Graduate Studies

New PhD Program in Septuagint Studies (McMaster Divinity College)

If you’ve been reading this blog for a while, you will know that I occasionally lament the fact that there are very few options for studying the Septuagint at the graduate or postgraduate level. This is particularly true in North America if you are hoping to find a supervisor for your doctoral work. In the past, I have assembled an unfortunately short list of North American graduate programs in Septuagint. (I am also working on a post that will list current scholars involved in supervising Septuagint PhDs, so stay tuned for that.)

Thankfully, the situation is about to change for the better. McMaster Divinity College, located in Hamilton, ON, has announced the launch of a new doctoral program focused specifically upon Septuagint studies. In case you are unaware, McMaster is an excellent institution that is quickly becoming known for churning out well-trained and rigorous PhDs, particularly in biblical studies. Home of respected scholars like Stanley Porter, Cynthia Long Westfall, and Mark Boda, “MDC” is an excellent option for graduate and postgraduate study.

Details of the New Program

I was able to obtain some of the details for this program. First of all, this program will be considered an area in the Biblical Studies concentration of the PhD in Christian Theology.

Faculty

Core:

Affiliated Professors:

Description

The Septuagint Studies program offers a track in the Biblical Studies division of the PhD in Christian Theology (besides Old Testament or New Testament). The Septuagint Studies option allows for specialization in a distinct area of biblical studies that combines elements of the other two tracks, and provides a program without parallel at the doctoral level in North American institutions. The size of the doctoral faculty in Septuagint would be larger than at any other institution in North America, so far as can be determined.

The program will include reference to both the major approaches to the Septuagint, the Greek-text oriented/literary approach and the interlinear approach; there are representatives of each position on the faculty. Six of the faculty are involved in writing Septuagint commentaries reflecting the two positions, as well as authoring other works in Septuagint studies. The Septuagint Studies program may be approached from either Greek or Hebrew, and the student will have a primary supervisor in the dominant language and a secondary supervisor in the other. The student’s supervisory committee will consist of a minimum of one faculty member from each of the language areas (Greek and Hebrew). The broad contours of the program are given below.

The program of study is four years (with a maximum of six years).

Admissions Requirements

The admission requirements are the same for Biblical Studies (Old or New Testament) with one change in the language requirements. Two years of study in each of the biblical languages, regardless of whether specializing in Greek or Hebrew, are required.

Curriculum

The student takes the following selection of courses, with modifications as necessary on the basis of course offerings and specialist needs.

Research Methods

  • Interdisciplinary Studies: Biblical Theology
  • Interdisciplinary Studies (one course outside one’s area of emphasis)
  • Septuagint Studies Seminar (available also to students in Old Testament or New Testament tracks, as a part of their program)
  • Advanced Grammar and Linguistics or Linguistic Modeling (working with both languages; the other course may be taken as well, as one of the electives)
  • Textual Traditions or suitable alternative providing for study of both Hebrew and Greek
  • Two Suitable Electives (these may be chosen from regularly offered courses, such as History of Biblical Interpretation or Papyrology and Textual Criticism, where course requirements address the Septuagint, or from other courses offered, or may be taken as directed studies)

Comprehensive Examinations

Three comprehensive examinations are to be taken:

  • Septuagint Studies
  • Major Biblical Corpus for Dissertation (involving both Hebrew and Greek scholarship in reading list)
  • One other examination area to be determined

Dissertation

To be written on a topic in a suitable area of Septuagint studies (including examination by external examiner)

Why a PhD Program Dedicated to Septuagint?

Aside from the fairly obvious gap in the “market” of higher education when it comes to Septuagint studies, some might wonder why a full-blown PhD program needs to exist for this discipline. The simple fact of the matter is that the Greek version of the Old Testament is massively important for biblical scholarship because it touches upon so many topics. These include

  1. Textual Criticism of the Hebrew Bible
  2. Study of Koine Greek
  3. Hellenistic context of Egyptian Judaism
  4. Innerbiblical allusion/intertextuality
  5. Scriptural and linguistic world of the New Testament
  6. Jewish translation style and theological interpretation
  7. Issues of canon and hermeneutics in the Early Church

More could be added. So why go to McMaster for these topics? I asked Stanley Porter the same question. Here’s what he said:

“This new program is a great opportunity for Septuagint studies as a discipline and for McMaster Divinity College. A little while ago, we realized that we have a significant number of Septuagint scholars here at MDC and in the immediate area, and that we already have a thriving PhD program in Biblical Studies with 70 students in it, so it looked like a natural combination. The fact that we have such a strong faculty with expertise in the two major approaches to commenting on the Septuagint is an added bonus. Students will be able to study with a number of different scholars, be exposed to varying perspectives, and graduate from a PhD program that has already established its reputation for excellence. We are looking forward to welcoming students from various masters and even undergraduate programs, as well as from various locations around the world, who wish to pursue Septuagint studies as a separate, distinct track or even simply as part of their PhD program in Biblical Studies (either Old Testament or New Testament). MA students will be able to do some of their work in Septuagint as well, as preparation for further studies in the Septuagint or related areas.” – Stan Porter

In case you’re lost as to what the “two major approaches to commenting on the Septuagint” are, I recommend reading through my multi-part series on the major modern translations of the Septuagint (Intro, Part I, Part IIa, Part IIb, Part III, Part IV).

I’m Going. What Now?

If you are interested in finding out more about this new program, I recommend visiting the McMaster website to check out the school, and browsing through the webpages of the various faculty members mentioned above. You can then get in touch with them more directly by email.

LXX Summer School in Salzburg

This summer from 3 – 7 July a summer school will be held at the Faculty of Theology at the Universität Salzburg in Austria. The course will be a fantastic opportunity if you are interested in Septuagint studies, and is entitled

On Biblical Manuscripts and Their Use in Biblical Studies. The Hebrew and Greek Texts of Esther

Because this course will focus on manuscripts in both Hebrew and Greek, it should be very appealing even if you are primarily interested in textual studies of the Hebrew Bible, rather than the Septuagint. Plus, you might be able to get course credits for it.

Don’t Pass it Up

I have brought this up several times in the past, but graduate courses focused upon Septuagint studies are unfortunately quite rare, making it very difficult for interested students to get oriented to the discipline by means of direct instruction. These are rarer still if you only count courses taught by scholars who themselves were trained in the discipline and are currently active in the guild. Personally, I’m thrilled to see this opportunity at the Universität Salzburg and hope they continue to offer it annually.

Aside: Two other courses like this happen occasionally, one at Trinity Western University’s John William Wevers Institute for Septuagint Studies (see here) and another at the Septuaginta-Unternehmen at the Universität Göttingen (see here).

This summer school will be taught by Dr. Kristin De Troyer. Not only is Dr Troyer a very well respected scholar in the Septuagint community, she is also a recognized textual critic who specializes in the Historical Books. So she will make a sure guide for this interesting and intricate subject matter.

Scholars have long recognized the complexity of the textual history of Esther. In almost every verse of the book the Hebrew and Greek texts differ by a word, a clause, or even whole phrases. And it is unclear whether this is the result of a different Vorlage (the Hebrew source text translated), a translator taking liberties (the Greek of Esther is fairly expansive), or the result of textual transmission and revision in Greek. Plus there is the major issue of the so-called “Additions to Esther.” These constitute six long portions (labelled as Sections A-F) of over a hundred verses of text that do not appear in the Masoretic Text (MT), nearly doubling the length of the book.

Just as intriguing to Septuagint scholars, the book of Esther was translated into fairly idiomatic Greek with a style not strictly adherent to the Hebrew syntax of the MT. In other words, Esther was translated into conventional Greek with relatively less concern to mimic the underlying grammatical structure than many other books in the Greek Old Testament. Along these lines, the two royal edicts in Additions B and E constitute some of the most literary Greek found in the Septuagint. There is still uncertainty with regard to whether these (and the other) Additions constitute original Greek compositions, or rather preserve a translation of a now-lost Hebrew text. Moreover, LXX-Esther has a rich array of vocabulary and apparent neologisms awaiting fresh study.

If you are intrigued by Septuagint scholarship – plus good chocolate and hiking for that matter – then you should give serious consideration to applying for this course.

Course Flyer

 

LXX Scholar Interview: Dr. Jan Joosten

Today I have the pleasure of presenting another of my LXX Scholar Interviews, this time with Dr. Jan Joosten, who is currently the Regius Professor of Hebrew at the University of Oxford. If you didn’t see the post previously, you can listen to his inaugural lecture here.

To repeat some of what I have said before, if you are interested in Old Testament textual studies, you will have almost certainly run into his work. If you are a graduate student interested in Old Testament and/or Septuagint studies, you should strongly consider getting in touch with Jan about supervising. Either way, I am sure that this interview detailing his “academic biography” will prove interesting and shed some light on Jan’s qualifications and activity in the discipline of Septuagint.

The Interview

1) Can you describe how you first became interested in LXX studies, and your training for the discipline?

After a licentiate in Protestant Theology in Brussels (1981) and a one-year degree at Princeton Theological Seminary (ThM 1982), I received a scholarship to study at the Hebrew University in Jerusalem. From 1982 to 1985 I studied textual criticism of the Hebrew Bible, and many other things, with Moshe H. Goshen-Gottstein. Among the other seminars I took was one on the Septuagint with Emanuel Tov. But I really got into Septuagint studies only much later, in 1994, after getting my first teaching job at the Protestant Faculty of the University of Strasbourg.

As professor of biblical languages I was expected to teach a research seminar for masters students. I figured the Septuagint would be a fitting subject, since the students were supposed to have had at least one year of Hebrew and Greek. I proposed a seminar on the Septuagint of Deuteronomy 32, which was a success (I had four students). In the following years I continued to teach the course on various biblical chapters. My research on the version developed from the teaching in this seminar (my first article on the LXX: “Elaborate Similes—Hebrew and Greek. A Study in Septuagint Translation Technique” Biblica 77 [1996], 227-236, was spun out from an observation on Deut 32:11).

2) How have you participated in the discipline over the course of your teaching and writing career? 

In 1997 I approached the Bible d’Alexandrie group in Paris and they proposed I should take on the volume on Hosea. With colleagues in Strasbourg, notably Eberhard Bons and Philippe Le Moigne, I began to work on the translation and annotation of this biblical book. In 2002 our work was published in the series. The Bible d’Alexandrie has made a crucial contribution
to LXX studies because it embodies the approach of the version as a text in its own right. Among biblical scholars the LXX has often been—and continues to be—studied as an ancillary text: a collection of variant readings in textual criticism of the Hebrew Bible, or a source of religious terms in New Testament exegesis. In Antiquity, the Septuagint was read simply as Scripture, among Hellenistic Jews first, and later among Greek-speaking Christians.

My personal contribution to the study of the LXX is for the most part tied to linguistic phenomena situated at the interface between the Hebrew source text and the Greek translation. Language is a subtle instrument, expressing not only a propositional meaning, but also, at times, revealing other details: on the culture and background of the translators, on their knowledge of Hebrew, on their approach to the source text, and much else. A sample of articles has been published in my book: Collected Studies on the Septuagint. From Language to Interpretation and Beyond (FAT 83; Tübingen: Mohr-Siebeck, 2012). Some of the articles are available on academia.edu.

3) How have you integrated LXX studies into your work as a professor?

In Strasbourg I taught the seminar on the Septuagint yearly for almost twenty years, sometimes with my colleague Madeline Wieger. In 2014 I was appointed Professor of Hebrew in Oxford. I use the Septuagint in classes on textual criticism, but do not teach it as such. My close colleague, Professor Alison Salvesen does teach Septuagint regularly.

4) How has the field changed since you’ve been involved?

At some point, in the early 2000s, I thought Septuagint studies would go mainstream, causing a long overdue upheaval in biblical studies. Now I’m not so sure. The OT – NT divide is as strong as ever, it leaves little space for Septuagint studies (except as an ancillary text, see above, question 2).

5) For the benefit of graduate students who are potentially interested in LXX studies in doctoral work, what in your opinion are underworked areas and topics in need of further research?

A lot of work remains to be done on the vocabulary of the Septuagint (see the next question). Also important is research on single translation units of the Septuagint: practically each book comes with its own challenges and opportunities. Although lately a few studies on the style of the Septuagint have appeared, this is also a field that remains largely unexplored.

6) What current projects in Septuagint are you working on?

Together with Eberhard Bons I’m editing the Historical and Theological Lexicon of the Septuagint, a projected four-volume work offering for each significant word of the Septuagint an article detailing: a) its use in classical and Hellenistic Greek, b) its transformations (if any) in the Septuagint, and c) its usage in writings depending on the Septuagint. The first volume, with 150 articles, should be published in 2016. [Editor’s note: a volume of essays related to the HTLS can be found here, and see image to right.]

7) What is the future of Septuagint studies?

The near future is when all the books of the Septuagint will finally be available in a full-scale critical edition. A more distant, and perhaps utopic, future is one where the Septuagint and the Dead Sea Scrolls will be fully integrated into biblical studies.

Wrapping Up

Thanks to Dr. Joosten for his willingness to do this interview, and, of course, for his prolific and scholarly work in the field. Stay tuned to this series for further interviews with other scholars working in Septuagint. Feel free to comment below with scholars you’d like to hear from, or questions of interest.