Supervisors & Programs for Septuagint Studies – Part I

I’ve said before that Septuagint studies is gaining interest. Many of my regular readers here are (I presume) academics already in the discipline, but there are also quite a few graduate students thinking about becoming involved. I know this because I receive a fairly steady stream of emails from readers in graduate school thinking about Septuagint as a possible area of doctoral study.

I think I should say that I welcome such emails. But I repeat myself a lot. My goal is for this blog to be a resource for people interested in this important and growing area of Old Testament biblical scholarship.

Getting Centralized

Along those lines, this post is meant to help myself as much as it is meant to help others. One of the most frequent questions I get is: “Who is supervising topics in Septuagint?” or the related question: “What schools are known for Septuagint studies?”

Today I am finally making an attempt to centralize that information. This should have happened a long time ago, and I’m sorry. Actually not really – this is a service so you’re welcome.

Note that this post is just initial, the first of (at least) two parts. I have also created a page on this blog dedicated to this topic so that I can continue to add to the information provided here. If you know of scholars who I missed (or if you are such a scholar), please comment below!

There is a number of ways I could have organized this information. But I’ve chosen to go with geography rather than, say, subject matter or degree type or program format, etc. etc. I attempt to provide relevant information for each entry. Otherwise these are not ordered in any particular way.

Scholars in North America

I have made an attempt at centralizing North American Septuagint scholars and programs in the past (see here), but this post is intended to be a more comprehensive list. Plus, things have changed since that prior post, most notably the retirement of Karen Jobes from Wheaton, and the semi-retirement (?) of Peter Gentry from SBTS.

Duke University

Duke University offers graduate degrees in religious studies at the University and Divinity School where it is possible to study Septuagint. The two scholars of note are:

  1. J. Ross Wagner – Wagner is at Duke Divinity School and is a scholar of New Testament, specializing in the Pauline corpus and Septuagint studies. Wagner supervises graduate and postgraduate students who are able to minor in LXX studies.
  2. Melvin K. H. Peters – Peters is part of Duke’s Trinity College of Arts and Sciences and, although he is not currently supervising doctoral students, he is part of the generation of Septuagint scholars trained at the University of Toronto. He offers a regular seminar in Septuagint studies that is part of the coursework in Duke’s degree programs.

Southern Baptist Theological Seminary

Not all my readers will be interested in attending a conservative baptist seminary for doctoral work. But for those who are part of the evangelical world, SBTS is an excellent option for its robust academic tradition. Aside from the MDiv degree, there is also an MA and PhD program in which it is possible to focus on Septuagint studies. This program has produced scholars such as John Meade (Phoenix Seminary). But the SBTS Septuagint engine runs largely on the power of one man:

Peter Gentry – Gentry is an Old Testament scholar who trained under Albert Pietersma at the University of Toronto in its heyday of Septuagint scholarship. His program is one of the only ones of its kind in North America, and he is supervising students in the topic (I believe) on a limited basis. Gentry tends to focus on detailed text-critical topics, such as the Hexapla, and is currently working on the Göttingen critical edition of Proverbs and Ecclesiastes.

McMaster Divinity College (Hamilton, ON)

Another good option for graduate and postgraduate work in North American is the program offered at McMaster Divinity College in Canada, which is technically a doctoral degree in Christian Theology. This is a new program as of 2017, which I’ve written about in more detail here. You can see the full list of scholars involved there, but the main scholars involved are:

  1. Stanley Porter – Porter is a New Testament scholar well known for many things, and among them is his work in Septuagint scholarship. At the moment he is general editor of the Brill Septuagint Commentary Series (SEPT), and he is known for his work in systemic functional linguistics.
  2. Mark Boda – Boda is an Old Testament scholar who is also well known, especially for his work in the Hebrew Bible and prophets. However he is also involved in the SEPT series mentioned above, producing the LXX-Psalms commentary, and is supervising Septuagint topics.

Trinity Western University (Langley, BC)

On the other side of Canada from McMaster is Trinity Western University, just outside of Vancouver. One of the draws of this program is The John William Wevers Institute for Septuagint Studies located on campus, which is part of the legacy of both Wevers and Albert Pietersma who have donated their extensive personal libraries (and a large endowment). Unfortunately, TWU does not issue doctoral degrees, but it makes an excellent option for masters-level study. Furthermore, the Institute typically offers a week-long Septuagint seminar in May or June each year. I participated in the first one back in May 2013 (read about it here) and again in 2016. The Wevers Institute is directed by:

Robert Hiebert – Hiebert is a senior scholar in the field and currently the co-editor-in-chief of the SBL Commentary on the Septuagint, as well as conducting research on the Greek Psalter. Graduate students in the Master of Theological Studies and the Master of Theology programs at ACTS and in the Master of Arts in Biblical Studies program at TWU may take courses and specialize in the area of Septuagint Studies. See also this interview.

Other scholars who you will be able to benefit from at TWU include:

  1. Larry Perkins
  2. Dirk Büchner

Scholars in the United Kingdom

Part of the reason for my own decision to study the Septuagint abroad was driven by the fact that many scholars in the discipline are located outside of North America. So the rest of this post and the next will discuss scholars in the discipline in other parts of the world.

Although things have changed slightly since I was looking for a program, the situation is largely the same today. That is, Septuagint scholarship is fairly centralized in the United Kingdom and Europe (at least if active participation in the IOSCS is taken as a litmus test) so if you are looking for more options than those available in North America, you’ll need to consider an international move. But if you can manage it, you’ll have some of the best universities in the world to consider:

University of Cambridge

Although I am admittedly biased, the University of Cambridge has a lot to offer. Aside from having one of the very best collection of libraries in the world, the university also hosts a wide array of respected scholars in parallel disciplines like linguistics and Classics. Some will also be attracted to the presence of one of the best biblical studies research libraries in the world, Tyndale House, where I do much of my work.

The main program of interest at Cambridge will be the PhD, but it is not uncommon to first enter the one-year MPhil if extra training would be useful. The main Septuagint scholar here is

  1. James K. Aitken – Aitken is Reader in Hebrew and Early Jewish Studies at the Faculty of Divinity. As a trained Classicist and expert in Judaism, Jim offers a unique perspective in Septuagint studies that seeks to locate the translation firmly within its Hellenistic social context. See also this interview.
  2. Geoffrey Kahn – Another potential supervisor is Kahn, who is Regius Professor of Hebrew in the Faculty of Asian and Middle Eastern Studies (FAMES). Kahn is not an active Septuagint scholar per se, but supervises dissertations that are indirectly related, as the majority of his research is in linguistic studies of Hebrew, Aramaic, and Arabic.

University of Oxford

Another (slightly less) excellent university for Septuagint studies is Oxford. Like Cambridge, students interested in graduate studies at Oxford will want to look into the doctoral program called the DPhil. There are two scholars working in the discipline:

  1. Alison Salvesen – Salvesen is Professor of Early Judaism and Christianity in the Faculty of Theology and Religion and a fellow of the the Oxford Centre for Hebrew and Jewish Studies. Her work is largely related to the Hexapla and reception history of the Septuagint.
  2. Jan Joosten – Joosten is a highly prolific scholar, the Regius Professor of Hebrew in the Faculty of Oriental Studies, and current president of the IOSCS. His research interests are quite wide, and much of his writing is available on Academia. See also this interview.

University of Edinburgh

Turning northward to Scotland, Edinburgh makes another good place for Septuagint studies. Aside from offering an amazing city, the University’s School of Divinity has at least one scholar who could supervise:

Timothy Lim – Lim is Professor in Hebrew Bible and Second Temple Judaism at Edinburgh, whose research is focused largely in Dead Sea Scrolls and Christian Origins. Given this work, Lim would most likely be a good supervisor for Septuagint topics more closely related to parabiblical literature, textual criticism, canon, or transmission history.

University of Glasgow

As a final candidate for you to consider as a prospective postgraduate student, there is Glasgow. At the School of Critical Studies there, you should consider studying with:

Sean Adams – Adams is Lecturer in New Testament and Ancient Culture whose interests include intersections of literature and culture in Hellenistic Judaism. His work situates the New Testament in its Graeco-Roman and Jewish contexts, including Christian reception of the Septuagint.

Expanding the List

Now, I am certain I’ve left out fairly obvious people for no good reason. Again, please leave a comment below if you know of others that are not listed here, or if I have given inaccurate information above.

Another issue I’ve been thinking about this week – as I’ve been attending the Being Jewish-Writing Greek conference here in Cambridge – is that there are a number of scholars whose direct area of expertise is closer to “Hellenistic” Judaism. People like Hindy Najman, Sylvie Honigman, and others who are working at the intersection of Greek philology, Judaism, and literary studies would also make capable supervisors for Septuagint studies.

While many of those scholars could be included here, I have attempted – right or wrong – to stay roughly within the circle of the IOSCS with which I’m mostly familiar. If you feel strongly about me expanding beyond that general rule, let me know and start naming names for inclusion!

Also note: Part II covering Europe and the rest of the world is coming soon(ish).

Some Letters of H. B. Swete – Part I

H. B. Swete (1835-1917)

In the course of my dissertation research I have recently found myself tucked away in the manuscripts room of the Cambridge University Library. My aim is hopefully to discover more about the regrettably unfinished project alluded to in a footnote in Swete’s Introduction to the Old Testament in Greek (1900):

“A lexicon was planned in 1895 by a Cambridge Committee, but the work is suspended for the present.”

Although you may think reading hundred year-old mail to learn more about a failed project is bizarre, the fact is that the correspondence I’ve been sorting through is over two thousand years more recent than the Egyptian personal correspondences I typically mull through in papyri.

But I digress. The point is, I haven’t yet found anything more about this delicious hint of a Cambridge Lexicon of the Septuagint that never was. However, I have found some other fascinating items, which I’d like to share here in a few posts.*

The Old Testament in Greek

If you are new to Septuagint studies, you may not be aware of the range of texts in existence. Much like the New Testament, the text of the Septuagint has been prepared numerous times in critical editions, some of which are more or less valuable for various purposes. This isn’t the place to get into all the critical texts that have been produced thus far, though more information can be found in the T&T Clark Companion to the Septuagint (see here).

The most epoch-making of these critical editions, however, was compiled under the editorship of Swete. Prior to this, only four editions of the Greek Old Testament had been printed, which you can read about in Swete’s introduction to Volume 1 (here). I came across two interesting letters pertaining to how this edition came into existence. First, the invitation to from Cambridge, and secondly, Swete’s reply. The first is below:

Invitation from Cambridge University Press

I have transcribed each page, with the symbol | indicating a line break. The images have been enhanced for clarity, and can be clicked on and enlarged. I’ve also taken the liberty to include relevant links. If you think I’ve gotten something wrong – or can decipher some of what I have left as [?] lacunae – please say so in the comments below!

Clare College Lodge
Feb. 10, 1883

My dear Dr Swete,
I have been requested by the Syndics | of the CUP to ask you whether it would be appealing to you | to edit on behalf of the Syndics an Edition of the Septuagint | which was originally projected about eight years ago under | the auspices of Dr Scrivener, but has made very little progress | up to the present time. The plan originally sketched | out is contained in a letter from Dr Scrivener to the | V. C. & Syndics of the CUP dated Jan. 22, 1875, | of which a copy is enclosed & numbered (1). | In consequence of other engagements Dr Scrivener | made very little progress with the work: and it | was agreed about two years ago to suspend the

work altogether. This was done chiefly because it was | believed that Prof. Lagarde was about to publish a | Edition of the LXX. When it appeared that there was | very little likelihood of this Dr WestcottDr Hort, Mr | Bensley & Mr Kirkpatrick were requested to consider whether | it was desirable to proceed with the work , & if so | whether the original plan should still be adhered to. | A copy of their Report to the Syndicate dated Oct. 1882 | is enclosed & numbered (2). They further reported | on Oct. 25, 1882 that it was desirable that a smaller (?) | Edition of the Vatican MS of the Septuagint with | variants from Sinaitic & Alexandrian MSS | should be published as soon as possible. It was | hoped all this time that Dr Scrivener whould \have/ continued | to act as Editor in chief: and this hope was only | abandoned on my hearing from Dr Srivener about | the middle of January that he had had a |

[page 3] serious illness & must now definitively renounce all hope of | editing the LXX. He has very handsomely offered to place his | materials at the service of the Syndics for the work. The | Committee above named met again to decide what should | now be done and upon their recommendation (of which |a copy is enclosed and numbered (3)) the Syndics have | charged me to invite you to take Dr Srivener’s place.

I enclose two specimen pages of the proposed work, | one numbered (1) shewing what it would have been on the | original plan, the other numbered (2) shewing what it | will be on the new plan of making the Vatican the | basis of the text.

It would be a great pleasure to me to learn that | you were disposed to entertain the proposal which I | have now made on behalf of the Syndics.

I remain
My dear Dr Swete
Yours very truly
E. A. [Edward Atkinson]

Swete’s Reply

I will be transcribing and posting Swete’s reply in the near future (along with some other historical goodies).


* I should say that I have not looked too diligently into whether I am permitted to share these images publically. If you are someone in charge of such things and wish me to take them down, do let me know at williamross27@gmail.com.

2017 ETS Septuagint Studies Consultation

Almost two years ago exactly I posted an announcement about a new consultation at the annual ETS meeting devoted to Septuagint studies. The session that followed later that year (2015) was the trial run of what would subsequently become the Septuagint Studies consultation, which – through a series of events quite beyond my control – I am now chairing along with a wonderful group of scholars on the steering committee.

The consultation will exist for three years (2016-2018), which means that this upcoming session in November is our second of three. Last year’s session had a great showing and was a success by all accounts. You can read about it here and here. If you are not aware, this year’s ETS conference will be held in Providence, Rhode Island (as opposed to Boston where SBL will take place) from 15-17 November.

Septuagint Studies at ETS

Being a consultation means we don’t have an open paper proposal system, but instead have to invite speakers each year. That being the case, our goal for this consultation has been to bring in some of the most well-respected evangelical scholars working in the discipline, along with one postgraduate student, each year. We’ve approached things like this in order to “showcase” this area of study to the ETS crowd and demonstrate its relevance and importance to the topics more frequently discussed at the annual conferences.

As I’ve said before, however, If you want to be part of “the guild” in Septuagint studies, look no further than the IOSCS, which is and will continue to be the premier venue for the study of the Greek Old Testament and other versions. Joining is very affordable and you get a journal subscription (JSCS) to boot.

The 2017 Session

Thursday, 16 November 2017
3:00 – 6:10pm | Convention Center – Room 553 A

Moderator: William A. Ross
(University of Cambridge)

3:00 PM – 3:40 PM

John D. Meade (Phoenix Seminary)*
“The Septuagint and the Biblical Canon”


3:50 PM – 4:30 PM

Marieke Dhont (Université de Lorraine)
“Language, Translation Technique, and Hellenization among Greek-Speaking Jewry”


4:40 PM – 5:20 PM

Peter J. Gentry (The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary)
“The Septuagint and Origen’s Hexapla”


5:30 PM – 6:10 PM

Caleb T. Friedeman (Wheaton College)
“‘Nebuchadnezzar . . . preserved the words in his heart’: The Purpose of Dan 4:28 OG”


Join Us!

If you’re planning to be at ETS this year we’d love to have you join us. It should be a fascinating time of discussion. P.S. If you are a postgraduate student interested in Septuagint studies, it might be a good idea to contact me about possibly presenting next year in Denver.


* N.B. I have interviewed John about some of his work in Septuagint studies (here), and he has recently revived his blog LXX Studies – check it out!