Jellicoe’s Letter & the 50th Anniversary of the IOSCS

Scholarship is about collaboration. Few projects of any significance are brought to completion by the hand of a single scholar working alone. For the most part, it is receiving the input and criticism of others whose speciality overlaps with yours that makes a good project into a great one.

The highly regarded scholar Sydney Jellicoe (1906-1973) of Bishop’s University recognized the need for collaboration among scholars working in Septuagint research. Jellicoe is well known for his introduction to the field, The Septuagint and Modern Study (Oxford University Press, 1968), which provides the state of the field in the late 1960s (and which is still very much worth reading).

At that time, there was a good deal of work already underway in the discipline, thanks in large measure to the foundations laid in Cambridge and Germany at the turn of the century by figures such as H. Swete, H. St. J. Thackeray, and P. de Lagarde. But Septuagint scholarship was still without a gravitational center and, perhaps owing to his work preparing his introduction to the field, Jellicoe felt that it was the poorer for it.

So he decided to start a society. This month, fifty years ago. And in order to do that, he sent the letter below recruiting his colleagues.

Jellicoe’s Letter


Jellicoe was not the first to feel this need for organization among scholars. As he states in the letter. But he was the first to take decisive action about it. It was the distribution of this letter – at Jellicoe’s own expense – that led to the first meeting of scholars in San Francisco in 1968 where the IOSCS was founded.

More Archival Material to Come

A few months back, while I was engaged in some research and writing related to my dissertation, I was reading about the efforts within the IOSCS to begin a lexicon of the Septuagint corpus. In an effort to learn more about the “back story,” I decided to reach out to Dr. Robert Kraft, who played a central role in the project. To make a long story short, Bob was kind enough to search through his personal records from that time and send them to me.

So I now have two sizeable folders full of records from the past fifty years, related to the activities of the IOSCS. In my initial forays through it all, there is some interesting material. That is where I found this letter (which, as you can see, is addressed to “Robert”), and I’m planning to continue to post interesting things as I find them.

I also plan to digitize everything and create some kind of archive here on my site, so it’s publically available. Special thanks to Bob Kraft for making this possible!


  1. Dear Will,

    Thanks–this is a great project (and brings happy memories of working with Bob Kraft and Emanuel Tov at Penn).

    Best wishes for its evventual realization.


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