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Translator’s Perspective on the Apocryphal/ Deuterocanonical Books
By Gary F. Zeolla
The translation and publication of the Analytical-Literal Translation of the Old Testament (Septuagint): Volume V: The Apocryphal/ Deuterocanonical Books (ALT) was completed on October 12, 2014. Below is the Preface from this volume. It introduces the various controversial issues related to these books. Then following that are comments by this writer, the translator of the ALT: OT. Some of these comments are adapted from Facebooks posts I made while translating these books. The comments are arranged in the order of the books as found in the ALT.
The Analytical-Literal Translation of the Old Testament (Septuagint): Volume V: The Apocryphal/ Deuterocanonical Books (ALT) is a companion to the Analytical-Literal Translation of the New Testament. Both are translated by Gary F. Zeolla (www.Zeolla.org).
The ALT: Old Testament (ALT: OT) is available in five volumes. They are:
Volume I – The Torah (Genesis to Deuteronomy)
Volume II – The Historical Books (Joshua to Esther)
Volume III – The Poetic Books (Job to Song of Solomon)
Volume IV – The Prophetic Books (Isaiah to Malachi)
Volume V – The Apocryphal/ Deuterocanonical Books
The Greek Septuagint (LXX) is a third century B.C. Greek translation of the Hebrew Bible. The name and abbreviation come from the tradition that 70 (or 72) Jewish scholars worked on its translation, six from each of the 12 tribes of Israel. The LXX contains the books found in modern Jewish Bibles and in the Old Testaments of all major Christian groups (Protestant, Roman Catholic, Eastern Orthodox, and other groups that identify themselves as Christian).
Those books which are included in the Bibles of all of these groups are included in Volumes I-IV of this ALT: OT. They are called the “protocanonical” (first canon) books, meaning they are considered to be inspired by God and a part of the “canon” (list of authoritative books) of Scripture. They are thus considered trustworthy to develop doctrine, ethics, and spiritual practices from.
However, also contained in the LXX are several additional books about which there is much disagreement about whether they are inspired by God or not. These books were most likely written between about 200 B.C. and 50 A.D. Some of these books were originally written in Hebrew, but most were written in Greek. But even for the ones originally written in Hebrew, only the Greek translations as found in the LXX are extant.
None of these books are included in the Bibles of Jews, Protestants, and some other groups. They are thus called “apocryphal” (a word that originally meant “hidden” but now means “extra-canonical”), meaning they are not considered to be inspired by God and thus are outside of the canon of Scripture.
But many of these books are included in Roman Catholic Bibles and are called “deuterocanonical” (second canon) meaning they are considered inspired by God and thus part of the canon of Scripture. Most of the rest are also considered deuterocanonical and are included in Eastern Orthodox Bibles. The Table of Contents indicates which books are considered deuterocanonical by which group.
Both the terms “Apocryphal” and “Deuterocanonical” are included in the title of this volume so as to avoid this debate. For simplicity sake, in this volume, “Apocryphal/ Deuterocanonical” will be abbreviated as “A/D” and “protocanonical” will be shortened to just “proto.”
Fueling this debate are several issues. Some are of a historical nature concerning when and how the books were accepted or rejected as being canonical by different groups. These complicated historical issues are outside of the scope of this volume and are difficult for the average person to make a decision on.
However, there are a couple of issues the reader can make your own decision on by just reading these books. The first issue is the spiritual quality of these books. There are readers who will find these books to be spiritually uplifting and who consider them important as they provide insight into Jewish thought and history shortly before or during the time of the New Testament (NT). But there are others who will focus on passages they consider to be doctrinally or ethically objectionable, contradictory, or simply weird.
The second issue is the attitude of the NT towards these books. The A/D books were all written before any of the NT books and were thus part of the Jewish culture at the time of the NT. So they had some kind of influence on NT characters and writers.
There are many verses in the NT that are possible allusions to passages in the A/D books. These possible allusions are indicated in this volume by giving the NT reference within brackets after the passage. Some believe these are true allusion and thus show the NT writers considered the A/D books to be authoritative. But others do not consider them to be true allusions or that simple allusions do not prove a belief in canonicity.
Moreover, these others will point out that there are no direct quotations from any of the A/D books in the NT and that none of the claimed allusions are prefaced by “It has been written …” or some similar phrase that indicates the speakers or writers believed they were referring to an authoritative source.
Contrast this with the NT’s attitude towards the proto OT books. There are hundreds of obvious allusions and direct quotations from them, with many prefaced by a phrase like, “It has been written ….” But others will point out that there are only such references to 29 of the 39 proto OT books. So this lack does not speak against the canonicity of the A/D books.
To decide on the issues, the reader needs a truly literal and readable translation of the A/D books. But there are only a few English translations of these books available, and most of these are paraphrases and thus not true translations. And the couple of versions that are mostly literal are rather older, using hard to understand archaic English. So this Volume V of the ALT: OT is the first strictly literal English translation of these books using modern-day English.
Additional Note: Jews, Protestants and some others consider the “extra” potions of the Book of Esther found in the LXX to be apocryphal, while the Roman Catholic and Eastern Orthodox churches consider them to be deuterocanonical. The following comments would apply to these portions as well. These extra portions were included in Esther in Volume II of the ALT: OT. They are found after Esther 1:1; 3:13; 4:17; 5:1; 8:12; 10:3.
It is stated in the Preface that there are some passages in the A/D books that some might find “simply weird.” Below are two examples from the first A/D book, the Book of Tobit. Some might also find the second passage doctrinally objectionable, as it sounds like the use of magic.
9Now in the same night, I returned, having buried [fig., having completed the burial], and I slept, having been defiled, by the wall of the courtyard, and my face was uncovered. 10And I did not know that there are sparrows on the wall; and my eyes having opened, the sparrows discharged warm excrement into my eyes, and white spots became in my eyes. So I was walked to [the] physicians, but they did not help me. But Ahikar was nourishing [fig., taking care of] me, until which [time] I was walked into Elymais (Tobit 2:9).
1And when they finished dining, they led Tobias in towards her. 2And going, he was reminded of the words of Raphael, and he took the ashes of the incenses and laid [them] upon the heart and the liver of the fish and made smoke. 3And when the demon smelled the aroma, he fled into the higher [fig., utmost] [parts] of Egypt, and the angel bound him (Tobit 8:1-3).
The Book of Tobit encourages the giving of alms. With that sentiment other passages of the Bible would concur. But Tobit takes things further:
8“As according to the abundance existing to you, give from them alms; if little shall be existing to you, stop being afraid to be giving alms according to the little. 9For you are laying up a good deposit to yourself against a day of necessity. 10Because alms deliver from death and do not permit [you] to come into the darkness. 11For alms are a good gift to all the ones giving it before the Most High (4:8-10).
8“Prayer [is] good with fasting and alms and righteousness. The little with righteousness is good [fig., better] than much with unrighteousness. [It is] good [fig., better] to give alms than to store up gold. 9For alms deliver from death, and it [i.e., alms] will purge away all sin. The ones doing alms [or, acts of charity] and righteous [deeds] will be filled with life (12:8-9).
Manasses gave alms and was saved from [the] snares of death which they built for him, but Nadab fell into the snare and perished. 11“So now, O child, see what alms do, and how righteousness delivers.” (14:10b-11a).
Contrast this teaching about alms delivering from sin with 1Peter 1:18-19, “18knowing that not with corruptible [things like] silver or gold were you* redeemed from your* futile way of life handed down by your* fathers, 19but with [the] precious blood of Christ, as of a lamb unblemished and spotless.”
However, there are passages in Tobit that passages in the NT might be depended on. For instance, in Tobit 4:15, I have included a cross–reference to Matthew 7:12. In both of these verses, a version of “The Golden Rule” is being presented. However, Jesus does so in a manner that is completely different than Tobit, so it is obvious Jesus is not directly quoting Tobit. However, it is possible that Jesus was thinking of what Tobit wrote but reworded it in a more “positive” fashion.
The passages in question are the following:
And what you hate, do to no one (Tobit 4:15).
Therefore, all things, whatever you* shall be wanting that the people shall be doing to you*, in the same manner also you* be doing to them, for this is the Law and the Prophets (Matthew 7:12).
For another example, after Tobit was blinded in the above quoted weird manner, he gets healed by his son in a manner that might be familiar to readers of the NT:
11And he took hold of his father. And he sprinkled the gall upon the eyes of his father, saying, “Be taking courage, [or, Be cheering up] O father!” 12And when they were stung, he rubbed his eyes; and the white spots were peeled away from the corners of his eyes! 13And having seen his son, he fell upon his neck. [cp. John 9:6-7] (Tobit 11:11-13).
The cross-reference is to the following passage:
6Having said these things, He spit on the ground and made mud from the saliva and rubbed the mud on the eyes of the blind man. 7And He said to him, “Be going away; be washing in the pool of Siloam” (which, is interpreted, “Having Been Sent”). So he went away and washed, and he came seeing! (John 9:6-7).
Was Jesus thinking of Tobit when He healed the blind man in the manner in which He did? By including the cross-references I have given the reader the ability to compare the passages and decide for yourself what the relationship is, if any; and if there is a relationship, what bearing this has on the canonicity of Tobit.
However, I will not be adding a cross-reference in Matthew or John to Tobit, as by doing so I would give the impression that Jesus was in fact dependent on Tobit. Similarly, I will not add cross-references to the A/D books in any of the proto OT or the NT books.
Is it wrong for a law enforcement officer (LEO) to go undercover? Think about it; to do so requires the LEO to lie about who he is, his occupation, his background, everything about himself, along with lying about the reasons for where he is and what he is doing. And if it’s a female LEO, she will very often dress and act in a sexually provocative manner in order to “distract” a male suspect, making it more likely for him to make a mistake, so that the LEOs will have cause to arrest him.
So the question is, is it wrong to lie, deceive, and use sexuality to attain a greater good?
I’m asking this as this is basically the storyline in the Book of Judith. Judith is described as being a devout women, yet she goes undercover and engages in such behaviors to try to deliver Jerusalem from being sacked by Nebuchadnezzar’s army.
I’m making this comparison as this week, as I have been translating Judith, I just happened to watch the March 30, 2014 episode of “The Mentalist” (titled “Violets”). In it, Patrick Jane and his FBI unit engage in a sting operation to catch a gang of art thieves, one of which is also a murder. Doing so requires the entire unit to go undercover (including the two female agents) and to act in the manner described. And the similarities between this episode and Judith are striking.
These are the type of questions that need to be answered in deciding on whether these “extra” books are inspired by God or not, and thus whether they should or should not be included in the Bible. But to make such a decision requires actually reading the books. That is why I am translating these books, in order to provide a literal, modern-day English translation of these books, as such does not currently exist.
Wisdom of Solomon
Just as I feared, the Greek of the A/D books has gotten very difficult to translate. I was afraid of this as when I was still translating the proto OT books, when I came to an “extra” passage (i.e., a passage found in the Septuagint but not in the Hebrew text), it was very often almost impossible to translate.
But I was pleasantly surprised when I started the A/D books that they initially were not that difficult. Tobit, Judith, and first half of the Wisdom of Solomon were relatively easy to translate, but as I got into the second half of Wisdom, the Greek text is very unintelligible. So I am really struggling to stay as literal as possible while still trying to make some sense of it.
The difference between the Greek of the proto OT and the NT as compared to the A/D books is striking. To me, this is one argument against these books being inspired. God would not present His words in an intelligible fashion.
But the average reader would not know this by reading any of the few translations of the A/D books currently available. I’ve noticed that to make the text intelligible, every version I am comparing in my translation work deviates greatly from a literal translation. So the text would not appear intelligible to the reader. But I am sticking to a literal translation, but rearranging the words and adding info in brackets to help make the text intelligible, so the reader will see that without the bracketed text, the actual text is rather incomprehensible.
For instance, a strictly literal translation of Wisdom 12:1-7 would be:
1For incorruptible Your Spirit is in all. 2Therefore the ones falling away according to a little You convict, and in what they sin reminding You warn, that having been set free of wickedness they should believe on You, O Lord. 3And for the of old inhabitants of holy Your land, 4having hated upon to the detestable, to be doing works of witchcrafts and mystic rites impious 5of children and murderers merciless and eating internal organs of a sacrificial victim, of human flesh a feast and of blood, [the] midst of initiates of a band of revelers, 6and murderers with their own hands parents, of souls helpless, You willed to destroy by hands of our fathers, 7that a worthy colony should receive of God of children the above to You all precious land.
Below is my translation of this paragraph:
1For Your incorruptible [or, immortal] Spirit is in all [things]. 2Therefore You convict the ones falling away [or, committing apostasy] according to a little [fig., little by little], and You warn [them by] reminding [them] in what [things] they sin, that having been set free from their wickedness they should believe on You, O Lord! 3For even the inhabitants of old of Your holy land, 4[You] having hated for their detestable [deeds], [for them] to be doing works of witchcrafts and impious mystic rites 5and merciless murderers of children and eating internal organs of a sacrificial victim, a feast of human flesh and of blood, initiates from [the] midst of a band of revelers, 6and [the] parents, murderers with their own hands of helpless souls, You willed to destroy by [the] hands of our fathers [fig., ancestors], 7that [the] land precious to You above all [others] should receive a worthy colony of [the] children of God.
Along these lines, the LXX’s translation of the Hebrew text of the proto OT books is relatively literal in the Torah, the Historical Books, and the first three chapters of Job. But thereafter, it deviates from the Hebrew to one degree or another. But even then, the difficulty of the Greek does not change. So even if the A/D books were translated from Hebrew into Greek as some claim, that would not account for why they are so difficult to translate into English. Moreover, if there were originally Hebrew texts, the fact there are no extant copies of them, to me, is another argument against the inspiration of the A/D books. If they were inspired, then God in His providence would have preserved copies of the original language texts, not just copies of a translation.
On another matter, in the Book of Wisdom, wisdom is personified as a woman. That is also done in the Book of Proverbs, especially chapters 8-9. But Wisdom goes beyond Proverbs in exalting this personified Wisdom to sounding like a goddess equal to the LORD.
1This [one] [i.e., Wisdom] protected [the] first-formed father [i.e., Adam] of [the] world, having been created alone, and she delivered him out of his own transgression. 2And she gave to him strength to rule all [things]. 3But having departed from her in his anger, [the] unrighteous [Cain] perished in [the] rage [in which] he murdered his brother. 4Because of which [fig., When] [the] earth [was] being flooded, wisdom again delivered, having piloted the righteous [Noah] by means of paltry wood. 5And [the] nations in one accord of wickedness, having been confounded [at the Tower of Babel], this [wisdom] knew the righteous [Abraham] and kept him blameless to [fig., before] God and kept [his] bowels [fig., affections] strong concerning [his] child (Wisdom 10:1-5).
The text continues in this vein, crediting wisdom with actions that the proto OT books attribute to the LORD. All of these points make it unlikely in their writer’s mind that the Book of Wisdom should be part the canon of Scripture. But I will say here that I believe it is helpful to read these books as they provide interesting background and insight into Jewish history and thought shortly before and during the time of NT events. These points will be seen in Part Two of this article, which will also consider other possible problems with the A/D books.
Translator’s Perspective on the Apocryphal/ Deuterocanonical Books - Part Two
The Analytical-Literal Translation of the Old Testament (Septuagint): Volume V: The Apocryphal/ Deuterocanonical Books is available in various hardcopy and eBook formats. Follow the link for details.
Translator’s Perspective on the Apocryphal/ Deuterocanonical Books: Part One. Copyright © 2015 by Gary F. Zeolla.
Books and eBooks by Gary F. Zeolla, the Director of Darkness to Light
The above article first appeared in
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It was posted on this Web site January 3, 2015.
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