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. (more…)

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.

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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.

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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!