Author: William A. Ross

Assistant Professor of Old Testament, Reformed Theological Seminary (Charlotte, NC)

In Memoriam: James K. Aitken (1968-2023)

The world of biblical studies and Septuagint scholarship suffered a tremendous loss this past Good Friday, as we learned of the sudden passing of Dr. James K. Aitken, or — as he insisted — just Jim to those who knew him. As others have reported, Jim passed away a few days after what was his second major heart attack. Since then, tributes have already begun to pour in, as expected. Here is mine.

If you have been a reader for any length of time, you will know that Jim was my Doktorvater. That is, he was my research supervisor while I was a doctoral student working in Septuagint lexicography at the University of Cambridge from 2014 to 2018. Unsurprisingly, then, Jim’s influence in my life and work is difficult to overstate. He has featured numerous times in this site in various ways, including this interview that he did for me back in 2015, which has lots of interesting biographical information that is well worth the read. 

It’s difficult to know how to write a post like this one and what to say. Jim was widely recognized as an outstanding scholar. His untimely death is a tremendous loss to the field, of course. Rather than focus on that, I thought I would provide some more personal reflections, since Jim was not just a wonderful supervisor for me, but also a good friend.

I have countless memories with him that I will always carry. Here are just a few that came to mind as I wrote:

I remember the first time we met in 2012 at SBL in Chicago. It was 11:30am on a Monday. We had connected via email just a few weeks before and I had no idea what I was doing. I was utterly terrified to meet a real Cambridge scholar, but Jim soon put me at ease with his warm personality. We drank coffee and discussed what would eventually become my thesis topic.

I remember sitting with Jim among a few new acquaintances in a beer garden in Munich in 2013 during my first IOSOT conference. Some there were getting heated over some biblical studies topic or another and I was starting to sweat. But Jim was cool and thoughtful, as ever, although not without his occasional wry comment.

I remember my very first supervision with him in September 2014, once I had arrived in Cambridge. We had come to a new country just a week or two earlier with two kids (one of whom was only two months old) and I was massively overwhelmed with the prospect of what I had gotten myself into. Here are some of the things Jim said in that meeting, which I studiously wrote down:

    • Be humble with the evidence. Strong argumentation, yes, but in reality a modest, minor contribution is more convincing than a strong argument that is unconvincing.
    • “Perhaps” is a key word. Gentle. The best scholars are subtly modifying the data.
    • Read something every day that is not on LXX. Broaden your mind, find unexpected connections.
    • Absorb everything, it always will help. Don’t be worried if what you are reading seems or is completely irrelevant. It will come up later.

I remember receiving the news in early January 2015 of his first heart attack and wondering what on earth would happen, not only for Jim, but also for my own work. In due course, Jim recovered and was able to return to supervising after two terms of respite. It was a miracle and we all knew it.

I remember Jim’s constant support and encouragement throughout the academic year that I was away from Cambridge in 2015/2016, when my oldest son was being treated for cancer. Jim had only just begun to get back into the office and I was formally intermitted with the university. But Jim still made time to connect with me by email and video call to discuss things I was reading and thinking about, once that became possible again for me. Without his support, I am not sure I would have continued.

I remember countless conferences in various places around the world, with all manner of discussion and humor over a coffee or pint. There were even some good papers. At one 2016 event in Germany I recall us singing “Yesterday” by The Beatles with a group of biblical scholars while someone played guitar; another time in 2017 I recall sharing a meal of reindeer tartare with Jim at what turned out to be a surprisingly fancy restaurant in Helsinki, Finland.

I remember sharing tea and cake with him on a perfectly English spring day at Tyndale House with my family, in celebration of the publication of my thesis-turned-monograph, just last June.

On it could go, of course.

As I have reflected on my decade of time with Jim, I’ve recognized how special it was that I was able to graduate from the University this time last year. Although I completed my degree in 2018,  I did not actually participate in the Cambridge graduation ceremony. That was largely due to the fact that I had a new faculty position to start, then shortly after that a new (fourth) child, then shortly after that the world shut down for two years.

But at last, in May of 2022 I was finally able to return to Cambridge with my family for graduation. As wonderful as that experience usually is, it was particularly rewarding in my case, because Jim and I were both part of Fitzwilliam College. And as it happened, Jim was the praelector of graduates of the college, meaning that he personally oversaw the college graduation that day. As the graduates walked down to the Senate House from college, Jim told me that I was the first — and now I suppose only — of his doctoral students who he also had a part in graduating. As hilarious and awkward as it was to hold his little finger as I received my degree (it’s a Cambridge thing), I will never forget it.

I thought it would be fitting to conclude with an excerpt from the acknowledgements of my 2018 doctoral thesis.

Cambridge is a special place, and not just because of the deep pain and profound joy that has characterized my family’s time here. It is an honor to have lived and worked somewhere with such a rich history, particularly related to biblical scholarship and the Church. I have many to thank for this privilege. First among them all is my supervisor, Jim. Even with all the upheaval, uncertainty, long absences, and regular travel during my program, Jim has constantly provided clarity and guidance. Rarely have I known someone with such a level of mastery in his field who interacts with students with such humility, charity, and humor. That was immediately obvious when some random graduate student messaged Jim in 2013 about finding an obscure article he had written, and Jim responded promptly with helpful commentary, a scanned pdf of the article, and invitation to meet in person. That random student was me. In the years since then, Jim has persistently shaped, challenged, and encouraged my thinking while always demonstrating rigorous scholarship to emulate. Thank you.

I would not be the scholar, researcher, writer, or thinker I am today without Jim. He was an excellent mentor and a wonderful friend. I will miss him.


My (Very Late) 2022 Reading List

Yes, I know, it’s the first day of spring. Yes, I know the whole “2022 book list” thing expired about four months ago. But here I am anyway, posting my reading list from last year. It’s something I’ve made a habit of for several years now. (You can look at my last few years worth of joy-ride reading here.)

I do this for two reasons. First, I know that I certainly like to snoop on other people’s reading lists. I’m always trolling for new ideas and I always find goodies from other people. Second, I like to keep myself informed of my own reading pace. I use Goodreads to track my books and usually set a “reading challenge” goal for myself each new year, which lets me see my own pace. 

Of course, joy reading means you can’t be dogmatic about it. For whatever reason, I read fewer books in 2022 than the previous two years. And I’m already fifteen books deep in 2023. So be it. I don’t over-analyze my own reading habits. The rule is simple: Read all sorts of things, all the time.

Fake Awards

I usually make up some fake awards as a sort of summary of highlights and lowlights, so here are this year’s winners:

  • Best for My Brain: Given some of my own training and interests, I was bound to like this book, but Brock and Sutanto’s Neo-Calvinism was really just excellent stuff.
  • Best for My Heart: I really loved reading slowly through Holmes’ A Theology of the Christian Life. Highly recommended for the theologically inclined.
  • Book I Remember the Least: Jacob’s Breaking Bread with the Dead. Sorry. I know this opinion is Verboten, but I think most of Jacobs’s work is overrated. 
  • Surprisingly Useful: Bobby Jamieson is a friend of mine and he didn’t pay me to say this. Nor do I mean that I wasn’t expecting Bobby’s book to be useful. But I read his The Path to Being a Pastor to consider recommending to my students and actually found it very instructive and edifying for myself. Well done.
  • Most Over-Rated: Stavrakopoulou’s God: An Anatomy. I think this book was supposed to be some kind of creative breakthrough in biblical studies, but it turned out to be a fairly dull experiment in Amelia Bedelia pseudo-metaphorical interpretation.
  • Nerdiest: Duncan’s hilariously titled Index, A History of the was really as good as you would hope. Fully of historical nuggets and rampantly fun prose. 
  • Most Likely to Make You Break into Song: Llewellyn’s How Green Was My Valley is a beautiful but tragic memoir about the change of an era in a small, Welsh coal town. Read with tissues at hand.

The Full List (by category)

Bible & Theology

  1. Dean R. Ulrich, Now and Not Yet: Theology and Mission in Ezra-Nehemiah
  2. Francesca Stavrakopoulou, God: An Anatomy
  3. Russell D. Moore, The Storm-Tossed Family: How the Cross Reshapes the Home
  4. Cynthia Long Westfall, Paul and Gender: Reclaiming the Apostle’s Mission for Men and Women in Christ
  5. Graeme Goldsworthy, According to Plan
  6. Christopher R. J. Holmes, A Theology of the Christian Life: Imitating and Participating in God
  7. Peter J. Gurry and John D. Meade, Scribes and Scripture: The Amazing Story of How We Got the Bible
  8. Kevin DeYoung, Men and Women in the Church: A Short, Biblical, Practical Introduction
  9. Kevin DeYoung, What is the Mission of the Church? 
  10. Bobby Jamieson, The Path to Being a Pastor: A Guide for the Aspiring
  11. Aimee Byrd, Recovering from Biblical Manhood and Womanhood 
  12. Rachel Joy Welcher, Talking Back to Purity Culture: Rediscovering Faithful Christian Sexuality
  13. John G. Crawford, Baptism is not Enough: How Understanding God’s Covenant Explains Everything
  14. Michael J. Kruger, Bully Pulpit: Confronting the Problem of Spiritual Abuse in the Church
  15. Douglas F. Kelly, Creation and Change: Genesis 1:1-2:4 in the Light of Changing Scientific Paradigms
  16. Cory C. Brock and Nathaniel Gray Sutanto, Neo-Calvinism: An Introduction

Philology & Linguistics

  1. Peter Martin, The Dictionary Wars: The American Fight of the English Language
  2. Jonathon Green, Chasing the Sun: Dictionary Makers and the Dictionaries they Made
  3. Dennis Duncan, Index, A History of the: A Bookish Adventure from Medieval Manuscripts to the Digital Age
  4. Klaus-Uwe, Introduction to Cognitive Pragmatics


  1. Stephen J. Nichols, R. C. Sproul: A Life

History & Politics

  1. Simon Goldhill, What is a Jewish Classicist? Essays on the Personal Voice and Disciplinary Politics
  2. Crawford Gribben, Survival and Resistance in Evangelical America: Christian Reconstruction in the Pacific Northwest
  3. Rod Dreher, The Benedict Option: A Strategy for Christians in a Post-Christian Nation
  4. Alan Jacobs, The Year of Our Lord 1943: Christian Humanism in an Age of Crisis
  5. Richard V. Reeves, Of Boys and Men: Why the Modern Male is Struggling, Why it Matters, and What to Do About it
  6. Matthew Rose, A World After Liberalism: Philosophers of the Radical Right
  7. Simon Jenkins,  A Short History of Europe: From Pericles to Putin

Miscellaneous Nonfiction

  1. David Foster Wallace, Consider the Lobster and Other Essays
  2. Jeremy Wade, How to Think Like a Fish and Other Lessons from a Lifetime in Angling
  3. Tristan Gooley, How to Read Water: Clues & Patterns from Puddles to the Sea
  4. Anthony Esolen, No Apologies: Why Civilization Depends on the Strength of Men
  5. Doug Wilson, Wordsmithy: Hot Tips for the Writing Life
  6. Alan Jacobs, Breaking Bread with the Dead: A Reader’s Guide to a More Tranquil Mind
  7. Malcolm Gladwell, Talking to Strangers: What We Should Know about the People We Don’t Know

Pop Psychology

  1. Bessel van der Kolk, The Body Keeps the Score: Brain, Mind, and Body in the Healing of Trauma
  2. Gary L. Thomas, When to Walk Away: Finding Freedom from Toxic People
  3. Debbie Mirza, The Covert Passive Aggressive Narcissist
  4. Aundi Kolber, Try Softer: A Fresh Approach to Move Us Out of Anxiety, Stress, and Survival Mode


  1. John Grisham, The Whistler (The Whistler 1)
  2. John Grisham, The Judge’s List (The Whistler 2)
  3. John Grisham, The Boys from Biloxi
  4. John Grisham, The Guardian
  5. Gregg Hurwitz, The Survivor
  6. Gregg Hurwitz, Dark Horse (Orphan X 7)
  7. Gregg Hurwitz, The Tower
  8. Stephen King, Salem’s Lot
  9. Fredrik Backman, Anxious People
  10. Richard Llewellyn, How Green Was My Valley
  11. J. K. Rowling, Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone (HP 1)
  12. J. K. Rowling, Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets (HP 2)

17th International Septuagint Day

It is yet again that magical time of years for lovers of the Septuagint: International Septuagint Day. In case you are unaware, this joyous occasion has been celebrated these seventeen years, ever since the International Organization for Septuagint and Cognate Studies (IOSCS) pronounced it a holiday in 2006. 

As you can see in the image to the right, however, this celebration goes back to antiquity. Even the sphynxes observed this important festival. In that same spirit, I include here links to previous years’ celebrations:

ISD 2022    |    ISD 2021    |    ISD 2020    |    ISD 2019    |    ISD 2018

ISD 2017    |    ISD 2016    |    ISD 2015    |    ISD 2014

To celebrate this year, I am pleased to point readers to another important annual event within Septuagint scholarship.

The 2023 Grinfield Lectures on the Septuagint

As with International Septuagint Day, I have also posted a number of times over the years about the Grinfield lectures (see here). If you aren’t aware, the Grinfields began in 1861 as a multi-year series of lectures hosted by Oxford and focused on the Septuagint. 

This new series will be given by Sébastien Morlet, Professor of Greek language and literature, Sorbonne Université. His research is devoted to ancient Jewish and Christian texts written in Greek, with a focus on their relation to Greek paideia and philosophy. He is the author of La Démonstration évangélique d’Eusèbe de Césarée. Étude sur l’apologétique chrétienne à l’époque de Constantin (2009), Christianisme et philosophie : les premières confrontations (2014), Les Chrétiens et la culture : conversion d’un concept (2016) and Symphonia. La concorde des textes et des doctrines dans la littérature grecque jusqu’à Origène (2019). He is preparing the volume « 2 Règnes » (2 Kingdoms) in the Bible d’Alexandrie series.

Morlet’s first series of lectures will be given in just a few weeks, and is entitled “The Plurality of the Biblical Text: Past and Present.” You can attend the lectures virtually if you register in advance, which you can do by contacting Stefania Beitia ( More information: