StudySolver – News and Tips for Studying

Ocms Seminar Presentation

OCMS Seminar Presentation

Benrilo Kikon

July, 2017

The Problem of Variations and the Role of the Theories of Translation

in Septuagint Studies


In this paper, I seek to bring out the problem of variations in Septuagint (LXX) studies and its implications on the way we receive the LXX. Biblical scholars assume that unless there is exact representation of the Hebrew in the LXX, there is a deliberate change of meaning by the translator thereby undermining the translator. There is inevitably a mismatch between languages in the process of translation and a translator has to navigate between the two languages in order to come up with a translation that is appropriate for the target language. There is an impasse in translation studies and in LXX studies with regard to the notion of faithfulness and betrayal in translation. I would like to argue that Paul Ricoeur’s concept of ‘linguistic hospitality’ helps us to get past this impasse and helps us see the LXX as text that represents both the Hebrew and Greek traditions and portrays it in a positive light, a text that sought to place the religious message of the Hebrew text in a new setting.


The phenomenon of LXX Isaiah is a point of contention among LXX scholars because of its apparent differences from the Masoretic Text (MT) in many places. It is anachronistic to compare the LXX to the MT because the pointed Hebrew text was developed between 7th to 10th century CE. However, a text critical approach to the MT helps in the comparison of texts.

The LXX variation is viewed negatively or as deliberate creative endeavor on the part of the LXX translator. Hence, the LXX Isaiah has been subject to overly critical analyses as it has always been studied in unfavourable comparison to the Hebrew text. In order to explain the differences between the Greek and Hebrew texts, scholars talk about intentional and unintentional variations. While one side holds for a different source text between the Hebrew and the Greek in order to explain the variations, the other side holds that the differences arise due to the interpretational role of the translators. On the one hand, there is the opinion that the LXX translators tried to make an accurate translation from the Hebrew Vorlage and therefore, the variations are unintentional errors. While on the other hand, there is the opinion that there are intentional changes in the LXX that have been made in order to conform to the ideas of the translators and to make the texts relevant to their own contexts. Consequently, there is disagreement on the variations of the LXX from its Hebrew Vorlage(n). There appears to be unintentional variations due to scribal errors as well as variations due to the role of the translators.

Arie van der Kooij and James Findlay hold that the LXX translators have done interpretative work. Ekblad favours an exegetical type of relationship within the Septuagint and he holds the view that the changes in the Septuagint are intentional acts of the scribes in order to harmonize within the Septuagint, which he calls it ‘an inter-textual exegesis’. Jan de Ward also gives the example of Amos 6:9, where the LXX adds an extra phrase. Although there have been speculations that the addition is because of a different Hebrew Vorlage, de Ward thinks that it is an additional information by the translator on the paragraph to clarify the meaning. This is supported by the introduction of new participles in the verse that follows it.

However, Anneli Aejmelaus is of the view that there were different types of literal translations employed by the translators, as seen in the books of Genesis and Exodus, which according to her, are faithful representations of the original text with the exception of certain books like Isaiah, where the translator seems to display a free translation of sorts. While Aejmelaeus holds that it is not easy to differentiate between intentional scribal changes or variations due to a different Hebrew Vorlage, she goes on to argue that most of the variations come from the use of a different Hebrew Vorlage by the LXX translators as the sanctity of the scriptures was of utmost importance to the translators and they would not have meddled with it. While Johann Cook brings out the harmonizing tendencies of the Septuagint scribes, Aejmelaeus points out that such harmonizations are found in the Samaritan Pentateuch as well, and so, the variations could have well been in the original Vorlage. Even though Aejmelaeus does not dismiss the notion of a free translation, she ascribes such a translation to the use of a Vorlage that differed from the Masoretic Text. She seems to hold on to a kind of translation where a faithful replication of the original is possible.

Although the possibility of the Septuagint using a different Hebrew Vorlage(n) as an explanation for the variations is probable, there is strong case for the variations as being intentional emendations by the LXX translators. Arie van der Kooij understands that the Septuagint translators were not merely reproducing a Hebrew original but were involved in the work of interpretation. James Findlay makes use of van der Kooij’s proposal to state that the Septuagint version of Numbers 16-17 reflects ‘a pro-Aaronide priestly ideology’ and connects it with the exertion of influence by the priests during the time when the LXX was translated. Findlay’s work shows the ideological tendency of the Septuagint translators in promoting their own interests. He notes that the Septuagint translator recurrently emphasized the theological theme of the glory (δοξα) and salvation (σωτήριος) of God in the translations. David Baer also agrees with van der Kooij, that the Septuagint is a lucid work as it stands on its own, but goes on further to say that Septuagint as a translation cannot be ignored and thus, it cannot be taken as an ‘independent literary unit’. He brings out examples from LXX Isaiah, whereby the exegetical workings of the translators can be observed. For instance, he cites Isaiah 56:10, where צֹפָ֞יו עִוְרִ֤ים כֻּלָּם֙ (his watchmen are blind) is translated as ἴδετε ὅτι πάντες ἐκτετύφλωνται (See, for all are blind). Baer assumes that the Septuagint translator vocalized צפה as an imperative form, leading to the Greek rendering ἴδετε (imperative), which is not commonly used in other parts of the Septuagint. Thus, the ‘imperativization’ seen here is one of the tendencies of the translator for ‘dramatic effect’ or ‘homiletical exhortation’. Baer seems to treat the variations in the Septuagint as intentional works of the translators in order to display the sentiments of their time, such as the nationalistic outlook of the Jews during that time. However, he points out that the translators did not make considerable changes in the consonantal text of the Hebrew. The variations are ascribed to the translators and not to Hebrew variant texts.

There is apparently difference of opinion among scholars on the reason for the variations in LXX. One of the prominent themes that arises is the notion of the exact representation of one language to another language. This is also an issue that has been much discussed in translation studies.


This problematic on translation can be traced to the age-old debate in translation studies between word-for-word translation and sense-for-sense translation. A close study of the history of the translation studies shows that it has predominantly been divided into two camps: the literal translation and the free translation. Theories of translation can be traced back to the Romans, like Horace who talked about the futility of word-for-word (literal) translation in his Ars Poetica. Horace and Cicero make the clear distinction between the two types of translation word for word and sense for sense. Jeremy Munday traces the development of translation theory over the years and he notes that there have been ample discussions on the translation of the Bible. It is apparent that while one side holds for faithfulness to the Source Text (ST), trying to bring out as literal a translation as possible, the other side focuses on the conveyance of meaning to the target audience. The history of translation studies indicates that there have been conceptual shifts on translation theories, based on the dichotomy stated above. It has been rightly observed by Theo A.W. van der Louw that this polarity is still existent in translation studies, albeit, under different terminologies such as ‘foreignizing’ vs. ‘domesticating’ (Lawrence Venuti), ‘direct’ vs. ‘oblique’ (Vinay and Darbelnet), ‘formal-correspondent’ vs. ‘functional-equivalent’ (Eugene Nida and Jan de Waard).


In LXX studies, Vermeer is of the view that Wortlichkeit (literalness) is the key factor in the translation of the Septuagint. However, he also notes that there are certain portions that have been translated ‘freely’ and he cites factors such as cultural difference, religious difference, interpretation of the translator, as causes for such deviations. In spite of this, Vermeer holds fast to the notion of a faithful transmission of the Source Text to the Target Text.

Natalio Fernandez Marcos underlines the importance of dynamic equivalence in translation because there cannot be equivalent conveyance of message from one language to the other. He observes that while the linguistic theories have been made use of in biblical translation, especially in the modern languages, very little attempt has been made in Septuagint studies. Some such usage in Septuagint studies can be seen in the works of de Waard, Rabin and Heller. However, Marcos is of the view that intentional attempt by translators should only be ascribed to those variations that cannot be explained as inability of the language to render a word literally or the usage of a different Hebrew Vorlage by the translator. On the other hand, Karen H. Jobes and Moises Silva think the variations of the LXX from the Masoretic Text sometimes provide information about the theological and hermeneutical presuppositions of the translators during their context. However, they are of the view that all the words in a particular language share the same semantic structure in another language, and so it is the task of the translator to find an acceptable meaning for a word in the target language. They go on to say:

When someone translates a word from one language into another, he or she must decide what sense the original word carries and identify an equivalent word in the target language.

However, such an explanation would mean that the exact replica of a text is possible from one language to another. Paul Ricoeur argues that such a presupposition entails the super-imposition of one language structure into another. This would lead to the quest for the ‘universal language’ or the ‘pure language’, a standard structure of language by which the two texts, source text and target text, can be compared. He notes that the search for an original language by various Gnostics, the Kabbala, have been proved to be a failure, so also the search for the a priori codes for a universal language. This is so because of the disagreement about the shape and structure of the ‘perfect’ language, as well as the lack of connection between the natural languages and the universal language. To say that it is possible to replicate one text into another, and find exact equivalence of a word in another language structure seem to be far fetched.

There have been attempts by LXX scholars to reconcile the binaries in translation studies and to incorporate translation theory in the study of the LXX. In recent times, attempts have been made by scholars such as Theo van der Louw and Cameron Boyd-Taylor to incorporate the theories in translation studies into Septuagint studies. Van der Louw notes that translation studies, since the 1950’s, has moved on from attention to a narrow linguistic emphasis to a socio-cultural and the general life setting of the translations. In his study of the book of Isaiah, van der Louw notes that the translator makes a conscious attempt to follow the source text closely and makes use of literal translation as much as possible. For him, Isaiah 1:28 reflects a Hebraistic language structure rather than a Greek one. He cites examples from Isaiah 1:7, 12, 16, where the translator has made an effort in rendering the Hebrew terms accurately. His study shows that the translator of Isaiah has a good grasp of Hebrew and consciously tries to translate in such a way so as to make it relevant to the Jewish community then.

While van der Louw does not superimpose the present theoretical concepts of language on the translators of LXX, he does not deny the philosophical influence prevalent during that time. However, he also makes use of the present concepts of language in order to understand the LXX as a translated text. This is an important contribution in Septuagint studies. It is an attempt to go beyond the debate of faithfulness versus betrayal. However, in his attempt to study the LXX Isaiah, he does not give due attention to the philosophical hermeneutics of translation, which would bring about a deeper understanding of the comparative study between the Greek and Hebrew texts.

Cameron Boyd-Taylor advocates the interlinear paradigm to understand the translation of the LXX. According to this paradigm, the Septuagint is to be understood in the light of the parent text underlying it. This could be a reaction against those who would take the Septuagint as an independent text, free from its parent Hebrew text. The concept of interlinearity is to underline the role of both the parent text and the target text, thereby advocating the existence of both languages in a single semiotic structure. This theory of translation seeks to bring into account the role of the target culture in translation, and the conditions that were prevalent then. This resonates with Descriptive Translation Studies that seek to bring into account the cultures that influenced the process of translation. Although the concept of translator’s intent is similar to that of authorial intent, Boyd-Taylor clarifies that it does not necessarily mean the intent of the translator as against understanding the intent of the text. What is stressed in this theory is on the relationship between the target text and the source text that is found within the cultural context of the target text. This would definitely help in identifying the understanding of the Greek text and the historical setting from which it took shape.

Boyd-Taylor develops the inter-linear paradigm based on Gideon Toury’s Descriptive Translation Studies, where three aspects of translation are brought out: the ‘function’ of the source text, the ‘process’ through which the target text is taken from the source text and the ‘product’ which is comprised of the textual linguistic interaction between two cultures. This opens up space for the appraisal of the LXX text based on the norms that are functional within a certain structure of cultural practices. However, the inter-dependence of the source text and the target text has been criticised by scholars who favour a more independent role for the LXX. Natalio Fernandez Marcos and Arie van der Kooij do not agree on the dependence of the culture of the target text. They hold for autonomy of the Septuagint and its relevance without recourse to the Hebrew text. One of the problems that also arise in the use of Descriptive Translation Studies is the assumption of in depth familiarity with both source and target cultures.


Ricoeur states that DTS does not address the problems that arise with translation, which Ricoeur calls the dilemma of serving two masters. Ricoeur notes that the translator is always burdened with the predicament of staying faithful to the ‘peculiar’ language (target text) while being receptive of the ‘foreign’ (source text). He argues that the paradigm of translation that he advocates would help in solving this problem. He calls it the linguistic hospitality. He says:

When the translator acknowledges and assumes the irreducibility of the pair, the peculiar and the foreign, he finds his reward in the recognition of the impassable status of the dialogicality of the act of translating as the reasonable horizon of the desire to translate.

It is in accepting the differences of the ‘other’s’ language and in welcoming the foreign in one’s own language that happiness in translation takes place. This aspect of a dialogical interaction between the source text and the target text is not comprehensively dealt with in Descriptive Translation Studies. The ethnocentric nature of the target language is strongly prevalent in it, which would lead to submersion of one language by the other, without any meaningful dialogue taking place.

Building on Ricoeur, Venuti and others who have tried to bridge the gap between literal and free translation, I would like to study LXX Isaiah as a translation based on linguistic hospitality. Ricoeur notes the problem of the binary and he lays out two approaches to translation: as a ‘transfer of a spoken message from one language to another’ or as ‘synonymous with the interpretation of any meaningful whole within the same speech community’. However, Ricoeur dismisses the notion of a perfect or literal translation and instead advocates the notion of translation as ‘linguistic hospitality’, whereby the translator makes a conscious attempt to enter into a dialogue with the Other’s language and makes space for ‘openness’ between the two languages. In Oneself as Another, Ricoeur considers the ‘other’ as all forms of differences or alterity and not just the human being. The concept of language and translation can also be considered as the ‘other’ since it entails the experience of the ‘other’ when we come across a new and different language. ‘Linguistic Hospitality’ is to be at home in the language of the other and at the same time to host the other’s language in one’s own world of language. In the process of translation, Ricoeur stresses importance on the subjectivity of the translator and also on the importance of hosting the other’s language. The importance of both the Source language and the Target language is to be taken into consideration.


I will now look at Isaiah 8:11-16 and see how ‘linguistic hospitality’ is evident in this text. I have chosen this passage because it has been argued by scholars that it represents an interpretative rendering by the LXX translator.

Isaiah 8:11 כִּי֩ כֹ֙ה אָמַ֧ר יְהוָ֛ה אֵלַ֖י כְּחֶזְקַ֣ת הַיָּ֑ד וְיִסְּרֵ֕נִי מִלֶּ֛כֶת בְּדֶ֥רֶךְ הָֽעָם־הַזֶּ֖ה לֵאמֹֽר׃

‎12 לֹא־תֹאמְר֣וּן קֶ֔שֶׁר לְכֹ֧ל אֲשֶׁר־יֹאמַ֛ר הָעָ֥ם הַזֶּ֖ה קָ֑שֶׁר וְאֶת־מוֹרָא֥וֹ לֹֽא־תִֽירְא֖וּ וְלֹ֥א תַעֲרִֽיצוּ׃

13 אֶת־יְהוָ֥ה צְבָא֖וֹת אֹת֣וֹ תַקְדִּ֑ישׁוּ וְה֥וּא מוֹרַאֲכֶ֖ם וְה֥וּא מַֽעֲרִֽצְכֶֽם׃

‎ 14 וְהָיָ֖ה לְמִקְדָּ֑שׁ וּלְאֶ֣בֶן נֶ֠גֶף וּלְצ֙וּר מִכְשׁ֜וֹל לִשְׁנֵ֙י בָתֵּ֤י יִשְׂרָאֵל֙ לְפַ֣ח וּלְמוֹקֵ֔שׁ לְיוֹשֵׁ֖ב יְרוּשָׁלִָֽם׃

‎ 15 וְכָ֥שְׁלוּ בָ֖ם רַבִּ֑ים וְנָפְל֣וּ וְנִשְׁבָּ֔רוּ וְנוֹקְשׁ֖וּ וְנִלְכָּֽדוּ׃ ס

‎ 16 צ֖וֹר תְּעוּדָ֑ה חֲת֥וֹם תּוֹרָ֖ה בְּלִמֻּדָֽי׃

Isaiah 8:11 οὕτως λέγει κύριος τῇ ἰσχυρᾷ χειρὶ ἀπειθοῦσιν τῇ πορείᾳ τῆς ὁδοῦ τοῦ λαοῦ τούτου λέγοντες

12 μήποτε εἴπητε σκληρόν πᾶν γάρ ὃ ἐὰν εἴπῃ ὁ λαὸς οὗτος σκληρόν ἐστιν τὸν δὲ φόβον αὐτοῦ οὐ μὴ φοβηθῆτε οὐδὲ μὴ ταραχθῆτε

13 κύριον αὐτὸν ἁγιάσατε καὶ αὐτὸς ἔσται σου φόβος

14 καὶ ἐὰν ἐπ᾽ αὐτῷ πεποιθὼς ᾖς ἔσται σοι εἰς ἁγίασμα καὶ οὐχ ὡς λίθου προσκόμματι συναντήσεσθε αὐτῷ οὐδὲ ὡς πέτρας πτώματι ὁ δὲ οἶκος Ιακωβ ἐν παγίδι καὶ ἐν κοιλάσματι ἐγκαθήμενοι ἐν Ιερουσαλημ

15 διὰ τοῦτο ἀδυνατήσουσιν ἐν αὐτοῖς πολλοὶ καὶ πεσοῦνται καὶ συντριβήσονται καὶ ἐγγιοῦσιν καὶ ἁλώσονται ἄνθρωποι ἐν ἀσφαλείᾳ ὄντες

16 τότε φανεροὶ ἔσονται οἱ σφραγιζόμενοι τὸν νόμον τοῦ μὴ μαθεῖν

Isaiah 8:11 This is what the LORD says to me with his strong hand upon me, warning me not to follow the way of this people:

12 "Do not call conspiracy everything this people calls a conspiracy; do not fear what they fear, and do not dread it.

13 The LORD Almighty is the one you are to regard as holy, he is the one you are to fear, he is the one you are to dread.

14 He will be a holy place; for both Israel and Judah he will be a stone that causes people to stumble and a rock that makes them fall. And for the people of Jerusalem he will be a trap and a snare.

15 Many of them will stumble; they will fall and be broken, they will be snared and captured."

16 Bind up this testimony of warning and seal up God’s instruction among my disciples. Isaiah 8:11 Thus says the Lord, "With a strong hand they reject the course of the way of this people, saying,

12 No longer say, "[It’s] hard"; for everything this people says is: "[Its] hard." Do not fear what they fear and do not be troubled.

13 The Lord–sanctify him, and he will be your fear.

14 And if you trust in him, he will be for you a sanctuary, and you will not encounter him as the obstruction of a stone or as the obstacle of a rock.’ But the house of Jacob is in a snare, and they are lying in a trap in Jerusalem.

15 For this reason many among them [the house of Jacob, v. 14] will become weak, and they will fall and be broken, they will draw near and be captured-people dwelling in safety.

16 Then those who seal up the Law in order not to learn [it] will be exposed."

There are a few instances in this passage where the LXX and MT differ. Troxel has explained certain cases to be due to the use of a different Hebrew Vorlage by the LXX translator, while certain variations are ascribed to the creative enterprise of the translator. Such instances are:

In v. 11, there is no equivalence for כִּי and he explains it as the absence of it in the Hebrew Vorlage of the LXX translator. וְיִסְּרֵ֕נִי (from יסר ‘to teach’ which is in the 3rd person singular form) is translated as ἀπειθοῦσιν (‘to disobey’ which is in the 3rd person plural form) and it also occurs in Isa. 1:23. Wagner states that there could have been a variant form of ררס (‘to be stubborn/rebellious’) in the translator’s Vorlage. However, ἀπειθοῦσιν + a dative noun (πορείᾳ) renders the meaning ‘to put up resistance against’. Instead of explaining this variation as the use of a different Vorlage by the translator, it could probably be seen as an expression of linguistic hospitality whereby the translator, while accommodating the word from the source text, also seeks to incorporate the syntactic structure of the Greek thus adding a dative noun to the verb to emphasize the meaning of the word in the sentence.

In v. 12, there is a double occurrence of σκληρόν (hard) for the Hebrew קֶשֶׁר (conspiracy). This is the only occurrence of the word in MT Isaiah, while in other places it is translated to mean ‘tie’ or ‘bind’. Troxel is of the view that the translator uses the meaning of the term קָשֶׁה (‘hard’ as also in 14:3; 19:4; 21:2; 27:8; 48:8) to translate it as he was confused by the word, hence ascribing a sort of free rendering to the LXX translator. However, it is difficult to assume the ignorance of certain Hebrew words by the LXX translator to explain variations. Also, the use of ταραχθῆτε (dismayed) for the Hebrew תַעֲרִֽיצוּ (to be terrified) is deemed by van der Kooij as the translator’s choice to suit the context of the text.

In v. 13 ἁγιάσατε (sanctify) is rendered forתַקְדִּ֑ישׁוּ (holy). This is also explained as translated from a Hebrew text that read ‘sacred’. In v. 14 the addition of ὁ δὲ οἶκος Ιακωβ (the house of Jacob) is also probably from the Vorlage or influenced by its appearance in v. 18. However, the Greek καὶ ἐὰν ἐπ᾽ αὐτῷ πεποιθὼς ᾖς (and if you put your trust in him) for the Hebrewוְהָיָ֖ה לְמִקְדָּ֑שׁ (and he will be a holy place) is seen as a deliberate attempt of the translator to contextualise. Van der Kooij observes that this is a typical rendering of Isaiah and it occurs in other places in Isaiah as well. Wagner thinks that the translator’s source for this word is from v. 17. Another instance in this verse is the addition of the negative in καὶ οὐχ ὡς λίθου (and not a stone), which is rendered for וּלְאֶ֣בֶן (and a stone). This parallels his addition of the negative particle again in v. 16 τοῦ μὴ μαθεῖν. Troxel explains this as a creation of a comparison within the text that makes the translator avoid addressing the Kyrios as a ‘stone’. This particular addition made him provide the syntax συναντήσεσθε αὐτῷ (come against him) in the verse. This is an instance of the translator coming into dialogue with both the source text and the target text, thus making necessary additions in order to make the text relevant to the context.

In v. 15, καὶ ἐγγιοῦσιν (draw near) is used for וְנוֹקְשׁ֖וּ (snare). Troxel presupposes the lack of familiarity on the part of the translator for the word יקשׁ. Troxel also states that the phrase ἄνθρωποι ἐν ἀσφαλείᾳ ὄντες is a typical Greek word order and so, it must be the translator’s own addition. However, for the rendition of MT’s תְּעוּדָה (testimony) as φανεροὶ ἔσονται (shall be manifest) in v. 16, there is the assumption that the translator had a Vorlage that had the root word ערה (naked/bare).

There has been various explanations given for the differences between the MT and LXX (although as mentioned earlier, it is anachronistic to compare the two). There is either the use of a different Vorlage by the LXX translator or the ‘creative approach on the part of the translator’. The point of contention that I am interested in looking at is the addressee of the passage as it informs the theology that is developed out of it.

It is clear that Isaiah 8 was written as a prophecy for the people of Israel around 740-680 BCE. It is a warning to the people about the threat from the king of Assyria. Isaiah 8:11-16 cannot be taken as a separate unit in the MT because it is generally taken as a message to the prophet Isaiah and his disciples. Van der Kooij, in his comparative examination of the MT and LXX notes that the MT is different from the LXX in terms of its structure and content. He notes that while the structure of the passage in MT is from verses 11-18, LXX forms a coherent whole in verses 11-16. He observes that the central message in the MT is that while God extends his protection over the prophet, he sets a ‘stumbling-block’ to Ephraim and Judah. It is a message of hope to the prophet and his followers who will be safe if they put their trust in God. In verses 16-18, the prophet is seen responding to the message of God by expressing his loyalty to God and the safety he receives for his trust in him.

However, in the LXX, van der Kooij, following Seeligmann and Koenig, is of the view that Isa 8:11-16 is a unit in itself and is to be interpreted as such. It is introduced by the ‘Thus says the Lord’ formula, and v. 16 is linked to v.15 by the word τότε and not v.17 as the MT has it. Van der Kooij, in his examination of the text, tries to avoid ‘atomistic’ examination of words. He seeks to show how the passage can be interpreted as ‘updated prophecy’ indicating the situation of the LXX translator. Van der Kooij then goes on to examine the LXX through a ‘contextual approach’ in order to explain the variations as arising out of its own context. The LXX translator’s interpretative work can be seen in the passage where the message of the text is ‘understood as a prophecy that could (and should) be read as predicting the policy of Hellenistic leaders in Jerusalem, in the first half of the second century BCE, and its failure’. This is a point of contention because van der Kooij argues that Seeligmann’s reference to the people in v. 11 as a group of people who found ‘the precepts of orthodox Judaism as hard and oppressive’ is not conclusive.

Wagner argues against such division by stating that Isa: 8:11-22 is a proper unit if we take into consideration van der Kooij’s ‘contextual approach’. So, he seeks to look at the passage in its entire literary setting from Isa. 1-12 and also in comparison to its parallel passages of Isa 28 and 29. Rodrigo F. de Sousa seems to be in favour of van der Kooij’s division of the unit of Isa 8:11-16. Even though de Sousa argues in favour of the translator having a sense of ‘cohesion and coherence’ in the sections he translates, he does not agree that the translator is composing a new oracle in Greek and is performing an ‘actualizing rendering of the passages’. He states that the coherence seen in the passage is not to imply the creation of a new oracle but can be explained as ‘the result of an attempt to produce a good and readable version’. De Sousa seems to focus on the ‘imprints of elements from the translator’s ideological background in the translation’ and these imprints are not evidences of the updating of prophecies by the translators in any form. De Sousa gives more importance to the Hebrew text in front of the LXX translator and so, the ‘coherent indicators’ in the LXX text were made by the translator to represent the Hebrew text before him correctly. He is of the view that the variations between the LXX and MT arose because of a difficult Hebrew text before the LXX translator and does not refer to a rewriting of the oracle.

In the verse by verse analysis of the text, de Souza implies that the deviations of the Greek from the Hebrew are due to the translator’s misreading of his Vorlage, yet, his ‘ideological presuppositions’ helped him in making sense of those difficult readings. He states that the translator is commited to his Vorlage and is at the same time aware of his contextual setting. He is against any sort of intentional interpretation by the translator as van der Kooij and others suggest. For instance, while van der Kooij refers to the leaders of Jerusalem for the expression ‘with a strong hand’ and he alludes to Isa 1:23 as evidence, de Sousa points out that in the MT τῇ ἰσχυρᾷ χειρὶ simply represents כְּחֶזְקַ֣ת הַיָּ֑ד.

Even though Wagner builds on van der Kooij’s work of ‘contextual approach’ to the text, he is of the view that van der Kooij has been too narrow in his selection of texts to render them as fulfilled oracles. When the text is taken in the larger context of LXX Isaiah, Wagner says that the small passage loses its credibility to stand alone as fulfilled prophecy. While Wagner seems to be in favour of the contextual approach and does not argue from the viewpoint of the translator being faithful to the Hebrew text to explain the divergences, he also does not support the notion of free renderings by the translators in their work.

Wagner is of the view that Isaiah 8:11-16 has to be read within its wider context and it does not necessarily portray a specific situation of the translator. In fact, he says, the passage would fit well ‘in many of the various historical and cultural contexts in which Jewish communities found themselves in the centuries on either side of the turn of the era, for the issue of Jewish identity vis-à-vis law observance continued to be debated throughout this period (and beyond)’. Even though Wagner seeks to move beyond the ‘contextual approach’ of Van der Kooij in the translation of the LXX, he still emphasizes the wider context of the translator and his interpretative role in the process of translation.


Keeping in mind Ricoeur’s linguistic hospitality as we analyse this text, it is narrow to think of the text as referring only to an updated prophecy of the translator’s time as van der Kooij suggests. Troxel asserts that there is no interpretative act on the part of the translator and that there is no direct connection between the text and the political scenario of the translator’s time such as the placement of ‘Isaiah’s tyrants with Antiochus IV’. I concur with Wagner who states that the passage could very well fit into different Jewish contexts. The LXX translator, while keeping in mind the context of the Hebrew text surely reinterpreted the text to host both cultures. It is also worth noting that the LXX scholar who is translating the LXX Isaiah is also translating it with his own presuppositions and traditions. Therefore, there is so much discussion on Isaiah 8:11-16. The theology of the text is constructed through the presuppositions on the LXX and its intended meaning. While van der Kooij sees it as a fulfilment of prophecy for the translator’s time, Troxel is of the view that the LXX translator remained faithful to the source text. However, moving beyond this binary of translation as either faithfulness or contextual interpretation, it is helpful to look at the text as a piece of work on its own right. LXX Isaiah can be considered as an attempt to convey the message of the prophet Isaiah through both Jewish tradition and Greek education. The inter-mingling of both traditions has brought about the LXX Isaiah which was seen as a good translation in its own time and also by the New Testament writers. It is noteworthy that the LXX Isaiah seeks to follow closely the Hebraistic syntax structure in its work, but there is also the occasional addition of Greek syntax in the sentence structure (eg. v. 15), bringing in a novel translation, that made sense not only to its receivers then but to the host of traditions that have made use of the LXX as scripture in its own right. Bibliography

Aejmelaeus, Anneli. On the Trail of Septuagint Translators. Kampen: Kok Pharos, 1993.

Berman, Antoine. Toward a Translation Criticism: John Donne. Trans. and ed. F. Massardier-Kenney. Kent, OH: Kent State University Press, 2009.

Boyd-Taylor, Cameron. Reading Between the Lines: The Interlinear Paradigm for Septuagint Studies. Leuven: Peeters, 2011.

de Ward, Jan. “Translation Techniques used by the Greek Translators of Amos”, Biblica, Vol 59 (1979).

Ekblad Jr., Eugene Robert. Isaiah’s Servant Poems according to the Septuagint: An Exegetical and Theological Study. Leuven: Peeters, 1999.

Jobes, Karen H. and Moises Silva. Invitation to the Septuagint. Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Academic, 2000.

Marcos, Natalio Fernandez. The Septuagint in Context: Introduction to the Greek Version of the Bible. Leiden: Brill, 2000.

McLean, B. H. Biblical Interpretation and Philosophical Hermeneutics. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2012.

Munday, Jeremy. Introducing Translation Studies. Theories and Applications, 3rd edition. Abingdon: Routledge, 2012.

Ricoeur, Paul. Conflict of Interpretations. Ed. Don Ihde, trans. Willis Domingo et al. Evanston, IL: Northwestern University Press, 1974.

Ricoeur, Paul. Oneself as Another. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1992.

Ricoeur, Paul. On Translation. Abingdon: Routledge, 2006.

Ricoeur, Paul. From Text to Action: Essays in Hermeneutics, II. Tr. Kathleen Blamey and John B. Thompson. London: Continuum, 2008.

Stolze, Radegundis. “Hermeneutics and Translation”. Handbook of Translation Studies (Vol. 1). eds Y. Gambier & L. V. Doorslaer. Amsterdam: John Benjamins, 2010.

Tov, Emanuel. The Text-critical use of the Septuagint in Biblical Research. 2nd edn. Jerusalem: Simor, 1997.

Tov, Emanuel. Hebrew Bible, Greek Bible and Qumran: Texts and Studies in Ancient Judaism. Tubingen, Germany: Mohr Siebeck, 2008.

Toury, Gideon. Descriptive Translation Studies and Beyond. Amsterdam: John Benjamins, 1995.

Van der Kooij, Arie. “Isaiah in the Septuagint”. Writing and Reading the Scroll of Isaiah: Studies of an Interpretive Tradition. eds Craig C. Broyles and Craig A. Evans. Leiden: Brill, 1997.

Van der Louw, Theo A.W. Transformations in the Septuagint: Towards an Interaction of Septuagint Studies and Translation Studies. Leuven: Peeters, 2007.

Van Orman Quine, Willard. “Meaning and Translation”, in R. Brower (ed.) On Translation. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1959.

Venuti, Lawrence. The Translation Studies Reader. 3rd edition. Abingdon: Routledge, 2012.

Wagner, J. Ross. “Identifying ‘Updated’ Prophecies in Old Greek (OG) Isaiah: Isaiah 8:11-16 as a Test Case”. Journal for Biblical Literature 126, no. 2 (2007).

Freelance Writer

I’m a freelance writer with a bachelor’s degree in Journalism from Boston University. My work has been featured in publications like the L.A. Times, U.S. News and World Report, Farther Finance, Teen Vogue, Grammarly, The Startup, Mashable, Insider, Forbes, Writer (formerly Qordoba), MarketWatch, CNBC, and USA Today, among others.