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Revisiting the προσήλυτος in "the LXX"

From: Journal of Biblical Literature
Volume 132, Number 2, 2013
pp. 333-350 | 10.1353/jbl.2013.0027



One of the more heated lexical debates in LXX studies surrounds the meaning of the Greek term προσήλυτος. Yet the only thorough examination of the word in the LXX is W. C. Allen's 1894 article "On the Meaning of ΠΡΟΣΗΛΥΤΟΣ in the Septuagint," which argues that the LXX translators distinguish carefully between two different uses of גר in the Hebrew Bible: the first is rendered by the Greek word πάροικος and is used in contexts where a convert to Judaism cannot be intended; the second is rendered by the Greek word προσήλυτος and is used in contexts where a convert to Judaism could be intended. Most modern treatments of conversion in early Judaism rely heavily on Allen's conclusions, often indirectly through Karl Georg Kuhn's TDNT entry on προσήλυτος, without reassessing the methodology or evidence Allen used to support his argument. Consequently, I provide a criticism of Allen's methodological assumptions and a reassessment of LXX renderings of גר by utilizing recent studies on the significance of the varying translation techniques of the LXX translators, concluding that Allen's methodology, which treats the entirety of the LXX as a translational unity, leads him, and those who rely on him, to misinterpret the evidence of the LXX. In contrast, analyzing the evidence of the individual books of the LXX as discrete translations by different translators demonstrates that Allen anachronistically renders προσήλυτος in the LXX as "proselyte," when in fact it should be translated as "alien."

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