Blanc SHS 3 - Sciences humaines et sociales : Cultures, arts, civilisations

Historical and Theological Dictionary of the Septuagint – HTDS

Historical and Theological Lexicon of the Septuagint

The project will provide a new resource for research on the first Greek translation of the Bible. The translation, going back to Antiquity, is a marker of intercultural relation in this period.

The objective of the project is to publish a new resource for research on the Septuagint, on the Bible in general and on Hellenistic and Christian literature.

The objective of this collective and interdisciplinary project is to publish a new resource for research : a multi-volume dictionnary proposing, for each word of the Septuagint, or word-group, an article of 2 to 10 pages (about 500 articles in all). The dictionary will be based in original research of the highest scientific level. It will fill an important niche in the domains of ancient philology and religious studies. The Hebrew Bible has played an important part in the development of European culture. For this to happen, the principal notions it expresses had to be extracted from their national and linguistic environment so as to become usable more widely. These notions also had to be rendered attractive to a mentality that had evolved under the influence of the rationalist revolution brought about by the ancient Greeks. The Septuagint is the first step in this process of cultural appropriation. The objective of the project is to propose an analysis of the typical vocabulary of the Septuagint. For each word or word group, an article will be written specifying : 1) the usage of the word in classical and Hellenicstic Greek : meaning, contexts, connotations ; 2) its attestation and meaning in the biblical writings ; 3) semantic developments in Jewish writings of the Hellenistic period, the New Testament and the earliest Christian literature. Since the vocabulary of the Septuagint will be placed in a large context, the lexicon will be of interest not only to Biblical scholars, but also to classical scholars, linguists, historians of religion and church historians. Thus, the lexicon will fill a large gap.

In philological research, scholars nowadays use many computer programs and data banks of Greek and Latin texts (e.g. Thesaurus linguae graecae, Thesaurus linguae latinae, « Diogenes ») as well as biblical programs (e.g. « Bible Works »). These programs permit to make exhaustive searches and to find critical editions.

The initial result will be the publication of a lexicon both on paper and on line. The work will provide vast information on the evolution of key terms the Septuagint translators have borrowed from contemporary Hellenistic culture and on the afterlife of these terms in Jewish and Christian literature. This will be an innovative resource offering readers the possibility to discover the relation of the Septuagint to its Greek and Egyptian socio-cultural contexts, and the impact of the Septuagint on later Christian Theology. Meanwhile, however, additional results have sprouted forth in the course of the realization of the project. In particular, several international colloquia and articles published in scientific journals have given scholars the opportunity to present their conclusions in more depth. An international network of academics has been created in order to promote research on the Septuagint. The project integrates a large number of young scholars and doctoral students, who will constitute a community of researchers working on the Septuagint in the longer term. They will have been trained in the methods underlying the lexicon project and will have been exposed to both international collaboration and pluridisciplinay research.

The international character of the project opens up perspectives of collaboration with universities in countries with which we have had few contacts (Eastern Europe, Australia). By the same token, it promotes French research in a multicultural context. The scientific quality of the lexicon will ensure that it becomes a reference work used by generations of researchers working on high level projects, in both religious studies and literary studies in the Hellenistic and early Christian period.

Les études méthodologiques préalables ont conduit à la parution du livre Septuagint Vocabulary. Pre-History, Usage, Reception, édité par E. Bons et J. Joosten, Atlanta : SBL,2011.
Un premier colloque a été organisé en 2011 sur le thème de la réception du vocabulaire de la Septante dans la littérature judéo-hellenistique et chrétienne.
Un deuxième colloque est organisé en juin 2013 sur le thème des découvertes récentes effectuées à l’occasion de l’écriture des premiers articles.
Un certain nombre d’articles sont directement dérivés du projet, tels que :
Bons, E., « Psalter Terminology in Joseph and Aseneth », in: LXX-Tagung Wuppertal 2012 –Die Septuaginta: Text, Wirkung, Rezeption, 19-22 juillet 2012 (titre provisoire ; coll. « issenschaftliche
Untersuchungen zum Neuen Testament »), Tübingen, Mohr Siebeck, sous presse.
Scialabba, D., « The Vocabulary of Conversion in Joseph and Aseneth and in the Acts of the Apostles » in: LXX-Tagung Wuppertal 2012 – Die Septuaginta: Text, Wirkung, Rezeption, 19-22 juillet 2012 (titre provisoire ; coll. « Wissenschaftliche Untersuchungen zum Neuen Testament»), Tübingen, Mohr Siebeck, sous presse.
Un certain nombre de communications dans des colloques internationaux ont promu le projet ainsi que l’aide de l’ANR:
7 avril 2011, Jérusalem : Jan Joosten, « The Historical and Theological Lexicon of the Septuagint:Reflections on a projected research tool », Jonas Greenfield Seminar, Hebrew University.
12 nov. 2011, Francfort (RFA), Eberhard Bons/Jan Joosten, Rhein-Main-Exegesetreffen (réunion trisemestrielle des exégètes du Rhin supérieur et des pays voisins), cf.
10 sept 2012, Strasbourg (FRA), E. Bons, « The “Historical and Theological Lexicon of the Septuagint” (HTLS) », colloque La lexicographie Biblique, Université de Strasbourg.

This large-scale collective project will aim to produce a multi-volume dictionary of the Septuagint, i.e. the oldest Greek translation of the Jewish Bible, produced over the third and second centuries BC. The dictionary proposes for each important word (around 400-500 words in all) an article retracing:
– the background of the word in Classical and Hellenistic Greek: meanings, connotations and semantic development;
– its distribution and meaning in the Biblical books: the way the Greek word matches Hebrew and Aramaic equivalents and absorbs their meaning and usage;
– the further development of the word in Hellenistic Jewish writings, in the New Testament and in early Christian literature.

Wider context
The Hebrew Bible has played an important part in the formation of our western culture. However, its central ideas—such as monotheism, the demythologization of nature, the linearity of time—had to be taken out of the national and linguistic milieu in which they came into being if they were to become fertile on a wider scale. They also needed to be rendered palatable to a mentality that had experienced the scientific, rationalist revolution prepared by the Greeks. The Septuagint is the first important step in this process of acculturation.
During the last twenty years, the Septuagint has come out of the shadow of its Hebrew source. Historians of Judaism, linguists and New Testament scholars have come to view the Septuagint as a significant document in its own right. The Septuagint is the focus of several different approaches within the humanities. Several important projects have been aimed at producing annotated translations of the Septuagint: in France, la Bible d’Alexandrie (1994-), in the English-speaking world, the New English Translation of the Septuagint (2007), and recently in Germany, Septuaginta deutsch (2009). Further progress in the exploration of the Greek version can only be obtained by going into more depth. The rediscovery of the text as linear discourse is to be supplemented by research on its words: their roots in Greek and Hellenistic culture and their exploitation within the biblical language.

Objectives and methodology
The objective of the project is to provide a tool for research on the Septuagint. Because the vocabulary of the Septuagint will be placed in a much larger context, the dictionary will address not only biblical scholars, but also Hellenists, general linguists, historians of religions and patristic scholars. As such, the dictionary will fill an important gap.
The principal novelty of the project is to approach the Septuagint as a scientific object in its own right. Hitherto, the Greek version has been used within the textual criticism of the Old Testament, or has been read in light of the New Testament. Recent research has shown, however, that the Septuagint is a relatively autonomous text. Its Hebrew source was not identical to the traditional text received by the synagogue (the Massoretic Text). Also, the translators appear to have taken a degree of liberty in interpreting the text. In other words, the Septuagint is a kind of update of the Jewish scriptures.

Organization of the project
The project will be led by Eberhard Bons and Jan Joosten, both of them professors of Old Testament exegesis at Strasbourg University. They will be seconded by an advisory board consisting of the following scholars:
– Christoph Kugelmeier, Saarbrücken, classics,
– Anna Passoni Dell’Acqua, Milan, papyrology.
– James Aitken, Cambridge, Jewish hellenistic literature,
– Michael Segal, Jerusalem, Rabbinic literature,
– Tobias Nicklas, Regensburg, New Testament,
– Emanuela Prinzivalli, Rome, patristics.
– Erik Eynikel, Nijmegen, lexicography.
The articles will be written by a large group of participants.
The dictionary will be published in English, by the Mohr-Siebeck publishing house in Tübingen that guarantees a world-wide diffusion.

Project coordinator


The author of this summary is the project coordinator, who is responsible for the content of this summary. The ANR declines any responsibility as for its contents.



Help of the ANR 160,000 euros
Beginning and duration of the scientific project: - 48 Months

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