The Catholic University of America

Final Examination of

Nathan P. LaMontagne

for the degree of

Doctor of Philosophy

Friday, May 3, 2013

9:00a.m., Caldwell Room 125




The Song of Deborah (Judges 5): Meaning and Poetry in the Septuagint

Director: Rev. Francis Gignac, SJ, D. Phil.


The Song of Deborah is one of the oldest and most studied pieces of Hebrew poetry in the Bible.  The translation of the Song into Greek during the few centuries before the birth of Christ however is rarely studied for any reason other than trying to recover the original text of the Hebrew.  Although the Septuagint is an underrepresented field in the world of biblical studies, there is much to be gained by examining it on its own merits.  The primary purpose of this study is to examine the meaning of the Song of Deborah in the Greek translation in its own right and to determine what parallels it has with other sections of the Greek Old Testament.  This involves, beyond exegesis, a study of the poetic style and the translational technique of the Greek text, especially in light of the other historical works of Greek-speaking Judaism, such as the Letter of Aristeas.

This study will proceed along four lines of investigation.  First of all, there is no Greek text of the Song of Deborah which enjoys widespread acceptance among scholars.  The Song of Deborah presents some special challenges to the common practice of textual criticism, and the last person to produce a critical text of the Song was Alfred Rahlfs in the 1930’s.  Therefore, the first task of the study is to review all of the critical evidence of the Song of Deborah and produce an eclectic text which is as near as possible to the original Greek translation as can be obtained by modern means.

Once established, the critical text of the Song of Deborah is used as the basis for the rest of the study.  Chapter Three examines in detail the language and style of the translation, analyzes its composition, and attempts to explain how and why the Greek text came to be in the form that it is.  Chapter Four pays special attention to the issue of poetics and seeks to determine what kinds of poetic styles and devices the translator used to convey his understanding of the original poetry.  The discussion of poetics focuses on the possibility of metrical analysis as well as parallelism for the basis for poetry, and discusses in detail the use of paronomasia by the translator.  Chapter Five presents a fresh translation and an exegesis of the Song of Deborah in the context of the Greek Old Testament.  It also compares the Song of Deborah to other works of Greek literature, and explores how the Song and its characters may have been understood by the Greek speaking world.