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Raija Sollamo. Repetition of the Possessive Pronouns in the Septuagint. Septuagint and Cognate Studies, no. 40. Atlanta: Scholars Press, 1995. ISBN: 0-7885-0149-6. Pp. x+120. US $39.95.
See also the response by Raija Sollamo (ed.).
1. This slim volume is loaded with valuable information, much more than its size would suggest. The title is slightly misleading, since Sollamo treats the topic only in the Pentateuch, but that is forgivable.
2. The "repetition of the possessive pronouns" mentioned in the title reflects the tendency in Attic Greek, in lists of two or more nouns, to use a possessive pronoun with only one of the nouns (e.g. "His hands and feet and ey es"). Quite often in the LXX, the possessive is repeated with more than one of the nouns ("His hands and his feet and his eyes").
3. It has been common in LXX studies to assume that repetition of possessive pronouns reflects the use of resumptive pronouns in Hebrew and is hence a Hebraism. Sollamo challenges this assumption and forces us to rethink just w hat the grammatical phenomenon of repeated possessive pronouns indicates as far as translation technique in the LXX and what is really meant by the terms "literal" and "free" translation.
4. The first chapter explores the Koine background of the LXX. Sollamo shows, by way of several examples taken more or less at random from Koine authors, that repetition of possessive pronouns in lists of two or more nouns is not a Hebraism at all; it is perfectly good Koine Greek. Authors such as Polybius, the Ptolemaic Papyri, Pseudo-Aristeas, Philo and Josephus repeated the pronouns more often than not.
5. From this groundwork, she explores each book of the Pentateuch in turn. One of the real strengths of this book is the consistent approach to each book's use of possessive pronouns. Every chapter follows this pattern of he adings:
Not every book includes all subheadings, but where possible each chapter follows this pattern. This makes it easy to compare back and forth between books under a particular subheading.
6. An appendix treats special cases in translating the Hebrew nomen rectum. A comprehensive bibliography and index of biblical passages round out the volume.
7. Throughout the book, Sollamo offers percentages and statistics of usage and presents repetition of possessive pronouns as one good criterion for evaluating translation technique in the LXX. In the process, she calls into qu estion many commonly-accepted statements about how "literal" or "free" this or that translator actually was. Readers of TC will also appreciate the way that she critiques the standard critical editions such as Rahlfs and Wevers.
8. I think Sollamo has made her case. By comparing the Hebrew text, which repeats possessive pronouns as a matter of common grammar, with the places where the LXX translators did or did not repeat possessive pronouns, she has shown that the question of who took a "literal" approach and who took a "free rendering" approach is far from cut-and-dried, and she has given us an excellent criterion for studying and evaluating translation technique in the rest of the OT.
9. Readers of TC could wish for a couple of things. I would have liked to see more treatment of places where the LXX has possessive pronouns and the Hebrew text does not. Less than a handful of such cases are treated in this book, and those only in passing. However, Sollamo's primary goal has to do with grammar and translation technique, not textual criticism, so this cannot be considered a major fault in the book. Of more significance is the fact that cross-references in the book only go backward; none go forward. That is, in the latter parts of the book she frequently refers to what has gone before with "see page x," but the early parts of the book have no such references to what follows. Perhaps in a future edition this might be corrected.
10. I did not notice any major typographical errors. All in all, this is a very well-done and useful book.
© TC: A Journal of Biblical Textual Criticism, 1996.
David L. Washburn Powell, WY, USA