Joel and the LXX

Discussion in 'Bible Prophecy' started by Utuna, Mar 7, 2015.

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    Utuna

    Utuna Administrator

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    Here is again an overview of the most interesting details contained in the LXX book of Joel and in the footnotes therein.

    In Joel's book, "the invasion of the insects ushers in and fulfills the day when YHWH* intervenes in person in order to chastize His people but is also the prodrome of the day of YHWH, according to its eschatologic sense as day of judgment."

    (...)

    Either for happy or unfortunate outcomes, does the day of the Lord describe historical or eschatological times ? The expression in plural form en taîs hemérais ekeínais, "in those days" (2:29 [MT 3:2]; 3 [MT 4]: 1) or the expressions in the singular form en toi kairoi ekeínoi, "then" (3 [MT 4]: 1; see Zep. 3:16, 20) or en tei hemérai ekeínei, "in that day" (3 [TM 4]: 18; see Zep. 1:9, 10, 12; 3:11) are vague in Greek; like in the MT, they don't refer to, specifically, the end of times, but maybe only the succession of times. The description may as well refer to the present moment as to the existing world.

    (...)

    A few verses from Joel are quoted in the apostolic speech and this with a strong added value : Peter, in Acts 2:17-21 quotes almost in extenso the five verses of Joel 2:28-32 upon the outpouring of the spirit - barring the second part of 2:32 - and in a text which is very close to the LXX's, a few details excepted : "in the last days", en taîs eskhátais hemérais, replaces the usual formula "then, after this"; the old men are mentioned after the "young men"; "they will prophesy" is repeated at the end of Acts 2:18; "above" (áno) and "below" (káto) give precision to the expression "in heaven and on earth" and "signs" (semeîa) is added concurrently with the "wonders".

    Paul, in his epistle to the Romans, in 10:13, quotes the principle recorded at the beginning of Joel 2:32 (MT 3:5) : "And everyone who calls on the name of Jehovah will be saved#", in order to declare the universal hope : The Lord is the same for all, there is no distinction between the Jews and the Greeks.


    * As I'm quoting my book, I'll therefore use YHWH instead of Jehovah since they use YHWH.

    # I'll use the NWT only for direct quotations of the Bible
     
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    Utuna

    Utuna Administrator

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    The Valley of Je·hoshʹa·phat.

    MT (Joel 3:2) . . . I will also gather together all the nations And bring them down to the Valley of Je·hoshʹa·phat. I will enter into judgment with them there...

    MT (Joel 3:14) . . .Crowds, crowds are in the valley of the decision, For the day of Jehovah is near in the valley of the decision.

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    LXX (Joel 3:2) I will also gather all the Gentiles, and bring them down to the valley of Josaphat, and will plead with them there for my people and my heritage Israel...

    ==> καὶ συνάξω πάντα τὰ ἔθνη καὶ κατάξω αὐτὰ εἰς τὴν κοιλάδα ᾿Ιωσαφὰτ καὶ διακριθήσομαι πρὸς αὐτοὺς

    LXX (Joel 3:14) Noises have resounded in the valley of judgment: for the day of the Lord is near in the valley of judgment.

    ==> ἦχοι ἐξήχησαν ἐν τῇ κοιλάδι τῆς δίκης, ὅτι ἐγγὺς ἡμέρα Κυρίου ἐν τῇ κοιλάδι τῆς δίκης.

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    Joel 3:2 - NASU
    I will gather all the nations
    And bring them down to the valley of Jehoshaphat*.


    * i.e YHWH judges

    Joel 3:14 - NASU
    Multitudes, multitudes in the valley of decision !
    For the day of the Lord is near in the valley of decision#.

    # God's verdict

    In the LXX, the translator expresses that legal context through two terms, the verb diakrínein, which means "to hand down a judgment, to decide" and the noun díke, more likely used here in its broader sense of "justice", evoking as well the concept of verdict, judgment as of trial, whereas the Hebrew text uses the concrete image of a "cleaver" or a "harrow" (cf. below and Amos 1:3), having too as a figurative meaning a "decision", a "verdict". "Justice is meted out in a ravine (koilás)*, bearing the name of Josaphat.

    [​IMG]

    The Christians will give an eschatological role to the "valley" of Josaphat, the place where God will mete out justice.

    Therefore, the valley of Josaphat means "the valley of "God judges"" and is here (3:2) a play on words between the name of the valley and the verb in the following sentence : "I will enter into judgment". Literally, the Hebrew text means "the valley of the cleaver" and the LXX renders this expression as : "the ravine of justice", maybe because the word "cleaver" didn't connote justice in Greek as it did in Hebrew back then...

    * "Deep valley" according to the LSJ Unabridged Lexicon. The Thayer's Lexicon and the TDNT Kittel only mention the meaning of belly, mother's womb or gullet. I had to look up why the footnotes talk about "ravine".

    [​IMG]
     
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    Utuna

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    Before going on, I'd like to explain a few details about what the "perfective" and "imperfective" tenses or aspects are expressed in English.

    The perfective aspect refers to an action that is seen as completed when the main action of a sentence is expressed, either the first takes place in the past or in the future. Said otherwise, the lesser action is always considered as having taken place before or when the main action happens.

    He had eaten when his wife entered the room.

    He will have eaten when his wife enters the room.

    As shown above, whether the actions put in bold letters take place in the past or in the future, they are considered as done before or when the action of the main clause is said to be taking place.

    Perfective : He has sung, he had sung, he will have sung, the song has been sung

    The imperfective aspect describes an action, be it in the past or in the future that is not over when the main action expressed is taking place. Said otherwise, the lesser action is always considered as still taking place (or still having consequences) at the very moment of the main action.

    He was sleeping when the bell rang.

    He will sing when the sun goes down. He will be singing when the sun goes down.

    The dog barks as soon as he hears someone knocking at the door.

    Imperfective : He sings, she sang, she was singing, he will sing, he will be singing.

    In the Hebrew text of the MT, some prophecies in the book of Joel either are in the perfective or imperfective aspect and this difference is rendered systematically in Greek by the opposition past/present-future tenses.

    This detail is very important when it comes to analyze how the prophecies about the locusts were written, for example. The locusts in the first chapter are described with verbs in the perfective aspect whereas the locusts in the second chapter are in the imperfective aspect, which is rendered in Greek, as said above, either in present or future tenses and which emphasizes the prophetic characteristics of the threat.

    Examples taken from the NWT :

    Joel 1:4

    What was left by the devouring locust, the swarming locust has eaten;
    And what was left by the swarming locust, the unwinged locust has eaten;
    And what the unwinged locust has left, the voracious locust has eaten.


    Joel 1:10

    The field has been devastated*, the ground mourns,
    For the grain has been devastated, the new wine has dried up, the oil has failed.


    Joel 2:7

    They charge like warriors,
    They scale a wall like soldiers
    Each keeps to his own course,
    And they do not swerve from their paths.

    This difference, along with Jehovah saying in 2:25 that the second army is "his great army", has led many Bible scholars to conclude that both armies aren't the same.

    Doesn't it remind you of something ? ;)

    * For example, the imperfective aspect of this sentence would have been : The field was devastated.

    (to be continued)
     
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    Legendary post brother!
     
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    Utuna

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    The verbs in Hebrew and the translation problem.

    I) Tenses and aspects of the Hebrew verbs

    Hebrew doesn't know tenses (past, present, future) but knows aspects, i.e the difference between what we call "perfective (the perfect at times) and the imperfective.

    * The perfective may correspond to a present tense that remembers a certain past and which can live on ; It corresponds a bit to the Greek perfect which indicates a completed state with some kind of a permanency.

    * The imperfective can refer to something that has begun, something that begins, something that is about to come or to end and therefore it can as well be translated by a past tense as by an imperfect, a present or a future tense.

    That's the extreme difficulty of the translation that is patent when one wants to translate verbs of the Hebrew Psalms, for example.

    The NT was written in Greek but that's not the Classical Greek. It's an informal Greek, the Hellenistic Greek as some people say, the koïne and on top of that, it was written by people who had a Hebrew frame of mind, hence the extreme difficulty to translate their texts.

    II) Tenses and aspects of the Greek verbs

    The Greek knows the distinction between past (which is expressed by the imperfect and the aorist), present and future. But it's more influenced by the notion of aspect than by the notion of time. The aspect defines the action not in relation to the moment when the sentences are uttered but in relation to the action itself : what matters then is to know if the action is about to take place, is at its beginning, is under way, is coming to an end or is definitively over. All the sentences used to translate these aspects : I'm going to eat, I'm starting to eat, I'm done eating... are contained in what we call the Greek tenses. The French language is very sensitive to the notion of anteriority but the Greek isn't : Nothing, in the tenses Greek uses, says that an action is anterior to another. We always have to think about what direction in time the meaning of the sentence leads us before translating anything.

    The future in Greek presents itself under particular conditions. In the earlier forms of Greek, the future doesn't have any proper aspect and is closer to a modal than a tense. Unlike Latin or French, the Greek future isn't a future reality like the present or the past are present or past realities ; it only represents a potentiality that tends to get fulfilled in the present. There's no distinction at all between a future refering to a unique case and one expressing habitual deeds.

    III) A few translations from Greek

    In the sentence: "In a little while you will see me no longer, and again, in a little while you will see me." (John 16:16), the verb "to see" is in the future tense but as there aren't any future or present in those things, there's only perfective or imperfective in the underlying original semitic frame of mind. However, the imperfective in Hebrew, barring a few exceptions, can be translated in English either by a future tense or by "I begin to..." Hence my translation : "In a little while you will see me no longer, and again, in a little while you begin to see me."

    In the same vein, "but that I should resurrect them on the last day." (John 6:39) can be translated by "but that I should begin to resurrect them on the last day" since the last day is supposed to be today.

    a) Translations of Greek aorist and perfect


    "When it was late that day, the first day of the week, and the doors were locked where the disciples were for fear of the Jews, Jesus came and stood in their midst and said to them: “May you have peace.”" - John 20:19

    "When it was late that day, the first day of the week, and the doors were locked where the disciples were for fear of the Jews, Jesus comes and stands in their midst and says to them: “May you have peace.

    Here, a certain translation called Sister Jeanne d'Arc puts the verbs in the present tense whereas in Greek, these verbs (êlthen and estê) are in the aorist tense. The translation in the present tense is excellent because it shows that the translator is aware that the Greek tenses aren't reliable because what John said in Greek, he thought it beforehand in Hebrew, a language that doesn't distinguish the tenses like we do. The translation only distinguishes the perfective from the imperfective, hence the indecision about the way to best translate what doesn't come from the translator but from the text only.

    In a text in the past tense, the use of present removes the anecdotal side of it. In French, we can narrate a past event in the imperfect or simple past tenses, or also in what we call the historical present : "Napoleon comes and deploys his armies". That's a way to tell a story. The present tense is here all the more plausible as the real difference is less, with Greek (like in Hebrew), a difference of tense than a difference in relation to the action itself. On the other hand, the very text that John may begin to narrate in the past tense can easily change to a present tense.

    Besides, the perfect - above all true for the Hebrew that is underlying in these texts - says something that is fully completed or something that is about to be fulfilled. Hence, Paul says : "The one whom you put to death, God has resurrected him on the third day according to what is written in Psalm 2: "You are my son, today I beget you (gégennêka)"" Acts 13:33 and here, the verb is in the perfect aspect but is translated in a present tense : to be resurrected is to be begotten today, the today how God sees it.

    This indecision about the translation could be the occasion to question our temporal representation of the past, the present and the future. And for the moment being, we are warned that we shouldn't give too much importance to the tenses used in the different versions of the Bible. We remain vague somewhat when it comes to the use of verbs, even if we must repeatedly ask us : And now, what's the most appropriate ?

    b) Two other examples of translation of a perfect Greek

    "Until now you have not asked for a single thing in my name. Ask and you will receive, so that your joy may be fully completed (péplêrôméné).(John 16:24)" The name "joy" is accompagnied by the verb "to complete" in the perfective aspect (on grammatical grounds) and that's why it's translated "fully completed", "definitively completed".

    "Jesus answered them: “Do you believe now? Look! The hour is coming (erkhétaï), indeed, it has definitively come (elêluthen)," (John 16:31-32) There are here two ways to comprehend time (present and perfect), on which it would be useful to meditate.


    Source

    (to be continued)
     

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