Reading Summary

I’ve been doing quite a bit of Biblical Studies reading yesterday. I need to slow down and summarize a bit, which is the purpose of this post.

The Septuagint as Christian Scripture by Martin Hengel.

I’ve been reading through this little gem as supplemental reading for my early Christianity class. The relationship of the LXX and Hebrew scriptures is fascinating. The process in which the LXX came into existence is long and rather complicated. The books were translated “in various times by various people,” which Hengel elaborates on. Translation is a crucial question to consider, especially considering its long history within Christianity. This book is largely a thumbnail sketch of the creation and reception of the LXX within Judaism and Christianity. Some of his suggestions are very interesting, like the possibility that Paul himself took part in the “recension” of the LXX, in that he corrected the LXX at times with his knowledge of the Hebrew. This was an off-hand remark, but one could do quite a bit of research on that issue!

Apostolic Fathers Edited by Michael W. Holmes

I’ve been reading through the Fathers. So far, I’ve read through First and Second Clement, the letters of Ignatius, the Polycarp works (the martyrdom and his own letter), the Didache, and a bit of the Epistle of Barnabas. In addition to general reading, I’ve been pouring over Ignatius, picking out Pauline allusions for my honors paper for early Christianity. I’m planning to examine Ignatius’ self-identification with Paul, and how that impacts his martyrdom beliefs. Ignatius is often spurned by modern readers because he dissuaded his readers from seeking his release from prison. He also seems to think that his only “assurance of salvation” comes from his impending martyrdom (his letters were written on his way to Rome as a prisoner). I’m going to argue that Ignatius got Paul right much more than he got him wrong, and that a lot of his “theology of suffering” is present in the New Testament. It should be fun :-)

NCCS Romans (Commentary) Craig Keener

A recent blog post (HT: Nick Norelli) made me aware of Craig Keener for the first time. For some reason, he had eluded me. This is quite strange, considering he’s an outspoken charismatic scholar (often considered an oxymoron!), which is right up my alley as an aspiring, charismatic armchair theologian. I nabbed his Romans commentary from the library to refer to on my Paul/Ignatius paper. I have not yet memorized much of Romans, so I’m not as familiar with the letter as I am with some of the other Pauline works. I’ve read a bit so far, and it looks like a good read. It has a nice intro, and is much less daunting than I am sure some of his more academic works would be.

I’ve also been trying to improve my Greek. This has resulted in several books getting nabbed from the library:

How Biblical Languages Work Silzer & Finley

This is a little primer on the Biblical languages from a linguistic point of view. I’ve thumbed through it and there does appear to be some helpful items. I don’t plan on reading the whole thing through.

A Grammar for New Testament Greek

I own Mounce’s grammar, but I wanted some more exercises. I grabbed this grammar because it was at the library, but I’ve actually enjoyed using it so far. It’s much simpler and less “flashy” than Mounce’s. The exercises consist of translation from Greek to English, and also from English into Greek. The Greek composition has been tremendously useful. I don’t think I’ll ever be able to get a good handle on the language if I don’t start composing my own sentences.

I’ve also grabbed a couple essay collections which are way over my head, but will hopefully contain something useful for a neophyte like myself:

Discourse Analysis and Other Topics in Biblical Greek

Studies in the Greek New Testament: Theory and Practice

And, after all of that, I’m going to a Bible study on Ephesians tonight :-)


Martin Hengel and the Septuagint as Christian Scripture

I’ve been reading through Martin Hengel’s The Septuagint as Christian Scripture.  Hengel knows the primary sources very, very well.  He discusses the interaction between the Church and Synagogue during the first few centuries AD.  They argued over the Old Testament quite a bit.  The Christians rapidly adopted the Greek translation of the Hebrew Scriptures (known as the Septuagint, or LXX). 

One interesting aspect is that it’s apparently very difficult to establish Jewish use of the Septuagint before Jesus.  The Septuagint we have preserved for us comes almost exclusively through the Church.  What became orthodox Judaism eschewed the LXX, ostensibly because of departure from the original Hebrew, but also likely because of enthusiastic reception of the LXX in the Church. 

That said, something that Hengel hasn’t brought up, is that it’s very hard to explain the Christian use of the LXX if it wasn’t being used in Judaism before Jesus.  The earliest Christians didn’t “change their bible” after conversion.  Most likely saw it as a move within Judaism.  In one sense, the early New Testament writings can be considered “Jewish” use of the LXX.  The fact that apostolic Church used the LXX is only explicable if it was in use before Jesus.