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The Septuagint as Christian Scripture: Its Prehistory and the Problem of Its Canon.

The Septuagint as Christian Scripture: Its Prehistory and the Problem of Its Canon. By Martin Hengel. Grand Rapids, MI: Baker, 2002. xvi and 153 pages. Paper. $19.95.

The Septuagint, Sexuality and the New Testament. By William Loader. Grand Rapids, MI: William B. Eerdmans, 2004. x and 163 pages. Paper. $24.95.

These two studies focus on the Septuagint, the Greek translation of the Old Testament (LXX), in distinct ways. The book by Hengel, renowned professor emeritus of New Testament at the University of Tubingen, explores its origin and use as canonical Scripture in the early church. Not only did the LXX constitute the first pre-Christian commentary on the Old Testament, it was the Bible of most New Testament authors and the primitive church until the late second century and became the Old Testament of the Orthodox church.

Among fascinating items, Hengel tells how the "legend" of its inspired translation by the seventy elders in Alexandria was accepted by the early church fathers and how its use to confirm Christian teaching such as the virginity of Christ (Isa 7:14) led the Jewish community to use other Greek translations.

This is a learned and comprehensive study that only rare scholars like Hengel can write. Though readable, it will have limited appeal for general readers.

On the contrary, the book on the Septuagint and sexuality themes in the New Testament relates to contemporary issues. Loader, professor of New Testament at Perth, Australia, attempts to show how in three texts of the LXX (the Decalogue, the creation stories, and a divorce passage) the LXX introduces themes and nuances not found in the Hebrew, which influence both the writings of Philo, the Jewish philosopher from Alexandria, and, more importantly, selected New Testament passages.

With regard to the Decalogue, the LXX changed the order of the second half from murder to adultery and also separated the final prohibition against coveting into two commands: not coveting one's neighbor's wife and then his possessions. The majority of New Testament texts reflect this emphasis on adultery and sexual sins found in the LXX.

On the creation stories (Genesis 1-3) the author shows convincingly how at key points there is a new stress on Adam as a male in the image of God and on woman in the image of man. In part, the LXX translators had difficulty with Hebrew puns and wordplay (Adam/Adamah = human/earthling). They translate Adam as anthropos (human) but Adamah as the male, Adam. The temptation of Eve is also given a more sexual sense (snake seduces Eve). And the curse of the woman is to go back to her husband who rules over her and her pregnancies. Many New Testament texts seem to reflect this strong subordinate role of woman found in the LXX.

On the divorce text (Deut 24:1-4), Philo interprets the grounds for divorce as adultery on part of the woman. In Mark 12:2-12, Jesus disputes any grounds for divorce by appeal to Gen 1:27 and 2:24. The saying "the two shall become one flesh" reflects the LXX translation and affirms that the union which God effects includes sexual union (sarx = flesh). Matthew allows one ground for divorce but does not use the LXX.

In the final chapter, Loader summarizes his results with great clarity. Because all Greek and Hebrew words are translated, along with helpful tables of comparisons, the study is very accessible. This book could serve as a refresher course for pastors on the biblical languages and on the issues of sexuality and the role of women that are still with us.

Walter Pilgrim

Pacific Lutheran University

Tacoma, Washington
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Author:Pilgrim, Walter
Publication:Currents in Theology and Mission
Date:Jun 1, 2007
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