Supervisors & Programs for Septuagint Studies – Part I

I’ve said before that Septuagint studies is gaining interest. Many of my regular readers here are (I presume) academics already in the discipline, but there are also quite a few graduate students thinking about becoming involved. I know this because I receive a fairly steady stream of emails from readers in graduate school thinking about Septuagint as a possible area of doctoral study.

I think I should say that I welcome such emails. But I repeat myself a lot. My goal is for this blog to be a resource for people interested in this important and growing area of Old Testament biblical scholarship.

Getting Centralized

Along those lines, this post is meant to help myself as much as it is meant to help others. One of the most frequent questions I get is: “Who is supervising topics in Septuagint?” or the related question: “What schools are known for Septuagint studies?”

Today I am finally making an attempt to centralize that information. This should have happened a long time ago, and I’m sorry. Actually not really – this is a service so you’re welcome.

Note that this post is just initial, the first of (at least) two parts. I have also created a page on this blog dedicated to this topic so that I can continue to add to the information provided here. If you know of scholars who I missed (or if you are such a scholar), please comment below!

There is a number of ways I could have organized this information. But I’ve chosen to go with geography rather than, say, subject matter or degree type or program format, etc. etc. I attempt to provide relevant information for each entry. Otherwise these are not ordered in any particular way.

Scholars in North America

I have made an attempt at centralizing North American Septuagint scholars and programs in the past (see here), but this post is intended to be a more comprehensive list. Plus, things have changed since that prior post, most notably the retirement of Karen Jobes from Wheaton, and the semi-retirement (?) of Peter Gentry from SBTS.

Duke University

Duke University offers graduate degrees in religious studies at the University and Divinity School where it is possible to study Septuagint. The two scholars of note are:

  1. J. Ross Wagner – Wagner is at Duke Divinity School and is a scholar of New Testament, specializing in the Pauline corpus and Septuagint studies. Wagner supervises graduate and postgraduate students who are able to minor in LXX studies.
  2. Melvin K. H. Peters – Peters is part of Duke’s Trinity College of Arts and Sciences and, although he is not currently supervising doctoral students, he is part of the generation of Septuagint scholars trained at the University of Toronto. He offers a regular seminar in Septuagint studies that is part of the coursework in Duke’s degree programs.

Southern Baptist Theological Seminary

Not all my readers will be interested in attending a conservative baptist seminary for doctoral work. But for those who are part of the evangelical world, SBTS is an excellent option for its robust academic tradition. Aside from the MDiv degree, there is also an MA and PhD program in which it is possible to focus on Septuagint studies. This program has produced scholars such as John Meade (Phoenix Seminary). But the SBTS Septuagint engine runs largely on the power of one man:

Peter Gentry – Gentry is an Old Testament scholar who trained under Albert Pietersma at the University of Toronto in its heyday of Septuagint scholarship. His program is one of the only ones of its kind in North America, and he is supervising students in the topic (I believe) on a limited basis. Gentry tends to focus on detailed text-critical topics, such as the Hexapla, and is currently working on the Göttingen critical edition of Proverbs and Ecclesiastes.

McMaster Divinity College (Hamilton, ON)

Another good option for graduate and postgraduate work in North American is the program offered at McMaster Divinity College in Canada, which is technically a doctoral degree in Christian Theology. This is a new program as of 2017, which I’ve written about in more detail here. You can see the full list of scholars involved there, but the main scholars involved are:

  1. Stanley Porter – Porter is a New Testament scholar well known for many things, and among them is his work in Septuagint scholarship. At the moment he is general editor of the Brill Septuagint Commentary Series (SEPT), and he is known for his work in systemic functional linguistics.
  2. Mark Boda – Boda is an Old Testament scholar who is also well known, especially for his work in the Hebrew Bible and prophets. However he is also involved in the SEPT series mentioned above, producing the LXX-Psalms commentary, and is supervising Septuagint topics.

Trinity Western University (Langley, BC)

On the other side of Canada from McMaster is Trinity Western University, just outside of Vancouver. One of the draws of this program is The John William Wevers Institute for Septuagint Studies located on campus, which is part of the legacy of both Wevers and Albert Pietersma who have donated their extensive personal libraries (and a large endowment). Unfortunately, TWU does not issue doctoral degrees, but it makes an excellent option for masters-level study. Furthermore, the Institute typically offers a week-long Septuagint seminar in May or June each year. I participated in the first one back in May 2013 (read about it here) and again in 2016. The Wevers Institute is directed by:

Robert Hiebert – Hiebert is a senior scholar in the field and currently the co-editor-in-chief of the SBL Commentary on the Septuagint, as well as conducting research on the Greek Psalter. Graduate students in the Master of Theological Studies and the Master of Theology programs at ACTS and in the Master of Arts in Biblical Studies program at TWU may take courses and specialize in the area of Septuagint Studies. See also this interview.

Other scholars who you will be able to benefit from at TWU include:

  1. Larry Perkins
  2. Dirk Büchner

Scholars in the United Kingdom

Part of the reason for my own decision to study the Septuagint abroad was driven by the fact that many scholars in the discipline are located outside of North America. So the rest of this post and the next will discuss scholars in the discipline in other parts of the world.

Although things have changed slightly since I was looking for a program, the situation is largely the same today. That is, Septuagint scholarship is fairly centralized in the United Kingdom and Europe (at least if active participation in the IOSCS is taken as a litmus test) so if you are looking for more options than those available in North America, you’ll need to consider an international move. But if you can manage it, you’ll have some of the best universities in the world to consider:

University of Cambridge

Although I am admittedly biased, the University of Cambridge has a lot to offer. Aside from having one of the very best collection of libraries in the world, the university also hosts a wide array of respected scholars in parallel disciplines like linguistics and Classics. Some will also be attracted to the presence of one of the best biblical studies research libraries in the world, Tyndale House, where I do much of my work.

The main program of interest at Cambridge will be the PhD, but it is not uncommon to first enter the one-year MPhil if extra training would be useful. The main Septuagint scholar here is

  1. James K. Aitken – Aitken is Reader in Hebrew and Early Jewish Studies at the Faculty of Divinity. As a trained Classicist and expert in Judaism, Jim offers a unique perspective in Septuagint studies that seeks to locate the translation firmly within its Hellenistic social context. See also this interview.
  2. Geoffrey Kahn – Another potential supervisor is Kahn, who is Regius Professor of Hebrew in the Faculty of Asian and Middle Eastern Studies (FAMES). Kahn is not an active Septuagint scholar per se, but supervises dissertations that are indirectly related, as the majority of his research is in linguistic studies of Hebrew, Aramaic, and Arabic.

University of Oxford

Another (slightly less) excellent university for Septuagint studies is Oxford. Like Cambridge, students interested in graduate studies at Oxford will want to look into the doctoral program called the DPhil. There are two scholars working in the discipline:

  1. Alison Salvesen – Salvesen is Professor of Early Judaism and Christianity in the Faculty of Theology and Religion and a fellow of the the Oxford Centre for Hebrew and Jewish Studies. Her work is largely related to the Hexapla and reception history of the Septuagint.
  2. Jan Joosten – Joosten is a highly prolific scholar, the Regius Professor of Hebrew in the Faculty of Oriental Studies, and current president of the IOSCS. His research interests are quite wide, and much of his writing is available on Academia. See also this interview.

University of Edinburgh

Turning northward to Scotland, Edinburgh makes another good place for Septuagint studies. Aside from offering an amazing city, the University’s School of Divinity has at least one scholar who could supervise:

Timothy Lim – Lim is Professor in Hebrew Bible and Second Temple Judaism at Edinburgh, whose research is focused largely in Dead Sea Scrolls and Christian Origins. Given this work, Lim would most likely be a good supervisor for Septuagint topics more closely related to parabiblical literature, textual criticism, canon, or transmission history.

University of Glasgow

As a final candidate for you to consider as a prospective postgraduate student, there is Glasgow. At the School of Critical Studies there, you should consider studying with:

Sean Adams – Adams is Lecturer in New Testament and Ancient Culture whose interests include intersections of literature and culture in Hellenistic Judaism. His work situates the New Testament in its Graeco-Roman and Jewish contexts, including Christian reception of the Septuagint.

Expanding the List

Now, I am certain I’ve left out fairly obvious people for no good reason. Again, please leave a comment below if you know of others that are not listed here, or if I have given inaccurate information above.

Another issue I’ve been thinking about this week – as I’ve been attending the Being Jewish-Writing Greek conference here in Cambridge – is that there are a number of scholars whose direct area of expertise is closer to “Hellenistic” Judaism. People like Hindy Najman, Sylvie Honigman, and others who are working at the intersection of Greek philology, Judaism, and literary studies would also make capable supervisors for Septuagint studies.

While many of those scholars could be included here, I have attempted – right or wrong – to stay roughly within the circle of the IOSCS with which I’m mostly familiar. If you feel strongly about me expanding beyond that general rule, let me know and start naming names for inclusion!

Also note: Part II covering Europe and the rest of the world is coming soon(ish).

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