Papers

A Follow-Up to the 2016 LLX.D Conference in Wuppertal

About two weeks ago I returned from Wuppertal, Germany, where I participated in the 6th International Conference for the Septuaginta Deutsch research project.
You can read my preliminary post about this here. I thought I’d write up some follow-up thoughts about the event.

The Kirchliche Hochschule is a beautiful institution, located on a serene hilltop just a short walk from the city center. All told there were about fifty people at the conference, and from all around the world. In fact, it is no exaggeration to say that I was the only American there. I arrived after a very long journey from California (~20hrs) on Wednesday evening, and spent the next 24 hours recuperating from the time change (with some help from the local pilsner and generous portions of bratwurst). The conference began on Thursday afternoon with four keynote lectures (three of which were in German, naturally).

20160721_083456683_iOSDuring the course of the next two days the lectures split into three simultaneous sessions of two papers apiece. What was really nice about this conference was the pace of it all. Between each paper there was a fifteen minute break, and between each session there was either a coffee break or lunch. The benefit was to allow for conversation about the papers, exchanging ideas, and, of course, fueling up on caffeine.

Another great aspect of this conference was its excellent organization. Room and board were all included and all on site, which made it significantly less stressful because you didn’t have to worry about navigating a new place and foraging for food. The meals were another opportunity to mingle with scholars from all over the world and converse in some language or another about your work.

One particular highlight was the after-dinner time spent sitting outside until the wee hours of the morning. This was yet another opportunity to meet new people and benefit from their conversation. wuppertal 1Not only that, but evidently it is a long-held tradition at this conference to sing. A few people bring their guitars and eventually a small crowd accumulates to belt out whatever songs come to mind (I heard everything from Bob Dylan to Russian folk songs to the Beetles).

Below is a photograph of all the attendees at the conference, which as you can tell is a pleasantly modest number:

kongressphoto-wuppetal-juli-2016

Book Highlights

Another interesting part of the conference was the join book announcements. The two main features were the recently published Septuagint handbooks, the T&T Clark Companion to the Septuagint (2015) and the Handbuch der Septuaginta: Einleitung in die Septuaginta (2016). Edited by James K. Aitken and Siegfried Kreuzer, respectively, each scholar took some time to speak about these resources and highlight how they each fill a major gap in the current reference literature in the field.

20160722_175012885_iOS

20160722_172142668_iOS

My Presentation on Koine Greek

20160723_165242000_iOSOf course, I also presented my work. Overall I would say it went well. The audience seemed to receive it fairly, and offered a good range of questions to help refine my thinking.

I am very glad to have gotten the opportunity to participate in this conference, and I am grateful to the organizers for hosting it. In due course there will also be a volume containing the proceedings, so be on the lookout for that as well.

The 6th International Conference on the Septuagint in Wuppertal

Old Testament scholarship is pretty obscure stuff for most people on the street. But mention the word “Septuagint” and you’ll usually get even more muddled looks and occasionally a “God bless you” in puzzled response. Well, things don’t get any better from there as you get into sub-fields of this sub-discipline. 

Even within the small, fascinating world of Septuagint scholarship, the biannual Tagung held Wuppertal, Germany, is not terribly well known. Certainly not among casual “septuagintal hobbyists.” That is not to say that it isn’t very influential. To the contrary, in fact, this conference is one of the most important “think-tank” events in the discipline. Every two years it takes place at the Kirchliche Hochschule and attracts specialists in Septuagint scholarship from around the globe. The connection to that institution is the highly regarded Dr. Seigfreid Kreuzer, emeritus professor at the Hochschule and also (among other things) current editor-in-chief of the discipline’s own Journal of Septuagint and Cognate Studies.

The 6th LXX.D Conference

Although the page is sadly out of date, you can read (in German) about some of the previous Tagungen that have been part of the outrageously productive Septuaginta Deutsch research project over the years. I have written previously about their Septuaginta­übersetzung (LXX.D, 2 volumes), which is also accompanied by their commentary volume (LXX.E). I’ve also mentioned the ongoing Handbuch project (LXX.H), which is slated to be a massive eight volumes – Volume 1, edited by Dr. Kreuzer, is already available.

In addition to this (quite literally) voluminous output from scholars associated with this research initiative, there has also been a steady flow of edited volumes containing the essays presented at each LXX.D biannual conference in Wuppertal. Thus far, these have been published by Mohr Siebeck, and can be obtained for somewhere between €140-215 if you have extra pocket change.

Die Septuaginta – Texte, Kontexte, Lebenswelten (2006)
Die Septuaginta – Texte, Theologien, Einflüsse (2008)
Die Septuaginta – Entstehung, Sprache, Geschichte (2010)
Die Septuaginta – Text, Wirkung, Rezeption (2012)
Die Septuaginta – Orte und Intentionen (2014)

This year is the 6th international conference to be held in Wuppertal, from 21-24 July. This year’s theme and, presumably, the subsequent volume’s title is:

Die Septuaginta. Geschichte – Wirkung – Relevanz
(The Septuagint: History – Impact/Effect – Relevance)

My Contribution

I was pleased to get the opportunity to participate in this year’s conference.
When something like this comes along in the life of a young scholar, you scrape every penny of funding together that you can to make it happen. And make sure your wife is okay with it. Oh, and double check that you also have something worthwhile to say.

Thankfully, I have managed to coordinate all three (I love you, Kelli). I think the “have something worthwhile to say” criteria will be put to the test at the actual conference, but at least in theory my paper should fit in quite nicely with this year’s theme.

My abstract is as follows:

Title: “The Septuagint as Catalyst for Language Change in the Koine: A Usage-Based Approach”

Ever since Deissmann, scholars of Greek have increasingly recognized that the Septuagint embodies a corpus of language rightly categorized as the non-literary Koine of its time. Even now, current research efforts that take account of the documentary evidence continue to improve our understanding of Koine Greek per se, and precisely how the Septuagint fits within it. However, it is important also to evaluate how the Septuagint does not only embody the new linguistic features of Koine Greek, but also prompted and proliferated them. This paper adopts a linguistic perspective that recognizes how language as a system changes in response to the new uses to which it is put. The first section of this paper overviews the usage-based linguistic approach, focusing on the theory of language change put forward by William Croft (2000). In a second section, this theory is applied to a conventional Greek grammatical construction that was significantly propagated in the Septuagint, and which therefore became more entrenched in the language in general. The concluding section gives general comments on the social mechanisms of the translation of the Septuagint that made it a catalyst for language change

This paper comes partly out of previous research I had done for my dissertation. The grammatical construction I refer to in the abstract is what I call the “meeting construction” in the paper, which can be represented:

[Verb] + εἰς + [‘Meeting’ Noun] + [Modifier]

I had noticed some interesting trends in the use of this phrase in LXX-Judges, so this paper explores the construction in broader Greek sources, both biblical and nonbiblical. Much of the reading I have been doing in the past eight months or so is more methodology-oriented. My topic is primarily lexical semantics, so I have been digging more deeply into theoretical approaches to this area that could benefit my work (and Septuagint scholarship more generally, I hope).

If you’re interested in the paper in its draft form, let me know.

 

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!