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On Conditionals in the Greek Pentateuch: A Study of Translation Syntax (review)

From: Hebrew Studies
Volume 53, 2012
pp. 391-393 | 10.1353/hbr.2012.0036

In lieu of an abstract, here is a brief excerpt of the content:

This study by Anwar Tjen is the published version of his 2003 Cambridge University Ph.D. thesis (p. xi). As the title makes clear, it involves an investigation of conditional constructions in the Greek Pentateuch.

In his introduction, Tjen indicates that he "takes seriously the double character of LXX Greek, both as a translation from Hebrew and as vernacular Greek" (p. 2). His focus is primarily on bipartite conditionals ("if... then"), though other constructions that can be interpreted conditionally (e.g., paratactic, indefinite relative, and temporal clauses) are also investigated (p. 3). In setting the stage for his analysis, Tjen surveys previous studies on conditionals in the LXX by the likes of James Sterenberg, Klaus Beyer, Frederick Conybeare and St. George Stock, Karl Huber, Anneli Aejmelaeus, Timothy Schehr, and Seppo Sipilä, but concludes that "as yet there has been no extensive treatment of the topic from the viewpoint of the study of translation syntax" (p. 7). The primary texts upon which he bases his response to this desideratum are the Masoretic Text of the Hebrew Bible contained in Biblia Hebraica Stuttgartensia and the critical editions of the books of the Greek Pentateuch prepared by John William Wevers for the Göttingen Septuaginta series. He does, however, also consult the Samaritan Pentateuch, Qumran biblical materials, the so-called Cambridge Septuagint prepared by Alan Brooke and Norman McLean, and the Septuagint Handausgabe edited by Alfred Rahlfs.

In chapter 1, Tjen surveys Hebrew conditional constructions of various types and discusses three major proposals with respect to their taxonomy by Samuel Driver, C. van Leeuwen, and Galia Hatav. He concludes that the basic distinction made by many grammarians between "lower hypotheticality (real condition)" and "higher hypotheticality (unreal condition)" is a "feasible" one, and that it is not necessary to multiply categories of Hebrew conditionals as some like Driver and van Leeuwen have done (pp. 12, 14, 25-27, 32).

Chapter 2 is concerned with the analysis of Greek conditionals, "focusing on the system in Koine, but taking into account as well diachronic changes from the Classical system from which it is derived" (p. 33). In addition to providing an overview of the types of collocations of conditional markers and associated verb forms that are attested in Hellenistic Greek, Tjen discusses a number of proposals for the classification of such constructions: William Goodwin's time-oriented system; Basil Gildersleeve's mood-oriented system; James Boyer's inductive "class" system of New Testament conditionals; Jan Gonda's attitudinal semantics system (adopted by Stanley Porter); Frederic Farrar's degrees of probability approach; and Richard Young's system based on speech act theory, which takes into account both the propositional content and the illocutionary force of communicative events. In the end, Tjen adapts the attitudinal semantics approach of Gonda and Porter in classifying Greek conditionals: 1. Unmarked or neutral condition; 2. Counterfactual condition; 3. Projection; 4. Projection with contingency for fulfillment (pp. 66-67).

In chapter 3, Tjen focuses on the ways that LXX translators treat Hebrew constructions as conditionals in the Pentateuch, documenting both overtly marked constructions (the majority of which are introduced by either אם or כי) and unmarked ones (e.g., a few paratactic constructions and attributive participles). In the process, he points out the various ways that these renderings evince the hermeneutical activity of the translators.

Chapter 4 deals with Hebrew conditional syntagms that contain yiqtol or yiqtol-weqatal in the protasis. Most of these constructions in the Greek Pentateuch appear in legal-instructional material, though some are found in contexts that Tjen labels "interactive," a term that he does not actually define but that seems to pertain to conversational situations. In either case, the Greek translational equivalent in the majority of cases is ἐάν + subjunctive. A much less frequently attested Greek counterpart is εἰ + indicative, which is found only in "interactive material." Non-finite equivalents (participles, infinitives) for the Hebrew verbs in such constructions in the legal-instructional material of the Pentateuch are also dealt with.

In chapter 5, Tjen analyzes Hebrew conditional syntagms that contain qatal, wayyiqtol, qotel, and other forms in the protasis. Again, he observes that these constructions in the Pentateuchal legal-instructional material are mostly rendered by ἐάν + subjunctive. Apart from such contexts, the...

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