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Australian Biblical Review

AUSTRALIAN BIBLICAL REVIEW

ISSN 0045-0308

BOOK REVIEW  Published in Volume 54, 2006

WILLIAM LOADER, The Septuagint, Sexuality, and the New Testament (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 2004).
Pp. x+163. $US20.00.


The focus of this book by William Loader is well described in the subtitle: Case Studies on the Impact of the LXX in Philo and the New Testament. Following a short introduction, there are three chapters that introduce three sets of LXX texts about sexuality, under the headings: The Decalogue (Ex 20 and Deut 5); The Creation Stories (seven texts from Gen 1–5); and Divorce (Deut 24:1–24). In each case, Loader goes on to identify the distinctive features of the LXX version and then traces the influence of those texts on both Philo and the New Testament.

Unexpectedly, Loader creates a separate chapter four, where he treats together the impact of the Creation and the Divorce texts on the New Testament. His reason (p. 123) is that the two LXX texts appear together in the divorce pericope (Mark 10:2–9, Matt 19:3–9). Chapter four examines two texts from the Gospels, seven from Paul, two Deutero-Pauline texts and one from the Gospel of Thomas. Loader’s conclusions appear in only two sections, a minor one at the close of chapter one—relating to the Decalogue texts—and a more comprehensive one at the close of chapter four (pp. 117–28), which might well have been set as a separate chapter.

There are useful appendices where most of the Older Testament texts discussed are set out with Hebrew and Greek language in parallel, and then with English translations in parallel. Relevant sections of Deut 24 and Mark 9 are also set out in parallel, first in Greek then in English. These tabulations are very useful. The book concludes with a long bibliography, an Index of Modern Authors and an Index of Ancient Sources, including biblical, Hellenistic and Rabbinic references.

In discussing the Decalogue texts, Loader highlights three items: first, the prominence given to the law of adultery in the LXX, where it is placed ahead of the prohibition of murder; second, the changed order within the tenth commandment, placing coveting of the neighbour’s wife before and separate from the coveting of other objects; third, also in the tenth commandment, the translation of the Hebrew chamad and ’avah ‘to covet’ as ’epithumia ‘to desire,’ regarding one’s neighbour’s wife. The transition from the motive of greed to possess to that of lust may reflect the more negative depiction of sexual passion in communities influenced by Stoic thought.

Regarding the creation stories and divorce laws, Loader draws attention to the loss in Greek of the link between human ’adam and dust ’adamah, and between man ’ish and woman ’ishah and suggests that complementarity has given way to the subordination of the female. He also suggests that these texts contribute to a sense that women are problematic because of their sexuality.

More than once, Loader is at pains to state that his analysis does not attempt to gauge the intention of the LXX translators but only to identify possible influences that may have arisen from the LXX (e.g. p. 117). Apart from a few instances, Loader is very guarded in his assertions throughout the book regarding the possible influences he is attempting to trace. He recognizes that his study contributes one piece to the broader picture of the impact of the LXX, and that greater influence may be apparent in the Christian literature of the early centuries. Loader’s book contains a wealth of material that goes far beyond the ostensible concern with the impact of the LXX. It is perhaps most valuable for the light it casts on the understanding of sexuality within the wide range of texts he has treated.

A biblical textual study such as this has potentially wide ranging theological implications for contemporary ethics. In my view, it is important that biblical scholars do not leave such discussions to the philosophical theologians. While the topic of same-gender relationships is not directly raised in the texts Loader has treated, nevertheless the creation texts have much to say about this topic. They underlie the assumptions of a natural theology that is pervasive in church and society, namely, that male and female were made for each other and that same gender relationships of a sexual nature are unnatural. The question arises whether this view seems na´ve from the perspective of the 21st century. We also face a debate about the appropriate ethics that apply. Some uphold celibacy in singleness and faithfulness in marriage. Others rely on the more open ethic of right relationships. As these are issues close to the texts Loader has treated, and since he has treated them in various other contexts, perhaps he could have provided a short excursus in his concluding section.

Review by
Paul Tonson
29 Arnott Street
Mont Albert North VIC 3129, Australia