Saturday, 9 June 2018

Do the Prophets Line Up With the Torah (translation-wise)?

I HAVE YET to comment on the final section of the Septuagint survey of Yahweh translations: the Prophets. Thus far we have seen a very consistent pathway created by the first five books of the Old Testament, by translating the great Name of the Israelite god, Yahweh, as "Kyrios", Greek for "Lord", but without the article. This is known in the field as an "anarthrous" translation, as it lacks the definite article the. I have speculated that this may have followed other traditions for people-group leaders, divine, semi-divine or human, where the article could also be dropped. e.g. Pharaoh. The same is true in English: "Chief", "Boss", "Sheriff", and so on.

As the survey works through the canon, the rates of article inclusion remain typically pretty low, except for Psalms, Proverbs and Job, the last of which disregards the "anarthrous rule" almost completely, showing no sign of awareness even of its existence (in my view).

This leaves the final section of the prophets open for scrutiny. Here's what happens:

What can we say? It's patchy - although that is perhaps not surprising. It is assumed by many scholars working in the area of the Septuagint that translations may have occurred at different times and locations. However, what has not been known until today, I think, is that we can state with considerable confidence that there was a common awareness of the anarthrous usage of Kyrios as a translation for Yahweh (and Adonai for that matter, see How does the Adonai cookie crumble into Greek Yoghurt?). The least careful of all the translating hands we see represented above is that of Hosea, who opted for the article with Kyrios and Kyriou five times out of twenty-four. That means that nineteen times he still opted for no article, even though we doggedly add the "the" to "the LORD". Other less careful hands are represented in red are Joel, Micah and Zephaniah translators.

You'll also notice there are several titles that I have put into a grey colour - this is simply because I do not feel it fair to comment when so few instances of Yahweh are present. Who can say that Daniel translator is especially anarthrous in his translation style when he only has 8 Yahweh occurrences to translate (and only 6 of those are in the relevant nominative and genitive cases)? Or that Habakkuk translator is surprisingly "arthrous" when he makes one of his seven relevant translations carry the article?

Isaiah 49:14 is interesting. I already mentioned it in passing during my survey of the Adonai translations, hyper-linked above. Let's have a quick look at it here though, as it may shed light on an interesting intermediary stage of translation practice no longer directly available to us and evidenced by the varying degrees of article application:

But Zion said, “The Lord [Yahweh] has forsaken me,
    the Lord [Adonai] has forgotten me.”

Here, Isaiah translator is faithful to the anarthrous translation of Kyrios for Yahweh, the first "Lord" of line 1. Line 2, however, witnesses the only arthrous translation of Kyrios in the whole book for Adonai, when placed alongside Yahweh. At some stage in translation and copying history, as Adonai and Yahweh were fused into Kyrios, Adonai lost its article that it may have originally held.

A Christian Invention?

Some scholars posit that Kyrios was a Christian translation invention, since there are no pre-Christian era extant manuscripts that actually use it. This is a complex debate, but there is now a new argument in the mix: how does the Christian invention argument cater for the variation of rates of articles we have seen across the Septuagint in translating Yahweh?

No comments:

Post a Comment

Thanks very much for your feedback, really appreciate the interaction.