Journal of Hebrew Scriptures - Volume 17 (2017) - Review

Eidsvåg, Gunnar Magnus, The Old Greek Translation of Zechariah (VTSup, 170; Leiden: Brill, 2015). Pp. xii + 272. Hardcover. US$135.00. ISBN 978-9-004-30271-6.

In this revision of his 2011 dissertation, Gunnar Magnus Eidsvåg seeks to identify the origin of Old Greek (OG) Zechariah, concluding that it was translated in Egypt during the mid-second century b.c.e. by an individual with pro-Hasmonean sympathies. Eidsvåg's analysis is divided into two sections, focusing first on the characteristics of the OG translation and then turning to a close comparison of passages in Zechariah with significant differences between the Masoretic and OG texts. While his audience may not agree with his conclusions at every point, his overall argument about a pro-Hasmonean origin of the translation is sound and well defended.

Eidsvåg's monograph opens with an overview of the scholarly discourse about the origins of OG Zechariah and of methodological issues relating to the problem. He relies on the available evidence in Sirach for an initial estimation of the dating, the mid-second century b.c.e., and further suggests an Egyptian provenance based on his previous analysis of toponyms in the OG Minor Prophets. Eidsvåg also describes the texts used within his analysis. Here he begins with the standard Hebrew and Greek critical texts, adopting alternate readings as the likely OG Urtext and Hebrew Vorlage at several points based on his own text critical analysis.

Turning to Eidsvåg's analysis, part one focuses on establishing the translator's technique by addressing five areas: “visually ambiguous phenomena”; “representation of the constituents of Hebrew words by individual Greek equivalents”; “word order”; “quantitative representation”; and “lexical choice.” Each topic is addressed in its own chapter, followed by a brief chapter summarizing his conclusions. Echoing the findings of previous but less exhaustive studies, Eidsvåg concludes that the translation evinces a literal, source-oriented technique, particularly with respect to its constituent elements, word order, and quantitative representation. He does note, however, that the translator sought to provide a meaningful and “readable Greek text” (p. 123). This latter aspect is most notable in his analysis of the translator's lexical choice, which suggests that the translator used a variety of Greek equivalents for the same Hebrew word. Eidsvåg further observes that the translator appears to have relied on the book's context and etymology when translating unknown Hebrew words. While Eidsvåg's audience may not agree with his characterizations at every individual point, the preponderance of the evidence supports his characterization of the OG translation. His primary contribution here is his more comprehensive portrait of the translation technique. Given his careful and close examination, it is only when Eidsvåg builds on these conclusions in part two that the gap in his analysis of the translation technique is noted. In this latter section Eidsvåg's analysis requires the ability to differentiate between variants based on the translator's technique and those based on the translator's context. While Eidsvåg has addressed a wide range of variants in his first part, he fails to analyze the translator's practice for rendering verbal forms. Given that differences in tense, number, and person between the Hebrew and Greek texts contribute to significant differences in meaning at multiple points, it is unfortunate that neither Eidsvåg nor his predecessors have identified the translator's general practice with respect to verbal renderings. For the present work, the lack is evident at several points, perhaps most notably in his examination of Zech 9:9–13. While Eidsvåg's analysis there is generally persuasive, knowledge about the translator's usual practice with respect to verbal renderings holds the potential to further develop or nuance his argument.

Having established the general translation technique, Eidsvåg builds his case for a translator with Hasmonean sympathies in chapters 10 to 13, focusing on OG Zech 9:9–13; 14:1–21; 6:9–15; and 8:18–23. Each chapter opens with a discussion of the text, a translation of the OG text, and a review of the OG's relevant variants. Eidsvåg then explores the differences between his reconstructed OG text and its proposed Vorlage, followed by a hypothesis explaining the differences. Some chapters then offer additional intertextual and contextual support for the proposed explanation. Chapter 9, which explores OG Zech 2, follows a similar format but focuses on the portrayal of Jerusalem rather than Eidsvåg's proposed Hasmonean influences.

Eidsvåg's argument for a pro-Hasmonean translator builds on the text's second-century b.c.e. context and two references to “Judah” in OG Zech 9 and 14. Citing the addition of the second singular pronoun in OG Zech 9:13, Eidsvåg suggests that the translator read the Hebrew reference to the tribe of Judah as a reference to Judah Maccabee. The addition of the pronoun clarifying the referent reflects one of the noted translation tendencies. Eidsvåg further investigates the intertextual links between OG Zech 9, Gen 49, and Ps 72, noting that the latter two were also adduced for descriptions of Judah Maccabee in 1 Maccabees. Eidsvåg goes on to argue that OG Zech 14 depicts Judah as Yahweh's human agent in battle and calls for a universal celebration of the feast of booths, which he indicates possessed associations with Judah Maccabee's cleansing of the temple during the second century b.c.e.. Turning from the explicit references to Judah, Eidsvåg then examines the translator's translation rather than transliteration of the readily identifiable personal names in OG Zech 6:9–15. Here Eidsvåg suggests that the rendering reflects a desire to omit names that could have been deemed as supporting the Oniads, who were rivals of the Hasmoneans. Finally, Eidsvåg links the mention of the “five cities” in OG Zech 8:21 to Leontopolis and the wider Heliopolis region based on an intertextual link with Isa 19:18. He concludes that in this case OG Zech 8 effectively undermines the legitimacy of the Oniad temple in Leontopolis, which again suggests that the translator had Hasmonean sympathies.

Eidsvåg's analysis hinges on the premise that the OG translation includes clues to the translator's context. As such, Eidsvåg walks a fine line, attempting to discern these clues while also remaining sensitive to the translator's usual practice. He is generally successful, although the contextual analysis in part two might have benefitted from more explicit references to his exploration of the translation tendencies identified in part one. Chapter 9's review of OG Zech 2 is perhaps where Eidsvåg has the most difficulty, commenting that the differences appear ideological (p. 140). At various points, though, he provides explanations rooted in the translator's approach to providing a meaningful text. For example, while Eidsvåg's contention that OG Zech 2:6[10] includes a free rendering introduced by the translator appears likely, Eidsvåg himself notes that the translator at times would adapt his translation to its immediate textual context and that this verse may include one such instance (p. 134). Such a statement somewhat undermines his contention that the difference is ideological. Fortunately for Eidsvåg's broader argument, his conclusions about OG Zech 2, while informative, do not play an essential role.

A few minor editorial points are worth noting. The exploration of the renderings of פֵּרַשְׂתִּי in Zech 2:6[10] regularly include the consonant שׁ instead of שׂ. Additionally, some page and chapter references appear not to have been updated during the editorial process. The footnote on page 4 pointing to his methodological discussion should likely refer to page 127, while the introduction of chapter 12 should reference chapters 10 and 11 rather than 9 and 10. However, these issues are minor and should not hinder the reader's ability to follow Eidsvåg's argument, which offers a valuable contribution to the study of OG Zechariah.

Jennifer Brown Jones, McMaster Divinity College