Universität Duisburg-Essen, Institut für Evangelische Theologie 

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Schart, Aaron, Stand: 2007-04-05

Impressions from the Conference "The Septuagint in Ancient Judaism and Early Christianity", 08.09.2002 - 11.09.2002 at Bangor Theological Seminary in Bangor, Maine/USA

In the present time it happens that in different countries the idea was born to translate the Septuagint in modern languages, that is the name for the version of the Jewish scriptures in Old Greek viewed as authoritative in the first century AD. The Translation into German is done by a translator-team under the project title "Septuaginta Deutsch, LXX.D". At the same time a team of American scholars translate the Septuagint into modern English under the title "The New Translation of the Septuagint, NETS". An old translation by Lancelot Charles Lee Brenton (1807-1862) was published in 1851 and has been the only scholarly translation ever since. It is needless to say that both teams wanted to get in contact with eachother and share the results of their work. This conference brought together 10 scholars from the American team and 10 from the German team. The conference is very well documented on the Web (many photos, even short videos are included): www.bts.edu/lxx (special thanks to David Trobisch!).

At the conference lectures were held on method, textual criticism, translation technique, semantic studies, source-critical problems and theological issues. The vivid discussion yielded a better understanding what the other team is doing and how each project can develop its own profile. It would probably not be worth the effort to translate the Septuagint into German, if the German project would not pursue a bit different aims than the American project.

The highlight of the conference was Robert Kraft's public lecture on "Continuities and Discontinuities in the Transitions from Jewish to Christian Scribal Practices." The temperature on that day reached an all-time high for this season, but Prof. Kraft could easily attract attention. His outstanding expertise on the early manuscripts of the Septuagint yielded new insights, for example for the question how the name of God was handled by the Jewish and Christian scribes: The oldest manuscripts show no evidence that in Jewish manuscripts the greek title kyrios has replaced the Hebrew proper name YHWH. This very much contradicts the hypothesis still hold by many scholars, that the original Septuagint used kyrios as an equivalent for YHWH. Kraft also pointed out the importance of the so called nomina sacra, that are up to 14 words written in a contracted form with a line above. This writing technique apparently singled out a set of words, all related to God and the messiah Jesus, which were more revered as others. It is striking that this scribal usage is only found in Christian manuscripts. In fact, it is the oldest material evidence for Christian identity.

The conference was perfectly organized and proudly hosted by the Bangor Theological Seminary. The small number of participants fostered intensive discussions. I have learned a lot and am encouraged to do more research on the Greek Old Testament and the quotations of it in the New Testament.

Some persons of the German team together with the chairman of the conference David Trobisch: