Wednesday, 11 December 2019

More evidence that Kyrios is pre-Christian

Kyrios was pre-Christian, used by Greek-speaking JEWS before the Christian era, and periodically I stumble over yet more evidence for this assertion. Here's another one:

When we see that the LXX translators were working from a Hebrew Vorlage different to the one survived to us via the Masoretic textual route, we notice that the anarthrous practice (=KYRIOS not HO KYRIOS) is as frequently applied as when the two traditions are in harmony. Here's an example of what I mean from Psalms 98:1, where the LXX translator seems most likely faced with 2 x Yahweh to translate:

A Psalm.
O sing to the LORD a new song,
For He has done wonderful things,
His right hand and His holy arm have [fn]gained the victory for Him.

ψαλμὸς τῷ Δαυιδ ᾄσατε τῷ κυρίῳ ᾆσμα καινόν ὅτι θαυμαστὰ ἐποίησεν κύριος ἔσωσεν αὐτῷ  δεξιὰ αὐτοῦ καὶ  βραχίων  ἅγιος αὐτοῦ

A Psalm. Pertaining to Dauid.
Sing to the Lord a new song,
  because the Lord did marvelous things.
His right hand saved for him,
  and his holy arm.

Other examples exist, such as what we find with Judith, which Perkins mentions as including the distinction between human and divine rulers (ho kyrios=human ruler; kyrios=God).

We are not just saying that Kyrios predates the Christian era, we are noticing that anarthrous (non-articulated) Kyrios predates the Christian era.

Thursday, 28 November 2019

Dallas... and back

I guess I should feed back on Dallas a bit: last month I had the privilege of heading over to Dallas, Texas to take part in the biennial conference on Bible translation. Very cool venue, which somehow combined excellence of facility and service with a sense of family and inclusiveness. While I was there I also got to serve coffee and translate as a volunteer, which really helped given that I knew pretty much no-one and I was the only guy wearing my badge of affiliation to Eglise Pierres Vivantes, Marseille.

Of course, I had my talk in my mind a lot and had some other distractions in the form of my food intolerances kicking off to a food intake I had less control over (even in November at home I only get about half my days suffering-free). But there was some real solid friendship, prayer and hosting support there (my hosts Doug and Joy were extraordinarily good to me), and thanks to some last-minute changes and rehearsals things went fairly well on the day of my presentation. I really believe it made some people think and start to rethink their allegiance to some of the inadequate "lordship" vocab we are clinging to within English Christendom. Not only did I get a fair bit of feedback after, but I was even made aware of others discussing the content of this review and call for reassessment. Dave S., himself a seasoned Bible translator and professional technical translator, also absolutely merits a word of thanks for all his critical appraisal of my preparation, I remain indebted to him. Thank you, Dave.

After everything quietened down, I got to the best bit: visiting my sister and her family in SLC, and meeting my nephew at last, Levi, barely 20 months. We had some fantastic adventures thanks to Sarah and made it over to Utah for some extraordinary experiences in the beautiful deserts of Canyonland, the arches and so on. I'd love to go back and hire some off-road vehicles there!

On my return, sadly, I won't hide I was disappointed that despite all the prayers and support from my local church, I discovered this was not shared by the elders who strangely barred me from holding a feedback meeting on the church premises. Quite a few more people would have attended this meeting, including from another church in the city with whom I have some good relationships, but I was only permitted to hold it in my own home. So one evening I attempted that. However, after my request for a church notice was largely forgotten and folks were already dismissed at the end of a service, we had 2 people in attendance at my less-accessible location. We still had a good time, we looked at the progress of Bible translation over the last few years, the religiosity of some of our language, looked at some photos, drank tea...

Part of me wants to thrash it out with my elders, who have placed my work in entirely the wrong box (it's still just my personal journey and potentially harmful to others). They can't really see the necessity for the church to break free from religious language or untangle my current work from my earlier Trinity questions and the terrible way our previous church leader dealt with that (yep, you can be left in a negative shadow years after you think its passed!). Like others, but not all, they can't engage fully with the call I'm giving to equip ourselves pastorally and evangelically with more meaningful words that connect us and secure us with greater clarity in our intentions, our commitment, our guidance, our vulnerability, our love, our support. But I just don't have the time - and perhaps part of me just thinks that this path is too confrontational, for despite the injustice I have been shown, it is not necessarily fruitful to address head-on. And you know, when I was really low and church was hard for me, most of them were there for me. I was loved while having so little to offer in return. I'll never forget that. And I'm actually blessed with pretty good relationships with them individually - it's the collective that seems tough. Our pastor invited me to discuss with the elders some time to sort it out. Maybe. I don't want to put myself under more pressure for little change, and it's hard to see what else I can say.

So the other part of me is absolutely focussed with continuing this work. I think it's precious. Speaking at the ILC was significant, but like anything, you have to keep the momentum going if you're going to see it through to its potential, wherever and whatever that may be. Because of a meeting at the conference I was able to connect to a coordinator of the United Bible Societies who was interested in a French article for their peer-reviewed journal, Le Sycomore. We're now a couple of drafts in and I'm up to my ears correcting, proofing and so on. I also have a first draft of the article into The Bible Translator. My third follow-on is a submission of my Abstract to present at another conference next Spring in Belgium. My rough appraisal on where things stand between those three are that the Le Sycomore is likely to go ahead, which is really great; the BT journal, which is as prestigious as it gets in this world I think, well I guess I have an outside chance of being selected for review. The conference I expect to be selected. Unfortunately, again this will be another all-expenses-for-me affair, but we managed to make it work last time (literally within about 20 bucks! Amazing!) so I don't see why we wouldn't go for it.

If I find the energy and time I'd love to feed back more soon about some of the fascinating new things I have been discovering (and correcting) as I have been fine-tuning my research for publication and integrating my analysis of "le Seigneur" into that of "the Lord". I also would like to reserve a future post or two for response to some sociolinguistic works that I have in my pipeline to read and review.

Thank you for your interest! I leave you with a photo of me next to the "grassy knoll" from which Kennedy was sadly assassinated back in 1963.

Thursday, 3 October 2019

Eugene Peterson's use of "GOD" for Yahweh and introducing the notion of a deferential attitude

Hi, sorry it's been a while, things have been busy! I'm almost ready for my exciting trip to the biennial translation conference hosted by Wycliffe, 6 days until I fly, and I'll confess it's exciting (not least because I still don't know where I'll be staying).

Anyway, one thing I've been thinking about doing for a while is getting a bit more deeply rooted into Peterson's method and approach, rather than simply analysing how he translated Yahweh and kyrios. So I have invested in his full translation in the devotional edition, which is brilliantly done frankly. You can see why it took him a decade, such a gift. In my reading today I was guided to Jeremiah 5 where I read the following:

Why did our GOD do all this to us? (MSG, Jer 5:18)

Compare this to ESV: Why has the LORD our God done all these things to us?

Something similar is afoot in verse 24 of the same chapter:
MSG: How can we honor our GOD?
ESV: Let us fear the LORD our God

So you can see what he's doing here. Peterson is solving one of the hurdles I described as "divine combos", which I assessed in a post last year here. The conclusion there was that "GOD" is sufficient to render most divine title combinations involving Yahweh, Adonai, El and Sabaoth. Jeremiah 5:18, 24, however poses the problem of a possessive, namely the LORD our God. I am keen to condense where possible to GOD, since like anarthrous kyrios, the Greek translation of Yahweh, it preserves both name and title characteristics. Unfortunately, however, our GOD might legitimately be accusable of failing to meet this demand. As we have pointed out on more than one occasion, the concept of "our Yahweh" (and therefore "our LORD") is not a Biblical one (I challenge you to find one outside of the Message!)

What is really strange, and I am afraid a little inconsistent on the part of Peterson, is that we also have assessed what to do in this instance, right here. Thanks to Peterson, we saw how important the placement of the commas was around "GOD, our God,". So why doesn't he do it here? The only reason I can imagine is that he felt that Deuteronomy 5:27 represented his fuller version, but that this might be too heavy to repeat systematically. We are now a year after he sadly left this world, so we can't ask him, but I would love to know if he was aware of the compromise to his own method he seems to make in doing this.

OK, so what if "GOD, our God," and the other possessives are overburdensome? Remember I estimated these at around 420 (approximately 6% of the Yahweh instances), so I would not automatically assume that to be true, but what if I did? How could we "mix it up a bit" and when would we do that?

Well this actually reminds me of another idea I have regarding the kyrios drumbeat around Jesus, particularly in Acts. The Lord this, the Lord that. How would we actually express that idea of deference to authority in English today to a superior? Would we call them by their hierarchical title all the time? It depends on the culture, right? In the USA, I hear that first name terms is almost par for the course, even for a CEO. But deference is alive and kicking in English-speaking cultures, so how would we consistently refer to that authority? Director this? The boss said that? Sir...

In fact, we would maybe do some of these things, but we would appeal to a wider range of signals to affirm that we are on-board with the pecking order. Sociolinguists point to a variety of signals that can come into play for politeness for example, such as tone of voice, regret, modesty, hesitancy, eye-contact... to be honest (and I think this may be the first time I'm saying this), I think we need to start thinking more in terms of a deferential attitude. Sometimes that attitude needs authenticating via a "so" or a "really", which is why we see increasingly that "I'm sorry" is no longer as authentic as "I'm so sorry".

With this problem of possessive on the "God" and the name GOD, if we do accept that it may be too much to go for the full Deuteronomy 5 option on every occurrence, then why not consider the full optionGOD, our God,for the first instance in the passage, and a simple "our God" on the second? I think that's what I might do. Or express the deference in the second instance in the Jeremiah 5 passage via a "really", maybe with no reference needed in the following line to "God" at all:
Since he's our God, how can we really honor him, he's the one who gives us rain in both spring and autumn...

Just some ideas I deferentially submit to you ;)

Monday, 29 July 2019

Tired of Praising The LORD? Marre de louer Le SEIGNEUR?

My friend Barney Aspray has kindly hosted a post we have worked on together on the question of Praising "The LORD" in English. Unfortunately the site is experiencing an issue at the moment, but I will post up the link as soon as possible. Today I will post just the opening part and also provide my entire French adaptation, which I am also trying to share with Alliance Biblique, but that may be on hold for a little bit.

Mon ami Barney Aspray a gentillement publié un article que nous avons travaillé ensemble sur la question de Louer "Le SEIGNEUR" en anglais. Malheureusement, le site a un problème technique en ce moment, mais je donnerai le lien dès que possible. Aujroud'hui je partage la première partie mais aussi mon adaptation intégrale en français. Cette dernière fait l'objet d'une demande de partage que j'effectue auprès de l'Alliance Biblique, mais ce sera mis en stand-by pour un petit temps.

One of the most famous and sung anthems from the Psalms is the beautiful sentiment of αλληλουια, Hallelujah, rendered ‘Praise the Lord’ in many of our modern English Bibles and hymn sheets.

Unfortunately, since ‘the LORD’ was suggested by John Wycliffe—way, way back in the late 1300s—it has become a poor translation of the Hebrew Name for God, Yahweh.

In the English spoken and written today, ‘Lord’ usage has really slumped, and the little that remains is scarily dark! Whether it is a warlord or drug lord, or a science-fiction / fantasy genre bad guy (e.g. Lord Voldemort in Harry Potter, the Dark Lords of the Sith in Star Wars and even the Lord of the Rings), the connotations are not good. Even landlords can be pretty dark and shady characters you might be thinking!

In addition to the usage problems, there are some rather striking grammatical issues with ‘the Lord’, in part arising from the fact that Wycliffe and other medieval translators were translating directly from the Latin Vulgate.[1] Finally, we continue to see young people leaving the church in their droves, seemingly still in search of good, stable and accessible forms of authority, purpose and spirituality in their lives.

Despite these apparently legit concerns, ‘the Lord’ is somehow managing to dodge reassessment in nearly all of our most modern and dynamic translations into English. And so ‘the Lord’ limps on. Why is that? The reasons are multiple. Shaking the earth clear from each root we progressively loosen history’s firm hold on this inadequate expression. Could praising the Lord be one of these roots? (.... Rest coming soon)


Une des belles expressions de culte la plus connue des écritures Bibliques et chantée le dimanche matin se retrouve dans les Psaumes, vous la connaissez sûrement bien : « Louez l’Éternel », ou «Louez le SEIGNEUR», rendue en Grec αλληλουια (c’est d’où vient « Alléluia »). 

Malheureusement, depuis que « le Seigneur » a été donné comme traduction en français par Guyart des Moulins—il y a long, longtemps en 1297—elle est devenue une traduction insuffisante pour porter le nom Hébreu de Dieu, Yahvé (ou Yahweh).

Extrait de traduction réalisée par Guyart des Moulins en 1297, première traduction biblique en français (Proverbes 9:10)

Dans la langue française telle qu’elle soit parlée et écrite aujourd’hui, l’emploi de « Seigneur » s’est vraiment effondré, et le peu qui demeure n’est pas très gai ! Surtout maintenu dans les histoires fantastiques, comme Le Seigneur des Ténèbres, Voldemort, de Harry Potter, Les Seigneurs Noirs des Sith, de Star wars, et Le Seigneur des Anneaux, on pourrait se poser la question si de manière générale le titre de « Seigneur » s’est approprié des connotations bien moins positives.

Dark Vader, Seigneur Noir des Sith de Star Wars

S’ajoutant aux problèmes d’emploi sont des questions grammaticales marquantes. Celles-ci peuvent s’expliquer par le fait que Guyard des Moulins, John Wycliffe et les autres traducteurs médiévaux se servaient en partie ou même en totalité de la Vulgate (version en latin de la Bible de l’église Catholique) comme langue de source pour réaliser leurs traductions respectives.[1] Enfin, nous continuons à constater que les jeunes quittent l’église en masse, pourtant toujours en quête de formes positives, stables et accèssibles d’autorité, de sens et de vie spirituelle. 

Malgré ces inquiétudes légitimes, « le Seigneur » a réussit à s’échapper presque toute remise en question dans la plupart de nos traductions françaises dîtes modernes ou dynamiques d’aujourd’hui. Pourquoi?

Les raisons sont multiples. En libérant chaque racine de la terre qui l’obscure, nous nous permettons un lâcher-prise sur cette traduction insuffisante. Est-ce que « louer le Seigneur » pourrait être l’une de ces racines ?

Je contemplais cette notion, donc, de αλληλουια (Alléluia, Louez le SEIGNEUR, Louez l’Eternel). Je me suis arrêté, paisiblement. Malgré les problèmes que j’essayais de rendre visibles, il y avait et il y a quelque chose de si bon ici. Pourquoi l’appellerais-je même « beau » ? Puisque valoriser tout ce qui est bon est beau. Cela me fait sourire en profondeur lorsque le fond de la phrase transcende mes inquiétudes sur sa forme et je suis donc bien reconnaissant de cette perspective supérieure !

Cependant, je me retrouve face à une idée intéressante. Est-ce qu’il serait possible que notre adoration francophone « du Seigneur » aurait depuis des siècles fortifié ce langage ? Relisez avec moi très doucement les paroles en question (la ponctuation est là pour nous ralentir un peu).

L O U E Z :   
« L E.       S E I G N E U R. » [2]

Qu’est-ce que cette instruction opère à notre inconscient chrétien collectif ? Gardons en tête que ce soit une pratique spirituelle très ancienne, belle, bonne et sacrée. Néanmoins, dans la façon que c’est formulé, elle pourrait conduire à figer ces vieux mots français à ce niveau profond et intime à cause d’une confusion en traduction : Louez celui dont le nom est ‘Le SEIGNEUR’, plutôt que louez celui dont le nom a été traduit par ‘Le SEIGNEUR’, et investissez ce titre français de valeur, de sainteté et d’amour. Faites de ce titre français médiéval le véritable nom de Dieu, et préservez-le donc à tout prix.

Malgré les apparences, il s’agit d’une transition signifiante de perspective. Le nom d’une personne est relativement intemporel et il est conçu pour désigner la personne même, de telle sorte que le nommé et le nom ne font qu’Un. 

Nous pouvons constater ce phénomène déjà à l’œuvre dans l’ancien testament : 
 « Tous les peuples de la terre verront que tu es appelé du nom de « l'Eternel » et ils auront peur de toi » (Deutéronome 28.10, Segond 21)

Donc, si nous apercevons qu’on nous exhorte à « louer le Seigneur », réfléchissons à la fois à la puissance de l’idée de ce psaume et à l’incapacité de « l’Eternel » ou de « le Seigneur » à continuer à nommer celui que nous appelons également « Dieu ».

Quant aux traducteurs, eux aussi sont des chrétiens. Ils ressentent aussi un fardeau de fidélité forte au passé, et ils aperçoivent aussi le statut privilégié inculqué par toute la louange et honneur associés à ce nom prétendu « du Seigneur ». Une remise en question sérieuse du vocabulaire autour de l’autorité divine est donc évitée, mais ce n’est pas obligé que c’en soit ainsi ! Une fois que nous réalisons tous que :

- ‘le Seigneur’ n’est pas sacré de son propre sort, 

- ‘le Seigneur’ n’était peut-être pas la meilleure traduction en français même au moyen âge, et que

- ‘le Seigneur’ est tout à fait incapable de représenter les divers niveaux d’autorités signifiés dans les langues d’origine, 

. . . alors nous les chrétiens de 2019 pouvons repenser comment exprimer l’autorité divine dans nos vies. 

Et nous le faisons déjà. Par exemple, Eugene Peterson a eu un succès éblouissant avec sa traduction, The Message en anglais qui a beaucoup remis en question l’expression sœur en anglais, « The LORD ». Au lieu de répéter de manière irréfléchie les 6866 instances de « l’Eternel » par « The LORD », il a opté pour « DIEU » (ou simplement, Hallelujah ! )[3] Dans d’autres lieux d’interface entre l’église et la société, il semble bien qu’il y ait une dépendance réduite en discours de « seigneurie ». Attention, je ne dis pas qu’il n’y a pas encore beaucoup d’attachement au mot ni que l’attachement n’a pas de très bonnes explications, mais que la manière que l’autorité de Dieu ou de Christ s’exprime, lorsqu’il s’exprime bien, évolue et doit évoluer.  Mais il reste beaucoup à faire ! Nous avons besoin de perspectives et ressources linguistiques nouvelles qui nous invitent à expérimenter et exprimer l’autorité divine comme quelque chose de vraiment digne de notre louange. Pour cela nous avons besoins d’outils en français courant parce que le Grecque c’était en Grecque courant, tout simplement !

En conclusion, « le Seigneur » a eu son moment utile, le grand attachement que ressent l’église au mot peut s’expliquer aussi, mais il faudrait rattraper le retard par réexaminer comment nous devrions expressimer cette—si importante à une vie chrétienne contextualisée. Je suis certain que Guyart des Moulins en serait ravi 😊.

[1] This problem concerns the adding of articles that the Hebrew authors and Greek translators were so careful to avoid in order to preserve the personal name of God. Since Latin does not have articles, translators may have been ignorant of this fact.
Ce problème concerne l’ajout des articles que les auteurs hébreux et traducteurs grecques avaient avec prudence évité dans les langues d’origine afin de préserve le caractère d’un vrai nom personnel de Dieu. « L’Eternel », malgré son assez grande originalité ne s’échappe pas non plus, donc, de ce piège posé par la traduction directe du Latin.

[2] Cet effet est également percutant ailleurs, tel que : Entrez, courbons-nous, inclinons-nous, mettons-nous à genoux devant « le SEIGNEUR » qui nous a faits (Psaume 95.6, PDV, guillemets ajoutés)

[3] Ce n’est pas une réflexion que ni la Bible en Français Courant ni la Parole de Vie ne semblent prêtes encore à entreprendre.

Monday, 22 July 2019

Published Yahweh to Kyrios LXX results reminder and update

In May 2018 I completed the mammoth project of tracking all 6,866 Yahweh translations into the Greek, something that no-one has taken the time to do before, and it yielded some fascinating results. Please note that all these results are subject to my copyright - you must ask me to use them, please.

Please find below the slightly updated table (some of the links were no longer working so I have updated and corrected it slightly). In bold we have Deuteronomy, since the data seems to suggest it to have been the archetype for translating Yahweh with Kyrios without the article (regardless of Greek case). Results in grey are to indicate that the overall number of occurrences are too few to really draw too many conclusions, at least in isolation. Results in dark red indicate some deviation from the anarthrous rule, while still clearly showing awareness of its existence and permitting its influence. Only Job is in vibrant red, representing its uniquely deviant result. In other words, the translator of Job knew nothing of the anarthrous rule at all.

Now I'd like to share schematically the results of the project again, showing this time results for all Greek cases (this will demonstrate my previous point about Deuteronomy being a likely archetype):

Purple: dative (57.2%)
Green: accusative (38.4%)
Red: genitive (4.8%)
Blue: nominative (2.8%)

Friday, 12 July 2019

Vasileiadis not convincing on his "consensus" against Kyrios

[very sorry, I accidentally published a draft version of this post before]
In my last post, we looked at six factors provided by Pavlos Vasileiadis as to why the Hebrew divine Name, possibly pronounced something like “Yahweh” (but we don’t really know!), became unpronounceable in some circles to the point of being a capital offense in the third century AD.
Today I hope we're going to see why it is virtually impossible to justify the idea that it was Christians that came up with the idea of translating the Tetragrammaton, Yahweh, into Greek kyrios.

At the point we are up to (p. 58 in the journal), Vasileiadis reconstructs a progression of practice among the desert-based Qumran community, whose writings were found among the Dead Sea Scrolls[1]. These people, our author asserts, went from prohibitions against pronunciation to prohibitions against writing, involving practices of term replacement—first by ‘God’ and ‘Lord’ equivalents and finally by even broader “hedges”, such as “heaven”, “the Holy One,” “the Place,” and “the Name” (the references here are to Stroumsa, A nameless God, 231 and Rösel, “Names of God”, 601, 602), although he will soon point to other possible reconstructions as we shall see. The reader is reminded again that we are not talking about a universal Jewish reticence to pronounce and write Yahweh but rather an apparent majority tendency, since some Jews and non-Jews were still uttering the Name (thus known) as late as into the AD 200s. This brings us to my first point of slight disagreement with Vasileiadis, although it may just be semantics—I’ll have to let you decide.

He states on p. 59, supported by a single quote from 17th-century theologian Sixtinus Amama, that Christians followed Jews in this reticence to pronounce the Name (in Hebrew). First, that is to my mind too broad an extrapolation from this curiously late source to generalise to the Christian community/communities at large (although I expect Vasileiadis to have other references in mind and I myself can think of one). Second, if the Greek-speaking Christians were in the habit of referring to the kyrios translation option, such as all the New Testament authors manifestly did, then we need to know quite what is meant by this inaudibility Vasileiadis refers to. He is thinking specifically of Hebrew pronunciation, of course. However, is there not an assumption here that all Greek-speaking Jews had a de facto knowledge that kyrios was not the real deal or a full equivalent to it? For Greek-Speaking Christians to not have been using the Hebrew name does *not* necessarily imply that they were relinquishing some right to name their God, even in the most personal sense. This is especially true in light of the careful efforts of the translators or rescensional scribes to preserve the anarthrous character of kyrios in the LXX that I have demonstrated after mapping out all the 6,866 occurrences (at my count) of the LXX Tetragrammaton translations into Greek kyrios (96.5 % of nominative and genitive kyrios translations are anarthrous—Genesis through Malachi)[2].

So, for me, I don’t think this difference in view is pure semantics. Look how Vasileiadis concludes this section: “It became an amassingly settled position that it is impossible for God to have a personal name.” The tension is apparent, however, from his very next sentence: “Nevertheless, one way or another, the proper name of God never ceased from use.” What the paper does not inform us, and perhaps cannot within its scope, is on the capacity of anarthrous kyrios to conceptually carry over both the function and the character of the Tetragrammaton into Greek. That is precisely what anarthrous kyrios seems to have been designed to achieve, both function and character.

Vasileiadis, focussing fundamentally on the Hebrew core, cites an impressive number of sources throughout this fascinating paper, and his rich Appendices bear witness to some extensive levels of textual research and scholarship, a practice he has continued to the present day. So, when he asks, somewhat starkly, if we may “assume that a Hebrew term would have one, and only one, pronunciation spanning across all Palestinian and diasporic Jewish populations throughout this long period?” and “if this were the case for the term in its source language, would there be a basis for the possibility of a unique rendering in the target languages?” he is able to answer in the negative in both instances with some conviction. His evidence of flexibility in pronunciation over time in Hebrew does seem quite credible, especially given the rich variety of attempted Greek transcriptions in particular that he will soon demonstrate[3]. However, it does not factor in a special “slow-down factor” of linguistic evolution that sanctity can clearly exercise on language. This phenomenon is actually demonstrable by Vasileiadis’ own reference to the practice of insertion of paleo-Hebrew Tetragrammaton into Greek translations of the Hebrew Bible, which some of the authors he will cite agree is actually an archaising tendency[4]. That’s an extraordinary practice right there, but we could also widen out and look at other religious practices for the preservation of holy terminology that are so powerful as to divert translator/scribe reassessment of ongoing suitability. That is precisely my thesis on the maintenance of ‘Lord’ in English Christianity to which I have consecrated a good number of posts and which I am writing up in book form. In short, we could do with some balance between the evolution of sanctified language over and against non-sanctified language over the same time period. Perhaps in light of that research, further informed estimations could be made as to how much the variations in writing truly reflected variations in pronunciation as opposed to simply evolving transcription options.

On the issue of fluctuation and stability, one other thought that occurs to me given what we now know of the slight variation in rates of article inclusion in the LXX preceding kyrios, is that kyrios seems to have been the practice of Jewish scribes/translators over, I would say, at least several generations, such that the archetype of Deuteronomy (virtually no articles, regardless of case), would move to nominative-and-genitive-only for much of the canon, to slightly higher rates of articles in Psalms, Proverbs and a few other books, to zero awareness on the part of the Job translator (kyrios is simply a title). That gives us some stability over time within that particular stream of practice (kyrios translation) and a familiarity among the Greek-speaking Jewish community spanning a good number of years, also clearly signifying existence well prior the advent of Christianity.

With that point in mind, we enter on p. 60 into the section of the paper that is most helpful for my own work on the translation of the Tetragrammaton into Greek (and its implications). Vasileiadis lines up an array of perspectives on when and how the Tetragrammaton was translated, which has really helped me to a) clarify my own view in light of the results of the rates of articles preceding kyrios that I have provided for the whole LXX (Genesis through Malachi) and to b) clearly distinguish that first issue from a secondary issue of nomina sacra development. Before entering into the overview, Vasileiadis’ introductory comment clearly indicates his own scepticism about one significant and ongoing[5] stream of scholarship: that ‘recent discoveries [have] challenged previously long-held assumptions’ (i.e., that kyrios was in the original Greek translation of the Pentateuch). By this, he is referring to an apparently awkward fact for those of us espousing that kyrios is original to the Greek Bible: that there are no pre-Christian manuscripts that use kyrios for the Tetragrammaton[6]. I used to think about that and look at my own data and the NT authors’ clear familiarity with kyrios and rapprochements with the kyrios Jesus (e.g. Romans 10:9–13), and simply say something like ‘we’ve just not been lucky’, ‘look at all the great library burnings that took place in Caeserea and Alexandria in the wake of the fall of the Roman empire’, and ‘look at the sheer scarcity of extant pre-Christian Greek Jewish manuscripts anyway’ (more on this coming in a future post).

Because of the way in which this awkward fact seems to be framed, I thought I was being left to defend the corner that kyrios not only predates the Christian era, but that it has also to be originalBut, as we now review the range and progression of views, I now see that affirming that kyrios is pre-Christian does not require me to necessarily affirm that it is original to the first Pentateuch translation of the third century BC. So let’s summarise (and slightly supplement) Vasileiadis’ own summary of the research into this problem as follows (approximately in chronological order and colour-coded to indicate whether kyrios was a) considered original [blue], b) kyrios was considered unoriginal but the question of Christian rendering is left open [purple], or c) kyrios was a later Christian tradition [red]):

W. W. von Baudissin (1929) à kyrios is original to the Greek Bible

W. G. Waddell (1944), published Papyrus Fouad 266 à kyrios was not original, used Hebrew consonants[7]
P. Kahle (1960) and S. Jellicoe (1968) à kyrios was a Christian innovation (but overreaches by claiming that the manuscript P458 did have the Tetragrammaton written in before it was removed to leave blanks, rather than being initially composed with blanks, which seems to be the majority view).
H. Stegemann (1969/1978) à The Tetragrammaton was originally transcribed/transliterated Ιαω /i.a.o/ kyrios was therefore not original (similar but not identical to Kahle and Jellicoe).
G. Howard (1977/1992) à *written* kyrios was Christian practice
P.W. Skehan (1980) and M. Hengel (1989) à progression of Ιαω, the Tetragrammaton in square Hebrew characters, the Tetragrammaton in paleo-Hebrew characters and, finally, kyrios. No mention here of Skehan or Hengel fully aligning with the Christian-innovation hypothesis. This is an important contribution since it clearly points out the likelihood that there was [older script later]
A. Pietersma (1984), the same Pietersma who helped me come to resolution on the treatment of adonai translation to kyrios in the LXX about a year ago à kyrios is original.
G.D. Kilpatrick (1985), E. Tov (1998/2004/2008), J. Joosten (2011), and A. Meyer (2014) à Pieterma was mistaken.
J. W. Wevers (2005), a huge name in LXX circles, and M. Rösel (2007) à kyrios is original.
Robert Hanhart (2006) à kyrios is original to the Greek Bible
K. De Troyer (2009) à theos first, kyrios later (not necessarily Christian)
L. Perkins (2008) à kyrios is original (see my Perkins paper review here)
R. Furuli (2011) à kyrios ‘did not replace the tetragrammaton before the Common Era’ (some form of Ιαω)
P. Vasileiadis (2014) à “Truly, the hard evidence available supports this latter thesis”.

But what is “this latter thesis”? In light of such strong disagreement about the progressions chronologically and geographically of the Tetragrammaton, why not accept that there is no “hard” evidence for any particular reconstruction?[8] That would surely not have endangered the overall usefulness of the paper. Or perhaps by “hard”, Vasileiadis is referring to extant manuscripts from the era, in which case he returns us to a place prior to the above discussion, which points out other important variables (like Romans 10). Could “this latter thesis” be that kyrios is not the first offering in the original Greek translation of the Pentateuch as a rendering of Yahweh (that is, a simply negative hypothesis)? Or is it more specifically that a non-translation was used first, followed in a mixed-up fashion by translations, transliterations and “transcription-borrowing”-s? There is certainly no consensus there, as his own research summary points out. More clarity here would have been appreciated, although perhaps we will see maybe a bit more clearly what Vasileiadis means by “this latter thesis” as he begins to illustrate each of the four options faced by Greek scribes and their commissioning religious authorities/communities[9].

But first, I’m going to pitch in! I am lucky to have this extra data to hand of the full anarthrous picture of kyrios in the LXX (seeing the extent of the debate it really is rather startling that no-one else better qualified hasn’t felt the necessity to research this available data as I have done):

J. Bainbridge (2019) à kyrios cannot have been a Christian translation serving the established use we see by the NT authors from the early 50s AD, unless these authors felt authorised for the first time to write that which was previously only spoken anarthrously. This minimum position is well described by various scholars, including G.D. Kilpatrick (1985), already included in the above summary, who stated: “[the Christian tradition] consistently presents us with χυριος. How are we to explain this? Whatever was written in the manuscripts, we may infer that when the text was read aloud in the synagogue or elsewhere χυριος was used.”[10]

But I very strongly doubt that the spoken kyrios by Hellenistic Jews was its only pre-Christian existence. The extraordinarily anarthrous patterns of kyrios in nominative and genitive throughout the Greek Bible (96.5% of these Yahweh translations are anarthrous[11]), and the ways in which the 3.5% of arthrous occurrences are not evenly spread, all point to kyrios either being original (most likely) or as an early written replacement of another proper name, such as Ιαω. But please hear what Rösel and Pietersma are saying to us, because it speaks profoundly to this question: “Pietersma was able to show that the distinctive use and non-use of the article serves to distinguish human kyrioi from the one divine kyrios. His conclusion is that this refined concept cannot be attributed to a mechanically working redaction but to the translators themselves[12]. I agree, without wanting to stake my life on it. Yes, I do still think the kyrios-is-original contingent are the most convincing, because for a recension to be so wide as to encompass the entire Greek Jewish canon (except Job) requires improbable historical reconstructions. The data is more easily explained by postulating that kyrios is indeed original, thus favouring Pietersma, Wevers, Rösel and Perkins’ additional findings.

To summarise, I think we need to clarify the options for kyrios, and where I stand on each.
1.      Kyrios was written in the original Greek translation of the Pentateuch 3rd century BC. Likely, but not staking my life on it.
2.      Kyrios came to be written before the advent of Christianity. Extremely likely.
3.      Kyrios was already used at least as a spoken surrogate for the Tetragrammaton by the time Christianity was born: I am certain.
4.      Kyrios was used by the earliest Christians: nearly everyone agrees I think.

It is my position to state in the strongest terms that we have a written Jewish Greek practice of kyrios from which the NT authors carefully avoided straying.

One other point remains, perhaps to be developed in a subsequent post, that nomina sacra is a related but distinct issue. If the well-proportioned gaps (potentially kyrios-sized) found in Papyrus Rylands Greek 458 described by Rösel and dated to the second century BC (making it perhaps the oldest we have) are to allow for either a Hebrew Tetragrammaton or a Greek kyrios — and I agree Meyer’s objections to kyrios will need further investigation — then that is most likely in a non-contracted form: KYRIOS, not KS, thus supporting majority scholarship that nomina sacra were a Christian innovation, even if kyrios was almost certainly not. This distinction is then dismissive of Gertoux’s view that Vasileiadis seems to favour (and showcased on the Wikipedia page Names and titles of God in the New Testament) whereby the two questions are collided. Indeed, Dr. L. Hurtado has expressed to me directly his skepticism of the idea that “YAH” (i.e. Jewish) was a nomen-sacrum preceding the Christian nomina sacra practice (Hurtado’s own view is that Jesus’ Greek name itself was the first to benefit from this practice).

I am not quite sure if Gertoux is the only reason the two issues became entangled for me, but the point is that Jewish Christians could have innovated on nomina sacra, but that does not mean that they had to have been behind the kyrios translation for the Greek Bible’s Tetragrammaton Problem. They most assuredly were not.

Has that summary helped? Hopefully still further clarity will emerge as we look at Vasileiadis’ 4 types of Greek renderings.

APPENDIX: “Arthricity” of Septuagint Yahweh Translations Per Greek Case

As a reference to my research on the LXX rendering of the Tetragrammaton into Greek, I hereby include a slightly snazzier graphical summary:

[1] Although definitely do check out Norman Golb’s hypothesis (Who Wrote the Dead Sea Scrolls, Touchstone, 1996) that the Qumran community could not have produced such a wealth of texts and scribes, thus perhaps more the custodians of the hidden treasures than their producers. He’s not the only one to have since shown some scepticism.
[2] Please see my summarised data in the Appendix below
[3] Even views held by scholars that kyrios is original can accommodate this point on variety. Rösel (2007): “one has to conclude that reading ‘Lord’ was not the only custom employed to avoid the pronunciation of the tetragrammaton in pre-Christian times.
[4] Simply finding paleo-Hebrew at all from these centuries is automatically archaising since paleo Hebrew is from an earlier, pre-exilic time. The authors with whom Vasileiadis is in at least partial agreement will assert an original transliteration into Greek followed by the Tetragrammaton in Paleo Hebrew.
[5] Unfortunately, in Vasileiadis is now mistakenly claiming that there is a “consensus” against any early form of kyrios, sweeping aside the considerable contributions of Pietersma, Perkins, Wevers, Rösel, and (Pietersma has informed me) Robert Hanhart.
[6] That is not to say, however, that there is no evidence. Besides the other problems raised in the present article for the Christian innovation hypothesis, Rösel also notes seemingly unavoidable usage by Aristobulus, citing Exod. 9:3, and the Letter of Aristeas 155 citing Deut. 7:18-19, usage in the Greek scriptures not originating from a Hebrew Vorlage, e.g. Wisdom of Solomon (4:17-18; 9:3) and 2 Maccabees (2:8; 3:33, etc.), and Philo. See Rösel,  M. (2007) The Reading and Translation of the Divine Name in the Masoretic Tradition and in the Greek Septuagint, JSOT, SAGE pp. 424-425
[7] Waddell’s contribution I have found elsewhere as Vasileiadis omits him for some reason.
[8] This was clearly not Vasileiadis’ general momentum of thought, as we can see in his most recent paper on the topic dating to this year, where he states: “the current consensus has shifted towards the view that at least the Pentateuch was not produced under the proscription against rendering the Tetragrammaton in the same way the translators represented the proper names of humans or other divinities.” Vasileiadis, Pavlos D, and Nehemia Gordon. “‘Transmission of the Tetragrammaton in Judeo-Greek and Christian Sources’ («Η Μεταβίβαση Του Τετραγράμματου Στις Ιουδαιο-Ελληνικές Και Χριστιανικές Πηγές»), Accademia: Revue De La Société Marsile Ficin, Vol. 18 (2019). [In Press].” Accademia: Revue De La Société Marsile Ficin, 2019.
[9] Idem: the available evidence for this divine “anonymization” points to a date after the appearance of early Christianity”, p. 3
[10] Kilpatrick, G. D. Novum Testamentum 27, no. 4 (1985): 380-82. doi:10.2307/1560456.
[11] Total count of nominative and genitive kyrios translations is 4,859 of which 4,687 are anarthrous.
[12] Rösel, p. 424, emphasis mine