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Friday, January 21, 2011

linguistic minutia in Gen 14:18-22

After pointing out earlier today that exegetical disputes are often not resolved by attention to minute linguistic detail I am now going to raise an objection to Susan Brayford's[1] claim that referent for ὁ θεὸς ὁ ὕψιστος The Most High God in Gen 14:19 is different from the referent of τὸν θεὸν τὸν ὕψιστον in Gen 14:22. In regard to v19 Brayford[1] 2007:296 states "That Abram does not protest his blessing by a foreign deity implies that his own God at the time is not 'Jealous.'"

Then Brayford turns around in v22 and claims that τὸν θεὸν τὸν ὕψιστον The Most High God refers in the Greek Genesis to YHWH as it does in the Masoretic Text ‏ אל־יהוה אל עליון which she displays as evidence? I very carefully checked her text against in v19 and v22 against Rahlfs and they were identical. I also looked again at John Wevers' Notes on the Greek Text of Genesis. I am somewhat baffled by her statements. The full expression identifying the deity is nearly identical:

v19 τῷ θεῷ τῷ ὑψίστῳ ὃς ἔκτισεν τὸν οὐρανὸν καὶ τὴν γῆν
v22 τὸν θεὸν τὸν ὕψιστον ὃς ἔκτισεν τὸν οὐρανὸν καὶ τὴν γῆν

To say that the v22 is a clear reference to YHWH like the MT just ignores the fact that the divine name YHWH is inserted in the MT in front of El Elyon. There is no translation equivalent for YHWH in v22 of Greek Genesis. So what is Brayford talking about? On level of language code the difference is the dative case v19 and the accusative case v22. The case has nothing to do with the referent.

Gen. 14:18 καὶ Μελχισεδεκ βασιλεὺς Σαλημ ἐξήνεγκεν ἄρτους καὶ οἶνον ἦν δὲ ἱερεὺς τοῦ θεοῦ τοῦ ὑψίστου  19 καὶ ηὐλόγησεν τὸν Αβραμ καὶ εἶπεν εὐλογημένος Αβραμ τῷ θεῷ τῷ ὑψίστῳ ὃς ἔκτισεν τὸν οὐρανὸν καὶ τὴν γῆν  20 καὶ εὐλογητὸς ὁ θεὸς ὁ ὕψιστος ὃς παρέδωκεν τοὺς ἐχθρούς σου ὑποχειρίους σοι καὶ ἔδωκεν αὐτῷ δεκάτην ἀπὸ πάντων  21 εἶπεν δὲ βασιλεὺς Σοδομων πρὸς Αβραμ δός μοι τοὺς ἄνδρας τὴν δὲ ἵππον λαβὲ σεαυτῷ  22 εἶπεν δὲ Αβραμ πρὸς βασιλέα Σοδομων ἐκτενῶ τὴν χεῖρά μου πρὸς τὸν θεὸν τὸν ὕψιστον ὃς ἔκτισεν τὸν οὐρανὸν καὶ τὴν γῆν

Would the translator of Greek Genesis accept the notion that Abram would accept a blessing in the name of a foreign deity, and then turn around and immediately use the identical language to make reference to his own deity? That is how the Greek Genesis[2] reads. This is a commentary on the Greek Genesis. In the Greek Genesis Abram and Melchizedek use the same expression "the Most High God creator of heaven and earth." When that expression comes out of Melchizedek's mouth it is a foreign god when the same expression comes out of Abram's mouth it is Abram's God? Certainly the author of Hebrews does not read the Greek Genesis in that manner.

The scenario described by Brayford seems to me untenable. The Greek Genesis was the bible of the Jews in the diaspora who were struggling to maintain their faith while surrounded on all sides by rampant paganism. To leave ambiguity of reference to a deity in the text runs up against the cultural religious situation of the translator. I think we should assume that the translator considered the text unambiguous and that both Melchizedek and Abram were understood by the translator to be making reference to the same deity. That is the scenario which is reflected in the identical language. The insertion of YHWH into the MT was an act of over-caution by some scribe who didn't see things the same way as the Greek translator.

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

[2] YHWH  in front of El Elyon is pobably not original in the MT.


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