2017 Septuagint Summer Course at Trinity Western University

Another great opportunity has arisen for those interested in the Septuagint as a student. As in previous years, (see here and here), there will be a week-long seminar in Septuagint studies held at Trinity Western University’s John William Wevers Institute for Septuagint Studies, near Vancouver, B.C. I have done this twice now and found it very useful. This year the seminar will be taught by Dr. Robert Hiebert (see interview here).

As I have mentioned before, the Wevers Institute is the only place in North America where a full-fledged Septuagint degree is offered, as both a Master of Theological Studies and the shorter Master of Theology. If you are interested in LXX studies, you should definitely look into this program. The Wevers Institute also benefits from several excellent scholars, not only including Robert Hiebert (director and this year’s instructor), but also Drs. Larry Perkins and Dirk Büchner, each of whom are working on Pentateuchal commentaries in the SBLCS.

Seminar Details

The seminar will be 3 credit hours and is entitled Exploring Septuagint Origins and Texts, and the provisional texts include  taken from Aristeas, Genesis, Exodus, Psalms, 2 Reigns, Daniel, Esther, Proverbs, and 4 Maccabees. The seminar will be held from May 8–12 of this year. The Vancouver area is a beautiful region that you won’t regret visiting. But if you can’t swing the trip, the Wevers Institute is also offering live-streamed video sessions. The course description from Robert Hiebert is as follows:

“The basic plan of the course is to start by reading the Letter of Aristeas (all of it in English, parts of it in Greek), which presents a second century BCE story regarding the translation of the Septuagint (among other things) and to consider how that story squares with the nature of the translation products that we now have in that corpus. Thereafter we will read selections from the Septuagint, parts of it in Greek and parts in English, to get a sense of the different parts of the translated corpus as well as some of it that was written in Greek from the outset rather than translated from the Hebrew. Finally, there will also be a component that involves working with an important Psalter papyrus text (Papyrus Bodmer XXIV) that will include transcribing a column of text (from a high resolution digital image) and doing some reading on what is involved in papyrological study.”

If you’re interested, email acts@twu.ca. Check out the poster below for more details:


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.



Affiliated Professors:


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.


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


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.

Announcement: The Tyndale House Workshop in Greek Prepositions

Tyndale House Workshop in Greek Prepositions

djr_0085_17212375711_oI am pleased to announce an event that will bring together experts in a variety of disciplines in order to tackle an age-old problem with new theoretical approaches. This summer those pesky Greek prepositions are getting a lexicographical makeover at a two day “workshop” in Cambridge, England. The event is called:

The Tyndale House Workshop in Greek Lexicography: Cognitive Linguistic Approaches to Lexicography and Theology

This event will take place from 30 June-1 July 2017 at Tyndale House, Cambridge, the biblical studies research library par excellence. Although it is a fairly brief event, this workshop is structured to offer the maximum punch to advance the state of the question in the semantics of Greek prepositions. And, as is evident from the tagline, cognitive linguistics is central to our approach.

The Back Story

Last June I found myself in the small, bible-software-saturated city of Bellingham, Washington, shortly after finishing up a seminar in Septuagint studies at Trinity Western University. The idea for this preposition workshop began to take shape during this visit – naturally, over some delicious local brews. I sat down with Steve Runge, Rick Brannen, and Mike and Rachel Aubrey to discuss collaborating on a longer-term project applying newer linguistic theories to challenges within traditional approaches to Greek grammar.

This workshop will focus on prepositions and is the first in what we hope will be a series of similar events that will subsequently deal with connectives and particles. It remains to be seen whether and how that plays out, but at the moment Steve and I are teaming up to organize a top-notch preposition workshop and then
making the proceedings available in published form.

In case you are wondering: Yes, this workshop is intentionally designed to replicate the Linguistics and the Greek Verb conference held at Tyndale House in July of 2015 (see here). That model of highly-focused and interdisciplinary analysis of a single – albeit multifaceted – issue in Greek proved very effective. It was the genesis for the very well-received volume The Greek Verb Revisited (Lexham, 2016 [Amazon]), edited by Chris Fresch and Steve Runge.

Issues with Greek Prepositions: A Cognitive Answer

What’s wrong with Greek prepositions? Well, nothing.

But scholars have long been aware that they are exceptionally difficult to pin down. And for that reason they often play a pivotal (if seemingly subtle) role in biblical interpretation and theology. [1] Ignore for now the question about what actually counts as a preposition, versus the so-called “improper” prepositions like ἐπάνω that do not prefix to verbs. djr_0242_17025394410_oThe “traditional” Greek prepositions have been enough to constantly challenge biblical lexicographers and exegetes alike as they seek to properly understand them (pardon the pun).

The problem is a semantic one. First of all, what is the best approach to describing the meaning of Greek prepositions given the variety of functions they serve in the Koine period? Second, to what extent are Greek prepositions polysemous and (where necessary) how can we correctly determine the number and boundaries of the senses? Third, by what means can our semantic description of Greek prepositions accurately and accessibly present relevant information in English (i.e., in a lexicon entry)?

These and other questions are largely theoretical in nature. So a central goal of this workshop is to bring the insights of general linguistics – and specifically cognitive linguistics – to bear upon the study of Greek. Unlike other theories, cognitive linguistics approaches polysemy using a structured model known as prototype theory. This reformulates the notion of a single “core” or “basic” meaning, and instead attempts to provide a motivated account of the various senses of a word in terms of a “radial network.” An important assumption of this approach is that meaning is conceptual and embodied. Human experience of the physical world informs the conceptual structure on which linguistic meaning is built. In this account, more basic shemas like DIRECTION are mapped onto more abstract concepts like PURPOSE or RECIPIENT.


A radial network for the English preposition “over.”*

Judging by the often comically long entries for prepositions in Greek lexicons, you might think that these words are so polysemous that it’s barely worth the effort to understand them. (I’ve often felt this way about German prepositions.) But very often, huge lexicon entries are the inevitable consequence of non-isometric semantic overlap between Greek and English. This requires traditional lexicographers to use a wide array of English prepositions – whose meanings do not everywhere overlap with the Greek preposition under discussion – to gloss the various meanings where they ostensibly do overlap.

Thankfully, combining cognitive linguistics and prototype theory can provide a principled and organized account of prepositional semantics without falling into this polysemy fallacy. Doing so, in turn, can help us understand and translate the New Testament (and Septuagint) texts, and fashion better lexicon entries for these words for non-specialists.[2]

Two Relevant Monographs

We will not be the first to attempt to apply cognitive linguistics to the study of Greek prepositions. At least two others have done so in the last fifteen years:

  1. Bortone, Pietro. Greek Prepositions from Antiquity to the Present. Oxford University Press, 2010 (Amazon)
  2. Luraghi, Silvia. On the Meaning of Prepositions and Cases: Semantic Roles in Ancient Greek. Studies in language companion series 67; John Benjamins, 2003 (Amazon)

These books have been deftly reviewed and compared by Mike Aubrey in several posts (start here). If you’re new to this conversation, I highly recommend reading these.

The Details of the Workshop


Steve Runge and I are motivated to make the complicated accessible, and to bring the best of linguistic theory into the service of biblical studies. So we have tried to invite the best on all sides of this cross-disciplinary topic. We are looking forward to participation by two cognitive linguists, two Classical Greek lexicographers, and several biblical scholars. Because of our tight topic and event time frame, we are not issuing a call for papers. But we want to facilitate participation, which is why we have done our best to make this event very affordable, with only a £50 registration fee.

So if you want to know more, or are convinced enough already, head over to our website:


At the moment the event registration is not open. But you can sign up at the right to be notified by email as soon as it is.

And finally: spread the word! You can download a flyer to share here.


[1] For a recent exploration of just one relevant topic, see Con Campbell’s Paul and Union with Christ (Zondervan, 2012 [Amazon]), which explores the theological implications of the phrase ἐν Χριστῷ (interview here). Also see Campbell’s essay in ‘In Christ’ in Paul: Explorations in Paul’s Theology of Union and Participation (eds. M. Thate, C. Campbell, and K. Vanhoozer; Mohr Siebeck 2014 [Amazon]).

[2] But wouldn’t this mean the same problems and solutions would apply to Biblical Hebrew, you ask? Yes indeed. All good things in time.

* Claudia Brugman and George Lakoff, “Radial network,” in D. Geeraerts, D., ed., Cognitive Linguistics: Basic Readings. Berlin: DeGruyter, 2006, p. 129.

Photo credit Doug Robar