Wednesday, March 18, 2015

Septuaginta Deutsch (Review)

Septuaginta Deutsch: Das grieschische Alte Testament in Deutscher Ubersetzung  -     Edited By: Martin Karrer, Wolfgang Kraus
    By: Martin Karrer & Wolfgang Kraus (Eds.)

Interest in the Septuagint has seen a bit of a resurgence. Not just among scholars, but even among the religion/bible buying public. True, the segment of the public actively interested in matters of biblical studies, religious history, or theology is not a large segment of the population. It is, however, vocal and active. Thus, it is not uncommon to find more mention of the Septuagint in literature ranging from popular Biblical Studies to books dedicated to spirituality or mysticism (Christian or otherwise). 

 It is becoming better know that there is another "strand" of the Bible out there. In academic circles, after decades of being considered an occasionally poor translation of the Hebrew, the Septuagint has claimed a position of merit. The discoveries at Qumran have bolstered some of the textual curiosities of the LXX and there is renewed interest in the "Greek Bible" as the Bible of the Early Church. 

 Given the above, there has been a slow but steady growth of popular publications of the Septuagint into modern languages. Unfortunately, these efforts have seamed more like stop-gap measures than projects designed to fill a void in the marketplace. Without naming any names, the English editions have uniformly read like a warmed over NRSV. From a cost effective standpoint, this makes sense. The NRSV has most of the books of the Septuagint. Why reinvent the wheel? Remove the inclusive language, maybe make a few editorial massages, throw in a translation of the Psalms of Solomon, and you're set. 

 Unfortunately, this has left us with English translations that often fail to capture much of nuances of the LXX. There is a respectable French translation available, however, it is a multi-volume affair and, to the best of my knowledge, does not have a US distributor. 

 For those of us with some (reading) fluency in German, Deutsche Bibelgesellschaft has provided the first book to genuinely address the need for a translation of the Septuagint into a modern language. The Septuaginta Deutsch is, as the title implies, a complete original translation of the Septuagint into German. This is not a cut and paste job, this is the real deal. A team of credible scholars (Protestant, Catholic and Orthodox) applied their craft and created a German translation that, from every comparison I have made with Greek, captures text of the LXX and renders it in readable and (where necessary) extremely precise German. 

 The format of the publication is extremely well done. It is larger than the Septuaginta, the type face is clear, and, most importantly, the cover material is substantially improved over that of the LXX. Anyone who has used the LXX or Vulgate published by the same company knows that the books tend to where away at the hinges with repeated use. The binding of the Septuaginta Deutsch has proven, thus far, to be much more durable.   For the majority of the volume, the text is printed in double columns. I would ping this as the only downside to the book - though this is more a matter of personal preference, nothing major. For the Psalms and the Psalms of Solomon, a single column format was used - this is especially appreciated if one reads those texts frequently. 

 It goes without saying that a general introduction is included, as well as introductions to each book. The introductions are informative, however, there is also what looks to be a marvelous two volume commentary on the text and translation. 

~ Some personal testimony ~ 

 One cannot be an expert in everything. Eventually, one must specialize. When it came to the LXX, I found that I poured most of my efforts into the Psalms of Solomon - I know the Greek text on sight. Truth be told, if someone ever pushed me to choose one text to devote my time to one ancient text for critical research, the Psalms of Solomon would be it. Yet this doesn't change the fact that at the end of the day, one might want to disengage from the Greek text just a bit. This is what I appreciate most about the Septuaginta Deutsch. It is the availability of a modern translation of text I have absolutely fallen in love with over the years. 

You can order yours here, at A healthy alternative to Amazon. 


  1. How I wish I had taken German, nay had it available in high school, back in the day! Perhaps a French or Italian version will be forthcoming.

    Nonetheless many thanks for this information since I've been thinking of reviving my Greek!

    I do like your judicious commentary on liturgical topics.

  2. Thank you.

    The French edition is a multi-volume affair. It is also, last I saw, paperback bound, not hardcover.

    We're a long ways off from an Italian edition, sadly. The Italian Bishops Conference sort of has the lead on published Bibles. They are quite happy with their revised translation - as they should be, it's a very good translation! However, this takes the biggest player out of the game, re: Septuaginta Italia.