Interpretive Spins in the Ψαλμοὶ: the first twists
This post just may continue a series (on how the translators of the Hebrew Bible into Hellene, into what is called the Septuagint now, used literary sparks and interpretive spins on some rare occasions in the Psalms). Unfortunately, I may not be able to interact much in comments following for some time, even though it would be wonderful if you and others wanted to so talk. So what about Psalm 1? What about what the Greek translation in Alexandria, Egypt by the Jewish community there added? What about how they added meanings? Were these Hebrew ones and perhaps politically motivated Egyptian ones and rhetorically savvy Greek ones?
Today, Brian LePort posted “Psalm 1: comments and grammar chart – Psalm 1 introduces the Psalter as Torah. We are to read and meditate upon the Psalms.” He gives his chart comparing the Hebrew and the Greek here. And he brings the whole thing forward to Christendom, saying:
The Septuagint has an interesting statement in v. 5a that makes me curious to how the early Christians would have read it. It says,οὐκ ἀναστήσονται ἀσεβεῖς ἐν κρίσει. This can be translated, “…the wicked will not arise in the judgement.” Interestingly enough ἀναστήσονται (ἀνίστημι) is the word uses for resurrection.
That took me back to a post by Suzanne McCarthy, one of my BLT co-bloggers, who (at another blog some time ago) said this:
We need to see that the Greek [Psalm 1] adds somewhat to the Hebrew in the preceding line, the wicked are “like dust that the wind flings from the face of the earth” and then these wicked people will not rise again. Whether the translator meant to communicate the meaning of “resurrect” is not something we can be sure of. Possibly not. But we do know that there was a growing belief in a resurrection at this time and anastasis was the word used to communicate this. So, later readers would see “resurrection” … in this text….
Suzanne is right that we cannot be sure of whether the Hellene translator(s) intended readers to read “resurrect” into this text. Brian is correct that reading “resurrect” into the Greek today is something that Christians, even early ones, might do.
Nonetheless, given how Brian is noticing the emphasis on Torah (and implicitly on HaShem), we might suspect other things. Genesis 9:9 is one of the first places in Torah where the LXX translators decided to use the Greek word that can also mean resurrection. In Hebrew, it goes like this:
ואני הנני מקים את־בריתי אתכם ואת־זרעכם אחריכם
In the Greek translation, that is this:
ἐγὼ ἰδοὺ ἀνίστημι τὴν διαθήκην μου ὑμῖν καὶ τῷ σπέρματι ὑμῶν μεθ᾽ ὑμᾶς
The added idea, if any, is “to stand right up (again)” the covenant between Noah and the LORD. In the RSV, for a quick English translation of the Hebrew Genesis 9:9, this goes, “Behold, I establish my covenant with you and your descendants after you.”
Why this early Torah translation is so significant, to me anyways, is that to the first Psalm it adds the bit that the LXX translators decide to insert in that Psalm (with no Hebrew correspondent at all in this initial Psalm).
The LXX translators add:
ἀπὸ προσώπου τῆς γῆς
Suzanne has translated this into English as:
from the face of the earth
If we read the LXX in Greek, that is, if we are reading “Genesis” in the “Rule” or “Law,” then we find something interesting. In the story of Noah, this Greek prepositional phrase appears thrice. It’s in Genesis 6:7 and Genesis 7:4 and Genesis 8:9. In the RSV, which I have handy here, that goes in English like this respectively:
So the LORD said, “I will blot out man whom I have created from the face of the ground, man and beast and creeping things and birds of the air, for I am sorry that I have made them.”
“For in seven days I will send rain upon the earth forty days and forty nights; and every living thing that I have made I will blot out from the face of the ground.”
Then he sent forth a dove from him, to see if the waters had subsided from the face of the ground;
In each instance, the Greek translation for the Hebrew is ἀπὸ προσώπου τῆς γῆς (which is the Hebrew the RSV English renders as “from the face of the ground“). Then, in Genesis, comes God’s establishing of the covenant with Noah after the flood: ἀνίστημι τὴν διαθήκην μου ὑμῖν
The Greek Psalm adds not only the idea of resurrection, or at least of “standing up right” a covenant. But it also adds this key Genesis phrase, tying the first Greek Psalm back to this horrific act of God on the face of the earth, leading to a new life, a new covenant. The Greek adds a spin, doesn’t it? It may be more Hebraic than we first think? It may be grounds for early or late Christian readings. Your thoughts?