluec, Olivier Munnich, Pierre Sandevoir and Françoise Vinel.
Several of Marguerite Harl’s essays on the LXX have been collected in her volume, La Langue de Japhet,
Quinze études sur la Septante et le grec des Chrétiens (Cerf; Paris 1992). G. Dorival and O. Munnich have
edited a Festschrift in honor of M. Harl entitled KATA TOUS O ,, Selon les Septante, Trente études sur la
Bible grecque des Septante (Cerf; Paris 1995).
In addition, in 2001 Harl’s équipe published Le Pentateuque d’Alexandrie, a one-volume collection of the
books of the Pentateuch that had appeared earlier in five individual volumes of BA. This edition, unlike that
of the individual volumes of the Pentateuch which do not include the Greek text, contains Rahlf’s Greek
text of the LXX on the left side and the French translation on the right, includes an up-dated, general
introduction, and also provides a series of brief notes on the text. In the 2003 paperback edition of the
complete Pentateuch, no Greek text is included. For a more complete insight into the BA équipe’s
philosophy of the LXX, see M. Harl, G. Dorival and O. Munnich, La Bible grecque des Septante: Du
judaïsme hellénistique au christianisme ancien (Cerf; Paris 1988). Some additions were incorporated into
the 1994 edition of this study.
In his paper at Leuven, G. Dorival noted that all of the BA translations use the Greek title of the book (for
example, I Régnes and not 1 Samuel), but that in the case of Jésus, it was necessary to place the name Josué
in parenthesis to underscore the link that was established by the Christians between Joshua (symbol of the
Jews in the promised land) and Jesus (symbol of the new people in the true land).
Lettre de Jérémie (2005),6 Les Douze Prophètes, Aggée - Zacharie (2007),
Troisième livre des Maccabées, (2008), Ruth (2009).
When the BA project began in 1986, only Alfred Rahlfs’ editio minor
of the LXX was complete and available. The decision to translate Rahlfs’
text was made simply because the edition of A.E. Brook and N. McLean was
never to appear and that the Göttingen edition was incomplete. At the
present time, if a Göttingen edition of a particular book of the LXX is now
available, the contemporary editors of the BA use the Göttingen critical
edition.7 In addition to the availabilty of new critical editions that are often
superior to Rahlf’s text, a further advantage that modern translators of the
LXX now have is the use of certain lexiographical materials that were nonexistant when the BA project began in 1986.8
The fact that there is no “official” translation of the Bible in France
has facilitated the work of the authors of the BA. They have insisted on
translating the Greek text and only the Greek text for a cultivated audience.
In order to determine the meaning of the Greek word, their method has been
This is the first volume which presents two texts that belong solely to the Greek Bible.
BA’s L’Exode (1989) appeared before J.W. Wever’s Göttingen edition, but the French translators of the
other 4 books of the Pentateuch were able to consult Wever’s editions before they published their works. J.
Ziegler’s critical edition was used for the 1999 publication of Les Douze Prophètes.
Three new dictionaries that facilitate the work of modern scholars of the LXX are 1) A Greek-English
Lexicon of the Septuagint, by J. Lust, E. Eynikel and K. Hauspie (Deutsche Bibelgesellschaft; Stuttgart
1992 and 2001; a Revised edtion appeared in 2003); 2) A Greek-English Lexicon of the Septuagint (The
Twelve Prophets), by T. Muraoka (Leuven 1993); and 3) Diccionario Griego-Español (DGE), still in
progress, under the direction of F. R. Adrados at the CSIC in Madrid. The most recent (sixth) fascicule
(diwxikevleuqo" - ejvkpeleka,w) of this Greek-Spanish lexicon appeared in 2002.
to consider the context of the particular passage as well as the Greek word’s
usage elsewhere in the Bible, without attributing any Semitic meaning to the
word in question. Classical and Hellenistic Greek texts, as well as the papyri,
have been used with fruition by the BA team. At times, certain words are not
translated but transliterated.9 When a Greek phrase cannot be translated
literally, the tendency of the BA équipe is to translate the Greek expression
with greater freedom, even though there is a preference to reproduce in the
French translation certain poignant characteristics or oddities of the Greek,
such as the use of nominal sentences or the LXX’s tendency to initiate
sentences with the ubiquitous kai,. Often the meaning of a Greek word does
not fit into the context of the LXX, and the translator has to determine the
word’s meaning by metonomy or extension. The linguistic considerations
that justify their translation are indicated in the notes of their editions.
The BA volumes contain notes of various sorts. Their earlier volumes
sometimes refer to certain differences between the Greek and Hebrew
versions. Such comparative notes that explain the differences between the
MT and LXX are usually limited, but BA’s 1997 edition, Premier Livre des
The text of Gen 22,13 reads as follows: kai; ajnablevya" Abraam toi'" ojfqalmoi'" aujtou' ei\den, kai; ijdou; krio;"
ei|" katecovmeno" ejn futw'/ sabek tw'n keravtwn: kai; ejporeuvqh Abraam kai; e[laben to;n krio;n kai; ajnhvnegken aujto;n
eij" oJlokavrpwsin ajnti; Isaak tou' uiJou' aujtou'.
Règnes, with its rather long discussion of the divergences between the LXX
and MT, is perhaps an indication of how the BA series has evolved.10
The interpretation of the Fathers of the Church and of Jewish writers
such as Philo of Alexandria played no small role in the BA project of
translating the Greek of the LXX. The general presupposition is that the
early Jewish and Christian commentators did not know Hebrew, but that
their knowledge of koiné Greek was often exceptional and that their
linguistic and exegetical observations are, according to the translators of the
BA, not without interest for the modern reader of the Septuagint. This view
seems to persist and the editor of the future Ezekiel volume in the BA series
seems convinced of the importance of including patristic interpretations in
her volume in progress.11 We shall soon know if future editions will contain
more numerous notes on the Hebrew text and continue to emphasize the role
of the Fathers, since G. Dorival announced the imminent publication of 2
Esdras (= Ezra-Nehemiah MT), Song of Solomon, Amos, Micah, Haggai,
Zecharias, Malachi, Ester, and Tobit. Several BA volumes (3 Kings, 1-2
Chronicles, Job, Psalms, Isaiah, Jeremiah, Ezekiel, and Daniel) are,
Michel Lestienne, an Old Testament scholar, wrote the introduction and notes to this volume. It is only
natural that his interest in the Hebrew Bible would emerge throughout the commentary.
If Katrin Hauspie’s paper presented at the Leuven conference on the 6th century bishop Theodoretus of
Cyrrhus’ interpretation of Ezekiel 1 is representative of future BA volumes, one is to expect a continued
interest in patristic interpretations and the reception of the Greek versions by the Greek Church Fathers.
according to Dorival, still in progress but not likely to appear in the
immediate future.12
It is not clear when the series will be complete, but since each volume takes on the average nearly six
years to produce, the scholarly world will have to wait patiently for the work of the next generation.
Anthony J. Forte, S.J.
Pontifical Biblical Institute, Rome