Review of Invitation to the Septuagint by Karen H. Jobes and Moises Silva

July 29, 2021

Jobes, Karen H. and Moisés Silva. Invitation to the Septuagint, 2nd Edition. Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Academic, 2015, Pp 432, $28.30, Paperback.


Septuagintal studies has risen in recent years, but a substantial introduction to the discipline was lacking for students and scholars alike.  The technical nature of the discipline left many students unfamiliar with how to proceed into the fray.  Karen Jobes and Moises Silva initially filled that hole in 2000, but they have updated and expanded to a second edition of their primer to account for changes in the field of the LXX studies.  The second edition responds to a lengthy criticism of the first edition from James Barr whereby the authors supposedly deemed the LXX unhelpful for determining the Hebrew text (xii n.1).  The second addition has been updated the bibliography with references from the last fifteen years. Both authors are world renown scholars for their scholarship in Greek lexicography and the use of the Old Testament in the New Testament.  Hereafter, the authors will be referred to as J.S.

J.S. begin with answering the readers’ initial question, Why should I study the Septuagint? in a brief introduction. They suggest that the LXX aids the interpreters understanding of the Old and New Testament.  The body of the book divides into three sections to address three different audiences.  The first section, The History of the Septuagint, is directed towards students with little to no knowledge of Greek or the LXX.  They summarize the origin and transmission of the LXX, editions and contents, and the LXX as a translation.  The second section, The Septuagint in Biblical Studies, assumes a moderate knowledge of Greek.  J.S discusses the language of the LXX, the process of establishing the text of the LXX, the use of the LXX in the textual criticism of the Hebrew Bible, the relationship between the LXX and the NT, and the interpretation of the LXX.  The third section, Current State of Septuagint Studies, reinforces the other chapters through presenting a history of literature.  J.S provide a detailed biographical sketch of Septuagint scholars of the previous generation.  They discuss current studies in the language and translation, reconstructing the history of the text, and the theological development in the Hellenistic age.  They also include four appendixes for further research for the beginner to the advanced student.  J.S compiled their book with a pedagogical focus which should encourage professors to implement their resource at the seminary and doctoral level.

J.S have written a clear introduction to a complex discipline and the student and scholar alike will benefit from their work.  The authors have compiled a resource that aims for the student to grapple with the larger issues of the LXX.  They have arranged the chapters with an upward focus so that the student learns with the book and they target three different familiarities with the LXX.  They have struck a middle ground with these sections so that the book grows with the student’s familiarity and his understanding of the LXX.  The divisions also allow the reader a resource long into his studies into the Septuagint.  A slight critique to their approach is that the student who has no familiarity with Greek or the LXX is unable to grapple with the concepts in two-thirds of the book.

J.S navigate complex issues in the Septuagint and present a balanced approach to the subject.  They navigate the subject through careful summaries, discussion of terms, examples of principles, and evaluation of evidence.  They walk the student through a scholar’s approach to the subject, so that they can grapple with complex issues as they read the LXX.  A short coming of the edition, the authors discuss translation techniques of the authors, but they fail to instruct the student on discovering these techniques.  Readers would benefit from a helpful summary of the ways that translators adapt, modify, or edit a text to their target audience.  J.S highlight the religious climate which the LXX was translated into, but they fail to incorporate a summary of how a translator uses translation techniques to address his context.  A famous example is the LXX of Proverbs rearranging the order to highlight Solomonic authorship and remove pagan authorship from the book.

Section two addresses difficult concepts and theories such as the LXX role with textual criticism, DSS, NT and the LXX, and the interpretation of the LXX.  This section is the heart of the book.  J.S. define their terms and navigate the reader through these challenging concepts.  They succeed in reviewing scholarship and addressing each issue so that student will walk away confident of his knowledge of the subject.  In contrast, section three ramps up the discussion and reminds the student of the plethora of the unresolved issues within Septuagintal studies. The students’ emotions sway throughout the book from confident to overwhelmed.  J.S. cannot protect the students from this reality so they present a realistic picture of the field.

This reviewer invites students, pastors, theologians, and scholars alike to the Invitation to the Septuagint.  J.S has crafted a primer that facilitates an introduction but also a thorough reference to the subject.  Scholars such as Jan Jooster, Benjamin G. Wright, Peter J. Gentry, and Gert J. Steyn agree that updated edition will benefit student and scholar alike.  This comprehensive primer will not disappoint those who desire to acquaint themselves with the Greek version of the Old Testament.

Nicholas Majors

Midwestern Baptist Theological Seminary


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