Linguistic Variation and the Circumstantial Participle in the Septuagint

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John Lee’s The Greek of the Pentateuch addresses among other things the contribution of language study to explaining the reasons for translation choices. Within this the role of language variation is highlighted in this paper. Variation is a feature that can be illuminated by documentary papyri, where differences in formulae can reveal individuals behind the writers of papyri letters and petitions. In a similar manner the individual differences between Septuagint translators can also be explained. Taking Lee’s interest in variation further, we can examine the appearance of circumstantial participles in place of finite verbs in the Septuagint. Such participles are conventional in Greek, but importantly appear when a writer wishes to raise register or to improve his earlier draft of a document. The Septuagint circumstantial participles are therefore explained both as a linguistic phenomenon to give prominence to certain main verbs in discourse (using Relevance Theory) and as a feature of register, particularly favoured in narratives (e.g., in the story of Moses’ birth). They may also arise from editing and redrafting, and may be further evidence of the working practices of the translators.

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Journal of Septuagint and Cognate Studies
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