Amos 6:3- Hebrew vs. Greek

Amos 6:3- Hebrew vs. Greek

Yoel Halevi No Comments

Abstract:

This study examines a translational discrepancy in Amos 6:3 between the Hebrew text and the Greek rendering in the Septuagint. In the original Hebrew, the term שֶׁבֶת חָמָס (shevet hamas) conveys the notion of a “throne of violence” or “seat of oppression,” symbolizing a judicial seat utilized for unjust purposes. Rooted in the verb שׁבת (shavat), denoting sitting or dwelling, the term aligns with Amos’s broader critique of leadership during a period of affluence and moral decay. However, the Greek translation introduces σάββατον(sabbaton), denoting the Sabbath day, resulting in an interpretation emphasizing a “false Sabbath” and deviating from the original focus on oppressive leadership. This misinterpretation may stem from attempts to harmonize with related passages or cultural nuances. The study highlights challenges in cross-linguistic and cross-cultural biblical translation, emphasizing the potential for misreadings by translators contributing to the Septuagint.

Keywords:

Amos 6:3, Septuagint Biblical Translation, Greek Rendering, שֶׁבֶת חָמָס (shevet hamas), Throne of Violence, Sabbath

The different translations to Greek

The Old Testament has several notable Greek translations, with the most significant being the Septuagint (LXX). Here’s a brief overview of key Greek translations:

1. Septuagint (LXX):

Traditionally attributed to seventy or seventy-two Jewish scholars (hence the name Septuagint), who translated the Hebrew Scriptures into Greek.

   Method:The translation was initiated in the 3rd to 2nd centuries BCE in Alexandria, Egypt. According to legend, the scholars worked independently but produced identical translations, indicating divine approval. The Septuagint includes not only the books found in the Hebrew Bible but also additional books known as the Deuterocanonical or Apocryphal books.

2. Aquila’s Version

   Aquila, a Jewish proselyte to Christianity.

 Method: Aquila’s translation, dating to the 2nd century CE, aimed for a very literal rendering of the Hebrew text into Greek. His method involved maintaining word-for-word equivalence, resulting in a highly literal and often challenging translation.

3. Symmachus’s Version:

   Symmachus, a Jewish translator, and convert to Judaism.

 Method: Symmachus, in the 2nd century CE, pursued a more dynamic equivalence approach. His translation aimed to capture the sense of the Hebrew text while using clear and idiomatic Greek. This approach made his translation more readable than Aquila’s literal rendition.

4. Theodotion’s Version:

  Theodotion, a Hellenistic Jew.

 Method: Theodotion’s translation, also from the 2nd century CE, falls between the extreme literalism of Aquila and the freer approach of Symmachus. His work became widely accepted and was later incorporated into some versions of the Septuagint.

These Greek translations of the Old Testament arose due to the need for a Greek version among Hellenistic Jewish communities. Each translator had a distinct approach, ranging from literal to dynamic, providing options for readers with different preferences and linguistic abilities. The Septuagint, however, remains the most influential and widely used ancient Greek translation of the Old Testament.

Amos 6:3

Amos 6:3 originates from the Book of Amos in the Old Testament of the Bible. Within the broader context of this biblical text, Amos functions as a prophet delivering messages to the northern kingdom of Israel during a period characterized by prosperity and affluence. However, this affluence is juxtaposed with prevalent issues of social injustice, idolatry, and notable neglect of the impoverished and marginalized. In Amos 6:3, a noteworthy translational discrepancy between the Hebrew text and its Greek counterpart, as found in the Septuagint (LXX).

GreekDSSMT
οἱ ἐρχόμενοι εἰς ἡμέρανκακήν, οἱ ἐγγίζοντες καὶἐφαπτόμενοι σαββάτωνψευδῶν,the verse does not appear in the DSS. Fragment 4Q82 47b does not have the verse.הַמְנַדִּים לְיוֹם רָע וַתַּגִּישׁוּן שֶׁבֶת חָמָס
Those who pray for an evil day,who draw near and hold fast to falsesabbaths O you who put far away the day of disaster
    and bring near the seat of violence?

The Hebrew term used שֶׁבֶת חָמָס (shevet hamas) traditionally translated as “a throne of violence” or “a seat of oppression,” encompasses the concept of a judicial seat or throne employed for unjust and violent purposes. The root of the term, שׁבת (shavat), denotes sitting or dwelling, indicating a position of authority and judgment (Wolff, p. 272). This understanding aligns with the broader context of Amos, where leaders in Israel are censured for their misuse of authority during a period of societal affluence and moral decay.

Amos 6:3 contributes to a passage wherein Amos addresses the complacency and self-indulgence evident among the affluent and powerful individuals in Israel (Paul. p.103) The verse employs the Hebrew term שֶׁבֶת חָמָס, which translates to “a throne of violence.” The term שבת, as an infinitive construct derived from the same root, signifies sitting or dwelling, symbolizing the throne of judgment where a judge presides. This concept aligns seamlessly with the criticism of the leadership’s lack of justice. However, it is noteworthy that the Greek rendition of the term שבת interprets it as the noun “Shabbat,” introducing the notion of a “false Sabbath.” Nevertheless, this interpretation diverges from the intended meaning of חָמָס, which conveys the concept of violence.

The Greek 

However, the Greek translation diverges significantly by employing σάββατον (sabbaton), a term specifically denoting the Sabbath day. This variance leads to an interpretation of the verse as conveying the notion of a “false Sabbath” or a distorted observance of the Sabbath, deviating markedly from the original Hebrew emphasis on oppressive leadership.

The Greek version exhibits a misinterpretation by inaccurately rendering the term שבת as Shabbat, suggesting an attempt to harmonize with or imitate the mention of Shabbat in 8:5. A comprehensive examination of the Greek text reveals a departure from the intended meaning, indicating a misreading of the original Hebrew.

This translational discrepancy may be attributed to the challenges inherent in cross-linguistic and cross-cultural translation, and the potential for misinterpretation by the various translators involved in the production of the Septuagint. The misrendering of שֶׁבֶת in the Greek version of Amos 6:3 underscores the complexities associated with linguistic nuances and cultural contexts in biblical translation.

Summery

The passage in Amos 6:3 from the Book of Amos highlights a translational discrepancy between the Hebrew text and its Greek counterpart in the Septuagint. The Hebrew term, שֶׁבֶת חָמָס (shevet hamas), traditionally translated as “a throne of violence” or “a seat of oppression,” conveys the idea of a judicial seat used for unjust and violent purposes. The root term שׁבת (shavat) indicates sitting or dwelling, signifying a position of authority and judgment. This aligns with Amos’s broader critique of leaders in Israel for their misuse of authority during a period of affluence and moral decay.

The Greek translation, however, introduces a significant deviation by employing σάββατον (sabbaton), specifically denoting the Sabbath day. This leads to an interpretation of the verse as conveying the notion of a “false Sabbath” or a distorted observance, diverging markedly from the original Hebrew emphasis on oppressive leadership. The misinterpretation is evident in the inaccurate rendering of שבת as Shabbat, possibly reflecting an attempt to harmonize with or imitate a mention of Shabbat in Amos 8:5. This translational discrepancy underscores the challenges associated with linguistic nuances and cultural contexts in biblical translation, with the potential for misreading by various translators involved in the production of the Septuagint.

References:

  1. Rahlfs, Alfred (Ed.). (2006). Septuaginta: Editio altera. Deutsche Bibelgesellschaft.
  • Jobes, Karen H., and Silva, Moisés. (2011). Invitation to the Septuagint. Baker Academic.
  •  Hayes, John H., and Irvine, Scott. (1987). Amos: An Introduction and Study Guide. T&T Clark International.
  •  Aitken, James K. (2007). T&T Clark Companion to the Septuagint. Bloomsbury T&T Clark.
  •  Fox, Michael V. (2014). Character and Ideology in the Book of Amos. Wipf and Stock Publishers.
  • Paul, Shalom M., Amos Introduction and Commentary, Jerusalem, 1994 (Hebrew).
  • Wolff, Hans Walter, Joel and Amos Hermeneia- A Critical and Historical Commentary on the Bible, Philadelphia, 1977. 

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

Join My Group Bible Class TODAY!

The class is done in a virtual class room with multiple participants. We meet on Sundays at 11:45am US eastern, or 6:45pm Israel time. You do not need to know Hebrew for this class, and you also receive a recording of the classes every month. For the link and how to join, click the More Info Button to email us.