Tuesday, October 30, 2012

An Email I Just Sent to a Prominent American Authority on the Translation of the Old Testament into Greek in Antiquity

Hi Professor ------

Some time ago I corresponded with you with respect to the Mar Saba document ('the Letter to Theodore').  You probably don't remember that original email.  Nevertheless my research has taken a new turn and it seems that you have written a great deal about a subject for which I have developed a great interest..

I see you have written a lot on the subject of the Hexapla. I was drawn into this field of research by a statement I found in Lactantius where he says that those who call Jesus Chrestos (= the Marcionites) prefer Aquila to the LXX. The context of course Aquila's failure to translate moshiach in Dan 9:26 with christos. The Marcionites are famous for denying that Jesus was the Jewish messiah (what other kind of messiah was there at that time).

Marcion and Aquila share some obvious parallels. Both are identified as coming from Sinope in Pontus. The narrative in Acts introducing Aquila can be connected to Suetonius's description of the instigation in Rome started by Chrestus. But Epiphanius's statement that Theodotion (Theodotus) was a Marcionite affirms the ignored reality that even the Marcionites must have had a preferred Greek translation of the OT.

Philastrius makes reference to Christian heretics who use Aquila. The difficulty of an Aquila translation of Daniel for Christian use has already been referenced by Lactantius. My question to you is as follows. Given that the Philosophumena makes reference to the Marcionites using a version of the Gospel of Mark which has had mystical bits added to it, isn't there a possible parallel with respect to Origen's statement that there two editions of Aquila's translation. Sure Origen never says that Aquila added extra sections of text (like Mark is described as doing in the Letter to Theodore) but with the Greek translations of Daniel especially we have the inescapable evidence that someone did add material to the main text.

I was wondering whether it might have been possible that Aquila simply denotes the officially sanctioned Greek translation of the OT (= eagle). Philastrius mentions thirty translators of Aquila. Moreover the Justinian legal texts all demonstrate that Aquila was officially sanctioned by the Roman government. Hadrian becomes a substitute for Aquila's question about the value of circumcision because it was not included in the ten utterances in the rabbinic literature. The point is also underscored by the claim that Aquila (or Onkelos) was related to Hadrian by marriage.

What do you think about the order of the Hexapla - 1 Hebrew, 2, a Greek transliteration of the Hebrew, 3. Aquila, 4. Symmachus, 5. LXX, 6. Theodotion? Couldn't that be a chronological order i.e. the order by which the texts were produced? I was wondering whether the elusive proto-Theodotion text that you mention in your review of Barthelemy some years back might have been arranged by Aquila (i.e. that it was his second edition in the manner referenced by Origen). Yes these references appear in New Testament material that is commonly dated to the first century. But why couldn't Mark 14:62, the Epistle to the Hebrews, 1 Clement all be dated to the time of Aquila? Is there really any compelling evidence that the New Testament were written in the first century?

If Marcion organized the first New Testament canon and his gospel made reference to Old Testament scripture surely his traditions preference for Aquila's translation in turn dates the composition of the Marcionite gospel to that period. Aquila's understanding of God only having written the ten utterances would explain the Marcionite hostility to the Law. His identification of El Shaddai as 'the sufficient god' is explained by Eusebius in Marcionite like terms (i.e. that the Father was unknown to the Patriarchs).

Just thought I would run these ideas by you and see what you might think. Are there any strong reasons for doubting that Theodotion's translation might be based on the second edition of Aquila which in turn connects both texts back to Marcion and his community's longer gospel of Mark?



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