The 2016 ETS Septuagint Studies Consultation in Review

20161117_184556099_iosIf you’re involved in biblical studies then you are aware that thousands of scholars are still catching up on sleep and icing knees due to all the activity of last week’s annual conferences in San Antonio, TX. People from various corners of the earth and of diverse theological stripes gathered for up to seven days straight to discuss their work, catch up with colleagues, buy books, and eat their year’s worth of tacos on the Riverwalk.

I have posted previously about the Septuagint Studies session held at ETS in 2015, which was subsequently granted consultation status for 2016-2018. We had our first session this year (see here), which I had the unexpected pleasure of moderating. Considering how well it went, I wanted to take the time to highlight it one last time.

An Overview of the Presentations

Stanley Porter

The first paper was by Dr. Stanley Porter of McMaster Divinity College in Ontario (pictured on the left below; I’m at right). 20161117_194203656_iosAlthough you are likely aware of Stan’s voluminous output as a scholar, you may not know that he is also involved in Septuagint scholarship as well. Stan is the general editor of the Brill Septuagint Commentary Series (see here). His paper at the ETS consultation, “Why a Greek-text Oriented Commentary Series is Necessary,” essentially overviewed the rationale and methodology for this series, which is now past a dozen completed volumes (as compared to the SBL Septuagint Commentary Series, which has thus far had no volumes emerge). Personally I think it is a valuable project – although not without its serious challenges – that will meaningfully contribute to the debate over the interpretive “locus” of the Septuagint (Hebrew source text or Greek target text?) that runs right through the discipline, from lexicography to commentary.

Karen Jobes

Next was Dr. Karen Jobes’s presentation, 20161117_195246451_ios“‘It Is Written’ The Septuagint and Evangelical Doctrine of Scripture.” Perhaps unsurprisingly for the ETS crowd, this paper was the best attended of all four. Jobes essentially wrestled with those texts in the New Testament where an Old Testament quotation is given, often with the explicit citation formula “it is written,” only to find that the text cited differs somehow – sometimes quite distinctly – with what we find in the Masoretic Text of the Hebrew Bible. Of course, most acknowledge in theory (if sometimes not in reflex) that the MT is not “the” text of the OT that we mean when we say “original text” (however defined). But even so, sometimes such New Testament citations differ not only from the MT, but any other Hebrew witnesses, as well as the extant witnesses to the Septuagint. How are we to reconcile such a situation with an evangelical doctrine of inerrancy? You’ll have to wait for Karen’s paper to be published to find out.

Peter Williams

20161117_210443848_iosThird, Dr. Peter Williams of Tyndale House, Cambridge, gave a presentation entitled “On the Invention and Problem of the Term ‘Septuagint.'” This paper went beyond the usual (but highly relevant and necessary) distinction between the so-called “Septuagint proper,” by which we mean the Greek Pentateuch, and the rest of the Old Testament translations in Greek. Here, Pete drew attention to the fact that “the Septuagint” is in fact not really a coherent entity, textually speaking, and pointed to the pitfalls associated with that category mistake. The Septuagint is an eclectic collection of translated texts made and revised by many people, in many places, times, and over the course of several centuries. There is no “it.” Pete provided a fascinating historical survey of the ways in which the term “Septuagint” and all its various forms (including Septuaginta, LXX., etc.), and the ways that such terms tie into and contribute to the complexity.

Jennifer Jones

20161117_213504063_iosFinally, Jen Jones of McMaster Divinity College also presented a paper entitled “Theme Variation in Zechariah 2:10-17 (6-13): A Comparative Analysis of Two Textual Traditions.” This paper dealt with the possible presence of semantic shifts occurring in translation from Hebrew to Greek, which result in differing nuances in the target text. Jen used a text-linguistic approach to model how, intentional or not, the changes of the Greek translation seems more focused upon movement towards Jerusalem, communication only from God, and an increased focus upon safety, all possibly indicating the translation’s social context.

A Fantastic Turnout

It’s easy to come to a session when there are great presenters lined up, and that is precisely what happened. We had an average of about 40 attendees, which maxed out the seating, but packed in over 60 at our busiest point!


20161117_194143358_ios20161117_194750097_iosThanks to all who participated, whether as a steering committee member, presenter, or attendee. It was a great session. Please stay tuned for information on the 2017 session some time in late March. If you are interested in being included on our ETS Septuagint Studies mailing list, please send me an email or leave a comment with your email address and I will add you.


The Steering Committee and 2016 Panel (and some guests!)

Visiting Oxford Fellowship in Septuagint Studies (2017-2018)

ochjs_logoAs much as it pains me to admit it, one of the top-tier locations for the study of the Septuagint is the Oxford Centre for Hebrew and Jewish studies (CHJS), which has been in existence now for almost fifty years. The focus of the Center is to promote education, scholarly research, and publication that embraces “the full scope of Hebrew and Jewish Studies from antiquity to the contemporary world.”

So, among the many lectures and projects under way at the Centre, the Septuagint frequently finds a prominent place. And two of the top scholars involved in the discipline are currently fellows there as well, Allison Salvesen and Jan Joosten (also see here).

Seminars in Advanced Jewish Studies

There are currently two research projects going on at the CHJS. The first is “Jews, Liberalism, Anti-Semitism: the Dialectics of Inclusion (1780-1950),” on which more can be found here. But the second is focused directly upon the Septuagint, and is entitled:

Greek expanded, Greek transformed: The Vocabulary of the Septuagint and the Cultural World of the Translators

This seminar is under the leadership of Drs. Jan Joosten (Oriental Studies, University of Oxford) and Philomen Probert (Classics and Linguistics, University of Oxford), with other members including Eberhard Bons (Faculté de théologie catholique, Université de Strasbourg), Trevor Evans (Ancient History, Macquarie University), and Gary Anderson (Theology, University of Notre Dame).

The seminar will run from January to June 2018, and is described as follows:

This Oxford Seminar will bring together an international team of scholars from different disciplines to work on the religious and political vocabulary of the Septuagint, combining the expertise of the Oxford Centre for Hebrew and Jewish Studies, where it will be based, with the resources of the Oxford Classics Faculty and the Faculty of Linguistics, Philology and Phonetics. The project will illuminate for biblical scholars the cultural world of those who produced and read the books of the Septuagint, and will illuminate for classical scholars the ways in which Jews of the Greek world adapted to the dominant culture and influenced it in turn.

Visiting fellows will be granted access to lib-3-e1446124895749the Leopold Muller Memorial Library and the Bodleian Library in Oxford. As it’s title indicates, the focus of this project is focus upon political and religious vocabulary used in the Septuagint and situate it within the Jewish Hellenistic context. This undertaking will bring together study of literary Greek in the Classical and post-Classical periods with investigation of the rich lexical evidence from Ptolemaic papyri and inscriptions. This is a lively area of research in Septuagint scholarship at the moment (and the one upon which my own dissertation is focused), so the results of this seminar should be very fascinating.

The intersection of a wide variety of cultures, religions, and languages in Ptolemaic Egypt produced a remarkable social context in which the Jewish translation project known as the Septuagint was undertaken. With that in view, there is a good deal of research going on at the moment into dialect, sociolect, bi-/multi-lingualism, context of situation, and usage-based linguistics in relation to the Septuagint. So when I read the prospectus for this seminar, I was glad to see the affirmation that the Greek of the Septuagint exerted its own influence within its linguistic community. This was more or less the idea that I addressed in a recent lecture at a conference in Wuppertal this past July, focusing upon one particular construction (see here).

The Seminar Schedule

This seminar will meet weekly in Oxford over two terms beginning in January of 2018, with a concluding conference in on 25-27 June. The window for application is currently open to senior scholars, postdoctoral students, and those at advanced stages of their doctoral program. The deadline for submitting an application is 16 December 2016. You can find more details about the entire seminar here.

The 15th Congress Volume of the IOSCS is Now Available

Every three years the International Organization for the Study of the Old Testament meets at a different international location. This is such a momentous event for the discipline of Old Testament biblical studies that these meetings are not called a mere “conference,” but are given the grandiose title “Congress.” Most recently this was held in September of this year in Stellenbosch, South Africa.

During the congresses, many sub-disciplines will host a meeting of their own international organizations. These include, among others, the International Syriac Language Project (ISLP), the International Organization for Masoretic Studies (IOMS), the International Organization for Targumic Studies (IOTS), and – of course – the International Organization for Septuagint and Cognate Studies (IOSCS).

The IOSCS Proceedings

Prior to this year’s Congress, the 15th IOSCS Congress met in Munich, Germany in August of 2013. That was my first time presenting research at a major scholarly conference (see here and here). Another aspect of this event for the IOSCS crowd – I’m not sure about the other organizations – is the compilation of the proceedings from each congress into an edited volume. This year was no different, and I was pleased to have my own contribution included (here). The volume is entitled:

Wolfgang Kraus, Michaël Van Der Meer, and Martin Meiser (eds), XV Congress of the International Organization for Septuagint and Cognate Studies: Munich, 2013 (Atlanta, SBL Press: 2016). (SBL / Google Books)

Table of Contents

There is a wealth of cutting-edge research in Septuagint scholarship in this volume, which is now for sale and shipping (unfortunately) at the cost of an arm and a leg. But be sure you have your library pick up a copy, as it is well worth having on hand.

Here’s an overview of the Table of Contents, which includes sections on Textual Criticism, Philology, and Interpretation & Reception:

toc-1 toc-2

If you’re interested in seeing my contribution, you can read it here.

Up with Septuagint Scholarship!

Just a brief mention here that I’ve received a handful of notes recently in support of my work on this blog for Septuagint studies. I’m very glad to see that this site is helping get the word out about various aspects of this fairly decentralized discipline. (But things are improving now! Especially with the newish IOSCS Facebook Group). Today I reached a milestone for the blog when I passed 30,000 site visitors. Thanks for reading!