Tuesday, November 8, 2016

The Septuagint: A tool for students of New Testament Greek

I’ve written before (here and here) that 2016 is my year for working on my biblical Greek and Hebrew. As the year draws to a close, I have to admit that I haven’t been as consistent as I wanted to be at the start of the year, but I have made some great gains. I’ve been most surprised by how much I’ve retained even without having gone over vocabulary lists or parsing out words.

I recently had the opportunity to secure a review copy of Discovering the Septuagint: A Guided Reader, edited by Karen Jobes, professor at Wheaton and author of a number of highly acclaimed commentaries, including one on Esther in the NIV Application Commentary series.

This volume, as the name implies, introduces Greek students to the Greek text of the Septuagint. Jobes introduces the work and highlights the background and significance of the Septuagint for understanding the New Testament and the world in which it was written. What follows are 10 chapters from 9 different Old Testament books, including passages not considered part of the canon of Scripture like Psalm 151 and additions to the book of Esther. I found these passages fun to work through simply because I couldn’t rely on my familiarity with the English versions to help me out. Each chapter begins with a brief introduction about the Greek text of the book, pointing out differences and similarities to the Hebrew (Masoretic) text. Then follows a passage from the book (some have another introduction, like the non-canonical Psalm 151) broken up verse by verse with notes on vocabulary words and phrases in the text. Each section then ends with an English translation.

My early New Testament Greek classes had me work through 1 John and other passages to help me learn the language. Working through the Septuagint only further cements these lessons. Because the language of the Septuagint is a little archaic compared to the Koine period and it has significantly more vocabulary, it makes for a great next step in language learning. Words that don’t appear frequently in the New Testament can be studied in different contexts. Parsing verbs used in ways different than you’re used to forces you to think through it more.

I would love to be able to take a class that uses Discovering the Septuagint because the book was intended to be used as a textbook. However, it’s still a useful tool for improving your grasp of biblical Greek, and if you’re able to do your own independent study, I’d recommend checking it out.

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