Anatomical Idiom and Emotional Expression in the Hebrew Bible and the Septuagint: A Comparative Study

  • Angela Thomas

Student thesis: Doctoral Thesis


The Hebrew Bible abounds in imagery linking feelings and emotions with
various parts of the body, resulting in vividly described ‘word pictures’ that
engage the reader in identifying and empathising with the physical experiences
of the writer – but these images seem to get lost, or become somewhat muted, in the process of translation into English. This is not to say that anatomical imagery vanishes completely – some translations are fairly literal – but sometimes it happens that a particular part of the body is omitted or a different part of the body substituted, and often neither a literal nor an idiomatic translation adequately conveys the strength of expression of the Hebrew text.

This thesis asks whether this phenomenon was already an issue at the time of the earliest translations by making a comparative analysis of the use of anatomical imagery related to the emotions of distress, fear, anger and gladness in the Hebrew Bible and in the first translation of that Bible, the Greek translation
known as the Septuagint. It identifies the parts of the body involved, discusses
their use in the Hebrew Bible and aims to discover how far the Septuagint
translators retained the original body imagery and anatomical idiom. Differences
are identified, analysed, discussed and categorised and detailed statistical
information is presented. In the final analysis, it can be demonstrated that, whilst in more than 90% of examples the association of parts of the body with distress, fear, anger and gladness is very similar, the picture is much more complex and where the ‘colour’ of the biblical imagery has faded in translation, the effect is not necessarily related to the retention or loss of anatomical idiom.
Date of Award2008
Original languageEnglish
Awarding Institution
  • University of Roehampton

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