Why Did We Choose Rahlfs-Hanhart as the Basis for this Reader’s Edition?

books

One of the first decisions we faced in scoping out this project was this: which Greek text should we use?

There were essentially four options on the table:

  1. H. B. Swete’s ‘smaller’ Cambridge edition from the late 1800s–early 1900s
  2. Brooke/McLean/Thackeray’s ‘larger’ Cambridge critical edition
  3. The semi-critical Septuaginta edited by Alfred Rahlfs and revised by Robert Hanhart (a.k.a. Rahlfs-Hanhart)
  4. The Göttingen critical edition

The first option is in the public domain and available electronically (e.g., here), which was a plus, but all agree it has been supplanted by others. The second option is also publically available (e.g., here) but unfortunately the original project was never completed.

This left us with options 3. (editio minor) and 4. (editio maior). Every Septuagint scholar agrees that the Göttingen editions (indexed by IOSCS here) are the gold standard for any serious scholarship on the Greek OT, far superseding Rahlfs-Hanhart in terms of the material provided in the apparatus on alternative readings.

But in the end, we chose to go with Rahlfs-Hanhart for the Reader’s Edition for the following reasons.

1. It is complete, whereas the Göttingen edition is not

rahlfs
Alfred Rahlfs (d. 1935)

With the most recent completion of Ecclesiastes by Peter Gentry—not yet recorded on the IOSCS page provided above—the following books are still not yet available as part of the the Göttingen project:

  • Joshua
  • Judges
  • Ruth
  • 1–4 Kingdoms (Samuel–Kings)
  • 1–2 Paralipomenon (Chronicles)
  • 4 Maccabees
  • Ecclesiastes
  • Song of Songs / Canticle
  • Psalms of Solomon

Excluding double-texts, that is a ~28.5% shortfall (by word-count) of the total!

2. Its text is very similar to the text of the Göttingen edition

While Rahlfs-Hanhart is undoubtedly limited in terms of its manuscript base (chiefly Vaticanus, Alexandrinus, and Sinaiticus) and the data it provides on alternative readings, its actual text in most places differs very little from that which is found in the existing fascicles of the Göttingen edition. In other words, the chief difference between the two lies below-the-line in the apparatuses. Hence, for an edition focused on reading the main text, not doing textual criticism, Rahlfs-Hanhart is more than adequate.

We’re unaware of anyone who has systematically compared the two texts (Rahlfs-Hanhart vs. Göttingen), but to illustrate the point, we can use a couple examples chosen at random (differences marked thus):

Rahlfs-Hanhart Göttingen Edition
Isa 28:14–16* 14 διὰ τοῦτο ἀκούσατε λόγον κυρίου, ἄνδρες τεθλιμμένοι καὶ ἄρχοντες τοῦ λαοῦ τούτου τοῦ ἐν Ιερουσαλημ 15 ῞Οτι εἴπατε ᾿Εποιήσαμεν διαθήκην μετὰ τοῦ ᾅδου καὶ μετὰ τοῦ θανάτου συνθήκας, καταιγὶς φερομένη ἐὰν παρέλθῃ οὐ μὴ ἔλθῃ ἐφ᾽ ἡμᾶς, ἐθήκαμεν ψεῦδος τὴν ἐλπίδα ἡμῶν καὶ τῷ ψεύδει σκεπασθησόμεθα, 16 διὰ τοῦτο οὕτως λέγει κύριος ᾿Ιδοὺ ἐγὼ ἐμβαλῶ εἰς τὰ θεμέλια Σιων λίθον πολυτελῆ ἐκλεκτὸν ἀκρογωνιαῖον ἔντιμον εἰς τὰ θεμέλια αὐτῆς, καὶ ὁ πιστεύων ἐπ᾽ αὐτῷ οὐ μὴ καταισχυνθῇ. 14 διὰ τοῦτο ἀκούσατε λόγον κυρίου, ἄνδρες τεθλιμμένοι καὶ ἄρχοντες τοῦ λαοῦ τούτου τοῦ ἐν Ιερουσαλημ 15 ῞Οτι εἴπατε ᾿Εποιήσαμεν διαθήκην μετὰ τοῦ ᾅδου καὶ μετὰ τοῦ θανάτου συνθήκας, καταιγὶς φερομένη ἐὰν παρέλθῃ οὐ μὴ ἔλθῃ ἐφ᾽ ἡμᾶς, ἐθήκαμεν ψεῦδος τὴν ἐλπίδα ἡμῶν καὶ τῷ ψεύδει σκεπασθησόμεθα, 16 διὰ τοῦτο οὕτως λέγει κύριος ᾿Ιδοὺ ἐγὼ ἐμβαλῶ εἰς τὰ θεμέλια Σιων λίθον πολυτελῆ ἐκλεκτὸν ἀκρογωνιαῖον ἔντιμον εἰς τὰ θεμέλια αὐτῆς, καὶ ὁ πιστεύων ἐπ᾽ αὐτῷ οὐ μὴ καταισχυνθῇ.
Job 9:11–21** 11 ἐὰν ὑπερβῇ με, οὐ μὴ ἴδω·
καὶ ἐὰν παρέλθῃ με, οὐδ᾽ ὧς ἔγνων.
12 ἐὰν ἀπαλλάξῃ, τίς ἀποστρέψει;
ἢ τίς ἐρεῖ αὐτῷ Τί ἐποίησας;
13 αὐτὸς γὰρ ἀπέστραπται ὀργήν,
ὑπ᾽ αὐτοῦ ἐκάμφθησαν κήτη τὰ ὑπ᾽ οὐρανόν.
14 ἐὰν δέ μου ὑπακούσηται,
ἦ διακρινεῖ τὰ ῥήματά μου.
15 ἐάν τε γὰρ ὦ δίκαιος, οὐκ εἰσακούσεταί μου,
※ τοῦ κρίματος αὐτοῦ δεηθήσομαι· ⸔
16 ἐάν τε καλέσω καὶ ὑπακούσῃ,
οὐ πιστεύω ὅτι εἰσακήκοέν μου.
17 μὴ γνόφῳ με ἐκτρίψῃ;
πολλὰ δέ μου τὰ συντρίμματα πεποίηκεν διὰ κενῆς.
18 οὐκ ἐᾷ γάρ με ἀναπνεῦσαι,
ἐνέπλησεν δέ με πικρίας.
19 ὅτι μὲν γὰρ ἰσχύι κρατεῖ·
τίς οὖν κρίματι αὐτοῦ ἀντιστήσεται;
20 ἐὰν γὰρ ὦ δίκαιος, τὸ στόμα μου ἀσεβήσει·
ἐάν τε ὦ ἄμεμπτος, σκολιὸς ἀποβήσομαι.
21 εἴτε γὰρ ἠσέβησα, οὐκ οἶδα τῇ ψυχῇ,
πλὴν ὅτι ἀφαιρεῖταί μου ἡ ζωή.
11 ἐὰν ὑπερβῇ με, οὐ μὴ ἴδω·
καὶ ἐὰν παρέλθῃ με, οὐδ᾽ ὧς ἔγνων.
12 ἐὰν ἀπαλλάξῃ, τίς ἀποστρέψει;
ἢ τίς ἐρεῖ αὐτῷ Τί ἐποίησας;
13 αὐτὸς γὰρ ἀπέστραπται ὀργήν,
ὑπ᾽ αὐτοῦ ἐκάμφθησαν κήτη τὰ ὑπ᾽ οὐρανόν.
14 ἐὰν δέ μου ὑπακούσηται,
ἦ διακρινεῖ τὰ ῥήματά μου.
15 ἐάν τε γὰρ ὦ δίκαιος, οὐκ εἰσακούσεταί μου,
※ τοῦ κρίματος αὐτοῦ δεηθήσομαι· ⸔
16 ἐάν τε καλέσω καὶ ὑπακούσῃ,
οὐ πιστεύω ὅτι εἰσακήκοέν μου.
17 μὴ γνόφῳ με ἐκτρίψῃ;
πολλὰ δέ μου τὰ συντρίμματα πεποίηκεν διὰ κενῆς.
18 οὐκ ἐᾷ γάρ με ἀναπνεῦσαι,
ἐνέπλησεν δέ με πικρίας.
19 ὅτι μὲν γὰρ ἰσχύι κρατεῖ·
τίς οὖν κρίματι αὐτοῦ ἀντιστήσεται;
20 ἐὰν γὰρ ὦ δίκαιος, τὸ στόμα μου ἀσεβήσει·
ἐάν τε ὦ ἄμεμπτος, σκολιὸς ἀποβήσομαι.
21 εἴτε γὰρ ἠσέβησα, οὐκ οἶδα τῇ ψυχῇ,
πλὴν ὅτι ἀφαιρεῖταί μου ἡ ζωή.

No, your eyes are not playing tricks on you. There is in fact nothing marked with bold/underline for either sample, even though Isaiah and Job are not particularly stable in the Greek textual tradition. Of course, there are differences in other portions of text, but on the whole the two above-the-line texts are very similar.

It is also worth noting that the major LXX lexicons (namely, Muraoka and Lust-Eynikel-Hauspin) also rely heavily upon Rahlfs-Hanhart as their textual base.

In the comments below, we’d love to here of major differences between the two texts.

3. We were granted a license to use it

dbgs

The deal-maker was a practical consideration. We are grateful for the cooperation of the Deutsche Bibelgesellschaft in licensing the text of Rahlfs-Hanhart for this project in a way that made it economically viable.

We chose to adopt a similar title to that of Rahlfs-Hanhart in order to make clear this work’s relationship to it, and the logo of Deutsch Bibelgesellschaft will be present on the inside title page.


Conclusion

While acknowledging that every option for this decision has tradeoffs, we concluded that Rahlfs-Hanhart was the base text for this edition. Even though it’s far too late to change it (!), we’d love to hear your thoughts on this decision.

_______________________

* Ziegler 1967

** Ziegler 1982

 

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5 thoughts on “Why Did We Choose Rahlfs-Hanhart as the Basis for this Reader’s Edition?

  1. I am excited about the project also with the rahlfs text. I am sure it may matter to some students which text base is used, but me as a mostly casual reader, am happy for it to be rahlfs. If I was going to look at textual issues I would consult gottingen anyway.

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