The Septuagint of Jeremiah: A Study in Translation Technique and Recensions

Research output: ThesisDoctoral ThesisMonograph


This dissertation comprises a translation technical study of the Septuagint version of the book of Jeremiah (Jer LXX) conducted for the purpose of characterizing the translation. The last two centuries of scholarship on Jer LXX have produced divers descriptions of the translator’s product, ability and approach to translation, ranging from a free and arbitrary translation to a literal and faithful one. Though modern scholars mostly agree that the translation attempts to follow its Hebrew Vorlage very closely, it contains several indicators of free and less formal equivalence. In addition, discrepancy between certain renderings within chapters 1–28 (Jer a’) and chapters 29–52 (Jer b’) have borne debate regarding the unity of the translation, particularly whether these differences reflect the work of multiple translators, a later revision, or the peculiarities of a single translator.

A translation technical study has the potential to account for the different factors within Jer LXX in a way that previous studies have been unable to do. Earlier research, though pivotal and pertinent in their own ways, relies on a minimal analysis of the syntactical and semantic contexts in which the Hebrew words and their Greek equivalents occur. A closer look at these contexts by means of a translation technical analysis allows a more precise determination of the character of the translation and its place in the history of the Septuagint, pertaining in particular to the relation between the Greek and Hebrew texts of Jer and to the cause of the differences between Jer a’ and Jer b’.

The study of translation technique constitutes a comparison between Hebrew words and expressions and their counterparts in the Greek translation, and it is the primary means by which to identify the different factors that influenced the product of translation. Three factors, and the extent of their influence, need to be taken into account when evaluating a translation in the LXX: the syntax and grammar of the Hebrew Vorlage, the requirements of the Greek language, and the individual translator’s own peculiarities. This type of analysis provides answers to questions regarding the nature of Jer LXX as a textual witness to the Hebrew text, the development of the Greek text of Jer LXX, and the translation character of Jer LXX.

The method is applied to the renderings of Hebrew words and expressions for which a difference between Jer a’ and Jer b’ has been identified. This choice of material has been made in order that the issue regarding the bisectioning of Jer LXX can be addressed to the fullest possible extent by this study. Since the question of a revision in Jer LXX revolves around the translation differences between Jer a’ and Jer b’, the character of these differences will be further delineated in relation to the revisional character of the kaige tradition, an exemplar of early jewish revision that is universally accepted as such. This comparison allows a further differentiation of the characteristics among the differences that can be categorised as revisional in nature and those that cannot, which in turn enables a more precise placement of Jer LXX within the history and development of the LXX as a whole.

The conclusions of this study draw from the distinction of the different types of changes that occur between Jer a’ and Jer b’. Certain differences between the two do reflect the revisional characteristics of the kaige tradition, which suggests that they were produced by a reviser who was invested in a revisionary tradition similar to kaige. This corroborates with earlier suggestions that Jer b’ contains a revision. A number of the differences, however, indicate that the character of the revision is not as developed in its system and consistency as the later exemplars of the kaige tradition. This distinguishes the revision in Jer b’ from other known revisions and allows its placement as prior to the later kaige revisers. Third, certain differences constitute a change toward more natural Greek expression, which is the opposite of what one would expect from a revision since Greek idiom usually does not reflect the formal characteristics of Hebrew. These differences are to be understood as reflecting a change towards more intuitive use of the Greek language by the first translator of Jer.

This third conclusion provides a window into understanding the motive of the revision. The need for revisions came from a perceived disparity between the Septuagint translation and the Hebrew text used by the reviser. The latter half of the translation of Jer LXX evinces a number of changes toward less formal equivalents of the Hebrew text, which was unappealing to the reviser. This, together with the possibility of later growth in the reviser’s Hebrew text after the initial translation into Greek, combine to form conducive conditions for revision.
Original languageEnglish
Awarding Institution
  • University of Helsinki
  • Aejmelaeus, Anneli, Supervisor
  • Nissinen, Martti, Supervisor
Award date26 Sep 2020
Place of PublicationHelsinki
Print ISBNs978-951-51-6499-5
Electronic ISBNs978-951-51-6500-8
Publication statusPublished - 26 Sep 2020
MoE publication typeG4 Doctoral dissertation (monograph)

Fields of Science

  • 614 Theology
  • Book of Jeremiah
  • Hebrew Bible
  • Spetuagint
  • revision
  • Old Testament studies
  • textual criticism
  • literary criticism
  • translation technique
  • 6121 Languages
  • translation technique

Cite this