Journal of Hebrew Scriptures - Volume 11 (2011) - Review

Corley, Jeremy and Vincent Skemp (eds.), Studies in the Greek Bible: Essays in Honor of Francis T. Gignac, S.J. (CBQMS, 44; Washington, DC: The Catholic Biblical Association of America, 2008). Pp. xiv+318. Paperback. US$18.00. ISBN 0-915170-43-4.

Studies in the Greek Bible: Essays in Honor of Francis T. Gignac, S.J. is one of those rare Festschrifts that succeeds as a collection: it maintains a unity of focus, and the essays are all interesting and stimulating, not to mention succinct. It honors Francis T. Gignac, among whose contributions to the study of Greek is his A Grammar of the Greek Papyri of the Roman and Byzantine Periods, published in three parts (1976, 1981; vol. 3 in preparation).

The collection unfolds as follows: a Foreword, written by Alexander A. Di Lella (pp. ix–xi), appears after “Contents” and a photo of the honoree; then,  Introduction, by the editors (pp. xiii–xiv). The contributions, thirteen in all, are divided into four parts: One: Genesis Creation Traditions (pp. 1–46); Two: Later Septuagintal Books (pp. 47–119); Three: New Testament Texts (pp. 121–214); and Four: Linguistic Studies (pp. 215–77). Next there is a bibliography of Fr. Gignac (pp. 279–88); a list of the contributors, with their academic locations (p. 289); Index of Ancient Sources (pp. 291–303: OT; NT and related texts; Dead Sea Scrolls; Josephus; Jewish Pseudepigrapha and related texts; Targumic Literature; Rabbinic Literature; Patristic and related texts; Greek and Latin Sources; Greek papyri and Inscriptions); Index of Authors (pp. 304–11); Index of Subjects (pp. 312–18). Finally, like a manuscript, there is a colophon that informs us that the volume was typeset by Maurya P. Horgan and Paul J. Kobelski, former students of the honoree at Fordham University.

Part One, “Genesis Creations Traditions,” contains these essays: “Creation under Control: Power Language in Genesis 1:1–2:3,” by Jennifer M. Dines (pp. 3–16); “Guarding Head and Heel: Observations on Septuagint Genesis 3:15,” by C. T. Robert Hayward (pp. 17–34); “‘What is ΕΠΙΦΕΡΕ?’ Genesis 1:2b in the Sahidic Version of the LXX and the Apocryphon of John,” by Janet Timbie (pp. 35–46). Part Two: “A Textual and Literary Analysis of the Song of the Three Jews in Greek Daniel 3:52–90,” by Alexander A. Di Lella (pp. 49–64); “Septuagintalisms, Semitic Interference, and the Original Language of the Book of Judith,” by Jeremy Corley (pp. 65–96); “Martyrdom as Cultic Death in the Books of Maccabees: Antecedents and Later Developments,” by Mark F. Whitters (pp. 97–119). Part Three: “Verbal Aspect and Discourse Function in Mark 16:1–8: Three Significant Instances,” by Stanley E. Porter (pp. 123–37); “The ‘Impersonal’ Plural Active of the Verb in the Synoptic Gospels and Acts: Semitic Interference?” by Elliott C. Maloney (pp. 138–62); “Luke 10:38–42 and Acts 6:1–7: A Lukan Diptych on διακονία,” by Bart J. Koet (pp. 163–85); “Participial Aspect and the Lamb's Paradigmatic Witness in Revelation 13:8,” by Vincent Skemp (pp. 186–214). Part Four: “The Language of Creation in Ben Sira: חלק = κτίζω,” by M. O'Connor† (pp. 217–28); “The Septuagint as Interpretative Translation and the Complex Background to κατανύσσομαι in Acts 2:37,” by Shawn W. Flynn (pp. 229–55); “Phonological Phenomena in Greek Papyri and Inscriptions and Their Significance for the Septuagint,” by James K. Aitken (pp. 256–77).

In a review such as this it is possible only to give a brief introduction to the various contributions. In her paper on Gen 1:1–2:3, Dines compares the LXX and its parent text with an interest in “power language,” first in the Hebrew, then in the Greek. For the latter she focuses on ἄρχειν, ἀρχή and κατακυρεύειν. Hayward's analysis of Gen 3:15 reveals that the Targums and the Genesis LXX translator shared a common understanding of the meaning of שוף “bruise” or “crush” in rendering it as “watch, guard” (Greek τηρεῖν). Timbie, in her article on the meaning of loanword ΕΠΙΦΕΡΕ in the Sahidic of Gen 1:2b, uses its interpretation in Berlin Codex 8502 of the Apocryphon of John to render it as “rushing over.”

Part Two opens with Di Lella's essay on the Song of the Three Jews (OG Dan 3:52–90). He presents the text, divided into seven stanzas (so Papyrus 967) to reflect the seven days of creation, commentary, and conclusion. Corley's contribution reviews the discussion about the original language of the Book of Judith; he argues that its Semitic features can be explained as imitative of the Septuagint or as the result of Semitic interference in the Greek. The paper by Whitters on martyrdom in the books of Maccabees asserts that the theological motif that bridges the world before Jewish and Christian martyrs and links up with what follows is built on the public cult (p. 97).

Stan Porter's contribution on verbal aspect and discourse function in Mark 16:1–8 opens Part Three. Here, succinctly, Porter restates his research on verbal aspect and demonstrates its importance for discourse analysis by examining one manageable passage. Maloney's essay on the “impersonal” plural active in the Synoptics and Acts concludes that this usage is the result of Aramaic interference. A detailed overview precedes this conclusion. Koet's study joins that of others who have questioned the interpretation of διακονία as “lowly, caring service.” His particular interest is its use in Acts 6:1–7, where he engages especially the work of John N. Collins, starting with Diakonia: Re-interpreting the Ancient Sources.[1] He believes that διακονία here includes “attending to the Word” (p. 185). Finally, Skemp's essay examines “the difficulty of making sense grammatically of the neuter, attributive, perfect middle-passive participle τοῦ ἐσφαγμένου [“slain”] when it is read with the prepositional phrase ἀπὸ καταβολῆς κόσμου [“from the foundation of the world”]” in Rev 13:8 (p. 186). He focuses upon the use of the perfect participle and argues that the perfect allows the Lamb's slaughter to be viewed in a way that is larger than an event fixed in time (p. 212).

Part Four is devoted to “Linguistic Studies.” The opening essay by O'Connor examines the use of κτίζω (“create”) to render חלק six times in Ben Sira. He suggests the possibility that Aramaic of the Second Temple Period used חלק with the meaning “create” (p. 226). Flynn's contribution analyses the meaning of the verb κατανύσσομαι in Acts 2:37 (NRSV: “cut to the heart”). He assumes the verb to be a “Septuagintal neologism,” i.e., that it is a word coined by LXX translators. Flynn examines its sixteen occurrences in the LXX where, he says, the verb likely retains the metaphorical sense “being stabbed” (p. 254). It is used to interpret feelings and emotions. This helps to appreciate its place in Acts 2:37. Aitken's paper serves to reignite discussion about the possibility of a relative dating of the Greek of the documents of the LXX and NT on the basis of papyri and inscriptions. Specifically he re-examines the evidence for οὐδείς and οὐθείς (“no one”) and for the contraction of adjacent vowels, e.g., ταμιεῖον (“storehouse”) becoming ταμεῖον. In both instances, H. St. John Thackeray argued that a decline in the first form in each case can be useful in dating the materials in the LXX. Aitken determines that the developments in phonological phenomena identified by Thackeray and others largely still hold true (p. 277), but, given the larger quantity of evidence now available, the situation, as Aitken shows, must be adjudged more complex than formerly.

This volume of essays succeeds admirably. Its modest price allows a wide readership.

Claude Cox, McMaster Divinity College

[1] John N. Collins, Diakonia: Re-interpreting the Ancient Sources (New York/Oxford: Oxford Universtiy Press, 1990).