"Good Greek" in the Septuagint

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Re: "Good Greek" in the Septuagint

Postby Stirling Bartholomew » May 16th, 2013, 3:33 pm

RandallButh wrote:[And the statement the "Exodus is natural, too" baffles me. It is translation Greek, even if different from the translator of Judges.


John W. Wevers[1]: "The most obvious characteristic of Exod [LXX] is that it is a translation document."

[1] Notes on the Greek Text of Exodus by John W. Wevers (1990, Paperback). John W. Wevers, page vii. | ISBN-10: 1555404545 | ISBN-13: 9781555404543
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Re: "Good Greek" in the Septuagint

Postby MAubrey » May 16th, 2013, 6:42 pm

RandallButh wrote:Have you considered the clausal KAI/DE ratio of Exodus? Natural Greek? How about the numbers of participles relative to main verbs, or the ratio of imperfect to aorist or per 1000 words? This is not "my assertion" but what Greek readers have observed and felt over the centuries (regulated for genre of course). Maybe you are already acquainted with Raymond Martin's work from the 60's-80's? He used a 17-feature grid to differentiate "'translation Greek" from "original Greek." That grid could be expanded to 50 criteria for more precision, but the result would be the same for Exodus. You claim that LXX Exodus (for the most part) has a "natural use of the verbal system ." It doesn't. If someone looks atomistically at an invidual verb and asks if it breaks the bounds of the Greek verb system, then one could claim it is "good." But when 50, or 100, or 1000 verbs are strung together, then the patterns in Exodus and other books of the LXX become "un-Greek." The same with prepositions and nouns. That Genesis and Exodus have patterns that move a little more in the direction of "good Greek" than Judges or Kingdoms does not make them "good Greek." Using my perspective, you may understand my bafflement.

Just to clarify, you're saying that T. V. Evan's Verbal Syntax in the Greek Pentateuch: Natural Greek Usage and Hebrew Interference is wrong? Or "atomistic"? Or simply overstated?
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Re: "Good Greek" in the Septuagint

Postby MAubrey » May 16th, 2013, 6:57 pm

As a follow up. Here are some examples of natural prosodic phrasing on the part of the Exodus translator:

(1) Τίς σε κατέστησεν ἄρχοντα καὶ δικαστὴν ἐφʼ ἡμῶν; (Ex 2:14)
(2) καὶ ποιήσεις μοι κατὰ πάντα, ὅσα ἐγώ σοι δεικνύω ἐν τῷ ὄρει (Ex 25:8 [9])
(3) Ἰδοὺ σύ μοι λέγεις Ἀνάγαγε τὸν λαὸν τοῦτον (Ex 33.12)
(4) καὶ ποιήσουσιν πάντα, ὅσα σοι συνέταξα (Ex. 31:6)

The Exodus translator is more likely to correctly follow the natural Greek prosodic ordering principles generally referred to as Wackernagel's Law than most other LXX translators in all clause types, except for content questions (example #1 not withstanding).

Beyond that, I should emphasize my original statement was intended to scalar in nature, rather than absolutist as I was interpreted (or so it appears). That was a failure of clarify on my part. As you yourself have already noted, Randall, the Pentateuch's Greek is better than Judges. And I would say Exodus is better than other portions of the Pentateuch.
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Re: "Good Greek" in the Septuagint

Postby RandallButh » May 17th, 2013, 2:11 am

Just to clarify, you're saying that T. V. Evan's Verbal Syntax in the Greek Pentateuch: Natural Greek Usage and Hebrew Interference is wrong? Or "atomistic"? Or simply overstated?


Yes, I might be saying that Evan is either "wrong, or atomistic, or simply overstated," if he claims that LXX Pentateuch is "natural Greek." Or possibly, Evan is being extrapolated beyond what he intended to claim. Since I have not read the book you might be able to tell us. For example, here is a snippet from a review where the reviewer summarizes Evan's claims "Many of the uses are expected and do reflect the bilingual interference of the Hebrew on the Greek, but the verbal syntax in the Greek Pentateuch is essentially idiomatic Greek (p. 136), and the general impression is that the “translators had a sound knowledge of the Hebrew verb” (p. 139)."
Let me unpack that, because there is a way to read that that is consistent to what I have seen in the LXX, and what a person sees in translation, in general, by mother-tongue translators. The 'low-level' material in a language will be handled correctly. So the morphology will be correct (according to its local dialect, of course), particle placement should be fairly correct when it is used, and at any one place the verb will be within the possibilities of the language. However, the source language (Hebrew for the LXX) will create a barrier and threshhold that may influence the translator and cause unnatural translation at 'high level' syntax-choice of discourse. This is exactly what we see (and what everyone sees who has ever stated that the LXX reads like a translation). It is transgressing Greek discourse conventions that makes the LXX inappropriate for studies of "natural Greek" style.

By the way, it would be nice if you could report on Evan's analysis of the imperfect, one of his foci. That is where dissonance is likely to occur because Hebrew is much more restricted than Greek (Hebrew 'underdifferentiates aspect' when viewed from languages with more aspectual flexibility). The other major area of dissonance will be in the choice between a finite verb and a participle in translation. Also, in some of the hortatory sections there may be an increased use of future for subjunctive or imperative.

However, the claim that the translators had a sound knowledge of the Hebrew verb also needs nuancing. For example, Genesis 28:10 καὶ ἐξἢλθεν ... καὶ ἐπορεύθη εἰς Χαρραν (aorist) is typical Hebrew narrative where incomplete travel/movement is not signalled. Greek, of course, with its sensitivity to aspect does not commonly or naturally do this. That is an example of a 'threshhold' phenomenon, especially as aorists are stacked up in overall frequency. More questionable for their Hebrew competence are cases like Gen 15:6 where ἐπιστευσεν (aorist) does not express the imperfectivity of והאמן and may be an example of reading the Hebrew as if it where colloquial/proto-Mishnaic Hebrew. The same thing can be noticed at Gn 37:2-3 ἐποίησεν ועשה (cf. 1Sam 2:19 where Hebrew signals multiplicity but Greek scrambles the aspects if from the same text). However, in general, one must admit that those on the LXX translation team had a high-level grasp of Hebrew and some were probably bi-mother-tongue with (mishnaic) Hebrew.

Finally, one side result of what I understand Evan's to have done at the 'low-level' syntactical area is to add another falsification to Porter's 'aspect-only' theory for Greek. Maybe you can comment on the level of validity or reliability of Evan's argument. Incidentally, Evan's study (2002?) probably undermines Furuli's idiosyncratic-aspect theory (2006?) of Hebrew [mentioned in another thread last week] as well, since the LXX regularly uses the aorist as a translation for Hebrew vayyiqtol (Furuli's imperfective-[sic]).
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Re: "Good Greek" in the Septuagint

Postby Ken M. Penner » May 17th, 2013, 8:37 am

I can see sense in the points made by both Mike and Randall.
The disagreement seems to be about what qualifies as "good Greek."
To use a New Testament case, I get the impression that in the third gospel, Randall would say only Luke 1:1-4 is "good Greek," but that Mike would say the whole gospel is "normal Greek."
The standard for Randall appears to be literary Greek, and the standard for Mike everyday Koine.
Am I reading you two aright?
I do want to be able to answer the original question, in which Jonathan was looking for parts of the LXX exhibiting little source-language interference.
Certainly, as Randall pointed out, those books that are not translations are the best (Wisdom, 2-4 Macc).
We have Greek compositions written in imitation of LXX style, or otherwise influenced by Hebrew or Aramaic.
We have translations that try to follow the Greek rules, but usually with little effort at imitating Greek literary style.
At the extreme, we find books that attempt formal equivalence, sometimes with disregard for Greek rules (Ecclesiastes, Psalms of Solomon).

My general impression is that the later books attempted formal equivalence more than the earlier books.
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Re: "Good Greek" in the Septuagint

Postby RandallButh » May 17th, 2013, 5:02 pm

Ken M. Penner wrote:I can see sense in the points made by both Mike and Randall.
The disagreement seems to be about what qualifies as "good Greek."
To use a New Testament case, I get the impression that in the third gospel, Randall would say only Luke 1:1-4 is "good Greek," but that Mike would say the whole gospel is "normal Greek."
The standard for Randall appears to be literary Greek, and the standard for Mike everyday Koine.
Am I reading you two aright?


I'm not sure if you're reading me yet. After Luke 1:1-4, I wouldn't call the gospel of Luke natural to Luke's own style (see Acts 16-28) or to normal Koine, whether colloquial or literary. It's a kind of schizophrenic Greek, not 'mother-tongue Greek,' whether colloquial or literary.
Note the following article: Randall Buth, "Evaluating Luke's Unnatural Greek: A Look at His Connectives,"
in Steve Runge, ed., Discourse Studies and Biblical Interpretation, a Festschrift in Honor of Stephen Levinsohn, Logos: 2011, pp. 335-370.
However, Luke is not translationese and it is not like the LXX. It appears to be an original Greek reworking of multiple Greek sources some of which were unnatural and Semitized to start with. Hmmm-- Luke himself hints at multiple sources.

On the idea of scalars or absolutes, I work with scalars. They cover wide areas. There are scalar differences within mother-tongue Greek, there are scalars within translation Greek and the two Greeks still have a gulf between them that partially overlaps in the middle where things like the Synoptic gospels land. See Raymond Martin where he has been able to quantify some of this to cover shades of "original Greek," shades of "translation Greek," and a grey area between the two. The LXX is translation Greek.
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Re: "Good Greek" in the Septuagint

Postby Stirling Bartholomew » May 17th, 2013, 5:24 pm

RandallButh wrote:The LXX is translation Greek.


Randall,

So you would agree with J. W. Wevers, Exodus would seem strange at several levels, syntax, discourse, to someone who had no previous contact with biblical greek or works by multilingual authors who had Hebrew roots.

A little off topic, how would one rank the Tragedians in terms of "natural" greek?

Aeschylus Agamemnon —> Sophocles Electra —> Euripides Iphigenia in Aulis.
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Re: "Good Greek" in the Septuagint

Postby RandallButh » May 18th, 2013, 1:47 am

Stirling Bartholomew wrote:
RandallButh wrote:The LXX is translation Greek.


Randall,

So you would agree with J. W. Wevers, Exodus would seem strange at several levels, syntax, discourse, to someone who had no previous contact with biblical greek or works by multilingual authors who had Hebrew roots.

A little off topic, how would one rank the Tragedians in terms of "natural" greek?

Aeschylus Agamemnon —> Sophocles Electra —> Euripides Iphigenia in Aulis.


Clay,
hearing people talk as if the LXX Pentateuch was 'natural' Greek is new to me. Wevers' comment is what most consider מובן מאליו self-evident, ברור כשמש clear as day.
On the other hand, if one defines "natural" Greek as the common product of Greek written by mother-tongue Greek speakers, then Aeschylus Sophocles and Euripides are all within "natural Greek." On the other hand again, the metrical constraints on the poetry mean that the plays do not represent exactly the way people talked, but the way that they talked when trying to sound witty.

Finally, being a translation doesn't stop the LXX from being an important witness to the Greek language, anymore than being a transltion prevented the KJV from being an important witness to 17th century English. However, were someone were to mimic the style of the KJV they would produce a 'book of mormon' rather than James Fenimore Cooper.
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Re: "Good Greek" in the Septuagint

Postby MAubrey » May 18th, 2013, 6:05 pm

RandallButh wrote:The 'low-level' material in a language will be handled correctly. So the morphology will be correct (according to its local dialect, of course), particle placement should be fairly correct when it is used, and at any one place the verb will be within the possibilities of the language. However, the source language (Hebrew for the LXX) will create a barrier and threshhold that may influence the translator and cause unnatural translation at 'high level' syntax-choice of discourse. This is exactly what we see (and what everyone sees who has ever stated that the LXX reads like a translation). It is transgressing Greek discourse conventions that makes the LXX inappropriate for studies of "natural Greek" style.

Yes. I agree. And this is the difference in what we're saying. You're talking about the frequency and style. I'm talking about grammaticality . I most certainly don't discount the foreigness of the discourse structure. All I'm saying is that:

(1) The syntax is for the most part grammatical...even if the frequency of particular constructions and their orientation in the discourse context is more foreign...which you might view as a rather myopic perspective. That's fine. I'm not a discourse linguist. I'm syntactician. I primarily interested in a low level structure.
(2) Prosodic phrasing in Exodus is more natural than in other parts of the LXX.

When I said Exodus was "natural," I was referring centrally to those two points and referring to those point in relation to the LXX translation Greek existing as a scale. It certainly isn't 4 Macc. which is moving into Atticizing Greek (and one might be inclined to call that "unnatural Greek" in that sense). The problem, it seems to me, isn't one of disagreement, but my own failure to make a single statement that look absolutive in nature...from which much more was being extrapolated than I would ever have intended. But that's my own fault and I take ownership of that fault, since my initial comment was little more than that: a comment. I should have said more and clarified what I meant. I apologize for all the confusion I've caused.
RandallButh wrote:By the way, it would be nice if you could report on Evan's analysis of the imperfect, one of his foci. That is where dissonance is likely to occur because Hebrew is much more restricted than Greek (Hebrew 'underdifferentiates aspect' when viewed from languages with more aspectual flexibility). The other major area of dissonance will be in the choice between a finite verb and a participle in translation. Also, in some of the hortatory sections there may be an increased use of future for subjunctive or imperative.

That's not really something I'm able to do. I've had to work through Evan's monograph a few times over the past four years as I've worked on various projects, but I do not own it and don't the time to make a trip to the university library in the foreseeable future. But as far as I remember, the imperfect is not one of his foci. His primary interest for tense-aspect forms is the perfect, and to a lesser extent the future.
RandallButh wrote:Finally, one side result of what I understand Evan's to have done at the 'low-level' syntactical area is to add another falsification to Porter's 'aspect-only' theory for Greek. Maybe you can comment on the level of validity or reliability of Evan's argument. Incidentally, Evan's study (2002?) probably undermines Furuli's idiosyncratic-aspect theory (2006?) of Hebrew [mentioned in another thread last week] as well, since the LXX regularly uses the aorist as a translation for Hebrew vayyiqtol (Furuli's imperfective-[sic]).

I cannot comment on the Hebrew issue, since I'm not familiar with Furuli's theory, but I can comment on Evans. He's critique of Porter central focuses on the nature of the ε- prefix as a past tense marker. My inclination would be to say that his approach is a good start on that front, but still leaves a few gaps--but that might merely be a result of the limited space he devotes to the subject.
RandallButh wrote:
Ken M. Penner wrote:I can see sense in the points made by both Mike and Randall.
The disagreement seems to be about what qualifies as "good Greek."
To use a New Testament case, I get the impression that in the third gospel, Randall would say only Luke 1:1-4 is "good Greek," but that Mike would say the whole gospel is "normal Greek."
The standard for Randall appears to be literary Greek, and the standard for Mike everyday Koine.
Am I reading you two aright?


I'm not sure if you're reading me yet. After Luke 1:1-4, I wouldn't call the gospel of Luke natural to Luke's own style (see Acts 16-28) or to normal Koine, whether colloquial or literary. It's a kind of schizophrenic Greek, not 'mother-tongue Greek,' whether colloquial or literary.
Note the following article: Randall Buth, "Evaluating Luke's Unnatural Greek: A Look at His Connectives,"
in Steve Runge, ed., Discourse Studies and Biblical Interpretation, a Festschrift in Honor of Stephen Levinsohn, Logos: 2011, pp. 335-370.
However, Luke is not translationese and it is not like the LXX. It appears to be an original Greek reworking of multiple Greek sources some of which were unnatural and Semitized to start with. Hmmm-- Luke himself hints at multiple sources.
On the idea of scalars or absolutes, I work with scalars. They cover wide areas. There are scalar differences within mother-tongue Greek, there are scalars within translation Greek and the two Greeks still have a gulf between them that partially overlaps in the middle where things like the Synoptic gospels land. See Raymond Martin where he has been able to quantify some of this to cover shades of "original Greek," shades of "translation Greek," and a grey area between the two. The LXX is translation Greek.

And I was referring to scales within translation. As for Raymond Martin. I haven't read his work. It's not accessible to me. My only familiarity with it has been indirect via criticisms of his ideas in Karen Jobe's dissertation on the alpha text of Esther. I cannot say for certain without directly looking at Martin's work, but the sense that I got from Jobes wasn't entirely positive. You might be interested in her revision of his framework...if you can get your hands on it.

RandallButh wrote:
Stirling Bartholomew wrote:
RandallButh wrote:The LXX is translation Greek.


Randall,

So you would agree with J. W. Wevers, Exodus would seem strange at several levels, syntax, discourse, to someone who had no previous contact with biblical greek or works by multilingual authors who had Hebrew roots.

A little off topic, how would one rank the Tragedians in terms of "natural" greek?

Aeschylus Agamemnon —> Sophocles Electra —> Euripides Iphigenia in Aulis.


Clay,
hearing people talk as if the LXX Pentateuch was 'natural' Greek is new to me. Wevers' comment is what most consider מובן מאליו self-evident, ברור כשמש clear as day.
On the other hand, if one defines "natural" Greek as the common product of Greek written by mother-tongue Greek speakers, then Aeschylus Sophocles and Euripides are all within "natural Greek." On the other hand again, the metrical constraints on the poetry mean that the plays do not represent exactly the way people talked, but the way that they talked when trying to sound witty.

Finally, being a translation doesn't stop the LXX from being an important witness to the Greek language, anymore than being a transltion prevented the KJV from being an important witness to 17th century English. However, were someone were to mimic the style of the KJV they would produce a 'book of mormon' rather than James Fenimore Cooper.

Since all of this (still) goes back to me, I am also going to comment:

It is self-evident. It is so self-evident that its banal. That particular quote could be applied to just about any translated book. Nevertheless, it is also commonly agreed that Genesis and Exodus are freer translations than the rest of the LXX (cf. Aejmelaeus on participles, Sollamo on pronouns, Jobes-Silva's Invitation to the Septuagint, Tjen on conditional constructions...to name a few). So again, all I meant was that Exodus is more natural than most other portions of the LXX. I never intended it as a comparison with Josephus or Epictetus or Polybius or Strabo...
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Re: "Good Greek" in the Septuagint

Postby RandallButh » May 19th, 2013, 4:53 am

MAubrey wrote:...
Yes. I agree. And this is the difference in what we're saying. You're talking about the frequency and style. I'm talking about grammaticality . I most certainly don't discount the foreigness of the discourse structure.


I'm glad that we are agreed. Yes, I was talking about 'frequency and style' in a thread that was asking about a model for good Greek. On the otherhand, I would include virtually the whole LXX and Old Greek as within "grammaticality." I would not distinuish Exodus as significally "grammatical" and most or any of the Old Greek as "ungrammatical." A translator who controls a language as a mother-tongue rarely produces something that is ungrammatical within low-level syntax. It happens, but I would be hardpressed to find things where I could call 1 Samuel or Zechariah "ungrammatical" in low-level details over against the Pentateuch.

I cannot say for certain without directly looking at Martin's work, but the sense that I got from Jobes wasn't entirely positive. You might be interested in her revision of his framework...if you can get your hands on it.


Thank you. I am familiar both with Karen's work as well as reviews of Martin over the past four decades. Bascially, while reviewers laud the general approach of Martin and appreciate its application within limitations, there are two weaknesses that are recognized: A.- 9 of the 17 criteria that Martin uses are related to ratios pegged to Greek ἐν 'in'. In practice that means that Martin's 17 criteria are really more like 10, 11, or 12 criteria. B.- Martin could refine his mthodology by expanding the criteria to produce a finer-meshed grid. I've got my own private list of 50 potential criteria, tripling Martin. Unfortunately, I don't know when I will have the time or energy to work those out for potential publication since they will take hundreds of hours of careful bean-counting (if not thousands, since many are not easily reducible to computer searches). Meanwhile, Martin's work is already useful for recognizing the broadstrokes.

Clay,
hearing people talk as if the LXX Pentateuch was 'natural' Greek is new to me. Wevers' comment is what most consider מובן מאליו self-evident, ברור כשמש clear as day.
....

... [apologies if I snipped something necessary-RB]

It is self-evident. It is so self-evident that its banal. That particular quote could be applied to just about any translated book. Nevertheless, it is also commonly agreed that Genesis and Exodus are freer translations than the rest of the LXX (cf. Aejmelaeus on participles, Sollamo on pronouns, Jobes-Silva's Invitation to the Septuagint, Tjen on conditional constructions...to name a few). So again, all I meant was that Exodus is more natural than most other portions of the LXX. I never intended it as a comparison with Josephus or Epictetus or Polybius or Strabo...


Thank you, that is clearer and mostly agreeable. Howver, I wouldn't apply that statement "to just about any translated book." Good, literary translations of books today read naturally in the target langauge (if they want to sell copy), like Josephus' War was natural in its day, if that really was a translation. Also, one may add that transgressed banality may naturally lead to bafflement. ["4 Maccabees in native Greek on par with (if not beyond) Hebrews in terms of style. Also, Exodus is quite natural, too." -Your clarification above ("When I said Exodus was 'natural,'") is acceptable. We appear to agree that Exodus reads like a translation, though it (and I would add Genesis) have added some natural Greek features more generously than some books like Joshua-Kingdoms. To use metaphors, Genesis and Exodus have rounded the edges of their otherwise fairly formal/stiff/literalistic translation.]
I suspect that we also agree that Tobit, Judith, 1 Macabees, and some others in the non-Tanak category should not be used as models of 'good Greek style', whether attic or koine. They are all grammatical, of course.
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