κατέχω ("repair") in LXX 2 Esdras 13:4-32 (Nehemiah 3)

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Stephen Nelson
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κατέχω ("repair") in LXX 2 Esdras 13:4-32 (Nehemiah 3)

Post by Stephen Nelson » May 12th, 2020, 3:53 pm

The verb "κατέχω" is used in 2 LXX Esdras 13:4-32 (Nehemiah 3:4-32), presumably, to render the Hebrew “חָזַק” (chazaq) - strength. This is supposed to be in reference to 'repairing' - '(re)building' - the walls of Jerusalem. "Repair" seems to be rather universal in English translations across the board.

2 Esdras 13:4-5
(4) καὶ ἐπὶ χεῖρα αὐτῶν κατέσχεν ἀπὸ Ραμωθ υἱὸς Ουρια υἱοῦ Ακως καὶ ἐπὶ χεῖρα αὐτῶν κατέσχεν Μοσολλαμ υἱὸς Βαραχιου υἱοῦ Μασεζεβηλ καὶ ἐπὶ χεῖρα αὐτῶν κατέσχεν Σαδωκ υἱὸς Βαανα.
(5) καὶ ἐπὶ χεῖρα αὐτῶν κατέσχοσαν οἱ Θεκωιν καὶ αδωρηεμ οὐκ εἰσήνεγκαν τράχηλον αὐτῶν εἰς δουλείαν αὐτῶν
https://en.katabiblon.com/us/index.php? ... 2Esd&ch=13

The NETS translation has 'took control' and 'took charge' for κατέχω.

This is what R. Glenn Wooden says in the introduction to his translation of 2 Esdras:
The Greek of 2 Esdras is arguably the most pedantic of the translations of biblical books found in "the Septuagint" and is possibly the best representative of an "interlinear translation." It has not fared well in scholarly assessments, being described as "a very literal and servile conformity to the Hebrew and Aramaic original, at the cost of clarity, and thus fails to attain even the pretense of Greek idiomatic expression, not to speak of distinction in diction."
[...]
General character
The translator of 2 Esdras used a Hebrew-Aramaic text that was of the Masoretic tradition (MT) of texts and translated it by a slavish adherence to the forms and order of the source text and with little in the way of creativity or translator's license. The translation is so close to the MT that there is very little change even of word order, a feature hard to reflect in the English translation.
Given that description, it's hard to wrap my head around how the translator got "κατέχω" from “חָזַק” (chazaq). Why not 'τειχίζω' or 'κτίζω' or 'οἰκοδομέω', for example? I'm not good with Hebrew. So, please, correct me if I'm wrong. But, at a glance, the Strong's entry doesn't encompass the sense of "κατέχω" at all. If anything, it looks more like 'fortify' in a literal sense (or 'repair' in a figurative sense).

https://www.blueletterbible.org/lang/le ... ongs=h2388

I was tipped off to this when comparing the Russian Synodal Version, which has "чинить" (repair) with its Old Slavic predecessors (16th-18th centuries) that all seem to have “соз(и)дать” ("create/build"). In Russian that word literally means “create/build” (ex nihilo).

https://en.wiktionary.org/wiki/созидать

“соз(и)дать” has a close etymological connection to an archaic term “зид” (“wall”).

https://en.wiktionary.org/wiki/зид

So, that may adequately explain the word choice for the Slavic translation - the association with ‘erecting a wall’. And that also explains the motivation for the Russian translators to update it to “чинить” - perhaps in deference to the Hebrew.

Presumably, the vorlage of the oldest Slavic translations was the Septuagint. So that leaves me confused as to how they got "create/build" from "κατέχω", in the first place.

Can anyone shed any light on this?
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Re: κατέχω ("repair") in LXX 2 Esdras 13:4-32 (Nehemiah 3)

Post by Stirling Bartholomew » May 14th, 2020, 3:27 pm

I have not studied Nehemiah or 2 Esdras. [1]

Perhaps I can help point you to some resources for addressing questions of this nature. I looked at חזק
in Brown Driver Briggs BDB (STEP Bible) and SDBH and compared it to L&N and LEH in Accordance. With minimal energy invested in researching the question, at first glance I don't see anything particularly difficult about 2 Esdra's choice of κατέχω.
Neh. 3:4 And by their hand hath Merimoth son of Urijah, son of Koz, strengthened; and by his hand hath Meshullam son of Berechiah, son of Meshezabeel, strengthened; and by his hand hath Zadok son of Baana strengthened;
Young's Literal Translation (from Hebrew)
L&N 37.17 ὑπερέχω; συνέχω; κατέχω: to exercise continuous control over someone or something — ‘to control, to restrain.’
LEH κατέχω+
A: to hold [τι] Ct 3:8; to hold back [τι] 1 Chr 13:9; to withhold, to take, to lay hold on [τινα] 2 Sm 2:21; to withhold from [τινα ἀπό τινος] Ps 118(119):53; to keep, to prevent from going away [τινα] Gn 24:56; to keep, to detain (prisoners) [τινα] Gn 39:20; to keep, to live with [τινα] Prv 18:22a
to possess [τι] Ex 32:13; id. [τινα] Prv 19:15; id. [τινος] Ps 72(73):12; to gain possession of [τι] Jos 1:11; id. [τινα] (metaph.) Jb 15:24
to rule, to control [τινος] 1 Mc 6:27; to seize, to occupy [τινος] 2 Chr 15:8


[1] I decided to take a look at this because I'm testing Accordance 9.6 in Mac OS Mojave, looks the same as it did in High Sierra. Accordance 9.6 isn't "certified" for High Sierra or Mojave.
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Re: κατέχω ("repair") in LXX 2 Esdras 13:4-32 (Nehemiah 3)

Post by Jonathan Robie » May 16th, 2020, 10:38 am

For the Hebrew, I think it is using this sense (taken from SDBH):
הֶחֱזִיק

חזק (ḥzq) 3 causative action whereby humans or deities cause humans and objects to be strong in a physical, political, or military sense. (73)Glosses: to strengthen; to give strength, to fortify; to repair; to let prevail
For the Greek, I think it is using this sense (Muruaka's LXX lexicon):
to fill in, to repair [τι] 2 Kgs 12,13
Take a look at the 2 Kings passage in both Hebrew and Greek.
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Re: κατέχω ("repair") in LXX 2 Esdras 13:4-32 (Nehemiah 3)

Post by Stephen Nelson » May 16th, 2020, 1:45 pm

Jonathan Robie wrote:
May 16th, 2020, 10:38 am
For the Hebrew, I think it is using this sense (taken from SDBH):
הֶחֱזִיק

חזק (ḥzq) 3 causative action whereby humans or deities cause humans and objects to be strong in a physical, political, or military sense. (73)Glosses: to strengthen; to give strength, to fortify; to repair; to let prevail
For the Greek, I think it is using this sense (Muruaka's LXX lexicon):
to fill in, to repair [τι] 2 Kgs 12,13
Take a look at the 2 Kings passage in both Hebrew and Greek.
That's interesting. I wonder if the method behind such a unique gloss in an LXX Lexicon is circular? For instance, if the occurrences in 2 Kings (4 Kingdoms) and Ezra (2 Esdras) are the ONLY instances where 'κατέχω' is used in this kind of context, it gets the gloss. But, we don't really seem to have external examples supporting it.

I'm not claiming that this usage is 'problematic', per say. I just think it's interesting to note that there seems to be divergence from the common understanding of the word, in the face of alternative verbs that seem to be more suitable. And this doesn't seem to rise to the level of indicating that there was a textual variant in the underlying Hebrew (or alternative pointing). Hebrew is a bit beyond my pay grade.

Here's 2 Kings 12:13 (NASB):
and to the masons and the stonecutters, and for buying timber and hewn stone to repair (᾽chazaq᾽) the damages to the house of the Lord, and for all that was laid out for the house to repair (᾽chazaq᾽) it.
Here's 2 Kings 12:13 (LXX Βασιλείων Δ' 12:12) in Greek:
καὶ τοῖς τειχισταῖς καὶ τοῖς λατόμοις τῶν λίθων τοῦ κτήσασθαι ξύλα καὶ λίθους λατομητοὺς τοῦ κατασχεῖν τὸ βεδεκ οἴκου κυρίου εἰς πάντα ὅσα ἐξωδιάσθη ἐπὶ τὸν οἶκον τοῦ κραταιῶσαι
This is how the NETS (Paul D. McLean) renders the verse:
and to the wall-builders and to the quarriers of stone to buy wood and quarried stone to restrain the bedek (breach) of the Lord's house, for all that was paid on the house to strengthen it.
I wonder why McLean goes with "restrain" here in the 1st instance. Presumably, he could have used one of the LXX lexicon's glosses: "fill in, repair". I suppose "restraining" a wall could invoke the image of 'shoring up' a wall. But it doesn't really do the trick for me, personally. I'm not leaning on translations/glosses for my understanding. I'm just noting stuff that seems noteworthy.

My Reader's Edition LXX glosses κατέχω as "withhold, restrain" and κραταιόω as "strengthen, repair". And my Lanier-Ross 'A Book-by-Book Guide to Septuagint Vocabulary' glosses κατέχω in the Kings section as "to prevent, restrain, gain control". The LXX Lexicon (Lust, Eynikel, Hauspie 2003) has 'to fill in, to repair' based on 2 Kgs 12,13. But it doesn't cite Nehemiah 3 (2 Esdras 13).
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Re: κατέχω ("repair") in LXX 2 Esdras 13:4-32 (Nehemiah 3)

Post by Jonathan Robie » May 16th, 2020, 5:27 pm

Stephen Nelson wrote:
May 16th, 2020, 1:45 pm
Jonathan Robie wrote:
May 16th, 2020, 10:38 am
For the Hebrew, I think it is using this sense (taken from SDBH):
הֶחֱזִיק

חזק (ḥzq) 3 causative action whereby humans or deities cause humans and objects to be strong in a physical, political, or military sense. (73)Glosses: to strengthen; to give strength, to fortify; to repair; to let prevail
For the Greek, I think it is using this sense (Muruaka's LXX lexicon):
to fill in, to repair [τι] 2 Kgs 12,13
Take a look at the 2 Kings passage in both Hebrew and Greek.
That's interesting. I wonder if the method behind such a unique gloss in an LXX Lexicon is circular? For instance, if the occurrences in 2 Kings (4 Kingdoms) and Ezra (2 Esdras) are the ONLY instances where 'κατέχω' is used in this kind of context, it gets the gloss. But, we don't really seem to have external examples supporting it.
OK, so at this point the Hebrew doesn't bother you, you are just wondering about the Greek? I do wonder if there's a clear prototypical meaning behind these various usages. In the given context, though, is there a different meaning that you find likely?
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Re: κατέχω ("repair") in LXX 2 Esdras 13:4-32 (Nehemiah 3)

Post by Stephen Nelson » May 16th, 2020, 9:50 pm

Jonathan Robie wrote:
May 16th, 2020, 10:38 am
For the Hebrew, I think it is using this sense (taken from SDBH):
OK, so at this point the Hebrew doesn't bother you, you are just wondering about the Greek? I do wonder if there's a clear prototypical meaning behind these various usages. In the given context, though, is there a different meaning that you find likely?
I'm not really qualified to be bothered by the Hebrew. But, it seems like the Hebrew uses the same word consistently, which is rendered without variation in English translations. No red flags there. I admit that I'm probably making a mound out of a mole hill. So thanks for sticking with me.

The only differences in meaning I can postulate are 'repair/strengthen' vs '(re)build'. The various Greek verbs are often in relation to the transliterated word βεδεκ (בֶּדֶק), which appears to be a "leak" or "gap" or, as often translated, "damage". So that seems to imply that "repair" is more appropriate than "build".

"Build" seems counter-intuitive for κατέχω. Unless the process of building a wall is part of the process of fortifying the temple as a whole. So, if portions of the wall have collapsed, then that may constitute a "gap" to be filled in through (re)building the wall(s)... Maybe that's the rationale... Or, maybe, the translator just wanted to mix it up a little by using different synonyms (for "repair/fortify"), even though his source text repeated the same word, and gave few details.

2 Esdras 13 repeats the same Hebrew word over and over, and that translator seemingly stuck with κατέχω throughout. 4 Kingdoms 12 has a variety of descriptions in the Greek -
"ἐκραταιοῦτε τὸ βεδεκ τοῦ οἴκου" (12:8)
[...]
"μὴ ἐνισχῦσαι τὸ βεδεκ" (12:9)
[...]
"κατασχεῖν τὸ βεδεκ οἴκου Κυρίου" (12:13a)
[...]
"ἐπὶ τὸν οἶκον τοῦ κραταιῶσαι" (12:13b)
[...]
"ἐκραταίωσαν ἐν αὐτῷ τὸν οἷκον Κυρίου" (12:15)
As mentioned in the OP, this caught my attention in an Old Slavic translations of Nehemiah, which seemed to imply (at least to a modern Russian speaker) that the walls were (re)'built' from scratch. In the context of Nehemiah, I can see how that might be a building project ex nihilo, if the walls had be leveled. It was only later changed, in the Russian, to 'repair'.

For what it's worth, the Old Slavic translation 2 Kings 12 (1757 Elizabeth Bible) also exhibits variation, which is probably due to the fact that it's translated from the Greek:
"укреписте (strengthen) ведека храма" (12:8)
[...]
"не укрепляти (strengthen) ведека храма" (12:9)
[...]
"строение (building) ведека дому Господня" (12:13a)
[...]
"утверждение (strengthening) храма" (12:13b)
[...]
"утвердиша (strengthened) тем дом Господень" (12:15)
The Slavic translators seem to be using synonyms that mean "strengthen" for κραταιόω and ἐνισχύω, while favoring "build" for κατέχω. The Russian Synodal Version could have retained these words, since they're perfectly intelligible in Russian. But they chose to update them as follows:

строение (building) -> починка/исправление повреждений (repair of damages)
утверждение/укрепление (strengthening) -> поддержание (maintenance)
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Re: κατέχω ("repair") in LXX 2 Esdras 13:4-32 (Nehemiah 3)

Post by Ken M. Penner » May 17th, 2020, 3:49 pm

Stephen Nelson wrote:
May 12th, 2020, 3:53 pm
The verb "κατέχω" is used in 2 LXX Esdras 13:4-32 (Nehemiah 3:4-32), presumably, to render the Hebrew “חָזַק” (chazaq) - strength.
...
Given that description, it's hard to wrap my head around how the translator got "κατέχω" from “חָזַק” (chazaq).
...
Can anyone shed any light on this?
FWIW, the usual Hebrew root translated as a form of κατέχω is אחז, which has a silent first radical, and the other two radicals appear (in that order) in חָזַק. So I'm thinking we should consider visual and phonetic mistakes on the part of the translator (or copyist).
Has someone else mentioned that this equivalence also happens in 2 Kgdms 2:28 and Jer 6:24?
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Re: κατέχω ("repair") in LXX 2 Esdras 13:4-32 (Nehemiah 3)

Post by Stephen Nelson » May 17th, 2020, 4:16 pm

Ken M. Penner wrote:
May 17th, 2020, 3:49 pm
FWIW, the usual Hebrew root translated as a form of κατέχω is אחז, which has a silent first radical, and the other two radicals appear (in that order) in חָזַק. So I'm thinking we should consider visual and phonetic mistakes on the part of the translator (or copyist).
Has someone else mentioned that this equivalence also happens in 2 Kgdms 2:28 and Jer 6:24?
Thank you! Now it's starting to make sense conceptually, even though the Hebrew explanation is slightly over my head. And thanks for adding valid examples for consideration.

Here's Jer 6:24 (NASB):
We have heard the report of it;
Our hands are limp.
Anguish has seized (chazaq) us,
Pain as of a woman in childbirth.
LXX:
ἠκούσαμεν τὴν ἀκοὴν αὐτῶν·
παρελύθησαν αἱ χεῖρες ἡμῶν.
θλῖψις κατέσχεν ἡμᾶς,
ὠδῖνες ὡς τικτούσης
Here κατέχω appears to be in its element, and it's rendering the same Hebrew word! But, I can't seem to find the example from 2 Kingdoms 2:28...

I assume this is not referring to 2 Samuel 2:28:
So Joab blew the trumpet; and all the people halted and pursued Israel no longer, nor did they continue to fight anymore.
καὶ ἐσάλπισεν Ιωαβ τῇ σάλπιγγι καὶ ἀπέστησαν πᾶς ὁ λαὸς καὶ οὐ κατεδίωξαν ὀπίσω τοῦ Ισραηλ καὶ οὐ προσέθεντο ἔτι τοῦ πολεμεῖν
https://en.katabiblon.com/us/index.php? ... =2Kgs&ch=2

And 4 Kingdoms (2 Kings) chapter 2 only has 25 verses. So that can't be it... Was there a typo in that citation by chance?

Thanks!
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Re: κατέχω ("repair") in LXX 2 Esdras 13:4-32 (Nehemiah 3)

Post by Ken M. Penner » May 17th, 2020, 4:28 pm

Right. 2 Kgdms is 2 Samuel.
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Re: κατέχω ("repair") in LXX 2 Esdras 13:4-32 (Nehemiah 3)

Post by Stephen Nelson » May 17th, 2020, 5:12 pm

Ken M. Penner wrote:
May 17th, 2020, 4:28 pm
Right. 2 Kgdms is 2 Samuel.
But the LXX there doesn't have κατέχω... Did you mean to imply that it's an example of the same type of phenomenon, with another word?
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