Many (56) of the Greek Psalms begin (in what is the superscript in English on most chapters, not represented at all in a few):
Εἰς τὸ τέλος.
This is a mystery to me. The NETS translates it, Regarding completion. Brenton: For the end or, occasionally, For the End. But most of them have no obvious eschatalogic theme nor any clear connection to 'completion.'
In every case, this corresponds to the Hebrew:
TO THE CHOIRMASTER. (ESV)
To the leader. (NRSV)
This connection is even more mysterious. I'm guessing it has something to do with the fact that the word looks suspiciously like a piel participle from נצח whence comes the adverb נֶצַח (more often לָנֶצַח) which is (I think consistently in the psalms?) translated εἰς τέλος, e.g:
Ἕως πότε, κύριε, ἐπιλήσῃ μου εἰς τέλος; (LXX, Rahlfs, 12:2)
How long, O Lord, will you totally forget me? (NETS, 12:2)
How long, O Lord, wilt thou forget me? for ever? (Brenton, 12:1)
עַד־אָ֣נָה יְ֭הוָה תִּשְׁכָּחֵ֣נִי נֶ֑צַח (BHS, 13:2)
How long, O Lord? Will you forget me forever? (NRSV,* 13:1)
If the mem is ‘substantivizing’ נצח, I can vaguely see how this relates an adverbial phrase that means ‘completely’ (to the Greek translator, if the NETS reading is accepted) with a noun meaning ‘completion’ (with the article to emphasize its noun-ness I suppose). However, as far as I see that’s not how any translation understands the Hebrew, which apparently derives its meaning from a verb that has something to do with directing music.
What does Εἰς τὸ τέλος mean on top of the psalms, and how is it related to the Hebrew?
(Bonus points for resolving the issue in the footnote.)
*Included because the NETS has a stated policy of sticking to the NRSV unless they have reason to believe that the Greek translator meant something else. (Stated more eloquently there: ‘...all modifications of the NRSV should reflect as closely as possible what meaningful differences exist between the Greek and Hebrew texts and, conversely, no departures from the NRSV should be introduced without good reason....a useful modus operandi might be: "Retain what you can, but change what you must.”’) In light of that, I’m very curious about this (very consistent) decision to depart from the most obvious reading of the Hebrew, the NRSV, and Brenton. Even, e.g., (English) 49:9: 'that one should live on forever' → 'and will yet live completely.’