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Εἰς τὸ τέλος superscripts


Susan
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I have been following along inconsistently with this project for the past few months. I noticed that many (56 by my search) of the Greek Psalms begin, 'Εἰς τὸ τέλος.’ The NETS translates it, 'Regarding completion.' I’m trying to figure out how this is related to the Hebrew לַמְנַצֵּחַ (which I think it corresponds to in every case - please correct me if I’m wrong). I’m guessing it has something to do with the adverb from the same root:  נֶצַח (usually לָנֶצַח) which is (I think in every case in the Psalms) translated εἰς τέλος (which the NETS renders ‘completely' or some such. Brenton usually says ‘forever,’ which seems to correspond more obviously to the Hebrew.). However, the usual translation of the Hebrew לַמְנַצֵּחַ superscript is something like “to the music director.” 

 

Any thoughts about how the Greek translator arrived at 'Εἰς τὸ τέλος,’ what it means in relation to the Psalms, or how it relates to the Hebrew?

 

(In case anyone is interested, I posted a more detailed version of this question on Biblical Hermeneutics Stack Exchange.)

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Tony Pyles will have some good wisdom to share on this question. I'll email him to make sure he sees this post.

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Interesting question. I am not yet even a babe in the woods really where Hebrew is concerned but I had a poke about. One theory is put forward in this study https://faculty.gordon.edu/hu/bi/ted_hildebrandt/otesources/19-psalms/text/books/frazer-pstitles/frazer-pstitles.pdf. I haven't read the paper though it looks interesting. p26-27 offers the theory - search for "unto the end".

 

Thx

D

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Very interesting, thanks Daniel. The theory there seems to be that the translator was confusing it with לָנֶצַח. It is notable that he very consistently uses the article (Εἰς τὸ τέλος) when translating  לַמְנַצֵּחַ and never (that I have found) when translating לָנֶצַח, though.  Of course, a mem does not an article make, but it does make it a substantive in a way that the translator seems to be recognizing.

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Wise cracks are more likely than wisdom, but thanks for the vote of confidence, Abram!  ;)

 

Hi, Susan! Good questions. I'll see if I can help at all.

 

εἰς τὸ τέλος provides a good example of why the production/reception distinction is important for interpreting the Greek text. In a nutshell: what the translator intended in attempting to render the Hebrew text before him into Greek is one question, and what a Greek reader might have made of the text in front of him is another. (And then there's the biblical scholar trying to sort out the difference, never mind what he/she is inclined to make of it!)

 

Ackroyd suggests essentially that the translator has found a good pun, rendering what was probably understood as a superlative with a rendering that captures another possible meaning for the same Hebrew root along the way. Perhaps so, or perhaps Ackroyd is just trying to have his cake and eat it, too. (Cf. Peter R. Ackroyd, "נצח—εἰς το τέλος," ExpTim 80 (1968/9):126.) In honor of Ackroyd I suggest we listen to the LEGO Movie theme song while having a look at this.

 
(On your footnote in the other posting, by the way, NETS seems to enjoy deliberately violating its own stated principles re following the NRSV. I suspect this has to do with Pietersma's "interlinear" paradigm for the OG, but it comes across as going out of one's way to make the translation awkward. But if it's awkward Greek, maybe that's a desirable effect?)
 
I suspect the NETS rendering "regarding completion" is probably trying to avoid what it would regard as clearly a "reception-oriented" understanding/rendering à la Brenton (for instance, Augustine seems to understand these headings as indicating that the psalm is about the eschaton). But based on a quick search with the MT-LXX tool I think there are good grounds for questioning that. In particular, Jer 50:39MT/27.39LXX, Isa 13:20, 28:28, and 33:20 all have לנצח as "εἰς τὸν αἰῶνα…" Seems to me like that phrase lives in the same neighborhood as εἰς τὸ τέλος understood as "for the end" or "forever". So maybe that's what the translator intended all along.

 

To add a little more spice to the discussion, Gregory of Nyssa, reading and writing in Greek, refers the psalms with this superscription (εἰς τὸ τέλος) to "the victory" (νῖκος)—cf. Hab 3:19.

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Thanks so much for these insights, Tony. I think Abram was right.   :)

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In general on this "Greek in a Year" forum, are questions supposed to be limited to the Greek, or are things (like this) about correspondence with the Hebrew also "on topic"? I am myself more comfortable in Greek and can handle only basic Hebrew prose, so I prefer the Psalms in Greek for now. I usually read in parallel with Hebrew, though, and I frequently have questions about the correspondence (or lack thereof) between the two. This probably sometimes involves alternative vocalization of the Hebrew, etc. I'm just not sure if this forum is meant for that, or do you stick mostly to direct analysis of the Greek?

Edited by Susan
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Susan, this is perfect for this particular forum. Of course it is helpful to look at the Greek text in its own right, especially if that mirrors the experience of readers who might not have known Hebrew, but one way or the other, comparing Greek with Hebrew for LXX reading is, I think, a key part of reading through a Greek LXX book.

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Thanks, Abram. 

 

For anyone interested, I found that Pietersma’s staff page  includes ‘draft’ commentaries (? related to the SBL LXX Commentary) on a few of the Greek Psalms. The one on Psalm 4 (the first place this phrase appears; I’m unable to link directly to the .pdf due to the structure of that site, but it’s accessible on the navigation bar on the left) does include some commentary on Εἰς τὸ τέλος. It also mentions that the NETS gloss is “Regarding fulfillment,” which doesn’t appear to be the case in the published version. 

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Agreed. The NETS translation manual completely fascinates me for inexplicable reasons. 

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That site is a gold mine!

 

Indeed. I've not seen it before - now if I just give up sleep entirely :)

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Oooooh, see the article, "LXX Exegesis and the Superscriptions of the Greek Psalter (2005).” Pages 468-471 go into the issue at stake here in some detail. The remainder of it is fascinating as well. From his conclusion:
 

If its textual- linguistic make-up argues for a translation characterized more by formal correspondence than by dynamic equivalency, one's approach to hermeneutics in the Septuagint should be governed by these findings. As I see it, that means at a minimum that exegesis needs to demonstrated, not presupposed. From that perceptive I would suggest that one work from the least intelligible phenomena to the more intelligible; that one proceed from the word level to higher levels of constituent structure; that one pay more attention to the translator's deviations from his Hebrew- Greek defaults than to his defaults and standard equations or, to put it differently, that greater weight be given to what is unpredictable than to what is predictable; that one assign greater context to segments of the Greek text than to the corresponding segments of the Hebrew text only as a last resort.

 

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