Tuesday, January 14, 2014

How much we take for granted, the publishing process and the Septuagint

I remember when IBM Selectric typewriters were the latest thing. It was even possible to justify a line of typing with the latest model. I myself had learned to type in the 50s on a portable manual Underwood. The older model I had frequently jammed. The newer model let me type faster. I recall snopake and was even tempted to use it sometimes on the screen of my early portable computers to correct programming errors. Who could have imagined then the availability of information that we take for granted today.

At the library last week I picked up two books on the Septuagint, that is the Greek translation of the Old Testament from about 2300 years ago. One book is just an index of Greek words in the text. Today, an index is a given for any serious online data or any serious book that an author expects will be studied. An index is an inversion of the data in a text. In this case, I don't even have the text, just the index. (I also found one online somewhere, but no matter for this post.) The second book is called 'The Text of the Septuagint' but it isn't the text, rather notes about the text and the manuscripts. It is essentially a database, hand-written from the mid-1940s, with indexes, hand made in the early '70s by two dedicated typists.

The editor, D. W. Gooding, is preparing the manuscript after the death of the writer, Peter Walters. He tells us in the editor's preface: The work began as a thesis which was presented in 1945 to the University of Cambridge, England, for the degree of Doctor of Philosophy. It was entitled 'The Text of the Septuagint. Its Corruptions and their Emendation.' Part 1: I. Grammatical Corruptions. II. Semitisms, by Rev. Peter Katz (Fitzwilliam House).

There is enough to raise a few questions - who is Peter Katz? It seems Katz changed his name to Walters. Google books has this online. And it is also available in PDF - so there is a book I will return to the library. It is more easily searchable in PDF form.  Gooding writes of the physical process:
In 1962, then, I was entrusted by Mrs Walters with the task of pre­paring for publication the original thesis, together with all the additions and corrections that had been added since 1945. What I received was two typescript copies of the thesis, both of which had innumerable corrections, re-phrasings, and additions, entered on the reverse side of each page of typescript, mostly, but not always, with some indication as to where they should be entered in the text. The text itself had also been corrected and added to, sometimes more than once. In addition there was a large sheaf of papers containing additions to the main text, additional footnotes, additional excursuses, and additional footnotes to the excursuses. And finally there were numerous small slips of paper tucked into the thesis here and there, carrying additional information. ...
Do you recall when revisions were in little bubbles on a page or on other pages? What struck me next was this section on the beginning of control of the publication process which Gooding describes.
My method of procedure was as follows. I first xerographed the whole of the thesis (the expense of which process was borne by the Queen's University, Belfast, as was also the expense of typing all 620 pages of the final typescript). I then worked through the xerograph, adding in the appropriate places all the additional material prepared by Dr Walters.
Remember Xerography? When all copies were called Xerox copies.

Today, authors have to prepare their own typed manuscript, often with additional style and indexing impositions by the publisher. And in all this, the author is helped or hindered by the available software. Even 50 years ago, few people would have understood that word software.

The Septuagint is an ancient text of great importance in understanding both the Old and New Testaments. in 1945, Walters writes this in his introduction. (my emphasis in bold)
Among the remnants of the classical literatures, Greek or Roman, the Septuagint is the one comprehensive body of Greek writings that has not yet been thoroughly emended. To the Byzantine scholars it was a book belonging to the Church rather than to the vast heritage of literature to which they were accustomed to dedicating their scholarly and critical endeavours. Much of its wording was definitively fixed by liturgical usage and the settled musical habits of Church recitation. This tended to keep the Greek Bible out of the current of literary and scholarly endeavours and to isolate it from all other literature. The Western humanists felt the same. Their fancy led them along other paths. They wished to revive the vanished glories of the old empire on Italian soil, and Vergil was nearer to their hearts than Homer. They were romantics and suffered from an anti-clerical, if not anti-Christian, bias - and the Bible belonged to the Church. To them the Greek Bible was a barbarous piece of writing which did not yield any contribution to their classical ideals. It stood in the way like a stumbling-block between the bygone golden age and its revival upon which they concentrated. In particular the Greek Old Testament was a translation, and showed all too many traces of its barbaric original. Nothing in it responded to their cry ad fontes. Their fontes flowed from the Capitol, perhaps also from the Acropolis, but not from Zion or Alexandria.  
They were content, therefore, to render the 'classical' literature readable, advancing from cavalier treatment to scholarly achievements. This kind of humanism was not confined to Italy. It moved through the lands of Western civilization and persisted into the nineteenth century. As a result the Greek Old Testament up to our days shared the lot of the Hebrew OT and the NT; it was reproduced in virtually the same form of textus receptus, or almost a masorah
Even the NT took a very long time to evolve from this stage. There was no printed edition of the NT in the fifteenth century at all, and Erasmus' influential editio princeps of 1516 was of a kind which he him­self characterized as 'praecipitatum venus quam editum'. Only two centuries later did NT textual criticism begin in earnest with Bentley (1720) and Bengel (1734); and from them it was still a long way to Lachmann, Tischendorf, and Westcott and Hort. Now that both the textual evidence and the grammatical features of the text are being studiously followed up, it will be easily realized what enormous strides must be made in the investigation of the LXX in order to catch up.
In these days of Bibles online, the LXX has a motley online availability in the various databases. The Blue Letter Bible has it a verse at a time and allows some comparison with the Hebrew, but without concordance or indexing. Bible Gateway (#bgbg2) does not have the LXX as an available translation.

I am still searching for the best available information in a form that will allow me to see what is going on in the translator's mind. It is a pleasure to see here the NETS Bible, (The New English Translation of the Septuagint), where you can find the same passage, Isaiah 2:6. Notice that the Greek has third person in the first sentence "For he has abandoned his people, the house of David" where the Hebrew has second person. "For you have abandoned your people the house of Ya‘akov."

No xerography needed today - but the whole is still hard to see. I would like to see a Hebrew-English-Greek-English polyglot, phrase by phrase, not word by word, not interlinear, and with indexing on the Greek and Hebrew base word forms. [I figured out a plausible awkwardness on two screens- this site has a Greek-English side by side, and Mechon-Mamre has the Hebrew English. But clarity for exploring differences is somewhat obscured by the limited layout. Neither layout helps the eye.] An ultra-literal interlinear is sometimes useful to help in parsing e.g. here. But it needs clever formatting so that the eye can take it in effectively and Scripture4all does not have a treatment of the Septuagint. On the other hand, this analytical Septuagint is much explanation and little use of real-estate for reading (also lacks accents). Many such displays lack an easy index.

It is probably fair to point out that the online Bibles also take for granted that the reader is somehow looking first for salvation. Too true, we need salvation, but these sites are often dominated by a particular confessional stance which may or may not be helpful either to the reader, or to effective presentation of the Word of God. This last requirement is also a serious challenge. Many of these sites may think that the LXX is somehow not the Word of God but that the KJV or MT somehow is. These are very serious misconceptions. Sometimes to avoid what we take for granted, we must hold what we think we know at a distance. As someone once quipped, It's not what you know that hurts, it's what you think you know that ain't so.