Lexicography

Article Contribution to SBL Volume

I was glad to finally receive proofs last week of a piece I wrote nearly three years ago. Over the summer of 2013 I conducted research for a paper that I presented in Munich at the triennial IOSOT congress, in the IOSCS Section. This work was aimed at preparing myself for the sort of research I am currently involved in with my dissertation, namely Septuagint lexicography and the textual history of the book of Judges. You can read a bit about my preparations and reflections on the congress if you want.

The paper, which is entitled “Lexical Possibilities in Septuagint Research: Revision and Expansion,” picks up the lexicographical torch from John A. L. Lee’s dissertation by reinvestigating Koine documentary evidence contemporary with the translation of the Septuagint (~3rd c. BCE – 1st c. CE) for occurrances of ὁράω and βλέπω. Lee found a semantic shift and replacement between the former and latter in his own work, and I basically set out to find new instances of the words in the evidence since Lee to see if his conclusions hold up. Spoiler: they do.

Here’s the paper abstract:

This paper reviews the findings of John A. L. Lee regarding historical linguistic investigation of Koine Greek documentary evidence in his published dissertation. With the passage of over three decades since Lee’s work, much more papyrological and inscriptional evidence has surfaced. Moreover, a significant amount of the data is now digitized and searchable. Therefore, this paper begins to pursue the course set out by Lee himself in the introduction to the published version of his dissertation where he suggests it could surely “benefit from revision or expansion” in light of new data. To do so, here the digital databases of documentary evidence are investigated for occurrences of ὁράω and βλέπω that are additional to those found by Lee. After assessing the use of the two words in new evidence, a “revision” of Lee’s conclusions is offered. Even in light of new data, Lee’s conclusions prove remarkably accurate, suggesting the potential of his methodology for further application and even “expansion.” Accordingly, this paper also discusses the difficulties inherent in documentary evidence research and possible ways forward, with particular attention to the double text of LXX-Judges.

Me right between some schnitzel and a stein of Munich’s finest

If you’re really interested, you can read the paper on Academia.edu. Seeing as I just got proofs this week, it will hopefully be published before the SBL conference in November. It will appear in XV Congress of the International Organization for Septuagint and Cognate Studies (IOSCS), Munich, 2013. Edited by Wolfgang Kraus, Martin Meiser, and Michaël van der Meer. SBLSCS 64. Atlanta, Ga., SBL Press, 2016.

Upcoming Presentations at SBL 2016

Remember the Alamo! (And the book exhibit. Never forget the book exhibit)

It’s still six months away, but there’s increasing buzz already about the 2016 Biblical Studies conference season. This year, ETS, IBR, and SBL will be held in San Antonio, Texas, between the 15th-22nd of November. I’ve said this many times before, but the annual conferences are a great experience, if completely exhausting. If you are a poor graduate student interested in going, you should definitely consider it (something I’ve posted about here and here). I have repeatedly benefited from joining and participating in the biblical studies societies ever since I was in my master’s degree program, so I always recommend it to others.

Each year I attend, these conferences get more enjoyable. This is due mostly to the fact that I have gotten to know more and more people, and attending the conferences is sometimes the only place I will see them and get to catch up. Another reason they get better over time is by participating. I’ll be presenting at ETS and/or SBL for my third year now (here and here) and I have found that it’s always worth the time for useful feedback from colleagues.

Upcoming Presentations

As I mentioned in my last post, this year’s Septuagint Studies session at ETS will be an exciting event. Since I am on the steering committee and presented at the inaugural panel for this session in 2015, I won’t be presenting anything at ETS this year. However, I am really jazzed to see what kind of crowd shows up for what is a stellar lineup of biblical scholars talking about one of my favorite subjects.

Although I wasn’t sure it would work out this way, I have two presentations scheduled for the SBL conference. “How unwise,” you may think, “You’ll never get two quality papers written.” Well, yes that may be true, but it is just slightly more feasible than my predicament last year, when I had three presentations. So writing two papers seems quite manageable to me at this point.

The IOSCS Session

As someone involved in Septuagint studies, I’ve been a member of IOSCS for several years, and I’m looking forward to presenting at this session at SBL for the third time. Because of a family health crisis that began in summer of 2015, I have had to step away from my dissertation for this academic year and focus on other important things. Thankfully, however, I have been able to stay active in various personal projects, one of which is the paper I’ll be presenting at the IOSCS session (and which is an outgrowth of part of my dissertation research).

The title of this paper is “The Lexical Value of the Septuagint for the Koine: The Use of ΠΑΡΑΤΑΞΙΣ in Marcus Aurelius,” and it will focus on one particular use of παράταξις in the Confessions. In the midst of discussing valorous ways to die as a devout Stoic, Aurelius uses Christians as a counter-example, stating that their manner of martyrdom is disdainful. The phrase where the reference occurs is disputed as a late scribal insertion, however, in part because it is one of the earliest references to Christians in ancient secular literature. But another reason is because the use of παράταξις in the phrase is difficult to construe. My paper will look at contemporaneous usage of the word (a considerable amount of which occurs in the LXX) and engage with the arguments for and against the phrase’s meaning and originality. This will also demonstrate the value of the Septuagint as a legitimate kind of lexical “database” for standard Greek usage (hence the paper title).

The Cognitive Linguistics in Biblical Interpretation Session

My second paper will be in a session that I’ve never participated in before, Cognitive Linguistics in Biblical Interpretation. This may seem like a random juke in terms of the general focus of my research. But I’ve been interested in cognitive linguistics for several years now, and a lot of my research requires that I read in theoretical linguistics anyway. The fascinating book featured right (which I’ll be reviewing for BBR in time) is just one example of the growth of this approach in biblical studies.

The paper I’ll be presenting here is called “‘Build Up the Walls of Jerusalem’: The Cognitive Unity of Psalm 51.” The idea for this actually grew out of a piece I wrote for the Gospel Coalition. In sum, it’s common to read in commentary upon Ps. 51 that the last “chunk” of the psalm (usually vv. 15ff) was a later addition. The reason often given is that the sudden “topic” shift in v. 15 and mention of (what sounds like) a destroyed Jerusalem in v. 18 exhibits a second and later (i.e., postexilic) hand. My paper will examine this psalm from a “cognitive” perspective and demonstrate its unity and coherence in the face of the typical redaction critical conclusions.

Plenty of Time … Right?

Of course, these papers don’t exist yet. I’ll need to write them at some point. The challenge, I often find, is translating a proposal into a full-blown paper that is worthwhile and constructive … oh, and doing it on time for the conferences. Hopefully the next six months will allow just that to happen!

LXX Scholar Interview: Dr. Jan Joosten

joosten1Today 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.