[B-Greek] Looking for a quote

Albert & Julia Haig albert_and_julia at yahoo.com.au
Fri Mar 31 06:47:54 EST 2006

Thanks for your responses! I think we are mostly in agreement, though with me perhaps leaning more towards an emphasis on the "Greekness" of the texts.

> [BJW III] It appears that the authors of the NT viewed that LXX as an authoritative text on the same level that we would say the KJV, NASB, NIV, RSV, NRSV, etc. That does not mean that they viewed it as inspired by God.

This seems to me eminently reasonable if we are speaking about Greek-speaking Christians or Hellenistic Jews. It is obvious why these people would tend to give the LXX a special status, just as the Western Church gave the Latin Vulgate special status and some modern fundamentalists give the King James Version special status. But the argument becomes harder to sustain, I think, when applied to Palestinian Jews and native Hebrew/Aramaic speakers. Why would they have a high view of the LXX? If they knew Greek at all, they would be nowhere near as fluent in it as their native tongue. The level of familiarity amongst Palestinian Jews with the LXX is an interesting question, but it's kind of hard to believe they would rely on it against the Hebrew. This is supported by the fact that as soon as Greek-speaking Christians began to use these arguments against Palestinian Jews, these Jews immediately responded by complaining "but that's not how the Hebrew reads!". If they held the LXX
 in high regard, surely they would have responded by saying, "well, that's a good point, since the LXX supports your contention". One might argue that they rejected the LXX only when Christians started using it, and this may be true. But that's unlikely to show that they had previously accepted the LXX readings as having some special status. More likely, they just weren't very bothered by the deficiencies in the LXX until they began to matter because Christians were exploiting them against them. Once this happened, the Jews did start to protest about the LXX.

> [BJW III] All one has to do is look at the quotes found in Hebrews which all come from the LXX.

And this illustrates the point perfectly. The writer of Hebrews was a Hellenistic Jew and almost certainly did not know a word of Hebrew or Aramaic. So of course he regards the LXX in high regard. But, if the Gospels are given their traditional authors, then three out of the four (Matthew, Mark and John) are alleged to be written by Palestinian Jews, native Hebrew/Aramaic speakers. Hence the problem.

> [CH] What makes you think, for instance, that PARQENOS in Judeo-Greek can't be read for 'almah instead of betulah?  It's been a while since I looked at that but I seem to recall finding PARQENOS, whatever fathers and others tried to do (which therefore plays into the modern usage in Greece), can simply mean "young woman" about as often as it means specifically "virgin".

For the sake of the argument, let's suppose that PARQENOS doesn't have to mean virgin. There still can be little doubt that in Matthew 1:23, that it does mean specifically virgin. This is because of the context. Verse 18 is at pains to point out to us that Mary became pregnant by means of the Holy Spirit before she had sexual relations with her husband, and in verse 20 an angel informs Joseph not to put Mary away because she is pregnant from the Holy Spirit i.e. she hasn't had sex with someone else. Then in verse 23 this is presented as a fulfilment of the prophecy. So whatever the semantic range of PARQENOS in general, in this case it is interpreted by the author of Matthew to mean "virgin".

> [CH] I would question whether they viewed the LXX tradition merely as a translation as opposed to an interpretive tradition, even a commentary or a text in its own right.

This is similar to one of the points made by Bryant Williams above. It could well be true for Greek-speaking Jews. I think it's unlikely for Palestinian Jews. These particular readings in the LXX are not supported in commentary in extant Targumim, Mishnayot, and other Jewish Aramaic texts from the period. This seems very odd if the LXX represented an interpretive tradition that had currency amongst Palestinian Jews. Surely it's more likely these are translational errors in the LXX (since apart from the Pentateuch, the rest of the LXX can be rather sloppy), which have been unwittingly followed by Greek-speaking Christians? Probably Palestinian Jews were just blissfully unaware of these readings, until Christians started using them in an apologetic context.

> [CH] There is the matter of pesher to consider in addition.  Can we really say that Jesus, James, Jude, and the tannaim always used texts in the literal, linear, "corresponding" way?

No, of course not. But what are the chances of Jesus, James and Jude coming up with exactly the same non-literal, non-linear, interpretation as the LXX, completely independently of it? If it only happened once, I could maybe believe it. But three times? The LXX must have been involved.

> [CH] One cannot credibly say the LXX translators didn't know their Hebrew and Aramaic, and yet their renderings easily show a technical way of using some words (and these shades are some of the distinctions between Judeo-Greek and the gentile variety),

As I mentioned, it's generally accepted that outside of the Pentateuch, and especially in the Prophets, the LXX is pretty sloppy.

> [CH] Therefore, I am not convinced your structure as presented on the use of Greek hangs together to cohesively demonstrate your idea that these authors didn't know their Hebrew.

It depends what you mean by "cohesively demonstrate". I don't think these arguments show with high probability that they didn't know Hebrew or Aramaic. But arguments in this field seldom show anything with high probability. I think they just show that, on the balance of probabilities, these examples show that the sources of these particular segments of the Gospels didn't know Hebrew or Aramaic and relied on the LXX instead. That's a somewhat subjective judgment, obviously, but I think it stands. It's certainly the most obvious explanation for these examples.

> [RB] I think that it shows that the gospels were written in Greek. Ignorance of other languages is difficult to prove without knowing the working methodology of the author. When midrash ("poetic exegesis" in lieu of a long definnition) is mixed in, then knowledge or ignorance of other meanings in a source may not be recoverable from that data alone.

This is similar to points made above, but there is one more thing that should be emphasized. This objection has considerable validity when applied to passages in which the narrator presents some event as being a fulfilment of prophecy. But in two of the examples I gave, John 1:23 and Matthew 21:16, the narrative alleges that one of the actual characters in the story made the claim of fulfiled prophecy. In John 1:23 we are told that John the Baptist applied Isaiah 40:3 to himself, in response to a question about who he was. In Matthew 21:16, Jesus applies Psalm 8:2/3 to the children's praises. So the working methodology of the author cannot explain these examples, which are presented as quotations of John the Baptist and Jesus (unless, of course, the author was simply making these stories up, and attributing his own working methodology to John and Jesus). We have to ask what was the working methodology of John the Baptist and Jesus, not the Gospel authors. And then the
 involvement of the LXX becomes much more difficult to explain.

> [RB] One must also ask, could the writer of Greek Matthew have been a mother-tongue Greek writer? [Most probably not.] Mark? [Most probably not.]

This is a very important point, and shows that my examples are only one side of the story. Matthew, especially, and also Mark, provide numerous examples of Aramaicisms and other evidence that substantial portions were not written by native Greek speakers. But, rather than brush aside either set of evidence, why not develop a hypothesis that explains both sets of data? We are reasonably sure that "Matthew" drew on Mark and Q (and there may have been multiple Qs), and perhaps other documents as well. Perhaps the final redactor was a mother-tongue Greek writer who primarily used source documents written by non-Greek mother-tongue writers. Perhaps the final redactor was a native Greek speaker who rather literally translated from Aramaic originals in some cases (which would also explain the presence of Aramaicisms). The point is that the instances I pointed to are difficult to explain by the simple explanation of one non-Greek mother-tongue author.

> [RB] But the nature of John's sermonizing in Greek at the end of the first century has not been factored in. Most would see John's pictures as a 'pastiche', that is composite images that tell the whole story without necessary reflecting individual scenes as they happened.

If by this means you are willing to concede that John the Baptist himself did not actually say the words recorded, then I agree with you completely that is an obvious explanation.

> [RB] You've just answered why the gospel writer could include it.

Yes, it's possible. This amounts to a somewhat similar view to my multiple sources perspective; the gospel writer drew on an established Christian interpretation. But it is still hard to explain the two instances noted above by these means, since if the gospel author knew Hebrew, wouldn't he balk at putting the words of the LXX into the mouths of John the Baptist and Jesus, when he knew the Hebrew didn't support the meaning?

> [RB] Mark and Luke both quote a Shma with 4 items. This is not the Hebrew Bible nor LXX, but in my view reflects misdrashic discussions current at the time.

But there's an easier explanation: in Hebrew, and in Aramaic (at least before the  time the Peshitta was written), there was no distinct word for "mind". Hebrews thought in their hearts, not in their minds. I think Mark and Luke were worried about the possible confusion that might arise if their gospels were read by a native Greek-speaker. In Hebrew and Aramaic, the word for "heart" (lev) unambiguously included the mind, but the Greek, KARDIA, is less clearly inclusive of the mind. So a literal translation (heart, soul, and strength) might not convey to a Greek speaker emphatically that the Lord required people to love him with their minds as well. So Mark and Luke decided to make this explicit - they did a "dynamic equivalency" translation.

> [RB] Ps 8 has several delightful features (curiousities in the Hebrew) that would have been a magnet for any ancient expounding this text midrashically.

Maybe, but why would this midrashic interpretation be preserved only in the LXX, yet apparently it was well enough known in 1st century Palestine that Jesus could employ it with effect against Pharisees?

> [RB] Again, in the first century world, we can't know that. Matthew certainly used the LXX in writing his Greek gospel. But ignorant of Hebrew? I would say that he ignored the pshat, not that he was ignorant of it.

As noted above, I don't think that the authors of the source materials used by "Matthew" could have been ignorant of the Hebrew, only that its final redactor might have been. But again, its not possible to prove conclusively that you're wrong. It's just the cumulative effect of these examples for me tends to suggest it on the balance of probabilities.

Thank you all very much for your valuable responses, and I'm sorry for such a long post in response.

All the best,

Dr Albert Haig.

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