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Australian Biblical Review


ISSN 0045-0308

BOOK REVIEW  Published in Volume 61, 2013

FRANCIS DALRYMPLE-HAMILTON, Breaking through the Massoretic Barrier: A Re-Consideration of the Old Greek Text of Job 24:13–20; 26:4–14; 28:13–22 and 30:25–31:8 (Edinburgh: The Edina Press, 2013).
Pp. 228. Hardback.

The brevity of this work makes its title seem an ambitious claim: that the issue of the Hebrew Vorlage of the Old Greek can be examined in so brief a presentation.

The author opens by considering ways in which discoveries in Qumran of Greek and Hebrew scrolls of the books of Samuel and of Jeremiah have allowed a clearer grasp of translational aspects of these works. This allows assurance about the Hebrew Vorlage in each of these two cases. The fragments of the book of Job in Hebrew and in Greek discovered at Qumran (11), are insufficient to contribute to the purpose of the book. However, the writer has chosen to consider various theories about briefer and lengthier Greek versions, and to present a closely argued exposition of his views.

I brought to the writing of this review a limited awareness of the forms of the Septuagint. Reading the work instils respect for the work of scholars who not only consider the range of variant versions of the Greek, but also achieve a sufficiently coherent grasp to develop theories about the approach of the translators to their work on the Hebrew text. The author conveys his own aims and method by treating different elements of the Greek versions’ history. He chooses to focus his discussion of the text of Job on four brief passages from the fourth and fifth segments of the book, and his arguments in support of his choice are impressive.

The number of variations from the Massoretic text (MT) in different segments of the widely accepted Greek text (91), indicate that the translators may have followed a Hebrew text with few variants from the MT for Chapters 1–14 (covering segments 1 and 2), while in Chapters 15 to 21, 16% of the text is omitted, in Chapters 22–31 about a quarter of the text, and more than a third in Chapters 32–37. The last 5 chapters omit 16% of the MT. The writer points out that in the case of each of the chosen passages there have been omissions of verses found in the Massoretic text of Job, as well as some variations between the Greek and the MT. Thus, in Job 24, verses 14c–18a of the MT are omitted, and while Hatch, whose critique the author presents in detail, sees the omission as creating a coherent text, the author adds the assertion that his investigation indicates “the translator’s method in his rendering of the Hebrew text of Job” (120).

Perhaps he might have done better to omit his contention about the place of verses 18–24 as part of the “lost speech of Zophar” (122). This detracts from the force of his presentation.

The problem is different in the passage from Chapter 26:4–14, where omitted Hebrew verses [5–11] are expansive of the main idea, but do not add to it. The original Greek included only the text of verse 4, followed by verses 12–14, with no text matching the MT of verses 5–11.

The passage in Job 28:13–22 consists again of the Greek translation with six omitted verses [14–19]. Not all MSS are in agreement about the obelised verses, but there are several scholars who agree that they are an interpolation. The author treats the passage from Job 30:25–31 as necessary to grasp the significance of the opening of the Greek at what is 31:5 of the MT. For the author verses 1–4 are an “interpolation” (180).

The writer makes the compelling point that in the Greek texts, sometimes part of a verse is translated literally and accurately, while the remaining part of the verse in Greek is no more than a paraphrase. While some scholars would contend that the state of the text should be attributed to “abbreviating tendencie aimed at a shorter text (210), the author considers that the pre-Origenian Greek translation (the Old Greek) follows a Hebrew Vorlage “which may be deemed to be more accurate and more original than that of the MT.”

To read this work requires attention to the Hebrew text and the Greek versions, as well as serious concern about the issues raised. For this reader the work has considerable value, challenging as it does the priority of the MT and the way that text can be viewed as a barrier not only to a full appreciation of the Greek, but also of the possibilities of textual openness.

Review by
Department of Hebrew, Biblical and Jewish Studies
The University of Sydney