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Abstract

In the 3rd century BCE the Hebrew Torah was translated into Greek. This work argues that the translator of Greek Genesis, a narrative text concerning global and Jewish national origins, aimed to make his translation's plot virtuous according to contemporary literary standards: concision, consistency, sequentiality, unity, believability, and tragedy. Such virtues of plot are heuristically drawn from ancient progymnasmata, Aristotle’s Poetics, and current research on ancient prose composition, but they are confirmed by other sources as essential components of ancient literary criticism’s common core. The argument proceeds in two steps. First, traditional philological analysis, facilitated by modern digital tools, is undertaken to analyze the translator’s deviations from quantitative and serial equivalence and to examine his tendency to employ lexical and grammatical stereotypes. The results of this analysis are used to sketch the portrait of a complex translator who both adheres to the form of his source and makes deliberate and controlled translation choices affecting various literary dimensions of his translation. Second, case studies show that many such choices specifically contribute to improving the plot of literary units of various sizes, resolving difficulties inherent to the source in light of cultural expectations of anticipated readers: with Noah (Gen 6–9) the translator resolves inconsistency and alleviates redundancy (concision and consistency); with Abraham (Gen 12–25) he explicates the causal links between the different stages of the plot (sequentiality, unity, and believability); and with Joseph (Gen 37–50) he embellishes the plot’s tragic qualities (entertainment).

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