I've been reading a number of literary/narrative studies on Luke lately and nearly all mention that after the introduction, Luke adopts a style of Greek reminiscent of the Septuagint in his telling of the infancy narrative. Few elaborate, since their focus is not on the Greek text per se.

Even as an English reader, I can see obvious echoes of the Hebrew Bible in Luke 1-2. For instance, Luke 2:52 strongly echoes 1 Samuel 2:26. Or, as another example, the Magnificat has an affinity to Hannah's song in 1 Samuel 2.

When people say that Luke's Greek in these chapters matches the style of the Septuagint, do they mean more than just these intentional intertextual references? Is the style of the more mundane sections of Luke's prose in these chapters also noticeable?

If so, what are the sorts of markers in the infancy narrative that invite comparisons to a contemporary English speaker reading stories in Elizabethan English?

  • Interesting question! Are you meaning for the "Elizabethan English" characterization in the last paragraph to be equivalent to the "Septuagint Greek" in the title? To me LXX Greek is something different, its idiosyncrasies being attributable in large part (aside from the intertextual references you mention) to under-translated Semitic syntax and idioms rather than an archaizing style. This looks like fun.
    – Susan
    Jan 27 '16 at 3:42
  • @Susan Looking at one quote I had in mind, the author admits a "rough analogy" would be "suddenly launching into a 'King James' style of English." Good find on that study!
    – Soldarnal
    Jan 27 '16 at 4:13
  • Ah, I imagine he's suggesting that because of the tone of "religiosity" that KJV language often sounds to modern readers. I'm not convinced it's the best analogy for the reasons above, but I suppose that's the stuff of answers.
    – Susan
    Jan 27 '16 at 4:27
  • There are a couple spots where the text loosely reflects the LXX. Luke 2:23-24 are an example. However, Luke 3:4-6 is a direct quotation from the LXX with a change at the end of v4. A Nestle-Aland will highlight the quoted text for comparison. Feb 19 '16 at 7:53

Here are some points that may contribute to an answer:

(1) The "style of the Septuagint" is a questionable term. The Septuagint is generally acknowledged to be a collective translation. Different translators were involved. Different OT books may have been translated at different times. The nature of translation varied from literal to free, and the Hebrew text used as the basis for translation is sometimes different from the Massoretic text. So questions of style need to be determined on a case by case basis.

(2) Because of this it is generally harder to connect Luke with his sources stylistically than textually. Take the example of Luke 2.52 and 1 Samuel 2.26. If Luke's Greek matches the Septuagint Greek does that mean he has been inspired by the general style of the Septuagint? Or does it mean that he has been inspired by the story of Samuel's special birth (which is reliably found in both the Hebrew and Septuagint text)?

(3) If the question is asking about Luke's writing style generally (as opposed to his reference to specific OT texts) we would need to take account of Luke 1.1-4, in which Luke acknowledges his dependence on a variety of sources. For instance, Luke 1-2 structurally is inspired in various ways by the story of Samuel's birth. But is this Luke's initiative? Or is it a structure used by a Lukan source, which Luke is happy to incorporate as is into his gospel? Scholars have a range of views on this question.

(4) Some resources that may help: https://macsphere.mcmaster.ca/bitstream/11375/7407/1/fulltext.pdf http://www.kalvesmaki.com/LXX/NTChart.htm


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