[B-Greek] Psalms and Greek poetry
albert.pietersma at sympatico.ca
Fri Feb 11 14:11:08 EST 2005
The issue you raise has a bit of a history and continues to be
controversial, though it is safe to say that most Septuagint scholars
do not believe that your question can be answered in the affirmative.
Of older literature there are e.g. E. Bouvy Poetes et melodes. Etudes
sur les origines du rythme tonique dans l'hymnopgraphie de l'Eglise
Grecque (1886) and J. Irigoin "La composition rythmique des cantiques
de Luc, " RB 98 (1991 5-50.
In the first place, one needs to ask what is meant by "Greek Poetry".
In broad strokes, does one mean the poetry of classical Greece, i.e.
regular alternation of long and short syllables, which sets the metre,
rhythm being determined by the rise and fall of a pitch accent etc.?
or does one mean the so-called rhythmic poetry of the Byzantine period
onwards, in which, as in English poetry, the rhythm is determined by
the sequence of stressed syllables? Let's just label them C(lassical)
in distinction from B(yzantine).
Though a few metric fragments have been identified in 3 Maccabees and
therefore are thought to hale from a work of Greek poetry, a case for C
in the Septuagint has not been made. A case for B has recently been
re-made by a young Russian scholar Andre Desnitsky in his PhD
dissertation. To date it remains unpublished though he has published
some articles in Russian and is working on an expanded English version
of his dissertation, which I have seen in draft.
From my perspective the central issue continues to be whether
Septuagint translators can be said DELIBERATELY TO HAVE CREATED the
antecedents of Greek rhythmic poetry or whether, in its reception
history, the LXX (notably the Psalms) EXERTED AN INFLUENCE ON the
evolvement of Greek rhythmic poetry. For the former I see no credible
evidence within the LXX. In fact, I would argue that the
textual-linguistic make-up of most of the LXX makes such highly
improbable even a priori. The latter scenario is certainly possible
though by no means a necessary explanation for the development from
Classical to Byzantine poetry.
Hope that helps a bit.
On Feb 11, 2005, at 6:57 AM, Trevor Peterson wrote:
> I'm interested in whether the Greek translations of psalms
> exhibit poetic features. I realize they may incidentally
> record Hebrew poetic features, but was there any attempt on
> the part of the translators to render the psalms as good,
> Greek poetry? If someone could point to some features and
> examples, or perhaps better, reference any good studies that
> have been done on the topic, I'd appreciate it. I'd never
> really thought about looking for this sort of thing, but it
> occurred to me while translating a psalm from Greek that
> it's probably a relevant issue.
> Trevor Peterson
> B-Greek home page: http://metalab.unc.edu/bgreek
> B-Greek mailing list
> B-Greek at lists.ibiblio.org
Professor of Septuagint and Hellenistic Greek
Near & Middle Eastern Civilizations
University of Toronto
Home: 21 Cross Street,
Weston ON Canada M9N 2B8
Email: albert.pietersma at sympatico.ca
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