LXX Syntax of the Relative Pronoun

clayton stirling bartholomew c.s.bartholomew at worldnet.att.net
Wed Oct 14 13:28:15 EDT 1998

Carl W. Conrad wrote:
> At 1:04 PM -0500 10/13/98, clayton stirling bartholomew wrote:

> >James gives a little speech in Acts 15 where he quotes from Amos 9:12. There
> >are a number of problems with this passage and I will ignore all of them
> >except for a question about the LXX rendering of the relative pronoun:
> >
> >
> >
> >My question is very specific. Why does the LXX render the MT relative ASHER as
> >EF hOUS? Note that the preposition in  EF hOUS is somewhat redundant with EP
> >AUTOUS. The only question I have is why is the preposition used in EF hOUS
> >when the relative in the MT stands alone?
> >
> >I did a quick search in the LXX and found that this is quite common. See Gen
> >28:13 LXX where we have:
> >
> >hH GH EF hHS . . . EP AUTHS
> I recall coming over this same question years ago when I took just enough
> Hebrew to become dangerous. The verse wherein I first noticed this was:
> This represents MT (pardon my transliteration): ... PRI ASHER ZAR'O B'O
> The understanding of this that I came to was that the Hebrew relative
> pronoun was normally converted into the appropriate form of the Greek
> relative pronoun, with the right gender, number, and case--AND also the
> Hebrew preposition with pronominal suffix (here B'O) got translated
> literally into the Greek. The construction comes up, as you note, Clay,
> repeatedly, so that one may understand this as a distinct conversion
> strategy for relative clauses translated from the Hebrew Bible into the LXX.

Thank you Carl, your response and one from a helpful fellow off list have put
me on the right track here. I did some further research on this and found in
my library two works which mention this issue. There is a good discussion of
the issue in Conybeare/Stock, "A Grammar of Septuagint Greek" (pps. 65-67),
also H. B Swete, Intro. to the OT in Greek makes a short reference to it (p.

The pattern that raised my question is:

prep+relative . . . prep+pronoun

This pattern arises in a rather strange way. The Hebrew relative is
indeclinable. To provided the lacking information a pronoun (which is
declinable) is appended within the relative clause. The translators of the LXX
would regularly retain this pronoun even though it isn't required in Greek
because the relative itself can carry this information. 

Now in some cases the Hebrew relative clause would supply the pronoun as a
pronominal suffix to a preposition. In this case the LXX translator would
place the preposition before the relative pronoun to make it intelligible
Greek but would not omit the preposition+pronoun that came later out of a
reticence for tampering with the sacred Hebrew text.  So the preposition
before the relative in the LXX is a Greek rendering of the Hebrew preposition
with the pronominal suffix and the LXX prep+pronoun is superfluous baggage
left over from the Hebrew. 

It took me several days of mulling this over to sort it out, but I think I
have at least come close to a reasonable explanation. 

Clayton Stirling Bartholomew
Three Tree Point
P.O. Box 255 Seahurst WA 98062

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