By Adam Christian
Invitation to the Septuagint, Second Edition
by Karen H. Jobes and Moisés Silva
Grand Rapids: Baker Academic, 2015
$36.00. | 432 pp.
This review is of the second edition of Invitation to the Septuagint, by Karen H. Jobes and Moisés Silva. In the preface to the second edition, the authors indicate that the revised version addresses advances in more recent research, correction of inaccuracies, and clarification of ambiguous statements. While I have not read the first edition, and cannot offer a direct comparison, I found this edition to be insightful and well written.
Invitation to the Septuagint addresses several common problems among students of Biblical Greek. There are challenges and barriers that often keep students from engaging with the Greek translation of the Old Testament. Seminary students engage in the study of Greek and Hebrew for the purpose of reading the Bible in the language it was written in. With this in mind, it may seem counterintuitive to read the Old Testament in Greek, because this is as much a translation of the text as our English Bibles. There are also challenges in vocabulary, with the need to learn many words that are not found in the New Testament. Grammar and syntax can be challenging as well, with difficulties that arise from an earlier period of writing, or the nature of the Septuagint as a translation.
Writing to correct these issues, the book is what its name implies: an invitation for students to engage in reading and studying the Septuagint. The authors’ own words in the preface to the first edition are helpful in understanding the purpose, scope, and approach of the book. Regarding the book as a whole, it “is intended to be a relatively brief and inviting introduction for the student who has no prior knowledge of the Septuagint.” (p. xiii) The book is divided into three parts. In the first, an effort was made to “write . . . in a simple and user-friendly fashion, but without minimizing the problems and ambiguities inherent in the subject.” (p. xiv) The authors write that “in part 2, however . . . we seek to guide the reader through the thicket of the Septuagintal forest. The chapters in this section are intended for students who already have some knowledge of the biblical language and who wish to attain an intermediate level of the Greek Bible.” (p. xiv) Finally, “With the additional help of part 3, which reviews the state of scholarship on selected topics, a few readers may even decide that advanced study of the Septuagint is worth pursuing.” (p. xiv)
The first part is written to introduce the student to the history of the Septuagint, covering its origin and transmission, the development of the Septuagint in modern times, and understanding it as a translation. This section helps the reader to understand where the Septuagint came from, what its purpose was, and how it might be used. This is a good place to start, especially for a student who has had little previous interaction with the Septuagint. For those who have previous experience, this section will still be valuable as a review of this material.
The second part analyzes the role of the Septuagint in Biblical Studies. The authors cover a number of topics including, but not limited to, the language used in the Septuagint, textual criticism (of the Septuagint itself, as well as using the Septuagint in textual criticism of the Hebrew text), and the relationship of the Septuagint to the New Testament. In other words, part two addresses a number of the challenges that would keep a student from engaging in the study of the Septuagint.
The third part analyzes Septuagint studies, beginning with previous generations of Septuagint scholars, and then moving into current conversations and developments. As the authors state in the preface, this is a good jumping off point for students who want to engage in more advanced study of the Septuagint, introducing them to the current discussions.
There are also a several very helpful appendixes for those who want to engage in further reading and study. The first focuses on significant Septuagint research projects. The authors identify seven primary objectives of current Septuagint studies, and then give brief descriptions of sixteen different institutions or research projects. The next two are a bibliography of reference works, and a glossary of frequently used terms in Septuagint study. One appendix is dedicated to showing and explaining the differences in versification between the Septuagint and English versions. Finally, the authors provide an explanation of symbols and abbreviations used in the Göttingen Critical Apparatus.
This book will be useful for students at a variety of stages in their study of the Septuagint, ranging from those with little to no experience, to those wishing to engage in more advanced study. Some proficiency in Biblical Greek will be necessary, so this resource will not be beneficial for all readers. Additionally, it would be beneficial for the reader to possess a basic understanding of Biblical Hebrew as well.
Adam Christian is a graduate of Western Seminary M.A. (Biblical and Theological Studies), as well as a current Th.M. student and graduate fellow for Dr. Patrick Schreiner. He is also the registrar and Bible foundations instructor at North Portland Bible College. He attends and serves at Village Baptist Church with his wife Corinne and daughter Arianna.