PhD Related

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).

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!