Bryn Mawr Classical Review

Bryn Mawr Classical Review 2010.04.20

Takamitsu Muraoka, A Greek-English Lexicon of the Septuagint.   Louvain/Paris/Walpole, MA:  Peeters, 2009.  Pp. xl, 757.  ISBN 9789042922488.  $138.00.  

Reviewed by Frank Shaw, Wright State University (Dayton, OH) (

At some time or other nearly every classicist has consulted, or will need to consult, the Septuagint (LXX), the translation of the Hebrew Bible into Greek done in the Hellenistic period (along with some additional deuterocanonical or apocryphal books). Until fairly recently for vocabulary one had to employ the often dated and curt entries in LSJ, as modern specialists had yet to produce a LXX lexicon. That situation has changed over the last two decades. In 1992 Johan Lust, Erik Eynikel, and Katrin Hauspie published the first of two volumes of their A Greek-English Lexicon of the Septuagint (Stuttgart: Deutsche Bibelgesellschaft); the second tome appeared in 1996. The entire work was then revised as a single volume in 2003 (henceforth LEH).1 Naturally any subsequent similar work will be partly assessed in comparison with LEH. It is not as though Muraoka's recently completed dictionary is his first endeavor in Septuagintal lexicography. This volume is the culmination of a continued effort that spans over 20 years (vii). The first installment of that research appeared in 1993 when he published a LXX lexicon of the Twelve (= Minor) Prophets, and again in 2002 with a dictionary of the Twelve Prophets and the Pentateuch (both Peeters). Thus our volume is the completed work, although reviews and use of it will surely necessitate further revision. The book contains an 11-page introduction, a 5-page abbreviations list, and a 16-page bibliography. The lexicon proper is 751 pages; at the book's end is a 5-page list of words found in the standard concordance of the LXX by Hatch and Redpath (henceforth HR)2 but missing in Muraoka's dictionary entries. Important here are most Greek transliterations of Hebrew words since classicists reading the LXX will be curious about such lexemes and likely surprised at not finding an entry for them in the lexicon proper. The lexicon does not generally cover proper names (occasional exceptions: 224, 341).

One of the difficulties in producing such a work is the state of the Greek text upon which to base it. The best critical edition of the LXX is generally that of the Septuaginta-Unternehmen der Academie der Wissenschaften zu Göttingen. The problem is that several books of the LXX have yet to be published by them. While many of the main libri of both the translated Hebrew Bible and the apocrypha are available, numerous other works are currently not (e.g., Joshua, Judges, 4 Maccabees). For these Muraoka has followed the standard procedure of basing his work on the older and less critical text of Alfred Rahlfs.3 By contrast, the LEH lexicon uses Rahlfs' text exclusively. In addition to these Muraoka has sometimes included data from a few of the recensions/revisions of the LXX, as well as HR, the daughter versions, and even patristic commentary, but his employment of them is limited (vii-viii, xi have lists and explanations of use). For the books with dual textual traditions (Esther, Tobit, Daniel) both versions are included. As for the knotty problem of textual variants, after stating that he did not feel "obliged to redo all of the detailed textcritical [sic] work already competently undertaken" by the Göttingen editors and Rahlfs, Muraoka admits that "in a handful of places [it] was . . . deemed justified to depart from their text" or to list other readings under the standard "v.l." siglum (ix).

His working method is alphabetic listings, and his procedure is generally to give genuine (i.e., often "wordy") definitions rather than merely one-word translation equivalents or glosses. Those having used Glare's Oxford Latin Dictionary will be familiar with this now popular protocol, which again differs from the LEH lexicon. Most classicists without knowledge of Hebrew may be somewhat hesitant to deal with the LXX in any substantial way, but Muraoka's lexicon contains good news for them. Within Septuagint studies there is a marked division between two schools of thought: those who regard the LXX as mainly a vehicle for ascertaining the Hebrew Urtext and those who view the LXX as a Hellenistic work in its own right. Muraoka opts for the latter approach: "we had best read the Septuagint as a Greek document and try to find out what sense a reader in a period roughly 250 B.C. - 100 A.D. who was ignorant of Hebrew or Aramaic might have made of the translation" (viii). In contrast to his earlier editions Muraoka has removed the final entry from each lemma which had given the Hebrew equivalents for the Greek lexeme. He plans on publishing these in a separate volume (xv, and n. 35). Indeed the scanty references to Hebrew now present within the work are far fewer in proportionate size than to those in LEH.

The major difference between Muraoka and LEH is that the latter makes no pretense at being exhaustive as far as definitions go, while the former strives to cover nearly all the meanings of a word found in the LXX. There are numerous passages where this can be important. Sometimes these are specialized connotations. Thus the highly technical Seleucid meaning of τόπος at 1 Macc. 10.40 is "provincial area under direct royal administration" (684); at 2 Macc. 4.14 χορηγία denotes "facilities and provisions: at the Jerusalem temple," although the context and Hellenistic history argue for provisions at the neighboring gymnasium, not the temple (734). In other places the context calls for a less-than-common definition. At Dan 3.19 (LXX text) καίω signifies "to raise the temperature of," i.e., to heat a furnace (356) rather than its normal kindle or burn; the noun χένος connotes "invitee" in 1 Kgdms. 9.13 (480); the verb ἐνθυμέομαι in three passages (Deut. 21.11, 1 Ezra 8.11, Is. 10.7) means "to take a liking to" (238). This sort of lexical help is always appreciated for verbs with large semantic domains like ἄγω. Thus at 3 Macc. 2.28 εἰς λαογραφίαν . . . ἀχθῆναι signifies "to register oneself," and at 1 Ezra 1.1, 2 Macc. 1.18, and Tobit 11.19 our verb denotes "to organise and hold a formal, public event" (8). Such expansive or less frequent definitions are normally absent in LEH.

Both LEH and Muraoka offer grammatical aids along with meanings, but they do so with somewhat diverse sigla and abbreviations. The former uses a combination of Greek expressions and English abbreviations while the latter uses Latin and Greek expressions and sometimes slightly different English abbreviations. One feature of the new lexicon that many will find helpful is the morphological parsing that begins the entry of most verbs. For those who read primarily Hellenistic Greek and are not as familiar with the optative, verbal adjective in -τέος, or Attic future as are mainstream classicists, this should be welcome (see, for example, the initial part of the entries for αἰσχύνω, 17; φροντίζω and φροντιστέον, 720-1). For classicists who may forget the later Hellenistic forms this can serve as a good reminder too (e.g., on the optative, "-αισαν for the earlier -οιεν́-ειαν", 468; "δῴη for the Attic δοίη", 165). Thus the situation with the Muraoka and LEH dictionaries is similar, in this respect, to the Cunliffe and Autenrieth lexica of Homer.

Conjunctions and particles receive some attention. For instance, besides the normal meanings of ἀλλά Muraoka offers "Let me assure you" for it at 1 Kgdms. 21.6 on the basis of its being "an answer in reply to a question which implies an element of uncertainty or doubt on the part of the interrogator" (27). Evidently Muraoka disagrees with the entry in LEH of ἀλλά with the imperative at 1 Macc. 10.56 signifying "come on" (27). One wonders what he makes of the word's meaning at 2 Macc. 4.17. Translators don't seem to know what to do with it as most ignore it there. Is it possibly an elliptical usage of the conjunction because of the presence of an expression of time (cf. LSJ 68 [I.2.b])? If so then what is left out? Indeed, one cannot help but wonder how the concept of ellipsis, or to use the modern linguistic term, grammatical "deletion," figures into Muraoka's understanding of particle pile-up, such a common phenomenon in ancient Greek (although admittedly limited in the LXX). Should not the core, that is, the literal, meaning of καὶ γάρ "and [this is true] for" have been given along with "καὶ γάρ introduces an additional statement, which also explains the preceding" (125) so that the lexicon's users can see how the phrase developed historically? Denniston's Particles is unfortunately nowhere employed for such words.

Such a work is bound to have many problems within its covers, especially in its initial completed edition and a "one-man" enterprise is guaranteed to contain more oversights than a dictionary produced by committee or by plural authors. The most obvious of these are mechanical, such as the lack of summary headings in the upper outer marginal portion of each page informing the reader what words are covered on that leaf. The abbreviation "Del.", referring to deleting the lexeme's entry in HR, is explained in the introduction (xv), but it needs to be returned to the appropriate list (as in the '03 ed., xix) since this will be where the user will first look. It would be wise to add a direction at the beginning of the abbreviations section telling the reader that many commonly appearing abbreviations the uninitiated might look for under the "General" heading will be found in the bibliography (e.g., BDF, TDNT).

While Muraoka is to be commended for offering as the meaning of ἀπορέω at Hos. 13.8 (ἄρκος ἀπορουμένη) "a famished bear" due to an understood τροφῆς (81; viii), one can only wonder why the overall meaning of the headword, "to be at a loss [lit., without a way out]" is never provided. This is especially odd given the work's claim of always offering a word's core definition, no matter how wordy, first; for this lexeme the LEH entry is superior. Indeed, notable is the lack of an overall definition of certain common words such as καλός and other adjectives.

Muraoka states that some of his inconcinnities are due to the book being a 25-year project (xvi). They should, nevertheless, be fixed in a revision, along with what may be viewed as some incompleteness here and there. For example, considerable debate exists regarding whether the common Hellenistic practice of prefixing certain prepositions, particularly διά, ἐκ, ἐπί, and κατά, to earlier simplex verbs/nouns really affects the word's semantic intensiveness. Is the phenomenon merely a case of what E. C. Colwell called "a constant overstriving for emphasis" that marked Koine Greek,4 or do the compounds truly carry semantic weight, at least in some cases, as Louw and Nida (and the BDAG lexicon) contend?5 One might easily get the impression that Muraoka dissents from the notion that such prefixes are important because his entry for ἐπιγινόσκω indicates no sort of strengthened meaning (269-70). Yet then the noun ἐπιγίνοσις is defined once as "expert knowledge" just a few entries later (270). Is it the case that the verb's intensified meaning simply is not found in the LXX, while the noun's strengthened import is present at least once? The reader wishes for some clarity here. Then too one might expect a more standard use of either "BC/AD" (viii) or "BCE/CE" (8, 19). Where Hebrew is referenced it is sometimes transliterated (e.g., 270, 296, 580), sometimes not (14, 35, 577).

One disappointing feature of the work is the lack of genuine support offered (i.e., citing ancient sources) for the meanings given. On p. xxii Muraoka lists 18 classical authors, so the reader expects to see the sort of citation one finds, for example, in BDAG. What one discovers, however, is a mere occasional reference. A sample check of the first 25 pages of the lexicon proper (370 lemmata) yields only four instances: Euripides and Homer (4), Josephus (8), and Aeschylus (22). Furthermore, at times the secondary sources that are present do not provide classical literary citations. Such supporting evidence is especially necessary for the extended, technical, or less common definitions such as that given for the ἀλλά at 1 Kgdms. 21.6 discussed supra. One would expect to see far more frequent references to material from LSJ/LSG (instead of just citing the lexicon) in this regard too.

A few further various observations: one wonders if the archaic "thou shalt" in the entry ὀπτάω (501) is really necessary. Perhaps the definition "defect" for μῶμος (470-1) should be further semantically parsed to "injury" due to Lev. 24.19-20; the BA volume here reads "dommage."6 The phrase νόμιμον αἰώνιον does not occur at Ex. 13.12 (476); should the citation here be to Ex. 12.14? While Muraoka is usually quite good in referencing secondary literature on semantically debatable words and expressions, he could have done better documenting the contested meaning of ὕδωρ παχύ of 2 Macc. 1.21 (541), the context of which points to naphtha.

Perhaps the most serious issue is text critical and regards Muraoka's claim of by and large following one specific text for a given LXX liber, and making it clear when he dissents from that (ix). The present writer can only speak with authority for the book of 2 Macc. on this matter. The Göttingen edition by Robert Hanhart is available and thus was followed by Muraoka generally, but there are undocumented exceptions: he reads ἀνατεθέντα (Rahlfs) instead of ἀναστεθέντα (Hanhart) at 5.16 (34, 60), and συνεκέντησαν (Rahlfs) in lieu of συνέθηκεν (Hanhart) at 13.15 (642, 661). In the third example from 12.13 Hanhart offers the unaccented omicron-contract infinitive γεφυρουν (in obeli) whereas Rahlfs reads the dative plural noun γεφύραις. Muraoka has no entry for the verb but one for the noun, and, in spite of supposedly listing all the LXX instances, no reference to our passage (129).

In certain areas the LEH lexicon appears more useful than Muraoka, for example, with those Hellenistic compound forms: the frequent ἵημι is nowhere to be found in the LXX, having been replaced by the Koine compounds ἀφίημι (138 times), παρίημι (18 times), συνίημι (117 times), and other such verbs. One employing LEH will find an entry under ἵημι listing the 11 compounds where the reader will find the verb. Muraoka has no such entry. In other words, one must be reading the LXX and need to look up a word present in it in order to find Muraoka's lexicon helpful. Another instance of the value of LEH is in the compilers always listing the frequency of each Greek word in the LXX. Not only is the total figure for each vocabulary item given, but the numbers are further broken down so that the reader may see how common or rare a given lexeme is in the Pentateuch, the early and later Prophets, the Writings, and the apocrypha. Thus for certain kinds of academic study LEH contains features lacking in Muraoka. Finally, the size of each work needs to be noted. LEH is small enough to be used by students and scholars alike as a manual edition, while Muraoka's work is so large (and expensive) that it will be only a library reference tool. Will the latter work later become available in a smaller version, like the recently published hand edition of BDAG?7

While this assessment has focused on a number of the shortcomings of the lexicon, the present reviewer is extremely grateful for this welcome contribution to scholarship. The above criticisms are offered in a constructive spirit with the goal of improving later editions of this valuable academic tool (cf. Prov. 27.17). At the end of his introduction Muraoka cites three biblical passages. The first bespeaks the vast amount of labor involved in the huge task he has undertaken: ἄνθρωπος γεννᾶται κόπῳ, Job 5.7. Thoughtful users of the lexicon will appreciate the intense industry involved in producing this work of a lifetime. The last locus is the apostle Paul's words at Phil. 2.16: οὐκ εἰς κενὸν ἔδραμον οὐδὲ εἰς κενὸν ἐκοπίασα. Again, all those employing this dictionary will agree that its author has surely not run in vain. In fact, fFor decades it will become, as far as definitions go, the standard lexicon used by readers of the LXX, while LEH will continue to prove useful for a variety of functions.


1.   Also available is Friedrich Rehkopf, Septuaginta-Vokabular (Göttingen: Vandenhoeck and Ruprecht, 1989). This work, however, is not a true lexicon but a lengthy word list with simple definitions and brief references in pre-electronic typewritten font.
2.   Edwin Hatch and Henry Redpath, Concordance to the Septuagint, 3 vols. (Oxford: Clarendon, 1897-1906).
3.   A. Rahlfs, Septuaginta (Stuttgart: Deutsche Bibelgesellschaft, 1935).
4.   E. C. Colwell, "Greek language," Interpreter's Dictionary of the Bible (Nashville: Abingdon, 1962) 2.481.
5.   Johannes Louw and Eugene Nida, Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament Based on Semantic Domains, second ed. (New York: United Bible Societies, 1989) 1.334-5; BDAG = Fredrick W. Danker, rev. and ed., A Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament and other Early Christian Literature, third ed. (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2000) 369.
6.   Paul Harlé and Didier Pralon, trans., La Bible d'Alexandrie, vol. 3 le Lévitique (Paris: Éditions du Cerf, 1988) 196.
7.   Fredrick W. Danker, The Concise Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2009).

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