- My own strong feeling is echoed in the words of the late Biblical scholar, Dr. C.H. Dodd, that 'it is rarely safe to ignore the LXX in attempting to determine the meaning of Pauline language.' [Journal of Theological Studies NS 5, 1954, p. 248].
However, if we would get to the heart of the Christian message we need more than the help of secular Greek. The great Christian words which concern salvation and Christian living were not produced in a secular environment. They are rooted in the Greek Old Testament, so that Septuagintal study is likely to forward Christian exegesis.
This is an excerpt from an article by Michael Marlowe, which rightly argues that the Hebrew - Greek translation tradition found in the Septuagint helps us get to the heart of the Christian message. There is no disagreement about the Hebraistic nature of Septuagint Greek.
However Pietersma suggests an educational origin rather than a liturgical origin for at least some of the text. This would imply to me a more practical level of language, one that was meant to facilitate understanding of the original Hebrew words, one by one.
So the Greek text would not necessarily be in a certain high or refined style, but was sometimes simply a calque for the Hebrew which was the authoritative text. These calques remained frozen or fossilized in the Greek language of the Greek speaking Jewish community and recur in the NT. This does not suggest to me a high language, but nontheless a language which has its own particular characteristics.
While this language may not have been the langauge of the street or marketplace, I have never seen any way in which it was intended as a high literary style, a little awkward maybe, but that is all.
However, words and phrases did take on connotations and specific religious meaning. If anything this would only suggest a general principle that once a translation had been made in a linguistic and religious community, and this translation had become part of the theological discourse of that community, the translation should never be revised. That would justify the King James only faction.
However, I do not think that anyone would go so far as to say that the Bible should never be retranslated into the same language twice. Some argue, as Dr. Packer did with me, that once a Christian community had settled on a certain vocabulary to express its theology, then that vocabulary should become standard and not be changed.
I recognize this human tendency to enshrine a known entity, but I do not know how it can be defended. To me this principle serves the interests of theologians who do not wish to see their theological works become outdated. That would mean that theological texts themselves become a closed cannon. Each denomination would have a set of foundational texts that others may comment on, but not interact with on an equal level.
However, if people can continue to reinterpret the Christian message in their preaching, should the text itself not be retranslated to represent the language use of the current day?
While the NETS translation was explicitly created to correspond to the NRSV, I do not think that there was any intention that this literary English style had a unique stylistic correspondance to the style of the Greek. The language of the Septuagint was considered in terms of its relation to Hebrew, but not for the literary level of the language.
The NRSV was chosen as the corresponding English translation for a variety of reasons well presented in this introduction, To the Reader of NETS. The most obvious one is that the NRSV is a close word for word translation. However, this definition does not necessarily equate with a high literary style.
Pietersma's argument seems to be this, if the Greek was a calque of the Hebrew, then the English should be a calque of the Greek. But this is not for the purpose of maintaining a refined language, more likely an awkward language. There is no spiritual value judgement attached to this choice of the NRSV in my understanding of Pietersma's argument, rather, it is a pragmatic decision. I am not suggesting anything like the old argument that the language is 'debased', but simply that we should not make too much of its style.
Here is a description of the range of lexical guidelines used in translating NETS.
Renderings -- Stereotypes/Calques -----Isolate Renderings
The vertical line on the scale represents a semantic demarcation, since words or lexemes placed to the left are always governed by their normal Greek semantic range, while those to the right may be governed by their Hebrew counterparts, though, when such is the case, not by their full semantic range.
NETS translators have ordered the linguistic information of the Greek in terms of this scale, and have translated accordingly. Though the full extent of the scale is represented in all books or translation units of the Septuagint, naturally, not all units show the same distribution profile.
Two factors that have exercised a direct influence on a given book's profile are its degree of literalness and its relative chronological placement within the corpus. By literalness is here understood the degree of consistency of Hebrew-Greek verbal equations, as well as the relative number of such one-to-one equations a given book or translation unit features. A book's chronological place within the corpus may be expected to determine the number of calques it contains. That is to say, the later the book the more calques may have been part of its translator's everyday, living lexicon.
So terms which originated as calques of Hebrew became part of the everyday lexicon of the community. Some seem to argue that calques from the Greek text into English need to become part of the everyday lexicon of the contemporary Christian community. Is there a defense for this?