Wednesday, September 3, 2014

Augustine's _Questions on Judges_ and the Hebrew Bible

Earlier posts in this series are here (Genesis), here (Deuteronomy), and here (Joshua). As Judges is the last book of the Heptateuch, this is the last book covered by Augustine in his Quaestiones in Heptateuchum.

NB: Rahlfs printed two separate translations of Judges, an A text (Codex Alexandrinus plus Origenic and Lucianic mss) and a B text (Codex Vaticanus).

Question 16 on Judges 2:13 (p. 458)
And they forsook the Lord, and served Baal and Ashtaroth. (Judg 2:13 KJV)
Both Greek versions of Judges say much the same thing as the MT. Augustine wants to explain to his readers who these foreign gods are, so he says that people in that part of the world call Jupiter "Baal" and Juno "Astarte". Scripture refers to Juno in the plural (Junos = Ashtaroth) because there are many idols of Juno, and each idol can itself be called Juno. Jupiter is in the singular simply for the sake of variety.
hoc autem, id est nomine plurali Iunones in graecis secundum Septuaginta reperimus, in latinis autem singulariter erat. quorum in illo, qui non habebat Septuaginta interpretationem, sed ex hebraeo erat, Astaroth legimus nec Baal, sed Baalim. quodsi forte aliud in hebraea uel syra lingua nomina ista significant. deos tamen alios fuisse constat et falsos, quibus Israhel seruire non debuit.
But this--Juno in the plural--we found in Greek codices according the LXX, but in Latin codices it was singular. Of which, in that one that was not containing the LXX translation but was from the Hebrew, we read Astaroth and not Baal but Baalim. But if perhaps those names signify anything different in the Hebrew or Syriac language, yet it is agreed that they are different and false gods, which Israel shouldn't have served.
Here it seems to me that Augustine is citing the translation from the Hebrew in order to confirm his conjecture that the text could just as easily have put Baal (or Jupiter) in the plural as in the singular. But what Augustine says is in the Vulgate (Baalim) does not appear in the extant manuscript evidence, according to the Roman edition.

Question 21 on Judges 3:17 (p. 463)
And he went and presented the gifts to King Eglom of Moab. Now Eglom was a very handsome man. (Judges-B 3:17 NETS).
The A-text says basically the same thing. You may recall that the MT does not describe Eglon as handsome, as do the Greek texts (ἀστεῖος), but rather as fat (בריא), reflected in the Vulgate (crassus). [But fat can mean healthy, thus good-looking; cf. Gen 41:2.] Now Eglom is also fat in the LXX; when Ehud (or, rather, Aod in Greek) thrusts his dagger into the king's belly, "the fat closed over the flame" (3:22, both texts: ἀπέκλεισεν τὸ στέαρ κατὰ τῆς φλογός).

[The Hebrew להב can mean "flame" or "blade"; the Greek φλόξ usually just means "flame," but Muraoka (p. 717; also LSJ) suggests the meaning "blade" in this single passage. I assume that's what a Greek reader would have understood in this passage, even if he would have thought it an odd way of phrasing it.]

Augustine finds in his Latin text at v. 17 that Eglom was exilis valde, very thin; but he later (v. 22) finds that the fat closed over the wound. He decides that v. 17 must be intended contrary to fact. He compares lucus (forest), which does not give light (minime luceat), despite what its name might imply. Or in scripture the word "bless" often actually means "curse," for which Augustine cites the story of Naboth's vineyard (cf. 3Reigns 20(21): 10, 13 = 1Kings 21:10, 13).

At the end of the comment, we find:
nam in ea interpretatione, quae non secundum Septuaginta, sed ex hebraeo est, ita inuenimus: erat autem Eglom crassus nimis.
For in that translation which is not according to the LXX but from the Hebrew, we find thus: "now Elgom was very fat."
Augustine cites the translation from the Hebrew to confirm his own exegesis. It is not clear whether he thinks the Seventy translators themselves are responsible for speaking contrarily to fact in v. 17, or whether he thinks they have precisely represented the Hebrew and it is Jerome who has offered a more straightforward statement. Based on other passages in Augustine, I would guess that he would attribute precision to Jerome and the difficult or odd phrasing to the Seventy (though he would of course not view that as a negative).

Question 25 on Judges 3:31 (pp. 464–65)

The MT of Judg 3:31 has Shamgar strike down 600 Philistines with an oxgoad, or a cattle-goad (במלמד הבקר). The LXX seems instead to have him killing a bunch of calves: "fully six hundred men, as well as calves of cattle" (NETS; ἐκτὸς μόσχων τῶν βοῶν).

Augustine remarks:
sed quid sibi uelit quod addidit: praeter uitulos boum, obscurum est. 
But what it means that it adds beyond the calves of the cattle is obscure. 
Augustine suggests that maybe killing the cows was just a side effect of the battle against the Philistines. But then why does it specify calves? "Maybe the custom of the Greek language is to use the term calves even for those that are big?" Augustine finds Egyptian and Latin parallels for such a suggestion. And then:
non autem habet interpretatio ex hebraeo "praeter uitulos boum," sicut ista quae secundum Septuaginta est; sicut habet illa ex hebraeo: uomere occisos sexcentos uiros, quod ista non habet. 
But the interpretation from the Hebrew does not have "beyond calves of cattle," like the translation according to the LXX; just like the one from Hebrew has "600 men killed with an ploughshare," which the other does not have.
End of the discussion. Augustine does not explore why the Hebrew and LXX have different wording. He simply notes it and moves on.

Question 37 on Judges 7:6 (pp. 470–72)

This is the story of Gideon weeding down his army from 32,000, to 10,000, to 300, the last of which resulted from the particular way that his men drank from a stream. But the Latin codices reflect the multiple Greek forms of the book: Augustine finds in some Latin codices that the 300 men drank "with their hand" (= B text) and other codices that say they drank "with their tongue" (= A text). Augustine says that the Greek text has both: manu sua, lingua sua, and he explains what this would mean. I don't find any evidence for this double rendering in extant Greek mss (according to the Larger Cambridge edition), though Origen does preach both readings: it signifies that a Christian must work with both his hand and his tongue, that is in deed and word (Homilies on Judges 9.2, pp. 116–17).

Then Augustine says:
nam et interpretatio ex hebraeo planius id habet his uerbis: fuit itaque numerus eorum qui manu in os proiciente aquam lambuerant trecenti uiri. 
For also the translation from the Hebrew has it more clear in these words: so the number of those who had licked the water with the hand going up to the mouth was 300 men. 
That's really all for Augustine's comparison of texts. He moves on to explaining how men and dogs are accustomed to drink, and then explores the spiritual significance of the number 300 (= Greek tau, and so signifying the cross) and why God would choose those who drink like dogs (he likes to choose the base and despised things of the world).

Augustine doesn't really comment on which text is correct, or why there is diverse wording. He is content here simply to note the diversity and explain what each reading would mean in a way that harmonizes them all.

Question 41 on Judges 8:26–27 (pp. 473–75)

After Gideon's victory, made took some gold from the Israelites and constructed an ephod in Ephratha for Israel to worship. Augustine has a lot to say about this ephod, but the comment that concerns us has to do with the composition of the ephod. Augustine's Latin text seems to say that Gideon took all the gold and used it to make an ephod, but Augustine knows well that ephods are made of more than just gold (cf. Exod 39:2 MT; 36:9 LXX), and Gideon wouldn't have used all of the gold to make this ephod. So he explains that when his Latin text says fecit illud in ephud (he made it [= the gold] into an ephod), what it really means is fecit ex eo ephud (he made from it an ephod). He then quotes the interpretatio ex hebraeo, which has this exact rendering. The Hebrew translation confirms Augustine's exegesis.

Question 47 on Judges 10:1 (pp. 479–80)
And after Abimelech, Thola son of Phoua, son of his father's brother, a man of Issachar, rose to deliver Israel, and he himself lived at Samaria in the hill country of Ephraim. (Judg 10:1 NETS A text). 
The A and B texts say basically the same thing. The expression "son of his father's brother" is a little odd, and most English translations take the Hebrew a little differently: "son of Dodo." If dodo is actually a proper name rather than a common noun meaning "his uncle," then the entire explanation given by Augustine is irrelevant, but this option isn't open to Augustine because of the texts he's working with. Even Jerome translates it with patruus, "uncle."

Augustine finds in his Latin translation the confusing and potentially misleading expression filius patris fratris eius. Augustine wants to clarify for his readers that this does not mean "son of the father of his brother" but rather "son of the brother of his father," that is, "son of his uncle." Augustine says that Gideon and Puah were brothers, so Abimelech (Gideon's son) and Tola (Puah's son) were cousins, which means that Tola was the son of Abimelech's uncle, and therefore Abimelech must be the antecedent of eius. Augustine says this is found more clearly (euidentius) in the translation from the Hebrew. He doesn't quote the translation, but he's right that Jerome certainly presents the text so that this interpretation is a little more straightforward: filius Phoa patrui Abimelech ("son of Puah, uncle of Abimelech"). The rest of Augustine's comment is concerned with explaining how Gideon and Puah could be brothers, even though Puah is said here to be a man of Issachar while Gideon is from the tribe of Manasseh (6:15).

Augustine cites Jerome's translation as confirmation for his own interpretation.

Question 55 on Judges 15:8 (pp. 505–6)
And he struck them on the thigh [ἐπὶ μηρόν; B: shank upon thigh, κνήμην ἐπὶ μηρόν], a great blow, and he went down and was staying by the wadi in the cave of Etam [B: sat in a hole in the rock of Etam]. (Judg 15:8 NETS A text)
Augustine, reading a Latin translation of the B text, asks, "Why does it say that Samson struck the foreigners tibiam super femur?" The tibia is below the femur, not above it. And if it's talking about where on their bodies Samson struck them, are we supposed to believe that he struck everyone on the same body part? Can it mean that Samson used the tibia of an animal to strike the Philistines on their femurs? No, because it doesn't say tiba super femur but tibiam super femur, and, in any case, we've already said that it's absurd to think that Samson would have paid such attention to where on their bodies he was going to strike them. "Certainly this unusual locution creates an obscurity." Augustine says that it must mean that the Philistines reacted to the great slaughter wrought by Samson by putting their tibias on their femurs, which he interprets as a posture of amazement, as if they put their hands to their faces.

Then he cites the Vulgate:
hunc sensum ita se habere etiam interpretatio, quae est ex hebraeo, satis edocet; nam ita legitur: percussitque eos ingenti plaga, ita ut stupentes suram femori inponerent. 
This matches exactly the Weber-Gryson edition of the Vulgate. Augustine cites Jerome's translation to confirm his own interpretation.

Conclusion for Judges 

Out of the 7 passages in the Questiones de Iudicibus in which Augustine cites Jerome's Hebrew translation for comparison, 5 times the purpose of the citation is to confirm the interpretation that Augustine has already proposed for the passage (questions 16, 21, 41, 47, 55). The other two times he cites the Vulgate (questions 25, 37), he simply notes the reading as distinct from the LXX and explains it on its own terms without trying to determine how the two different readings arose or which is correct.

No comments: