If you’ve been reading this blog for a while, you will know that I occasionally lament the fact that there are very few options for studying the Septuagint at the graduate or postgraduate level. This is particularly true in North America if you are hoping to find a supervisor for your doctoral work. In the past, I have assembled an unfortunately short list of North American graduate programs in Septuagint. (I am also working on a post that will list current scholars involved in supervising Septuagint PhDs, so stay tuned for that.)
Thankfully, the situation is about to change for the better. McMaster Divinity College, located in Hamilton, ON, has announced the launch of a new doctoral program focused specifically upon Septuagint studies. In case you are unaware, McMaster is an excellent institution that is quickly becoming known for churning out well-trained and rigorous PhDs, particularly in biblical studies. Home of respected scholars like Stanley Porter, Cynthia Long Westfall, and Mark Boda, “MDC” is an excellent option for graduate and postgraduate study.
Details of the New Program
I was able to obtain some of the details for this program. First of all, this program will be considered an area in the Biblical Studies concentration of the PhD in Christian Theology.
The Septuagint Studies program offers a track in the Biblical Studies division of the PhD in Christian Theology (besides Old Testament or New Testament). The Septuagint Studies option allows for specialization in a distinct area of biblical studies that combines elements of the other two tracks, and provides a program without parallel at the doctoral level in North American institutions. The size of the doctoral faculty in Septuagint would be larger than at any other institution in North America, so far as can be determined.
The program will include reference to both the major approaches to the Septuagint, the Greek-text oriented/literary approach and the interlinear approach; there are representatives of each position on the faculty. Six of the faculty are involved in writing Septuagint commentaries reflecting the two positions, as well as authoring other works in Septuagint studies. The Septuagint Studies program may be approached from either Greek or Hebrew, and the student will have a primary supervisor in the dominant language and a secondary supervisor in the other. The student’s supervisory committee will consist of a minimum of one faculty member from each of the language areas (Greek and Hebrew). The broad contours of the program are given below.
The program of study is four years (with a maximum of six years).
The admission requirements are the same for Biblical Studies (Old or New Testament) with one change in the language requirements. Two years of study in each of the biblical languages, regardless of whether specializing in Greek or Hebrew, are required.
The student takes the following selection of courses, with modifications as necessary on the basis of course offerings and specialist needs.
- Interdisciplinary Studies: Biblical Theology
- Interdisciplinary Studies (one course outside one’s area of emphasis)
- Septuagint Studies Seminar (available also to students in Old Testament or New Testament tracks, as a part of their program)
- Advanced Grammar and Linguistics or Linguistic Modeling (working with both languages; the other course may be taken as well, as one of the electives)
- Textual Traditions or suitable alternative providing for study of both Hebrew and Greek
- Two Suitable Electives (these may be chosen from regularly offered courses, such as History of Biblical Interpretation or Papyrology and Textual Criticism, where course requirements address the Septuagint, or from other courses offered, or may be taken as directed studies)
Three comprehensive examinations are to be taken:
- Septuagint Studies
- Major Biblical Corpus for Dissertation (involving both Hebrew and Greek scholarship in reading list)
- One other examination area to be determined
To be written on a topic in a suitable area of Septuagint studies (including examination by external examiner)
Why a PhD Program Dedicated to Septuagint?
Aside from the fairly obvious gap in the “market” of higher education when it comes to Septuagint studies, some might wonder why a full-blown PhD program needs to exist for this discipline. The simple fact of the matter is that the Greek version of the Old Testament is massively important for biblical scholarship because it touches upon so many topics. These include
- Textual Criticism of the Hebrew Bible
- Study of Koine Greek
- Hellenistic context of Egyptian Judaism
- Innerbiblical allusion/intertextuality
- Scriptural and linguistic world of the New Testament
- Jewish translation style and theological interpretation
- Issues of canon and hermeneutics in the Early Church
More could be added. So why go to McMaster for these topics? I asked Stanley Porter the same question. Here’s what he said:
“This new program is a great opportunity for Septuagint studies as a discipline and for McMaster Divinity College. A little while ago, we realized that we have a significant number of Septuagint scholars here at MDC and in the immediate area, and that we already have a thriving PhD program in Biblical Studies with 70 students in it, so it looked like a natural combination. The fact that we have such a strong faculty with expertise in the two major approaches to commenting on the Septuagint is an added bonus. Students will be able to study with a number of different scholars, be exposed to varying perspectives, and graduate from a PhD program that has already established its reputation for excellence. We are looking forward to welcoming students from various masters and even undergraduate programs, as well as from various locations around the world, who wish to pursue Septuagint studies as a separate, distinct track or even simply as part of their PhD program in Biblical Studies (either Old Testament or New Testament). MA students will be able to do some of their work in Septuagint as well, as preparation for further studies in the Septuagint or related areas.” – Stan Porter
In case you’re lost as to what the “two major approaches to commenting on the Septuagint” are, I recommend reading through my multi-part series on the major modern translations of the Septuagint (Intro, Part I, Part IIa, Part IIb, Part III, Part IV).
I’m Going. What Now?
If you are interested in finding out more about this new program, I recommend visiting the McMaster website to check out the school, and browsing through the webpages of the various faculty members mentioned above. You can then get in touch with them more directly by email.
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Well done, MDC! May your numbers increase.