Wednesday, November 23, 2016

Discovering the Septuagint: A Tool for the Student of the Greek language

Discovering the Septuagint: A Guided Reader. Edited by Karen H. Jobes. Grand Rapids, MI: Kregel Publications, 2016. 351 pp. $39.99. ISBN 978-0-8254-4342-8.

            Learning any language is difficult, even one’s own. So, learning Greek, specifically that Greek which was used in the first century of our era, can seem like a daunting task. Yet, learning this language is such a rewarding and important pursuit. Rewarding because by learning to read Greek, a whole world of literature is opened to the reader, including not only the New Testament manuscripts, but, with some differences, many of the Greek texts of the early church fathers, and the ancient Greek philosophers. What is more, one will also be able to read the ancient Greek translation of the Old Testament that is known as the Septuagint. The Septuagint was the version of the Old Testament that was used by many Jews in the time of Christ, and it became the “Old Testament” of the early church (being referred to by such great Christian thinkers as Justin Martyr and Tertullian). The most common practice for learning Greek in Seminaries is to introduce the student, bit by bit, to the Greek New Testament—frequently starting with the Gospel of John, or the Epistles that bear his name. Advanced courses in Greek may look at different, more difficult, books of the New Testament. Now the student of Greek can also interact with the Greek Old Testament.

Discovering the Septuagint introduces the intermediate Greek student to a number of important texts from the ancient Greek Old Testament. After a short explanation concerning the purpose and best use of the book, and a short introduction to the Septuagint, the student of the Greek language is introduced to many important Old Testament texts. The selections are taken from Genesis 1-3, Exodus 14-15, Exodus 20, the entire book of Ruth, the non-canonical sections of Esther, several Psalms (including Psalm 22), selections from Hosea, the entire book of Jonah, Malachi, and sections from Isaiah. Each of the major sections, which present various selections from different Old Testament books, are edited and introduced by different specialists. This means that the reader of this book is being taught how to read the Septuagint by those who have spent years studying the Septuagint. Each passage is given a verse-by-verse treatment, meaning that we first read a verse in Greek, followed by a detailed explanation of some of the more difficult or nuanced words. Each section concludes with a note about where the verses in that section might be quoted in the New Testament, and a full translation of all the verses looked at in that section.

This book is a welcome addition to the already enormous selection of Greek study materials. Students of Greek will find in this book an excellent introduction to the Greek of the Septuagint, and an excellent resource, not only for improving their ability to understand Greek, but, also, for improving their understanding of Old Testament exegesis. 

I received this book from Kregel publications, free of charge, so that I could write an unbiased review.