Lamech's number in the MT and the LXX (Gen 4:24)

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Brian Gould
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Joined: May 26th, 2019, 6:30 am

Lamech's number in the MT and the LXX (Gen 4:24)

Post by Brian Gould » July 20th, 2019, 5:15 pm

“Seventy-seven” in Hebrew, “but “seventy times seven” in Greek:

כִּ֥י שִׁבְעָתַ֖יִם יֻקַּם־ קָ֑יִן וְלֶ֖מֶךְ שִׁבְעִ֥ים וְשִׁבְעָֽה׃

ὅτι ἑπτάκις ἐκδεδίκηται ἐκ Καιν ἐκ δὲ Λαμεχ ἑβδομηκοντάκις ἑπτά

Is it known what the Seventy had in mind when they made the change? Can it have been simply to make Lamech’s threat sound more expressive or more colorful? Present-day translators are evidently attaching some importance to this, since Jesus’ reply to Peter’s question about forgiveness in Matt 18:22, traditionally translated directly from the Greek, is now often “corrected” to match Lamech’s words in the MT.
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Tony Pope
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Re: Lamech's number in the MT and the LXX (Gen 4:24)

Post by Tony Pope » July 23rd, 2019, 4:30 pm

This is not necessarily as simple as it may look from the perspective of a speaker of English. See previous discussion at https://lists.ibiblio.org/pipermail/b-g ... 51997.html and the three following messages in the thread, and then further remarks from Dr Pietersma at https://lists.ibiblio.org/pipermail/b-g ... 52176.html.
Also an earlier article by Iver Larsen in Bible Translator at http://www.ubs-translations.org/tbt/199 ... tml?seq=44
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Brian Gould
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Re: Lamech's number in the MT and the LXX (Gen 4:24)

Post by Brian Gould » July 23rd, 2019, 9:28 pm

Thank you, Tony, for taking the trouble to give such a fully documented answer to my question. Iver Larsen’s long article, in particular, makes a compelling case that “seventy-seven times,” rather than “seventy times seven times,” is more likely to be the correct translation of ἑβδομηκοντάκις ἑπτά in Gen. 4:24, which would mean that the KJV and the Douay Rheims alike may well have mistranslated Lamech’s angry words.

On p. 443 Larsen writes:

There are several examples of the suffix –kis attached to a single word, but there is apparently only one other example of the suffix –kis attached to a compound number in the whole Bible. (I do not have resources available to me to search in non-Biblical Greek texts.)

In Alexandria, on the other hand, the Seventy translators would have had an abundance of non-Biblical Greek texts at their disposal, including the works of mathematicians who no doubt made frequent use of the suffix –kis attached to numbers of all kinds. The Seventy were skilled professional translators who would have been used to seeking the guidance of specialists and looking things up in books when they needed to. They wouldn’t just guess at the meaning of an unfamiliar expression and leave it at that. I think Larsen’s conclusion must be the right one.
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