PhD Related

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.

A Brief Note on Epigraphy and Rare Forms

I have mentioned in the past that my research concerns Koine Greek documentary evidence. Among other things (e.g., ostraca, graffiti, mummy cartonnage), this includes primarily papyri and inscriptions from the Ptolemaic period of Egypt. Not infrequently I search (see posts here and here) or to see what there is to see in terms of a particular word’s usage.

SEG 15:678

Today I was searching for occurrences of the word λάπτω, which occurs in the LXX only in Judges 7. There, in both A and B texts of Rahlfs’s Septuaginta the word occurs in vv. 5 (2x), 6, and 7. It is thus a rare word, at least in terms of its Septuagintal use.

In the process of searching out the various morphological permutations of the word, I found one inscription that looked promising: SEG 15:678 (here). Here is a transcription and the beginnings of my translation:

[—]ντων, λαμβάνειν δὲ τὰ δέρματα κ[αὶ] τὰ ἄλλα γέρεα· ἢν ἓν θ[ύη]ται, λά[ψε]-[ται γλῶσ]σαν, ὀσφὺν δασέαν, ὤρην· ἢν δὲ πλέω θύηται λάψεται ἀπ’ ἐκάστου ὀσφὺ[ν]

[δασ]έ̣αν καὶ γλῶσσαν καὶ κωλῆν μίαν ἀπὸ πάντων· καὶ τῶν ἄλλων θεῶν τῶν

[ἐν]τεμενίων ὅσων ἱερᾶται ὁ ἱέρεως, λάψεται τὰ γέρεα τὰ αὐτὰ καὶ κωλῆν ἀντὶ

[τῆ]ς ὤρης ἢμ μὴ βασιλεὺς λαμβάνηι· ἢν δὲ εὐστὸν θύηι ἡ πόλις λάψεται γλῶσ-

σαν, ὀσφὺν δασέαν, ὤρην· ἢν ξένος ἱεροποιῆι τῶι Ἀπόλλωνι, προϊερᾶσθαι τῶ[ν]

ἀστῶν ὃν ἂν θέληι ὁ ξένος, διδόναι δὲ τῶι ἱερεῖ τὰ γέρεα ἅπερ ἡ πόλις διδοῖ π[άν]-

[τα] χωρὶ[ς] δέρματος· ἢν δὲ τοῖς Ἀπολλωνίοις θύηι̣ ξέ̣ν̣ο̣ς̣ π̣[ροϊερᾶσθαι —]

[a]ll, and to take both the skins and the other perquisites. If one is to be burnt up, he will take the tongue, the hairy loin, [another piece]; and the rest are to be burned, from each a hairy loin and a tongue and one thigh from all. And the priest will administrate over the many other gods in the temeniōn, [and] will receive

Morphology Hallucinations

If you haven’t already checked, λάπτω means “to lap up [with the tongue.” It occurs in the Gideon narrative when he pares down his men by checking who drinks from a brook with his hand, and who laps the water up like a dog (7:5). It’s a surprisingly well established word in classical Greek (e.g. Homer Il. 16.161; Aristophanes Nub. 811; Aristotle Hist. an. 595a7). And I was tempted on the basis of the use of γλῶσσα in the inscription to think that I had found the one instance of it’s use in the Koine inscriptional data. The content was just bizzarre enough to sway me into thinking that “lapping with tongues” was plausible in the context.

But alas, as I translated I realized that what I thought was λάπτω in third singular future middle indicative was in fact λαμβάνω (3rd sg fut ind mid). The forms are identical.

Maybe next time, λάπτω.