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Monday, January 24, 2011

ambiguity — Genesis 6:2,4 οἱ υἱοὶ τοῦ θεοῦ

 In Genesis 6:2,4 the referent of οἱ υἱοὶ τοῦ θεοῦ the sons of God is ambiguous. The reading  οἱ ἄγγελοι τοῦ θεοῦ the angels of God found in Codex Alexandrinus (A) appears to be an attempt to remove this ambiguity. Brayford [1] 2007:260,  Wevers [2] 1993:75-77.  The Masoretic Text reads ‏בני־האלהים bene ha'elohim which is the formal equivalent of οἱ υἱοὶ τοῦ θεοῦ.  The text:
Gen. 6:1  καὶ ἐγένετο ἡνίκα ἤρξαντο οἱ ἄνθρωποι πολλοὶ γίνεσθαι ἐπὶ τῆς γῆς καὶ θυγατέρες ἐγενήθησαν αὐτοῖς  2 ἰδόντες δὲ οἱ υἱοὶ τοῦ θεοῦ [οἱ ἄγγελοι τοῦ θεοῦ (A)] τὰς θυγατέρας τῶν ἀνθρώπων ὅτι καλαί εἰσιν ἔλαβον ἑαυτοῖς γυναῖκας ἀπὸ πασῶν ὧν ἐξελέξαντο  3 καὶ εἶπεν κύριος ὁ θεός οὐ μὴ καταμείνῃ τὸ πνεῦμά μου ἐν τοῖς ἀνθρώποις τούτοις εἰς τὸν αἰῶνα διὰ τὸ εἶναι αὐτοὺς σάρκας ἔσονται δὲ αἱ ἡμέραι αὐτῶν ἑκατὸν εἴκοσι ἔτη  4 οἱ δὲ γίγαντες ἦσαν ἐπὶ τῆς γῆς ἐν ταῖς ἡμέραις ἐκείναις καὶ μετ᾿ ἐκεῖνο ὡς ἂν εἰσεπορεύοντο οἱ υἱοὶ τοῦ θεοῦ πρὸς τὰς θυγατέρας τῶν ἀνθρώπων καὶ ἐγεννῶσαν ἑαυτοῖς ἐκεῖνοι ἦσαν οἱ γίγαντες οἱ ἀπ᾿ αἰῶνος οἱ ἄνθρωποι οἱ ὀνομαστοί
— Rahlfs LXX [4]
(6.1) And it came about when humans began to become numerous on the earth, that daughters also were born to them. 2 Now when the sons of God [ the angels of God (A)] saw the daughters of humans, that they were fair, they took wives for themselves of all that they chose. 3 And the Lord God said, “My spirit shall not abide in these humans forever, because they are flesh, but their days shall be one hundred twenty years.” 4 Now the giants were on the earth in those days and afterward. When the sons of God used to go in to the daughters of humans, then they produced offspring for themselves. Those were the giants that were of old, the renowned humans.
— Robert J. V. Hiebert NETS  Genesis [5]

If the reading οἱ ἄγγελοι  the angels in Alexandrinus is intended to disambiguate ‏בני־האלהים bene ha-elohim then why do we find in Alexandrinus the same Hebrew expression rendered in verse four as οἱ υἱοὶ τοῦ θεοῦ the sons of God? Brayford [1] 2007:261 solves this problem by suggesting that Alexandrinus indicates a different referent by using οἱ υἱοὶ τοῦ θεοῦ the sons of God in Gen 6:4. She suggests that  οἱ ἄγγελοι τοῦ θεοῦ the angels of God (A) in Gen 6:2 refer to the fathers of the first γίγαντες giants and the οἱ υἱοὶ τοῦ θεοῦ the sons of God Gen 6:4 refers to giants which became the fathers of more giants. In other words the angels of God (A) in verse two father (beget) giants and the giants father giants after their own kind. 

Wevers [2] 1993:75,77 rejects the reading οἱ ἄγγελοι  the angels in Alexandrinus. He notes that the Masoretic Text leaves the question of who fathered the ‏הנפלים ha-nephilim the giants ambiguous but the Greek Gen. 6:4 makes it explicit by by using γίγαντες giants to render both הנפלים ha-nephilim  the giants and ‏הגברים ha-gibborim the mighty. In other words, the translator of Greek Genesis, noting that the his Hebrew vorlage was ambiguous in regard to who fathered whom, chose to collapse two Hebrew words הנפלים ha-nephilim and ‏הגברים ha-gibborim with only partial semantic overlap into one Greek word to make quite specific the relationship between giants and their offspring. This is an example of translation according to reference rather than according to sense (semantic value).

[1]Genesis (LXX) By Susan Brayford, Brill 2007

[2] J. W. Wevers, Notes on the Greek Text of Genesis, SBLSCS 35;. Atlanta: Scholars Press, 1993.

[3] a passage which is very difficult to interpret.

Rahlfs LXX  does not always follow Codex Alexandrinus but in Gen 6:4  οἱ υἱοὶ τοῦ θεοῦ is the same. The NETS Genesis also differs at points with both Alexandrinus and Rahlfs see next note, but for our this discussion there is no problem.

[5] NETS 01 Genesis, translated by Robert J. V. Hiebert , A New English Translation of the Septuagint, as published by Oxford University Press in 2009.
NETS uses the Göttingen edition of the LXX. The insertion of the (A) reading is mine.


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