Reassessing the Impact of Barthélemy’s Devanciers, 40 years later


The Greek Minor Prophets as the Inspiration



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2. The Greek Minor Prophets as the Inspiration

and the Control Case


The extant καίγε Greek Minor Prophets materials were discovered in Palestine, and the second century quotation of this version found in Justin the martyr’s Dialogue with Trypho probably was written down in Asia Minor (Ephesus), although Justin himself was born and bred in Samaria-Palestine.23 Otherwise, our earliest extant copy of a Greek translation of the Minor Prophets comes from Egypt in the second half of the third century c.e. (the Freer Codex, Washingtonensis), and itself has significant variations from later “Old Greek” copies (including explicit “corrections” and apparent influence from Hebrew texts). Whether there is a genealogical relationship between these two Greek versions is still worth discussing, although B’s contention that the καίγε “recension” is based on the OG has not been forcefully challenged beyond Kahle’s early remarks to which B responded in Devanciers and elsewhere (see below, n. 24). To complicate the picture further, there also was a version of the Minor Prophets attributed to “Theodotion,” as can be partly recovered from Hexaplaric evidence, which seems to have nothing to do with B’s καίγε-Theodotionic characteristics (the latter are closer to the Hexaplaric “Quinta” evidence for the Minor Prophets!24)—B dismisses this as “late and eclectic,” reflecting dependence on Aquila and on the unrevised OG, and falsely identified with “Theodotion” (Devanciers 2.9). (As an added complication, in Habakkuk 3, yet another anonymous translation appears in some witnesses from the eighth century c.e. onward,25 and the presumably earlier OG version of that independent poem appears also in the Greek “Odes” collection.) While, as we have seen, B identifies Palestine as the location of the καίγε translation efforts, the argument is partly based on his reconstruction of proto-rabbinic interests and involvement in the first century c.e. (Jonathan ben Uzziel, en route to Aqiba/Aquila in the second century), a scene that is highly problematic and thus, far from determinative. But B’s labors open up such questions to closer examination, and give us reason to explore the possibilities with renewed vigor.

The attempt to enlist the newly discovered Minor Prophets translation/re­cension in the old Lagarde/Kahle debate about the extent to which it is useful to imagine an “original” LXX/OG translation behind the text-critical evidence (Lagarde), or a variety of relatively independent translations (Kahle), whether made by Kahle himself26 or by supporters of a Lagardian approach such as Frank Cross and John Wevers,27 proves to be more unfortunate than enlightening. That old debate, modeled as it was on “post-canonical” ideas of the development of ancient Jewish “biblical” texts, and to some extent on “post-scroll” perceptions of bookmaking techniques and products typical of mega-codex technology as it developed by the fourth century c.e., can be seen to be extremely simplistic, partly in the light of the impact of B’s investigations. It is now widely acknowledged that no single “rule” or model can do service for all of the phenomena encountered in the study of ancient translational activity on the materials that came to be valued as Jewish scriptures. What may be highly probable for one book or section—and the model provided by the Greek Pentateuch has been highly influential in such discussions—may prove quite inapplicable to another. The data requires discussion piece by piece, and care must be taken not to export the results irresponsibly from one investigation to unravel the specific problems found elsewhere. The models we use, which are often necessary to jump-start our research, need constantly to be tested and reevaluated—and discarded when such action seems appropriate.28

Was there at some place and time a first and unique translation into Greek of the collected Hebrew Minor Prophets, a single Greek “Urtext” that influenced most, if not all, subsequent developments? Is it unlikely that there were no individual translations of any of these “minor prophets” prior to such a collective product? How is it possible to know? There are no ancient traditions of which I am aware that deal with the genesis of these books in Greek, either individually or as a collected set—the Aristeas legend concerning the Pentateuch does not apply. In searching for such answers, we find ourselves at sea.

What seems to be current “fact” is that the Naal ever Greek Jewish Minor Prophets material is the earliest evidence we have of Greek translational activity on that portion of what came to be Jewish scriptures. And it is significantly different from the previously known OG textual tradition that is attested in later manuscripts and came to be accepted in the later Christian Greek biblical codices. If there were no Hebrew text with which to compare these two Greek versions, what would we be able to say about their relationship? The Naal ever text would still seem more stilted, as Greek, more internally consistent (i.e. repetitious) and perhaps more limited in its lexical and grammatical phenomena. Would we say that the less stilted OG text was a revision in the interests of readability, a move towards something more closely resembling Pentateuchal Greek style, etc.? Or would arguments for priority of the more idiomatic OG be persuasive? I can imagine forceful voices on both sides; and perhaps some who would deny a lineal relationship in either direction. Hopefully we would create some “control” studies to help us assess the probability of each position.

But we do have a Hebrew text with which to compare, and clearly the Na-­al ever Greek Minor Prophets text is very close, as a translation, to that (“Masoretic”) Hebrew text that has come to be “traditional”—significantly closer than the traditional OG is, although the OG itself is not radically different. We do not know whether there once existed correspondingly divergent Hebrew texts of this material, and if so, when and where? Nor have we expended much effort on creating “control” cases or exploring analogous phenomena that might help us test the different possibilities.29 Perhaps it is still too early in the game for us to appreciate the devastating effect that the evidence from the DSS and associated discoveries can have on our untested assumptions. B saw only a part of this situation—certainly not the part I am trying to address here, since B assumed that the new text must be a development of the OG without bothering to test other possibilities—and was led to revolutionary new results by that part which he saw. Perhaps we are now ready to see more, and to worry less about the damaged models associated with Lagarde and Kahle.30




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