Wevers, John William. Notes on the Greek Text of Leviticus. Society of Biblical Literature Septuagint and Cognate Studies, no. 44. Atlanta: Scholars Press, 1997. ISBN: 0-7885-0324-3. Pp. xxxix + 519. US $49.95 (cloth).
1. This volume is more a work on the technique of the scribe who translated the LXX Leviticus than a text-critical treatise. As the author puts it, "I have written these Notes to help serious students of the Pentateuch who want to use the LXX text with some confidence, but who are themselves neither specialists in LXX studies nor in Hellenistic Greek" (p. xxvi). He goes on to say that "The Notes deal principally with the work of the translator, i.e. they are concerned with how the translator, the original LXX, interpreted the text" (p. xxvii). In this endeavor, the notes succeed admirably. It is also hard to overstate one of his main premises about the Greek translator, and about the LXX translation in general:
One should not automatically presuppose a different parent text when differences between the Greek and the Hebrew obtain; rather one should first seek for and pursue other explanations. It is only through such details that a picture of the attitudes, the theological prejudices, as well as of the cultural environment of these Jewish translators can emerge [p. xxxii].Sound advice indeed.
2. The question of how the LXX translators did their work, and how "literal" their translations were, is an ongoing topic in LXX studies. Wevers' book is designed to contribute to this topic by going verse by verse, line by line and sometimes word by word through the Greek text of Leviticus (as represented in the Göttingen Septuagint) to examine how and why the translator interpreted the Hebrew text before him. A few examples, taken from Lev 16 regarding the Day of Atonement, will serve to illustrate his method.
3. Regarding expansions by the translator, Wevers says:
16:1 Understandably the Lord only speaks to Moses, since he is told to speak in turn to Aaron. The time of speaking is given as "after the two sons of Aaron died <grc>e)n tw|= prosa/gein au)tou\s pu=r a)llo/trion</grc> before the Lord <grc>kai\ e)teleu/thsan</grc>." Though the final clause is paratactic, it obviously must show result; after all, the text had already said that they had died. MT differs in prepositional structure. It simply has <heb>bqrbtM</heb> "when they approached."... The translator found their mere approach an incomplete and unclear statement, and gave the full explanation.
4. Regarding unusual renderings of even more unusual Hebrew expressions (at 16:8), Wevers notes:
The designations for the two kids concern their disposition. The Hebrew word <heb>(z)zl</heb> has been variously interpreted, but is most commonly thought to be a proper name, paralleled by, but over against, <heb>yhwh</heb>. It is then taken to be the name of a desert demon. The translator in my opinion did not know what it meant, but from the ritual it was clear that this kid was sent away into the desert; see v. 10. And so he contextualized it by a neologism, an adjectival <grc>apopompaiw</grc> "the one sent off."
5. Wevers' sensitivity to shades of meaning that were likely in the translator's mind is one of the real strengths of the book (at 16:13):
...the <heb>(nN</heb> "cloud" is here not translated by the usual <grc>nefe/lh</grc> (75 times in OT), but by <grc>a)tmi/s</grc>. This equivalence only occurs elsewhere at Ezek 8:11, where it is used of seventy elders, each with a censer in his hand, standing before the idols depicted on the wall, and <grc>h( a)tmi\s tou= qumia/matos a)ne/bainen</grc>. I suspect that the translator intentionally used the Lev phrase to stress the idolatrous parallel to the day of atonement ritual. An <grc>a)tmi/s</grc> is hardly a cloud; it is at best a mist or a vapour, and it might cover the propitiatory, but hardly hide it from the priestly view. The LXX translator knew <heb>(nN</heb> to be a <grc>nefe/lh</grc>, since he had used it in v. 2, where the "cloud" was the context in which the Lord revealed himself. But here the context is not one of divine self-revelation, but one of atonement through the atonement ritual. It is then not a <grc>nefe/lh</grc> of incense, but an <grc>a)tmi/s</grc>. This vaporous mist will cover the propitiatory....
6. A good example of a place where we need not presuppose a different parent Hebrew text is 16:15:
The first clause in LXX has amplified MT by adding <grc>e)/nanti kuri/ou</grc>, and hex has placed it under the obelus to indicate its absence in MT. Only at 4:4 is the priestly slaughter said to occur "before the Lord." The phrase is, however, exceedingly common throughout Lev, and need not presuppose an actual parent text with <heb>lpny yhwh</heb>. That priestly slaughter of the sin offering was done in the Lord's presence is implicit; the gloss simply makes it explicit.
7. A collection of "Notes" will necessarily be less than a full treatment of many matters; however, at times I found Wevers' comments a little too brief, occasionally just brief enough to be confusing. For example, the comment at 1:2 begins:
Moses is ordered to speak to the Israelites and say to them. This pattern of "speak to ... and say to them" occurs ten times in the book. On occasion (five times) <grc>le/gwn</grc> is substituted for the second clause, but the two are, however, never combined.The two what? Another example appears at 2:8:
MT begins with a second person verb, <heb>whb)t</heb>, but in v.b changes to third person <heb>whqrybh</heb> ... <heb>hgy#h</heb>. LXX levels to third person, using <grc>prosoi/sei</grc> "present," an equation which occurs 12 times in the book; it is used more commonly for <heb>hqryb</heb>. Actually <heb>whb)t</heb> may well be a paleographically inspired error due to its being followed by <heb>)t</heb>. A 4Q text reading <heb>whby)</heb> is probably original. F Byz correct to second person, <grc>prosoiseis</grc>.More explanation is necessary here to clarify these comments.
8. The nature of the translator's (Wevers refers to him throughout as "Lev") work is sometimes under- or overstated, as well. On p. ix he says:
As a translation, Lev is more of an isolate type of translation than a contextual one. A purely "isolate" translation would simply be a word for word set of equivalences for Hebrew lexemes in the Greek with little regard for the context in which such were used. Terms such as "isolate" and "contextual" are not used in an absolute sense; rather one can say that, compared to Gen and Exod, Lev is much more isolate than contextual in character.This is well and good, and reasonably informative; however, on p. xiv he then says, "That the Alexandrian did not woodenly translate his text word-for-word without regard for the context is fully clear; he approached his text in rational fashion quite aware of the context in which a passage stood." It seems that both statements might be a bit too general; as it stands they appear contradictory.
9. Textual matters are dealt with in a fairly cursory manner:
The Notes do not detail reasons for choosing the readings of Lev in favor of variant readings, except where I now consider the Lev reading as secondary. Such arguments concerning the originality of the text are fully discussed in my THGL Chapter 4 (The Critical Text [Lev]), and such matters are all referred to in footnotes where the relevant page of THGL is given [p. xxxi].THGL refers to his Text History of the Greek Leviticus (Göttingen, 1986), which is his full treatise on textual matters. For this reason, readers of TC may find that they need to read that volume alongside this one. This volume does, though, include a short appendix of passages where he disagrees with the printed edition of the Göttingen Septuagint (which he edited).
10. This book is a useful and significant exegetical tool. It abounds with pertinent information such as this: "In ch. 11 the word <heb>myM</heb> is sometimes rendered by the singular and sometimes by the plural. The translator is, however, making an important distinction. Whenever the word refers to water as the home of aquatic life he uses the plural <grc>u(/data</grc>; otherwise the singular <grc>u(/dwr</grc> occurs throughout" (p. xii). Its value as a primary text-critical tool is limited, but textual criticism is a broad field. The understanding we may gain through Wevers' efforts to discern Lev's methodology brings us a step closer to the Hebrew text underlying the LXX, and hence a step closer to an accurate reconstruction of the history of the biblical text in all its various forms.
© TC: A Journal of Biblical Textual Criticism, 1997.
David L. Washburn Prescott, AZ, USA