Finnish School

LXX Post-Doc in Helsinki, Finland

Many people who come to Septuagint scholarship quickly recognize that, while it is a small and specialized discipline, it is one with a rich history. In terms of its recent developments, Septuagint scholarship would not be what it is without the so-called “Finnish School” based at the University of Helsinki. I have written a little bit about this branch of scholarship in the past. Most recently it was related to the symposium held two years ago in honor of the esteemed scholar Ilmari Soisalon-Soininen (1917-2002). You can read more about that event and its honoree here.

There are several things the Finnish School of Septuagint scholarship is known for — the study of translation technique being one obvious example. Another example is textual criticism/textual history, particularly through the work of Dr. Tuukka Kauhanen in the Centre of Excellence Changes in Sacred Texts and Traditions (CSTT). Among his other projects, Kauhanen is currently working on the critical edition of 2 Samuel (2 Kingdoms) for the Göttingen Septuagint.

In this connection, the University of Helsinki recently announced openings for a few new, fully-funded (€40,000–46,000/year) postdoctoral positions to join Kauhanen for two to three years on a research project entitled The Septuagint and Its Ancient Versions. You can read the full announcement and apply here, but the work will be related to textual criticism of 2 Samuel either in Greek or one of the so-called “Daughter” versions (i.e., an ancient translation made from the Greek version). To that end, the duties will (to state the obvious) include collation of the evidence as well as sharing it on an electronic platform (as well as publishing and teaching, as per usual).

It probably does not need to be said, but preparing a critical edition of any ancient text is a gigantic task. But there is a special degree of fiendish complexity to the text of 1–2 Samuel. The reasons for that are not only numerous, but are themselves still very much under debate among specialists. In the early 20th century, Thackeray divided 1–4 Kingdoms (the Hebrew books of Samuel and Kings) into five sections and gave them (Greek) letter designations:

  1. 1 Kgdms/1 Sam. = α
  2. 2 Kgdms/2 Sam. 1:1-11:1 = ββ
  3. 2 Kgdms/2 Sam. 11:2–3 Kgdms/1 Kgs 2:11 = βγ
  4. 3 Kgdms/1 Kgs. 2:12-21:43 = γγ
  5. 3 Kgdms/1 Kgs. 22–4 Kgdms = γδ

The boundaries of these sections are not universally agreed. But Thackeray identified what he thought was two distinct translations within the majority Septuagint text (represented by Codex Vaticanus [B]). In his view, the βγ and γδ sections were the work of a later translator. However, Barthélemy would later demonstrate that these sections were not, in fact, a distinct translation done at a later point. Instead, these sections preserve a revision of an existing Greek text, which was in part intended to bring the revised text into closer conformity with with the (proto-MT) Hebrew text. This revision that Barthélemy identified is now known as Kaige (or the Kaige group). So the βγ and γδ sections are known as Kaige sections, while the others are known as non-Kaige sections. As if that was not complicated enough, the text of 1–2 Kingdoms also underwent two further major recensions: the Hexaplaric recension (3rd century) and the Lucianic/Antiochene recension (fourth century).

Suffice it to say that scholars have not reached consensus in the attempt to sort out this textual history. (For a good discussion of recent research, check out Hugo’s chapter in Aitken, ed., T&T Clark Companion to the Septuagint.) In that sense, these postdoctoral positions present an excellent opportunity for genuinely groundbreaking research in the textual history of the Bible.

 

Soisalon-Soininen Symposium Program & Registration Available

A few months ago I posted about the upcoming Soisalon-Soininen Symposium on the Septuagint, which will be held this coming 1-4 June 2017 at the University of Helsinki in Finland.

I’m glad to see that there is now more information about this event available on the homepage, including the following snippet:

Ilmari Soisalon-Soininen (1917–2002) was Professor of the Faculty of Theology 1964–84 and the “founding father” of Septuagint studies in Finland. He did pioneering research on the Greek syntax of the Septuagint, especially by applying to it his translation-technical methodology, which is still the hall-mark of the “Helsinki School” of Septuagint studies.

Registration

You can now also register for the symposium, which is free of charge through this link:

https://elomake.helsinki.fi/lomakkeet/80085/lomake.html

Program

The line-up of keynote speakers for this event consists of the top scholars in the discipline. The full program is now available as well, which I’ve reproduced here:

Thursday, Ju1st

University Main building, Fabianinkatu 33, 2nd floor, Runebergsali (Runeberg Hall)

15.45 Registration/refreshments
16.00 Raija Sollamo & Anneli Aejmelaeus
Opening Speech
Keynote Session – Chair: Raija Sollamo
16.30 James K. Aitken (University of Cambridge)
Standard Language and the Place of the Septuagint within Koine
17.30 Seppo Sipilä (Finnish Bible Society)
Soisalon-Soininen Meets Grice: The Cooperational Principle and the Septuagint Syntax
18.30 Discussion
19.00 Reception by the Rector of the University

 Friday 2 June

University Main building, Fabianinkatu 33, 3rd floor, Sali (Room) 5

Keynote Session – Chair: Anneli Aejmelaeus
9.00 John A. L. Lee (Macquarie University)
Back to the Question of Greek Idiom
10.00 Raija Sollamo (University of Helsinki)
The Usage of the Article with Nouns Defined by a Nominal or Pronominal Genitive
11.00 Refreshments
Short Papers – Chair: Seppo Sipilä
11.30 William A. Ross (University of Cambridge)
The Semantics of ‘Youth’ Vocabulary in the Septuagint
12.00 Christian Seppänen (University of Helsinki)
Renderings of the Preposition min in the Greek Pentateuch
12.30 Miika Tucker (University of Helsinki)
The Infinitive in Septuagint Jeremiah
13.00 Lunch (Restaurant Frans et Amélie, Helsinki, Kluuvikatu 8)
Keynote Session – Chair: Seppo Sipilä
14.30 Theo van der Louw (SIL International)
The Mechanics of Segmentation in the Greek Pentateuch
15.30 Anssi Voitila (University of Eastern Finland)
Middle Voice as Depiction of Subject’s Dominion in the Greek Pentateuch
16.30 Refreshments
Short Papers – Chair Anssi Voitila
17.00 Philippe Le Moigne
Une tournure syntaxique fréquente en Ésaïe-LXX : substantif abstrait + λήμψεται + complément d’objet direct
17.30 Srecko Koralija (University of Cambridge)
Notions of Paradise, Enjoyment and Heaven in LXX
18.00 Free evening

 Saturday 3 June

University Main building, Unioninkatu 34, 3rd floor, Auditorio (Auditorium) XIII

Keynote Session – Chair: Anssi Voitila
9.00 Silvia Luraghi (University of Pavia) & Chiara Zanchi (University of Pavia/University of Bergamo)
New meanings and constructions of prepositions in the Septuagint: A comparison with Classical and New Testament Greek
10.00 Anneli Aejmelaeus (University of Helsinki)
Translation Technique and the Recensions
11.00 Refreshments
Short Papers – Chair: Anneli Aejmelaeus
11.30 José Manuel Cañas Reíllo (Departamento de Filología Griega y Latina CCHS – CSICC)
Recensions, textual groups, and vocabulary differentiation in LXX-Judges
12.00 Patrick Pouchelle (Centre Sèvres)
Did the Greek Translators Know the Pi’el Stem, and How Did They Render it?
12.30 TBA
13.00 Lunch (Salad Buffet on the University premises)
Keynote Session – Chair Raija Sollamo
14.30 Jan Joosten (University of Oxford)
Grammar and Style in the Septuagint: On Some Remarkable Uses of Preverbs
15.30 Concluding Discussion on the Septuagint Syntax
16.30 Free Time
19.00 Symposium Dinner (Ravintola Sunn, Aleksanterinkatu 26, 2nd floor)

 Sunday 4 June

10.00 A Walking Tour in Helsinki starting at Hotel Töölö Towers, address: Pohjoinen Hesperiankatu 23 A. The programme includes bringing flowers to the Grave of Prof. Soisalon-Soininen
12.00 Birthday-coffee, invitation by Prof. Eljas Soisalon-Soininen

My paper

I am looking forward to presenting some of my research related to my dissertation. My abstract is as available here.

Conference Announcement: Soisalon-Soininen Symposium on the Septuagint

There is an exciting event that was recently announced in the Septuagint studies community: a symposium honoring the 100th birthdate of the celebrated Finnish scholar, Ilmari Soisalon-Soininen (1917-2002). The event, hosted by Raija Sollamo, Anneli Aejmelaeus, Seppo Sipilä and Anssi Voitila, will be held 1-3 June 2017 at the University of Helsinki.

Who Was Soisalon-Soininen?

Those not active in the discipline of Septuagint studies are unlikely to be familiar with the work of Soisalon-Soininen. However, within the discipline he is a seminal figure – “the grand old man of Finnish Septuagint studies” – having founded the so-called Finnish School (or Helsinki School) of Septuagint scholarship. He also trained a significant number of now senior scholars in the discipline, Raija Sollamo and Anneli Aejmelaeus some of the most notable among them (the latter of whom, I am pleased to say, will be featured in one of my upcoming Septuagint Scholar interviews). Aejmelaeus, for her part, is now director of the Helsinki-based Research Project for Textual Criticism of the Septuagint.

The Finnish School took shape around Soisalon-Soininen’s focus upon Greek syntax in the Septuagint. In fact, his approach was the fountainhead for what is now commonly called “translation technique” within the discipline. Although this approach has had its share of criticism of the the years, Finnish scholars now recognize the overly mechanical sound of the word “technique.” In Soisalon-Soininen’s many publications, there is a clear focus on the translators, their linguistic habits, and a close, phrase-level analysis of their work rendering the Hebrew scriptures into Greek. Soisalon-Soininen and the Finnish School are known for a rigorous and statistical analysis of syntactical features of the translation technique of a given unit or book of the Septuagint, with a view towards characterizing the translator’s approach along a “literal – free” spectrum.

For the most part, this work takes Hebrew syntax as its point of departure in analyzing the Greek translation, and gives little attention to the historical or social context of the translators themselves. For the Finns, the focus is exclusively upon the linguistic phenomena of the texts, not least of all in order to build a profile of a given translator such that his Greek target text can be retroverted and used in the textual criticism of the Hebrew Bible. Aejmelaeus has been a key figure carrying this approach forward (e.g., this volume and others). A number of studies, however, particularly those in the Twelve Prophets, have found that the broad assumptions of the Finnish School – namely that the translators worked in narrow segments of text, with little broader discourse awareness, and rarely introduced deliberate changes to the text – do not fully apply (I am thinking of Palmer in Zechariah, Glenny in Amos, Mulroney in Habbakuk, and Fresch using documentary evidence).

Even though a growing number of current scholars active in Septuagint scholarship have taken issue with aspects of the Finnish School’s approach, Soisalon-Soininen and his successors deserve ample recognition for their work advancing the state of the question. Previously, most focus in Septuagint scholarship, particularly that of Max L. Margolis, had been falling upon lexicography (an important field, no doubt), but Soisalon-Soininen recognized the need for analysis at the phrase level, which was certainly a step in the right direction.

The Symposium

The symposium has a stellar lineup of plenary speakers, including some of the leading voices in the discipline today. And, in keeping with the linguistic focus of the Finnish School, the topics and speakers bring that same mindset to their topics:

JAN JOOSTEN, “Grammar and Style in the Septuagint: On Some Remarkable Uses of Proverbs.”
JAMES K. AITKEN, “Standard Language and the Place of the Septuagint within Koine.”
SILVIA LURAGHI and CHIARA ZANCHI, “New Meanings and Constructions of Prepositions in the Septuagint: a Comparison with Classical and New Testament Greek.”
JOHN A.L. LEE, “Back to the Question of Greek Idiom.”
THEO VAN DER LOUW, “The Dynamics of Segmentation in the Greek Pentateuch.”
RAIJA SOLLAMO, “The Usage of the Article with Nouns Defined by a Nominal Genitive.”
ANNELI AEJMELAEUS, “Translation Technique and the Recensions.”
SEPPO SIPILÄ, “Soisalon-Soininen meets Grice: The Cooperational Principle and the Septuagint Syntax.”
ANSSI VOITILA, “Middle Voice as Depiction of Subject’s Dominion in the Greek Pentateuch.”

Happily, you can not only go to this conference, but you still have time to present. The call for papers is currently open. Slots are available for 30 minutes, whose topics focus on “Septuagint syntax, Ilmari Soisalon-Soininen’s research on the topic and / or the Septuagint language as part of the broader development of the Greek language.” The deadline to submit a proposal is 31 October 2016, and they should be sent to Anssi Voitila (anssi.voitila@uef.fi).