McLay's book is a very important contribution to the literature on the Septuagint. The previous reviewer (Virgil Brown) complained that "most of McLay's book is not about LXX influence". Yet Brown fails to notice that the title of the book is not "The Influence of the LXX on the New Testament" but "The Use of the Septuagint in New Testament Research." The difference is subtle, but the point of the book is not to just explicate examples of New Testament quotations, allusions, and similarities to the LXX. The purpose of the book is to give a non-specialist the tools to detect how the LXX may be useful in understanding the New Testament (whether or not it directly influenced any particular NT passage). In this regard McLay succeeds very well.
The following is a summary of the book in terms of its chapters and content:
McLay does an excellent job of outlining his book and of explaining the issues that need to be addressed when approaching the LXX. First of all he makes clear a distinction between the term LXX, OG (Old Greek), and the JGS (Jewish Greek Scriptures), showing that what the Jews were using as Greek Scriptures were not always identical to either of these ancient translations. He also clarifies the difference between MT (Massoretic Text) and HB (Hebrew Bible), showing that the Hebrew texts used by Jews of the first century were not always identical to the MT. One must constantly keep this in mind when trying to determine if a NT writer had access to the LXX, another Greek text, or simply a different Hebrew text. McLay further points out that in the first century C.E. and before there was no canon per se. There were only various collections of books considered authoritative in different Jewish (and Christian) faith communities. Not only this, but there was no standard text, so whatever variants a particular community had was authoritative. This means that even those books that influence the NT and are also part of the LXX may have influenced the NT through other translations or other original Hebrew / Aramaic texts than what we have extant. Further complicating the matter is that new versions of the Greek were made subsequent to the writing of the NT books and it must be determined whether certain readings are actually from the original LXX translations or from later Greek translations: therefore textual criticism of the LXX is necessary before determining its influence on the NT (obviously you cannot say the LXX influenced the NT in such-and-such an instance unless you know what the LXX text says!). McLay then goes into the TT (Translation Technique) of the LXX translators. This is important because if we understand the TT of the translators we are in a better position to understand if the NT is using the LXX as "opposed to" or "in agreement with" a text similar to the MT. A "free" translation does not necessarily mean inaccuracy, nor does it imply a different Vorlage (parent text). Finally, with all this in place, McLay will attempt to show through extended argument how an understanding of the NT can be achieved through an understanding of these issues.
Chapter 1: The Use of Scripture in the New Testament
McLay first of all makes the caveat that understanding the use of scripture in the NT does not just include study of texts, but also an understanding of culture, ancient rabbinic norms for interpretation, etc. The purpose in his book is not to explain the culture, but to explain how we can recognize whether the NT is using a Vorlage that is like the MT, a different Vorlage or the OG (Old Greek). McLay does a great job at this by teaching the non-specialist how to identify specific indicators. He also suggests that while we can do productive work in this field, we clearly don't have all the sources that we'd like. This fact has been highlighted by the discovery of the DSS (Dead Sea Scrolls), which, in cases have shown agreement with the LXX as opposed to the MT. This proves that the MT is not the only witness to the HB and that the LXX should not be excluded from consideration when doing textual criticism of the HB. Another important issue McLay addresses is how the NT writers used scripture. Our understanding of whether the NT relies on the LXX or HB depends on how accurately the writers are quoting - how much liberty did they take with their texts? Finally, McLay concludes the chapter with a discussion of interpretive methods of the NT writers. The theological purpose and perspective of a given NT sometimes appear to be the source of the differences of NT quotations not just from any extant Hebrew text, but also from any Greek text.
Chapter 2: Identifying a Source as Greek or Hebrew
The title of this chapter is self-explanatory. It goes beyond how the NT used scriptures to what characteristics of the NT quotations can help us identify an underlying Greek or Hebrew text. Word choice and word order have something to do with it, but most importantly to find an underlying difference between the Hebrew and Greek texts one must know what the TT (Translation Technique) of a given translator is. Once one understands the TT, one can begin to see where the translation truly departs from MT. A generally literal translation that does not match the MT may have a different Vorlage. A generally dynamic translation does not necessarily have a different Vorlage nor is does it necessarily depart from the meaning of the MT. It is only through an analysis of meaning that a dynamic translation can be shown to depart either from the Vorlage or be dependent upon a different Vorlage. In the process of determining variations in translation technique, scholars often rely on broad statistics. McLay argues that these statistics can be misleading and must be used with care, since beneath seemingly random variations may be other patterns. McLay also suggests that because literal translations are default, since they take less work, TT should be analyzed in terms of how free the translation is rather than how slavish it is. We better understand an individual's TT if we know what idiosyncrasies distinguish him.
Chapter 3: A Model for TT
In his third chapter McLay describes the different elements that go into determining an author's TT. This includes analyzing the differences in morphology, lexicology, syntax, and idiom. Only after taking these concepts into account can one start to analyze the motivation behind certain changes. Some changes are not required by the difference in the languages, so one must ask what would motivate such a change. It is changes in meaning that are particularly significant for the purposes of studying the influence of the LXX on the NT.
Chapter 4: The Origin of the Septuagint and Its History
The most useful aspect of this chapter is the fact that it clarifies just how muddy the waters are that surround the issue of text and authority with regard to NT sources. The multiplicity of both Greek and Hebrew texts and the fact that the NT often references versions or Vorlagen that are no longer extant suggests that a) the ancients were not as concerned with a standard text as we tend to be and b) that when we investigate the effect of the LXX on the NT we are investigating a much larger group of texts that the NT relies upon beyond LXX and proto-MT. The LXX is not one of only two witnesses to the HB (MT being the other), but is one of many. It is also not just a corruption of the MT but an authentic (though sometimes unreliable) witness to the HB. In my opinion this chapter should probably have preceded the one on determining whether the NT relies on a Greek text or a Semitic original. McLay's seven step process for identifying the source of a text could then have been put at the end of Chapter 2 as well. One thing that McLay should have added to this chapter is a mention that early translations of the Septuagint into other languages help attest to the earliest text. Without these versions it would be almost impossible to do textual criticism on the LXX, since Origen's version of the LXX (altered towards the then current Hebrew text) in many ways replaced the original LXX.
Chapter 5: The Impact of the LXX on the NT
While the first half of chapter 5 is a summary of how what we've learned so far impacts how LXX studies can shed light on the NT, McLay proceeds in the second half to go through a sustained argument using such evidence. This, in my opinion was the most unconvincing portion of the book. It seems to me that McLay should have spent most of his time on definitive examples, but instead he uses mostly examples where the evidence could go either way.
Chapter 6: Summary, Conclusions, Prospects
The sixth chapter is very brief and consists of basically a summary and a lamentation that the LXX is too often ignored. While I agree that this is the case, he downplays the importance of the DSS (Dead Sea Scrolls) for even making LXX into the useful tool that it is. We cannot ignore the Greek as a witness to the Hebrew. For textual criticism as well as for the NT, the LXX may be useful, but only when we are cautious, since we should know how scant our evidence is.
On the whole I was very pleased with this book. It is worth the buy.