The IOSCS is Fifty Years Old Today

In the course of my doctoral research I accidentally developed a liking for archives. Much of good biblical scholarship will involve direct interaction with ancient manuscripts, of course, whether in physical or digital format. But in addition to that, I’ve become fascinated with more modern materials related to Septuagint scholarship. So I have been slowly building my own archive, some of which I have shared already. More on this to come in due course.

But I want to share some archival treasures in recognition of today, the fiftieth birthday of the IOSCS.

The Instrumentality of Jellicoe, Orlinsky, and Fritsch

A year ago I posted about the work of Sydney Jellicoe to rally scholars interested in the Septuagint to maintain closer and more organized contact. He sent a letter in December of 1967 to this effect, urging more coordination. Of course, Jellicoe was on the cutting edge of Septuagint research, publishing his Septuagint and Modern Study the following year with Oxford University Press. But he did not issue this call entirely of his own accord. As he mentions in his ’67 letter, it was an article by Bleddyn J. Roberts that helped prompt Jellicoe to action.*

He also states in the same letter that he had been “in touch with others” about the idea. One of the most significant of these “others” was Harry M. Orlinsky (1908-1992), with whom Jellicoe exchanged numerous letters discussing an occasion for an initial Septuagint summit. In June of 1967 (prior to Jellicoe’s letter calling for coordination), Orlinsky wrote Jellicoe the following, where he agrees “wholeheartedly” with Jellicoe’s “most happy suggestion to form a functional LXX circle.”

Obviously Jellicoe had already formulated the idea not only for a coordinated scholarly society, but also for a bulletin for Septuagint scholarship. In time, this would become the Bulletin for the International Organization for Septuagint and Cognate Studies (later the Journal of Septuagint and Cognate Studies).

Further correspondence and phone calls followed. By March of the following year, Orlinsky and Jellicoe brought Charles Fritsch into the fold to follow up on the “possibility and feasibility of organizing a Society for Septuagint Research (or a similar name).” They began laying plans that “it should be in conjunction with the Society of Biblical Literature and its annual meeting that this special group ought to function and meet.”

By June of 1968, Jellicoe and Orlinsky received official (if qualified) confirmation from Robert W. Funk, then executive secretary of SBL, that their idea to host “a section of papers on the Septuagint” had been approved, provided they could assure a minimum of five papers.

As things continued to unfold in following months, Jellicoe, Orlinksy, and Fritsch arranged a personal meeting in New York to discuss details.

It was at that New York meeting between Jellicoe, Orlinsky, and Fritsch that the official name “International Organization for Septuagint and Cognate Studies” was agreed upon, and the first executive committee began to take shape.

Happy 50th Birthday IOSCS

There is much more I could share. In the end, the efforts of these three scholars led directly to the formation of the IOSCS in Berkeley, California in December 19th of 1968, exactly fifty years ago today. Here are Jellicoe’s own revisions to the minutes from that first meeting, taken by Fritsch.

From that point on, the Society has met together at the SBL annual conference every year since then.

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* Presumably the article in question is “Hebrew Bible since 1937,” Journal of Theological Studies 15.2 (Oct. 1964): 253-264, although comments about the state of Septuagint scholarship are not exactly in “sharp focus” in this essay as I read it. But this is Roberts’s only article in JTS as far as I know.

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