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For example, In Isaiah 1:1 there is no definite article for the vision being spoken of.

ὅρασις ἣν εἶδεν Ησαιας υἱὸς Αμως ἣν εἶδεν κατὰ τῆς Ιουδαίας καὶ κατὰ Ιερουσαλημ ἐν βασιλείᾳ Οζιου καὶ Ιωαθαμ καὶ Αχαζ καὶ Εζεκιου οἳ ἐβασίλευσαν τῆς Ιουδαίας

However, most LXX translations render this as "the vision which Isaiah saw". Is this done as to help identify the vision as the subject?

I chose to translate this as:

"A vision which Isaiah the son of Amos saw, which he had seen against Judah and against Jerusalem, in the kingdom of Ozias, and Ioatham, and Achaz, and Hezekias; who reigned over Judah."

I chose to put the indefinite article so as to emphasize the fact that this is only one of many visions which Isaiah had experienced. Is this acceptable?

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    The rules covering the definite article in English, Greek and Hebrew are all very different - thus, one cannot be extrapolated to another.
    – Dottard
    Jan 14 at 0:34
  • The so-called 'indefinite' article (there are five articles altogether, in English) is a stumbling block in translation of the languages deliberately used by the Holy Spirit in scripture. The absence of the article (it is not the 'definite' article) in Hebrew in no way warrants including the English 'indefinite'. (By the way the article is 'locative' not 'definite' - see Daniel B Wallace.)
    – Nigel J
    Jan 14 at 20:34

2 Answers 2

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As is always the case, when looking at the LXX, it's good to start with the Hebrew it's being translated from.

The Hebrew:

  • ”חֲזוֹן֙ יְשַֽׁעְיָ֣הוּ בֶן־אָמ֔וֹץ אֲשֶׁ֣ר חָזָ֔ה עַל־יְהוּדָ֖ה וִירוּשָׁלִָ֑ם בִּימֵ֨י עֻזִּיָּ֧הוּ יוֹתָ֛ם אָחָ֥ז יְחִזְקִיָּ֖הוּ מַלְכֵ֥י יְהוּדָֽה׃“ (Isaiah 1:1 HMT-W4)
  • The vision of Isaiah, son of Amoz, which he saw, about Judah and Jerusalem, in the days of Uzziah, Jotham, Ahaz, and Hezekiah, the kings of Judah."

Making sense of the LXX

The LXX translators here are, evidently, trying to take a stab at rendering the Hebrew word order and syntax into Greek. The result is some truly awful Greek. But it corresponds to the Hebrew quite well:

חֲזוֹן֙ (vision) is front-shifted in the Hebrew for emphasis. So also then, in the Greek, they did the same. But then they had to omit the construct (genitive construction) so that they could blob it into the accusative relative ⲏⲛ. But, when you look at the Hebrew, you can see, at least what they're trying to do.

In Hebrew, the grammatical use here is called a casus pendens (a hanging case). The authors do this sometimes. They will take a word and frontshift it to the beginning of the thought unit to emphasize it. The Grammar, JM, writes:

156a A noun or a pronoun is often placed at the head of a clause in such a way as to stand aloof from what follows, and then resumed by means of a retrospective pronoun. The noun is thus suspended, so to speak, hence it is termed casus pendens. This construction is sometimes occasioned by the importance of the noun, i.e. it is the element of the clause which first springs to the speaker’s mind, and sometimes by a desire for clarity or smoothness of expression1.

The noun in casus pendens can be a (logical) genitive, an object (accusative), the complement of a preposition, or a subject.

(Paul Joüon and T. Muraoka, A Grammar of Biblical Hebrew, vol. 27 of Subsidia biblica. Accordance electronic ed. (Roma: Pontificio istituto biblico, 2006), 551-552.)

Making the LXX speak English

Asking how to bring the Greek syntax into English is not the first question to ask. The first question is what is the Greek syntax trying to do in the first place? Most likely here, it's trying to reflect the Hebrew syntax.

If one were to take on the task of translating the LXX here into English, like most (all?) English versions, I'd give up trying to find a way to massively emphasize the vision part simply because we do not have the tools in our English tool belt to emphasize the words as the Hebrew speakers did.

The preference over the presence or lack of the definite article is negligible. Most versions go with "The Vision", eventhough, in the Hebrew there's no definite article, because it's definite by context. There was a specific vision given to Isaiah, that he really saw. In English that's how we would understand it best. One can translate the word, "vision" with the definite article without having the reader conclude that it's the 'one and only' vision.

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The translation itself is certainly acceptable.

That said, whether or not to include the definite article depends on context. When you say it's "to emphasize the fact that this is only one of many visions which Isaiah had experienced", you're appealing to the context of the entire book.

The case for inserting the definite article also relied on context, though. In such cases it often helps to look at the Hebrew, but in this instance that's no help; the Hebrew also lacks a definite article. That leaves examining the contextual context in favor of the definite article.

That argument boils down to this: this is specified as a particular vision by identifying what it concerns -- Judah and Jerusalem -- plus identifying it in time by placing it in the reigns of several kings -- Uzziah, Jotham, Ahaz, and Hezekiah. This is quite a long vision, taking up the first five chapters (with the topic repeated at the start of chapter 2), but this manner of identifying visions continues through the book.

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