Why I’m excited about Muraoka’s Lexicon

John A. L. Lee writes about Greek lexicons:

We come now to the Septuagint. Until now we have had only Schleusner, dating from the 1820s, and we have desperately been in neeed of a new work for more than a century. Well, at least the time has come. We now have not one but two lexicons of the LXX. I refer of course to Lust-Eynikel-Hauspie, covering all the LXX, and Muraoka’s lexicon to the Twelve Prophets. I’m sure we allf eel grateful to these authors for having at last provided us with something. Obviously, LEH, which is complete, will be the standard tool for some time to come.

But we must look at it a little more closely and honestly. the most obvious strength of LEH is in making full use of previous discussions of LXX words outside lexicons. So it gather up everything that has been done in the past by way of preparation for such a lexicon. But there are also significant weaknesses, which the authors themselves would readily admit. Two major point stand out: (1) most of the meanings are taken wholesale from LSJ; and (2) there has been no systematic gathering of non-LXX parallels that might throw new light on the meanings. In other words, it is based primarily on existing lexicons; and so we continue to move around in this circle in which the faults of one lexicon are passed on to the next.

“The Present State of Lexicography of Ancient Greek” in Biblical Greek Language and Lexicography edited by Bernard A. Taylor, John A. L. Lee, Peter R. Burton, and Richard E. Whitaker (Grand Rapids, Mich.: Eerdmans, 2004), 70 (Google Books).

2 thoughts on “Why I’m excited about Muraoka’s Lexicon

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  1. Hi Mike,

    I purchased Muraoka 2009 in Rome. It is a joy to use, but it does not replace LEH, nor LSJ, nor Rocci (my starting point if the goal to get an overview of the senses and expressions a particular lexeme was given in antiquity, and where).

    To get a sense of things, one may compare the first page of LEH with the first page of GELS. From α to αγαθοω, LEH discusses 24 lemmata; GELS 21. Lemmata discussed by both: 18. In other words, LEH discusses 6 lemmata GELS excludes from consideration; GELS includes 3 lemmata LEH excludes. Neither includes PNs and GNs.

    The gaps are disappointing, at least for someone who is used to working with a more comprehensive reference tool such as BAGD.

    Statistics: LEH has them; GELS does not.

    Bibliography: both have them; neither is complete; they complement each other.

    Accuracy: both LEH and GELS needed to pass through the hands of an anal-retentive editor before going to print. For example: α (I leave aside the question of how to accent this lemma; Rahlfs is not consistent on the matter; no one explains the logic of their accentuation, or notes witnesses to it). According to LEH, it occurs 6 times. But it doesn’t. It occurs 4x (in Codex B) and 2x (Codex A). GELS says that it occurs in Jd 11:35 [Codex] A. But it doesn’t. It occurs in Jd 11:35 Codex B (bis). For example: under GELS αβατος, Cf. αβατοω, not αβαταω.

    ΒΤW, LEH lists αβατοομαι as a neologism, and Rocci lists it as occurring only in the Septuagint. Perhaps GELS is right that the verb is attested elsewhere prior to the Septuagint (it does not asterisk it). In cases like these, however, unasterisked lemmata need to include one or two examples of extra-Septuagintal attestations.

    Another example: αβυσσος. According to GELS, it is a feminine substantive in the Septuagint, and as such, not attested before the Septuagint (from the linguistic point of view, BTW, it’s weird to think of the Septuagint as a unity of any kind, given its diachrony over four centuries, and the heterogeneity of its contents: much of it is translation Greek, along an immense continuum in terms of translation technique, from very stilted to idiomatic; but 4 Maccabees and Wisdom of Solomon, for example, are not translation Greek at all).

    However, αβυσσος also occurs, in accordance with established usage in ancient Greek, as an adjective in Deut 33:13. GELS would have been more consistent with its laudable practice elsewhere if it had distinguished between established and previously unattested usage of this lemma.

    It seems to be the practice of LEH to classify lemmata that are sometimes used as adjectives as adjectives, even if they are used as substantives in other instances.

    It’s a bit confusing, but then, the distinction between noun and adjective is itself not as cut-and-dried as some grammarians like to suggest. Think about the following phrases in English:

    He doesn’t care about the very poor.

    Is *poor* an adjective or a noun? It looks like an adjective serving as a noun. The grading adjectives allow accounts for the *very* poor.

    The Eeyore factor accounts for that.

    The noun is used as an adjective.

    Sorry, I got sidetracked.

    A cool feature of LEH: the many instances in which it points out a LXX translation that depends on a vocalization and/or a consonantal text at some variance from MT. This in the tradition of Schleusner.

    Once in a long while, Muraoka characterizes an occurrence of a Greek lemma in terms of its Hebrew Vorlage. But not very often. A pity if you ask me, since Muraoka is a fine Hebraist and Septuagintalist and thus could have provided enlightenment in many instances.

    1. This is very helpful, John. Thanks! I’m looking forward to receiving my copy.

      On the Adjective question. That issue seems to me to be whole syntactic – i.e. you cannot use an adjective substantivally without the definite article in English (Greek too?).

      *He doesn’t care about very poor.

      As I understand it, this is one of the major arguments for the DP hypothesis in generative grammar. “Poor” is still an adjective.

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