PhD Related

New Article in Biblica

A new article of mine has been published in the first fascicle of Biblica 98.1 (2017): 25-36. It’s an honor to have some of my work included in this journal, which has been publishing material on all aspects of biblical studies since 1920 through the Pontifical Biblical Institute in Rome.

The article is called “Style and Familiarity in Judges 19,7 (Old Greek): Establishing Dependence within the Septuagint,” and it was a result of some of my research in the book of Judges. My dissertation is focused on the language of the Septuagint from a lexical semantic viewpoint, and evaluates a few case studies of systematic vocabulary change over the course of the textual history of the book in Greek. As I was working through one particular issue, I came across a striking phrase in chapter 19:

Μηδαμῶς, ἀδελφοί, μὴ πονηρεύεσθε (19:23)
Certainly not, brothers, you must not do evil!

Now, if you open up your copy of Rahlfs-Hanhart, you won’t see this phrase, but something else. In fact, you will see two different options, since when he compiled his Septuagint, Rahlfs believed the Alexandrinus and Vaticanus codices contained irreconcilable versions of Greek Judges, and thus included both (with various other witnesses) in his edition with the understanding that they reflected two separate original translations. Scholarly opinion is now almost completely contrary to to this view, and a particular group of witnesses is thought to represent the original translation (or “Old Greek”) with fair reliability. What you see above is my reconstruction of the OG using those witnesses.

I digress. When I read this text, it reminded me of the very similar narrative in Genesis 19, when Lot unwittingly hosts divine messengers and protects them from the wicked “men of the city” (Sodom). The intertextual influence between Genesis and Judges – likely deliberate on the part of the author of Judges – is very well acknowledged. And there is evidence that biblical interpreters as far back as the Early Church were aware of the parallels. So I began to wonder whether even the OG translator of Judges might have been aware of this as well, and possibly been familiar enough with the Greek translation of Genesis to be influenced by it in his translation of the Judges pericope.

The short answer is “apparently, yes.”

The longer answer is … you guessed it: in the article. I can’t post it here, but if you are interested I am permitted to distribute copies personally, so email me. In short, what I do in this article is establish four criteria for determining that a Septuagint translator knew and was influenced by a Greek translation done chronologically earlier of another text. This may sound fairly straightforward, but it’s actually something of a mind-bender (at least if you’re being cautious and evidence-based), particularly because it is difficult to say for certain whether influence on a later translator comes from another text in Greek or Hebrew. Hence the need for criteria.

I believe that is precisely what happened when the OG translator of Judges set out to render chapter 19 into Greek. He not only knew the parallel narrative in Genesis 19, but he knew it in Greek, and he knew it well enough that when it came to the climactic moment in the narrative, he chose to put the exact words of Lot (Gen. 19) into the mouth of the old man in Gibeah (Judg 19). In part this interesting because it shows that the OG translators were not robots incapable of doing anything but mechanically represent their Hebrew Vorlagen into pseudo-Greek code. There were literary influences involved in their decisions and use of the language that took advantage of more stylistic elements in conventional Greek.

Here’s the abstract:

This article develops and applies criteria to determine intentional, inner-Greek dependence in the Septuagint, using the parallel narratives in Genesis 19 and Judges 19 as an example. The OG translator of Judges is familiar with and imitates a Greek rendering from OG Genesis 19,7 at the point where the narratives converge. The Genesis translator demonstrates both his occasional preference for Greek idiom over word-for-word translation, as well as competency in Greek style. In turn, the Judges translator demonstrates how the language of the Greek Pentateuch occasionally exerts greater influence than that of his Hebrew Vorlage.


N.B. In a final draft I had changed each instance of the word “tone” in the article to “modality” to be more linguistically accurate. Unfortunately, only the first instance of “tone” was changed in the published version, so please read “modality” wherever “tone” remains.

The 2015 Annual Conferences in Review

It’s been a few weeks now, but the annual conferences of the major biblical studies societies have come and gone. Legions of scholars from around the world spent untold dollars and lost entire time zones of sleep to make it there, and are only now recovering. This year’s melee was held in Atlanta, a lovely city whose downtown area is apparently constituted only of gigantic hotels. And they all seemed to be full of the scholarly hordes for about a week in late November.

Some Highlights

20151118_131217669_iOSI mentioned in a previous post that I would not only attend both the ETS and SBL conferences (plus the IBR meetings squished in the middle), but I also presented three papers. In retrospect, that amount of preparation and participation was probably overly ambitious. I’m glad to have done it, but I’ll likely keep it to two papers at most from now on.

One major event for me at ETS was participating in our newly formed Septuagint Studies session, where I presented one of my papers. It was a pleasure to help pull this session together with the work of many colleagues, and I think the session went quite well. We had about a dozen attendees who were very engaging and interested. Most exciting, though, was having our proposal for consultation status approved by the powers-that-be, which means Septuagint Studies will be a session at ETS for at least the next three years. For next year, it is the hope of the steering committee to put together a great session of invited papers from top evangelical scholars to address key issues in the study of the Septuagint. Stay tuned for more developments here.


The steering committee for the ETS Septuagint Studies consultation (yes, I shaved my head)

My two other papers were for SBL. For the second year in a row I was able to participate in one of the IOSCS sessions. These are an excellent venue for me to present work drawn directly from my dissertation, since almost every scholar active in Septuagint studies turns up. It makes for a time of very profitable interaction and feedback. My paper dealt with the changes in “meeting” vocabulary within the textual history of LXX-Judges, attempting to account for shifting trends in terms of changing stylistic aims or chronological situation.

I also presented at the Greek Bible section this year. The paper dealt with the well-known narrative echo in Judges 19 of Genesis 19, where in both texts travelers find shelter in a strange city only to have their host intercede for their safety from hostile “men of the city.” I reconstructed the OG translation of this passage in Judges and examined whether and how the translator receives the OG narrative from Genesis. 20151121_144729067_iOSIt sounds boring, but I believe I can show quite conclusively that the Judges translator knew and consciously re-employed features of the OG Genesis text in his version of Judges. In effect, he amplifies the relationship between the narratives, but also shows good (if intermittent) Greek style, and reveals something of the status and familiarity of the Greek Pentateuch in later eras.

Of course, between the presentations were many meetings with people of all sorts – both intentional and incidental – plus sessions, banquets, receptions, happy hours, seminars, and the expansive book exhibit. As for the last, I was most excited to see T. Muraoka’s new A Morphosyntax and Syntax of Septuagint Greek (Peeters). Although it’s not quite ready yet, a sample was there to thumb through. Let me just say that it’s about 800 pages as it is, and there are no indexes yet. It should ship in a month or two.

Another really wonderful highlight was the small festschrift party (ein Festschriftfest?) held for John A. L. Lee. 20151121_234901746_iOSIn case you don’t know, John is one of the top scholars of Koine Greek at the moment and has contributed extensively to lexicography. His work in the Greek Pentateuch is what spurred my own interest in Septuagint vocabulary and has provided much of the methodology for my doctoral research. Trevor Evans and Jim Aitken teamed up to put together an edited volume of essays in John’s honor, Biblical Greek in Context (Brill). This looks like an excellent resource that will hopefully get wide attention.

Wrapping Up

As usual, the conferences are chaotic, exhausting, and expensive, but always worth the investment. The conversations and connections one can make are invaluable. If you missed this year and are disappointed, never fear: the proposal period for the 2016 conferences in San Antonio opens in about three months!

Spring 2015 Update

With things blooming, daylight enduring, and undergraduates looking nervous about exams, it is finally spring here in Cambridge. Now that Easter Term has begun at the university the town is much fuller and livelier. I thought it would be good to give a year-to-date review of my activities for anyone interested. Here’s what I’ve been up to:

PhD Research

The biggest chunk of my time obviously goes into this category. It’s hard to believe that I am entering into the last third of my first year already. But there is a lot to show for it, thankfully. My work thus far this year has progressed relatively well, despite some unforeseen circumstances. Most notably, my advisor, Jim Aitken, has been on leave since the beginning of the calendar year for health reasons, so I have been temporarily re-assigned to work with Dr. Peter J. Williams. Pete is an excellent scholar and has been a great supervisor. He also happens to be the “warden” at Tyndale House, where I conduct my research, so it is easy to catch up over tea.

Until mid-March I was working on a large section examining rare words in the Greek translation of Judges. This mainly consisted of about twenty-six “hapax legomena,” or words used just once in a given corpus. I considered each word etymologically, but also synchronically to whatever extent possible with lexical evidence from post-classical documentary evidence. Not all of the words had new evidence, of course, but some did and that helped draw observations upon word-use in LXX-Judges. I will be presenting excerpts from this research (the more interesting cases, I hope) at an upcoming conference at the Faculty (see below).

First Year Registration Assessment

As far as I am aware, no new PhD student shows up at Cambridge as a “real” PhD student. Instead, you are officially registered as a “probationary” candidate for the degree. At the end of your first year, each student must submit a portfolio of your work thus far. This includes a chunky writing sample, a bibliography, a summary of your dissertation, and a table of contents with prospective timeline for completion. It’s a big project, and it took up quite a bit of my time. In early May I submitted the portfolio, which included a fuller version of the paper I presented at the last SBL conference in San Diego as the writing sample.

Recent and Upcoming Presentations


As mentioned, I presented a paper on the rare word studies I’ve been up to at the Oxbridge Biblical Studies conference (see Greg Lanier’s post here). This was a great opportunity to get some feedback from other students of either Cambridge or the Other Place doing similar work.


As outrageous as it is considering it is still over six months away, planning has commenced for the annual Society of Biblical Literature conference. This year it will go down in Atlanta, and so you can count on a lot of biblical scholars making very forced and embarrassing references to various aspects hip-hop culture. That notwithstanding, the conference is a great opportunity – I’ve written about the value of attending one of these even as a graduate student (here and here).

I will be presenting at the conference again this year. There’s nothing quite like reading about an obscure topic you’ve spent months investigating to a group of jet-lagged scholars exhausted from hauling new books through miles of conference center hallways. But I digress. For lack of better judgment, I submitted two proposals and so will be presenting twice. More on that as I come to terms with it.


Much like an eager younger brother, ETS unabashedly follows SBL around every year, but usually turns out to be a lot more fun. I will write more about it as I find out details of this year’s conference. I may have yet another presentation, but I have not heard one way or another at this point.

Göttingen Septuaginta Summer School

Not too long ago I posted about the Septuagint “summer school” that happens through the University of Göttingen each summer. As it turns out I have the opportunity to participate, which I am greatly anticipating. I don’t really have any more details about it than what I wrote up in the earlier post, but I’ll be sure to provide them as I find out more.


I’ve had a few things published this year so far also. I recently began periodically contributing to the Gospel Coalition blog. This year I’ve done two pieces (here and here) with a few others on the boiler. It’s a lot of fun to have a more creative (i.e. less lexicographical) outlet, so I’m grateful for the opportunity.

On the academic end of the spectrum, I had an article accepted for publication in the Zeitschrift für die alttestamentliche Wissenschaft, known to anglophones as simply ZAW. As this is my first peer reviewed publication in a journal, I am especially pleased. The ZAW is an excellent resource of high end biblical studies research, so it is an honor to be included. The article is a culmination of an investigation that I began back in seminary into the so-called “broken acrostic” of Nahum 1. I examine the Septuagint translation and then interact with scholars who attempt to emend (i.e. alter) the Hebrew text to square with what they think it should be to sync up with the perceived acrostic. In the end, I find this approach untenable, and of course make a totally bulletproof case. It should come out in the fall.

Major Secret Thing

The final update I’ll give is The Major Secret Thing. Of course, that’s all I can say about it. More to come.