A Greek Rhetorician and the LXX (What does στερέωμα mean?)
The article is devoted to the analysis of the semantics of the word stereoma. The Septuagint as it was understood by a Greek rhetorician: Pseudo-Longinus and στερέωμα. The paper deals with the first (and only) quotation from the Bible in the classical Greek literature: a quotation from the opening chapter of Genesis in a treatise on eloquence, Περὶ Ὕψους, written presumably in the first century CE by an anonymous Greek author, commonly referred to as Pseudo-Longinus. One can see at a gl ance that the wording of the quotation differs considerably from that of the Greek Genesis. We suggest that the difference is due to the wrong understanding of Gen 1:6 by the author of Περὶ Ὕψους. The present paper attempts to reconstruct how a Greek rhetorician, experienced in classical literature but not versed in the Bible, could understand and interpret the biblical account of the creation of the Heavens, especially the word στερέωμα “solid body” used in the Greek Bible (Gen 1:6) in the meaning “heaven”. This meaning is a neologism coined by the authors of the Septuagint. The paper shows, with a reference to the classical literature and Basil the Great (Hexaemeron), that the word στερέωμα would seem to a Greek rhetorician as a much more appropriate designation for the Earth than for the Heaven. It also shows that what was said about the στερέωμα in Gen 1:6 would also point in the same direction. The biblical Στερέωμα ἐν μέσῳ τοῦ ὕδατος – “a solid body in the midst of the waters” – could not have been understood by a Greek philosopher or rhetorician as “the Heaven”. One may rather suppose, it must have been understood as “the Earth”. If we assume that Pseudo-Longinus borrowed the quotation of Gen 1:6 from some source without knowing its wider context, we shall be able to explain how the wording of Περὶ Ὕψους emerged from that of the Septuagint: as a result of misreading caused by linguistic and cultural differences between the world of the Greek-speaking Jews and that of classical antiquity.