Friday, July 15, 2016

Fact-Checking the Torah -- Septuagint's bad words

A translation is supposed to be a faithful reproduction of the meaning of the primary document. 
The Septuagint is not a faithful reproduction of the meaning of the Hebrew of the Torah.  Here are examples of problems it has with the meanings of words.
           Genesis 4:7.  The Septuagint said, according to the translation in Brenton, “Hast thou not sinned if thou hast brought it rightly, but not rightly divided it? Be still, to thee shall be his submission, and thou shalt rule over him.”  That is not even wrong.  It has to do with a sacrifice while the Hebrew deals with sin in general.
           Genesis 10:6.  Mitsraim was translated as Mesrain.  This is the only time that Septuagint fails to translate the term as “Egypt”, which is correct.
           Genesis 11:12-13.  Septuagint has Arpachshad siring Qainan not Shelach.  That means it gives 11 and not 10 generations from Noach to Avraham.  (There’s a midrash for that.)
           Genesis 14:21.   Septuagint has the king offering Avram the horses when the real meaning is the property.  However when translating Genesis 31:18, Septuagint translates the same word as “the things (he took away with him).”  In Greek “horse” is “hippos” (OK you Greek geeks, I know that’s not really an “h” but not everybody is a Greek geek.) for which the Hebrew is sus (about which more later); the word in Genesis 14:21 and 31:18 is r’chush.
           Genesis 34:1-5.  Septuagint called Dinah a parthene after the rape whereas in Genesis 22:15 it uses parthene to translate betulah, a “technical” virgin, which Dinah could not have been after the rape.
           Genesis 35:19. Rachel was buried next to the road to Efrat. Septuagint said she was buried at the hippodrome, a horse-racing track.  However in most places Septuagint translates Hebrew derekh correctly as odos.
           Exodus 1:11.   Septuagint says among the treasure cities built by the Israelites was “Onn, that is, Heliopolis.”  That’s backwards; Septuagint also names Joseph’s wife as the daughter of the priest of Onn (Genesis 41:45) showing that the city existed before the Israelites were enslaved. 
           Leviticus 22.  Septuagint uses the word allogenos for incompatible situations.  One is v. 12 where the priest’s daughter marries “an Israelite not descended from Aaron” (ish zar which is always used in this meaning), which cannot apply to a non-Jew because he falls into the category of prohibited husbands (Leviticus 19:29).  Septuagint also uses allogenos in verse 25, which prohibits accepting imperfect animals as offerings from non-Jews (ben nekhar which is always used in the meaning of non-Jews) for the tabernacle.
This is an extremely short list of mistranslations and missed connotations in Septuagint.  But wait, there's more.
© Patricia Jo Heil, 2013-2018 All Rights Reserved

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