About the Author(s)

Douglas Mangum Email
Department of Hebrew, University of Free State, South Africa


Mangum, D., 2018, ‘The Biblical Hebrew idiom “lift the face” in the Septuagint of Job’, HTS Teologiese Studies/Theological Studies 74(3), 5025. https://doi.org/10.4102/hts.v74i3.5025

Original Research

The Biblical Hebrew idiom ‘lift the face’ in the Septuagint of Job

Douglas Mangum

Received: 11 Apr. 2018; Accepted: 31 May 2018; Published: 31 July 2018

Copyright: © 2018. The Author(s). Licensee: AOSIS.
This is an Open Access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License, which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited.


This study examined the renderings of the Biblical Hebrew idiom ‘lift the face’ (םינפ אשנ) in the Septuagint of Job in comparison with the renderings of the Biblical Hebrew idiom elsewhere in the Septuagint and in other ancient versions including the Peshitta and the Targums. The aim of this study was to determine how the translators of the Septuagint typically handled the implicit meaning of figurative language and to examine whether the translator of the Septuagint of Job followed similar strategies, because Job is known to be one of the books where the Septuagint is more literary than literal. It was hypothesised that the opaque meaning of the Biblical Hebrew idiom would provide an opportunity for the translator of the Septuagint of Job to intervene and manipulate the text for literary or theological reasons. The analysis applied methodology from Translation Studies and linguistics to describe the translation strategies used by some ancient translators to address the communication challenge presented by semantically opaque figures of speech like idioms. The major finding of the study is that although literal translation is the predominant approach to translating this Biblical Hebrew idiom in all the ancient versions examined, the Septuagint of Job used more idiomatic and natural expressions to communicate the meaning of the idiom. The translator of the Septuagint of Job took the use of the idiomatic expression ‘lift the face’ as an opportunity to reframe the theological emphasis of a passage.


Figures of speech like idioms present a special problem for translators because the meaning of an idiomatic phrase is rarely apparent from the sum of its parts.1 Baker (2011:67) notes that many idioms are ‘frozen patterns of language which allow little or no variation in form’. With many idioms, a writer or speaker cannot change the word order, remove words, add words, replace words or restructure the syntax without changing the meaning of the expression, although many idioms may be used more creatively because very few are fully ‘fixed’ or ‘frozen’, allowing no variability (see Langlotz 2006:16–55; Taylor 2012:75–80).

With Bible translation, the problem of idiomatic phrasing also becomes one of exegesis as the translator must determine the appropriate meaning of the idiom in order to render that meaning in translation. The translators of the ancient Bible versions such as the Septuagint (LXX) are often characterised as less attentive to those communicative aspects of translation because of their predominant tendency to render Biblical Hebrew (BH) figurative language in an imitative, literal fashion (see Dogniez 2002; Joosten 2010). By applying concepts from Translation Studies to the Septuagint, this study attempts to add to our knowledge of the Septuagint’s translation strategies.

The BH idiom םינפ אשנ [lift the face] is what we might call a ‘textbook example’ of a biblical idiom. The phrase is used fairly regularly, but the contextual meanings vary, including showing favour, acceptance, respect, partiality or favouritism to another (see, e.g., Gn 19:21; 32:21; Lv 19:15; Dt 10:17; 28:50; 1 Sm 25:35). The verb אשנ occurs in such a wide range of idiomatic expressions that Lübbe (2002), in one of the few studies devoted to BH idioms, takes idioms constructed with אשנ as his corpus.2

But the BH collocation םינפ אשנ has an unusually broad range of meaning for an idiom.

Context heavily colours the connotations associated with the idiom because it can be used for showing inappropriate favouritism as well as for showing appropriate respect. As idioms are ‘complex linguistic and conceptual activation networks’ (Langlotz 2006:178), it is probable that this expression activates the idea of being favourably disposed toward another person, but that other contextual clues activate whether the favourable disposition is appropriate or inappropriate. In other words, the BH idiom occupies a semantic domain that includes respect, acceptance and favouritism, but the framing of the idiom influences whether it is construed positively or negatively. The aim of this article is to show how the Septuagint typically translated this BH idiom and compare that standard pattern with the ways the idiom is represented in the Greek text of Job.

Methodological basis

The research methodology for this study derives from Translation Studies and cognitive linguistics. Translation Studies contribute the conceptual background for describing the strategies employed by a translator (Baker 2011; Toury 2012). Cognitive linguistics contribute the framework for understanding idiomatic expressions as actively negotiated mental representations using the concept of dynamic construal of meaning (Croft & Cruse 2004; Langacker 2008; Langlotz 2006).

For an idiom to be translated, the intended meaning of the idiom in its source sociolinguistic context must be available to the translator. A translator faced with an idiomatic phrase may:3

  1. represent the phrase by glossing (literally) the individual items in the phrase, regardless of whether the meaning transfers to the target language

  2. translate in a way that explains the meaning of the idiom directly

  3. represent the idiom with an appropriate and comparable idiom in the target language

  4. or attempt a compromise where aspects of the source’s form (1) are represented alongside a direct explanation of the meaning (2).

In other words, a translator can attend to the words that make up the expression, attend to the meaning behind the expression, substitute a target language idiom that approximates the meaning of the expression, or translate in a way that mimics the form while explaining the meaning. A strictly formal rendering of an English idiom like ‘let the cat out of the bag’ or ‘spill the beans’ in translation would likely either be meaningless in the target language or convey a completely different sense (unless the target language had borrowed the English idiom). The second strategy of explaining the literal meaning behind the idiom would probably be easiest for a translator. For an idiom like ‘spill the beans’, a translator could state explicitly that a secret had been revealed and ignore that the source text had used figurative language. However, this sort of direct rendering would not have the same illocutionary or perlocutionary effect on the target audience as the original idiom did for its audience. Although achieving the same rhetorical impact (or even measuring the impact) is impossible, a translator could make some attempt at a true idiomatic rendering. This third option is the most difficult, but the rhetorical force of a figure of speech is likely best represented by a comparable figure of speech. Returning to the example of ‘let the cat out of the bag’, a very mechanical translation of the idiom into Afrikaans yields: ‘laat die kat uit die sak’. This is not an idiom in Afrikaans for revealing a secret, though there is a ‘cat in the sack’ idiom in Afrikaans for making a bad purchase (Kat in die sak gekoop).4 However, Afrikaans does have a similar idiom for revealing a secret: ‘aap uit die mou laat’ [let the monkey out of the sleeve].5 This phrase comes closest to option 3 – translating an idiom with a comparable idiom from the target language. When it comes to BH idioms, translators – both ancient and modern – have tended to favour options 1 and 2. This tendency on the part of the translators of the King James Version, for example, possibly led to a number of biblical idioms becoming conventionalised in English.6

In this article, the LXX renderings of the BH idiom ‘lift the face’ (םינפ אשנ) are analysed according to the four options noted above for translating idioms – represent the form, provide the meaning, provide the meaning with some indications of the form or present a similar figure of speech. To simplify reference to these strategies, I have labelled these four options as follows:7

Type A Formal (word-oriented)
Type B Semantic (meaning-oriented)
Type C Formal and semantic (word + meaning-oriented)
Type D Idiomatic (effect-oriented)

Type A is a translation that represents the linguistic elements of the source text, even if those elements do not convey the appropriate meaning in the target language. Type B renders the meaning represented by the collocation plainly (i.e. without recourse to target language idioms) and is unconcerned with representing any formal features of the expression. Type C conveys the meaning while attempting to represent aspects of the form. Type D is a translation of the source language idiom with a comparable target language idiom.

The renderings of םינפ אשנ in the ancient versions

The BH idiom appears 28 times in the Hebrew Bible.8 The LXX, the Peshitta and the Targums generally translate this BH idiom with one or two stereotypical equivalents, meaning there is a typical collocation in the target language used with some frequency for this phrase.9 The stereotypical equivalent need not be lexically equivalent and use target language words from similar semantic categories. For example, one stereotypical rendering in the LXX is not lexically equivalent because it uses a verb meaning ‘honour’ (θαυµάζω), not one meaning ‘lift up’. The other stereotypical rendering uses the Greek verb λαµβάνω, the common verb used for אשנ in the LXX. The departures from those stereotypical renderings in any of these versions seem to indicate that the translators were attempting to capture some of the nuance associated with the idiom from the context. About 60% of the time (and more in the Targums), the expression is translated in a word-for-word fashion, though the verb varies regularly. The Aramaic versions often use a cognate phrase, a rendering that could be classified as a ‘calque’ because of its precise, formal, semantic correspondence with the Hebrew phrasing. Although these renderings are formally Type A, they likely communicate the same idiomatic meaning in Aramaic. Table 1 below gives the most common renderings used by each of the three ancient versions analysed.10

TABLE 1: The common renderings of םינפ אשנ in the LXX, Peshitta and Targums.

Despite the formal use of a word for each word of the source expression, the renderings are not strictly following the Type A strategy. The verb choice often gives the translation the necessary sense of the BH idiom in context, but a noun for ‘face’ is still included in the rendering most of the time (80% in the LXX, 93% in the Peshitta and 100% in the Targums).

The Biblical Hebrew idiom ‘lift the face’ in the Septuagint

Nearly 60% of the time, the LXX translators use one of two collocations to represent םינפ אשנ. Dogniez (2002:11) considers the first – λαµβάνω τὸ πρόσωπον – to be ‘a literal rendering of the Hebrew expression’, even though λαµβάνω typically means ‘take’ or ‘receive’ (see LSJ, s.v. λαµβάνω). Although λαµβάνω is used elsewhere in the LXX as an equivalent to אשנ, the fact that the Greek verb itself can have the sense of ‘accept’ or ‘receive hospitably’ suggests this rendering should not be considered a calque (LSJ, s.v. λαµβάνω, II; Dogniez 2002:11). The expression may have been reasonably idiomatic in Greek, especially if πρόσωπον is understood as a metonymy for the person, a sense attested in ancient Greek (see Polybius, Histories, 12.27.10; 15.25.25; Dogniez 2002:11; Thackeray 1909:43–44).11 As the notion of acceptance could be activated by the Greek verb alone, this common rendering can be taken as an example of the Type C strategy (maintaining the formal translation of ‘face’ when not strictly needed to convey the sense). Malachi 1:8 provides an example of the LXX rendering with λαµβάνω and of the standard rendering for this BH idiom in the Aramaic versions:

Malachi 1:8

MT אוֹ הֲיִשָּׂא פָנֶיךָ [or lift up your face]
LXX εἰ λήµψεται πρόσωπόν σου [or take/accept your face]
Pesh ܐܘ ܢܣܒ ܒܐܦܝܟ [or lift up your face]
TgmJ אוֹ הֲיִסַב אַפָך [or lift up your face]

The other standard translation for this idiom found in the LXX is also a Type C, a compromise between form and meaning. In the LXX of Genesis 19:21, the Greek verb θαυµάζω alone adequately conveys the meaning of the BH idiom םינפ אשנ, yet the Greek still formally represents םינפ with τὸ πρόσωπον:

Genesis 19:21

MT הִנֵּה נָשָׂאתִי פָנֶ֫יךָ גַּם לַדָּבָר הזֶּהַ [Behold, I lifted up your face also on this word]
LXX Ἰδοὺ ἐθαύµασά σου τὸ πρόσωπον καὶ ἐπὶ τῷ ῥήµατι [Behold, I honoured your face and upon this word]

Although the Greek verb θαυµάζω alone is enough to convey the meaning of the Hebrew, the LXX often provides an equivalent Greek body part term in its text when representing BH body idioms even as it uses a Greek verb with a range of meaning that encompasses the full contextual meaning of the BH idiom. The explicit mention of the ‘face’ or ‘hand’ or ‘heart’ is redundant in context, but the compromise appears to be regularly preferred to a full idiomatic Greek translation. In some cases, the LXX does translate this BH idiom without regard for form, but those few exceptions to the rule are found in books well-known for reflecting a more literary, free Greek style like Job, Proverbs and Isaiah (Is 3:3; Job 13:8; 22:26; 32:21; 42:9; Pr 6:35).

Although the LXX uses one of the two stereotypical renderings discussed above 80% of the time, the remaining 20% consists of 11 unique translations of the idiom. Two of these differ from the standard only by using different Greek verbs that mean ‘lift up’ or ‘raise up’ (Nm 6:26; 2 Sm 2:22). In the case of Genesis 32:21, the LXX translator has again produced a Type C, hybrid rendering using the verb προσδέχοµαι [accept, receive favourably]. As with the standard renderings, the verb alone appears able to convey the meaning – ἴσως γὰρ προσδέξεται τὸ πρόσωπόν µου [for perhaps he will receive my face favourably]. The verb προσδέχοµαι is not a typical equivalent for נשא. In fact, it is only used for נשא one other time, in Exodus 10:17 (Wevers 1993:539).

The Biblical Hebrew idiom ‘lift the face’ in the Septuagint of Job

The most significant variant renderings of this idiom are found in the Septuagint of Job.12 The variation is not surprising as the Greek translation of Job is generally accepted as a ‘work of good literary quality’ and ‘as among the least literal’ translations in the LXX (Cox 2007:667). In other words, the LXX of Job is more likely to reflect standard Greek usage and not use constructions indebted to underlying Hebrew phrasing.

For the BH idiom נשא פנים, the translator of LXX Job uses the expected stereotypical Greek renderings only rarely (Job 13:10; 22:8; 42:8), preferring instead to translate the idiom in a different way nearly every time it is used. The idiom is used nine times in Job with two occurrences in the same chapter on three occasions (Job 13:8, 10; 22:8, 26; 42:8, 9). Even in those cases where the idiom is used twice within a few verses, the translator chose a different rendering each time.

With the Greek text of Job, it is necessary to distinguish the Old Greek text from the conflated hexaplaric text because of significant omissions and additions (see Gentry 1995). For example, the single time LXX Job uses the stereotype λαµβάνω τὸ πρόσωπον in 42:8, it is not from the translator of the Old Greek but from a later insertion (see Cox 2016:181–182; compare Ziegler 1982:409). The Old Greek translator appears to have simply omitted that phrase, perhaps considering it stylistically redundant. In Table 2, the BH idiom and its apparent rendering in Greek are underlined, and the text marked as hexaplaric in the Göttingen edition is in brackets (Ziegler 1982).

TABLE 2: The idiom םינפ אשנ in the LXX of Job.

In Job 11:15, the LXX uses the verb ἀναλάµπω, meaning ‘shine’, creating an expression similar to the Targum’s סבר אפין, used for this idiom in Targum Job 22:8, or the BH collocation אור פנים [shine the face’; e.g. Nm 6:25]. However, the LXX never uses ἀναλάµπω or λάµπω as an equivalent for BH אור (see Hatch & Redpath 1897–1906, s.v. ἀναλάµπειν; s.v. λάµπειν).

The Greek statement reads ‘your face will shine again like pure water’ (NETS) for the MT’s ‘you will lift up your face from blemish’.13 The Greek rendering captures the sense of restoration of status but without closely following the wording of the Hebrew.

Although the use of the stereotype λαµβάνω τὸ πρόσωπον in Job 42:8 was a later insertion, the Greek translator did use the stereotypical rendering θαυµάζω τὸ πρόσωπον two times – once in Job 13:10 and once in Job 22:8. Both verses seem to be part of the Old Greek text. The translator used a common rendering in those instances but translated rather freely for the other time the same BH idiom is used in the same passages (Job 13:8; 22:26).

In 13:8, the LXX translator used the verb ὑποστέλλω [draw back, defer], possibly taking the BH idiom נשא פנים with its forensic meaning of showing favouritism in judgement. If that is the case, the Greek ὑποστέλλω is explicitly giving the meaning of the idiom without retaining any aspects of the form (i.e. the stereotypical use of τό πρόσωπον even when it is unnecessary for communicating the sense). In the middle voice, ὑποστέλλω can have the sense of shrinking back before another, having reservations about confronting someone, refraining from speaking out, holding back or deferring to another (for this sense in classical Greek, see, especially, Dinarchus, Against Demosthenes 11; Against Philocles 13). It is unlikely that the translator avoided using פנים because of the anthropomorphism with reference to God (contra Dhorme 1967:184). Orlinsky (1959:159) notes several times where the ‘face’ of God was translated literally in LXX Job and concludes ‘that our translator had no qualms about reproducing literally the “face” of God any more than His “hand” or “arm”’.

The translator departs further from any sort of literal representation of the Hebrew phrasing in LXX Job 22:26, translating וְתִשָּׂא אֶל־אֱלוֹהַּ פָּנֶיךָ [and you will lift up your face to God] with ἀναβλέψας εἰς τὸν οὐρανὸν ἱλαρῶς [looking up to heaven cheerfully]. The translator’s addition of ἱλαρῶς may be an attempt to convey some of the connotations of the Hebrew ענג [delight oneself, take pleasure’; DCH, s.v. ענג, I] from the previous phrase that were lost when that verb was translated with παρρησιάζοµαι [speak freely]. However, it is not clear that the translator knew that meaning of ענג as when the same Hebrew phrase is used again in Job 27:10, the Greek uses the related noun παρρησία [outspokenness] with the verb ἔχω [have], but no additional term is added to convey the connotation of delight (compare Orlinsky 1958:268). The use of a speech verb in Greek is curious because Hebrew lexicons have not traditionally identified any uses of ענג with that apparent meaning (see, e.g., HALOT, s.v. ענג). The most recent Hebrew lexicon includes two suggestions that ענג could also mean ‘implore’ or ‘depend on’ (see DCH, s.v. ענג, II; ענג, III), but these suggestions derive from the same set of verses in BH, not any new textual evidence from the additional classical Hebrew literature that the Dictionary of Classical Hebrew [DCH] covers.14

Orlinsky (1958:268) notes that ‘the Greek rendering “speak freely” (παρρησιάζοµαι) for התענג (so also in 27.10) is probably correct’, but he does not explain how the Hebrew word could be thought to mean ‘speak freely’. He appears to derive the connection from the Hebrew parallelism of Job 27:10, but he does not state this explicitly. He simply points to the use of the phrase in 27:10b given in Table 3 below ‘as the parallel stich’ to the phrase with ענג in 27:10 (Orlinsky 1958:268).

TABLE 3: Parallel Hebrew phrasing in Job 22:26 and 27:10.

In Table 3, the verbs of each clause are underlined. Orlinsky’s logic seems to be that as גנע is used parallel to קרא [call aloud] in 27:10, then the translation of ענג with a speech verb in the Greek of 22:26 is justified. By the same logic, we could argue for giving ענג the connotations of נשא or נשא פנים.

If the translator of LXX Job did not understand the word ענג, he may have added ἱλαρῶς as contextually appropriate. Inasmuch as he translates the idiom נשא פנים, he takes it in its straightforward sense. Literally lifting the face to God is the same as looking up to heaven. The use of εἰς τὸν οὐρανὸν [to heaven] for אל־אלוה [to God] is a clear case of metonymy found also in Job 1:16 as well as other Greek texts (see BDAG, s.v. οὐρανός). However, οὐρανός was also part of one of the translator’s favourite expressions – τὴν ὑπ’ οὐρανὸν, a phrase added to the Greek text in Job 9:13 and 18:19 (Kutz 1997:33). The addition of ἱλαρῶς in Job 22:26 served to clarify the promised shift in Job’s disposition. He would go from being fearful to look up to God to being relieved and happy to do so (Kutz 2017).

In Job 32:21, the BH idiom is represented with the Greek verb αἰσχύνω [dishonour], shifting the meaning from a statement about Elihu’s resolve not to show favouritism to a boast that he will not allow anyone to dishonour him. Surprisingly, the stereotypical phrase θαυµάζω τό πρόσωπον is introduced in v. 22b as a rendering for כנה [give honourific name, flatter]. This occurrence further demonstrates that the stereotypical rendering was known to the translator, even though it was not used consistently.

The phrase θαυµάζω τό πρόσωπον was also introduced by the translator in 34:19 in the same verse where the BH idiom does occur, but the stereotyped phrase is not used to render the idiom. The idiom is rendered by ὃς οὐκ ἐπῃσχύνθη πρόσωπον ἐντίµου [who is not ashamed at an honoured face] in 34:19a, while the LXX stereotype θαυµάζω τό πρόσωπον is used in 34:19c for the Hebrew כִּי מַעֲשֵׂה יָדָיו כֻּלָּם [for the work of his hands all of them]. The choice to use the stereotyped rendering was likely meant to continue the topic established in 34:19a about showing proper respect. Although the Hebrew of 34:19c serves as rationale for showing proper respect, the Greek just reiterates the same notion a third time.

The final use of this BH idiom in Job also reveals the translator’s habit of clarifying the underlying meaning of the text instead of using a word-for-word translation. The statement in Job 42:9 is transformed from the BH idiom about YHWH lifting Job’s face (meaning he accepted Job’s intercession on behalf of his friends) into a statement that God forgave their sins because of Job (κὶα ἔλυσεν τὴν ἁµαρτίαν αὐτοῖς διὰ Ιωβ). Cook (2012:206) notes that the ‘Hebrew has no reference to “sin” and the preposition διὰ expresses “instrument”’. The effect is that Job’s role as intercessor is made ‘more prominent in the Greek’ (ibid.). The translator has made subtle adjustments in 42:8–9 that draw attention to Job’s role (see Cox 2016:181, 185). In Hebrew, God commands the friends to offer sacrifices for themselves while Job prays for them (42:8). In Greek, the friends are commanded to bring the sacrificial animals so that Job can make the offerings and pray for them. The use of the word θεράπων [attendant] for Hebrew’s עֶ֫בֶד [slave, servant] instead of δοῦλος or παῖς to describe Job may also hint at Job’s role, as the Greek θεράπων ‘is a word that denotes a person of higher status than either δοῦλος or παῖς’ (Cox 2016:185).

Another surprising change is that in Hebrew Job’s friends are accused of not speaking rightly about God himself, but in the Greek account the friends are chastised for speaking against Job (42:8). Although this difference is a text-critical problem as some Hebrew manuscripts read בעבדי איוב instead of כעבדי איוב, Cox (2016:185–186) suggests the translator was influenced in this rendering by the Greek of Job 1:8 – κατὰ τοῦ παιδός µου Ιωβ [against my servant Iob].

All of these minor shifts from the Hebrew source combine to show the greater emphasis in the Greek text on the role of Job himself in this intercession. By turning the statement about accepting Job’s prayer into a declaration that God forgave their sins, the translator is communicating the meaning implied by the Hebrew that God’s acceptance of Job marked his forgiveness of the friends.


The variety of strategies used to render the BH idiom ‘lift the face’ in the ancient Greek and Aramaic translations discussed above shows the translators were generally attuned to the challenge of communicating meaning while preserving the form of the sacred source text when possible. The Type A (formal) renderings and the Type C (blended) renderings were given contextual colouring via variations in verb choice. The Type B renderings where the meaning of an idiom is explained plainly are mostly lacking from these ancient versions, in contrast with the tendency today to promote such explication as a method for translating idioms. Rather, the blending of meaning and form in the Type C renderings was more common, especially outside of the Septuagint of Job.

Although the Septuagint translators commonly used stereotypical Type A or Type C renderings for this BH idiom, the translator of the Septuagint of Job exploited the ambiguity and the polysemy of the BH idiom to produce various theological effects, essentially reinforcing the theological implications the translator felt were appropriate for the different contexts where this BH idiom appeared in Job. The translator of LXX Job favoured the Type D (idiomatic) approach to translating idioms, and he clearly understood the wide range of meaning communicated by this BH idiom, choosing context-appropriate Greek phrasings even though the translator was aware of the common, stereotypical renderings of this idiom used by other LXX translators.


Competing interests

The author declares that he has no financial or personal relationships which may have inappropriately influenced him in writing this article.


Adams, J.N., 1990, The Latin sexual vocabulary, The Johns Hopkins University Press, Baltimore, MD.

Baker, M., 2011, In other words: A coursebook on translation, 2nd edn., Routledge, London.

Bauer, W.F., Danker, F.W., Arndt, W.F. & Gingrich, F.W. (eds.), 2000, A Greek-English lexicon of the New Testament and other early Christian literature, 3rd edn., University of Chicago Press, Chicago. [BDAG]

Butts, A.M., 2016, Language change in the wake of empire: Syriac in its Greco-Roman context, Eisenbrauns, Winona Lake, IN.

Clines, D.J.A. (ed.), 1993–2014, Dictionary of Classical Hebrew, 9 vols., Sheffield Academic Press, Sheffield. [DCH]

Cook, J., 2011a, ‘In search of the Old Greek of Job’, Journal for Semitics 20(1), 213–232.

Cook, J., 2011b, ‘The profile and some theological aspects of the Old Greek of Job – Resurrection and life after death as points in case’, Old Testament Essays 24(2), 324–345.

Cook, J., 2012, ‘The Septuagint of Job’, in J. Cook & A. van der Kooij (eds.), Law, prophets, and wisdom: On the provenance of translators and their books in the Septuagint version, pp. 175–221, Peeters, Leuven.

Cox, C.E., 2007, ‘Iob: To the reader’, in A. Pietersma & B.G. Wright (eds.), A new English translation of the Septuagint, pp. 667–670, Oxford University Press, New York.

Cox, C.E., 2016, ‘Old Greek Job 42 – A surprise at the end of the road: Intertextual connections between the epilogue and the prologue introduced by the translator’, in R.X. Gauthier, G.R. Kotzé & G.J. Steyn (eds.), Septuagint, sages, and scripture: Studies in honour of Johann Cook, pp. 180–189, Brill, Leiden.

Croft, W. & Cruse, D.A., 2004. Cognitive linguistics, Cambridge University Press, Cambridge.

Dhorme, E.P., 1967, A commentary on the book of Job, H.H. Rowley (ed.), transl. H. Knight, Thomas Nelson, New York.

Dogniez, C., 2002, ‘The Greek renderings of Hebrew idiomatic expressions and their treatment in the Septuagint lexica’, Journal of Northwest Semitic Languages 28(1), 1–17.

Gentry, P.J., 1995, The asterisked materials in the Greek Job, Scholars Press, Atlanta, GA.

Hatch, E. & Redpath, H.A., 1897–1906, Concordance to the Septuagint and the other Greek versions of the Old Testament, 3 vols., Clarendon, Oxford.

Heater, H., 1982, A Septuagint translation technique in the book of Job, Catholic Biblical Association, Washington, DC.

Joosten, J., 2010, ‘Translating the untranslatable: Septuagint renderings of Hebrew idioms’, in R.J.V. Hiebert (ed.), ‘Translation is required’: The Septuagint in retrospect and prospect, pp. 59–70, Society of Biblical Literature, Atlanta, GA.

Koehler, L., Baumgartner, W. & Stamm, J.J., 1994–2000, The Hebrew and Aramaic Lexicon of the Old Testament, transl. & ed. under the supervision of M.E.J. Richardson, 5 vols., Brill, Leiden. [HALOT]

Kutz, K.V., 1997, ‘The Old Greek of Job: A study in early biblical exegesis’, PhD dissertation, University of Wisconsin–Madison, Madison, WI.

Kutz, K.V., 2017, email, 28 December, kkutz@multnomah.edu

Langacker, R.W., 2008, Cognitive grammar: A basic introduction, Oxford University Press, Oxford.

Langlotz, A., 2006, Idiomatic creativity: A cognitive-linguistic model of idiom-representation and idiom variation in English, John Benjamins, Amsterdam.

Liddell, H.G., Scott, R. & Jones, H.S., 1996, A Greek-English lexicon, 9th edn., with revised supplement, Clarendon, Oxford. [LSJ]

Lübbe, J.C., 2002, ‘Idioms in the Old Testament’, Journal for Semitics 11(1), 45–63.

Mangum, D.T., 2017, ‘To conceal or reveal? Self-censorship and explicitation in the ancient Bible versions’, PhD thesis, University of the Free State, Bloemfontein, South Africa.

Newmark, P., 1988, A textbook of translation, Longman, New York.

Orlinsky, H.M., 1957, ‘Studies in the Septuagint of the book of Job, Chapter 1’, Hebrew Union College Annual 28, 53–74.

Orlinsky, H.M., 1958, ‘Studies in the Septuagint of the book of Job, Chapter 2: The character of the Septuagint translation of the book of Job’, Hebrew Union College Annual 29, 229–271.

Orlinsky, H.M., 1959, ‘Studies in the Septuagint of the book of Job, Chapter 3: On the matter of anthropomorphisms, anthropopathisms, and euphemisms’, Hebrew Union College Annual 30, 153–167.

Pietersma, A. & Wright, B.G. (eds.), 2007, A new English translation of the Septuagint, Oxford University Press, New York. [NETS]

Taylor, J.R., 2012, The mental corpus: How language is represented in the mind, Oxford University Press, Oxford.

Thackeray, H., 1909, A grammar of the Old Testament in Greek: According to the Septuagint, Cambridge University Press, Cambridge.

Toury, G., 2012, Descriptive translation studies and beyond, rev. ed., John Benjamins, Amsterdam.

Unseth, P., 1996, ‘Teaching the translation of euphemisms’, Notes on Translation 10(2), 35–40.

Warren-Rothlin, A., 2013, ‘Idioms: Biblical Hebrew’, in G. Khan (ed.), Encyclopedia of Hebrew language and linguistics, vol. 2, pp. 227–229, Brill, Leiden.

Weinreich, U., 1969, ‘Problems in the analysis of idioms’, in J. Puhvel (ed.), Substance and structure of language, pp. 23–81, University of California Press, Berkeley, CA.

Wevers, J.W., 1993, Notes on the Greek text of Genesis, Scholars Press, Atlanta, GA.

Ziegler, J. (ed.), 1982, Iob, Septuaginta: Vetus Testamentum Graecum, vol. XI, 4, Vandenhoeck & Ruprecht, Göttingen.


1. Traditionally, non-compositionality has been presented as the defining characteristic of idioms (e.g. Weinreich 1969), but it is more accurate to say they have ‘limited compositionality’ (Warren-Rothlin 2013:227) because some idiomatic phrases can be partially deciphered based on the figurative extension of their component parts (Langlotz 2006:53–56).

2. For a survey of the prior research on translating biblical figures of speech, including Lübbe (2002), see Mangum (2017:41–63).

3. Although the explanations differ, these options are fairly common in discussions of translation strategy for figures of speech (e.g. Baker 2011; Newmark 1988; Unseth 1996).

4. Both the English idiom and the Afrikaans idiom may have the same origin in the popular etymological story that some medieval European merchants tried to cheat customers by selling a cat in a bag, claiming it was a pig. ‘Buying a lemon’ might be a comparable American English idiom for making a bad purchase.

5. I am grateful to Jannie van Niekerk for his help with Afrikaans.

6. The English euphemism ‘carnal knowledge’ for sexual intercourse could be indebted to the KJV’s literal translation of the Hebrew euphemism עדי [know] for sexual relations (see Gn 4:1), though the conceptual domain of knowledge has produced sexual euphemisms in other languages independent of biblical influence (Adams 1990:190).

7. The author has adopted the labelling of these strategies as ‘Types’ A, B, C from Joosten (2010:62–68), but the basic classification is found in many translation handbooks (e.g. Baker 2011; Newmark 1988). I have added a fourth (Type D) to Joosten’s three, one that covers the sort of figurative substitution he dismisses as rarely seen in the LXX (Joosten 2010:66). Unseth (1996) advocates four similar strategies for Bible translators to deal with euphemisms: translating literally, translating with a non-euphemistic form, translating with a euphemistic form and translating the form but adding the meaning. For additional discussion of these strategies and their relationship to Translation Studies (e.g. Baker 2011), see Mangum (2017:137–139).

8. In 2 Kings 9:32, םינפ אשנ is used in its straightforward sense when Jehu literally ‘lifts his face’ to look up to the window of the tower where Jezebel was.

9. The order in which these ancient versions are listed – LXX, Peshitta, Targums – is not intended as a categorisation of these versions. No claims are implied as to any relationship of priority (historical or otherwise) among these versions. It is a fact of history that the Septuagint began the earliest of the three, but the Aramaic versions come from the same historical and cultural milieu – the Levant and Mesopotamia from roughly the first to the seventh centuries CE. The sociolinguistic environment of the region during this period was extremely complex (see Butts 2016). The sequence of the listing is not meant to imply, for example, that the Peshitta followed the LXX but preceded the Targums. This study is strictly descriptive and comparative, looking at these three ancient versions in relation to their purported source text (represented by the critical editions of the Masoretic Text). This comparison is a necessary first step before any general conclusions can be drawn from these data regarding the relationship among the versions (such as whether the Peshitta shows dependence on the Septuagint).

10. The totals do not add up to 100% for the LXX and Peshitta because their remaining renderings occur only once or twice.

11. See LSJ, s.v. πρόσωπον, IV for additional examples of the Greek word used with the meaning ‘person.’

12. On the Greek versions of Job, see Cook (2011a; 2011b; 2012), Gentry (1995), Kutz (1997) and Orlinsky (1957; 1958; 1959).

13. The translation of מִמּוּם [from blemish] with ὥσπερ ὕδωρ καθαρόν [like pure water] could reflect a textual variant of כמים or ממים [like water’ or ‘more than water], though the possibility does not materially affect the rendering of the BH idiom. Heater (1982:58) thinks the verb ἀναλάµψει is a corruption of ἀναλήµψειϛ [a form of ἀναλαµβάνω], but this emendation would create the only occurrence of the Old Greek translator of Job using a rendering for this idiom that resembles the stereotype λαµβάνω τὸ πρόσωπον. The verb ἀναλαµβάνω is also never used for this BH idiom elsewhere in the LXX.

14. The bibliography associated with ענג in DCH attributes these suggestions to Robert Gordis for ‘implore’ and G.R. Driver for ‘depend on.’ Both conjectured meanings are based on Arabic cognates and seem to provide a weak basis for a shift in the understanding of this Hebrew root (DCH, 6:894).

Crossref Citations

No related citations found.