Postgraduate Studies

New PhD Program in Septuagint Studies (McMaster Divinity College)

If you’ve been reading this blog for a while, you will know that I occasionally lament the fact that there are very few options for studying the Septuagint at the graduate or postgraduate level. This is particularly true in North America if you are hoping to find a supervisor for your doctoral work. In the past, I have assembled an unfortunately short list of North American graduate programs in Septuagint. (I am also working on a post that will list current scholars involved in supervising Septuagint PhDs, so stay tuned for that.)

Thankfully, the situation is about to change for the better. McMaster Divinity College, located in Hamilton, ON, has announced the launch of a new doctoral program focused specifically upon Septuagint studies. In case you are unaware, McMaster is an excellent institution that is quickly becoming known for churning out well-trained and rigorous PhDs, particularly in biblical studies. Home of respected scholars like Stanley Porter, Cynthia Long Westfall, and Mark Boda, “MDC” is an excellent option for graduate and postgraduate study.

Details of the New Program

I was able to obtain some of the details for this program. First of all, this program will be considered an area in the Biblical Studies concentration of the PhD in Christian Theology.

Faculty

Core:

Affiliated Professors:

Description

The Septuagint Studies program offers a track in the Biblical Studies division of the PhD in Christian Theology (besides Old Testament or New Testament). The Septuagint Studies option allows for specialization in a distinct area of biblical studies that combines elements of the other two tracks, and provides a program without parallel at the doctoral level in North American institutions. The size of the doctoral faculty in Septuagint would be larger than at any other institution in North America, so far as can be determined.

The program will include reference to both the major approaches to the Septuagint, the Greek-text oriented/literary approach and the interlinear approach; there are representatives of each position on the faculty. Six of the faculty are involved in writing Septuagint commentaries reflecting the two positions, as well as authoring other works in Septuagint studies. The Septuagint Studies program may be approached from either Greek or Hebrew, and the student will have a primary supervisor in the dominant language and a secondary supervisor in the other. The student’s supervisory committee will consist of a minimum of one faculty member from each of the language areas (Greek and Hebrew). The broad contours of the program are given below.

The program of study is four years (with a maximum of six years).

Admissions Requirements

The admission requirements are the same for Biblical Studies (Old or New Testament) with one change in the language requirements. Two years of study in each of the biblical languages, regardless of whether specializing in Greek or Hebrew, are required.

Curriculum

The student takes the following selection of courses, with modifications as necessary on the basis of course offerings and specialist needs.

Research Methods

  • Interdisciplinary Studies: Biblical Theology
  • Interdisciplinary Studies (one course outside one’s area of emphasis)
  • Septuagint Studies Seminar (available also to students in Old Testament or New Testament tracks, as a part of their program)
  • Advanced Grammar and Linguistics or Linguistic Modeling (working with both languages; the other course may be taken as well, as one of the electives)
  • Textual Traditions or suitable alternative providing for study of both Hebrew and Greek
  • Two Suitable Electives (these may be chosen from regularly offered courses, such as History of Biblical Interpretation or Papyrology and Textual Criticism, where course requirements address the Septuagint, or from other courses offered, or may be taken as directed studies)

Comprehensive Examinations

Three comprehensive examinations are to be taken:

  • Septuagint Studies
  • Major Biblical Corpus for Dissertation (involving both Hebrew and Greek scholarship in reading list)
  • One other examination area to be determined

Dissertation

To be written on a topic in a suitable area of Septuagint studies (including examination by external examiner)

Why a PhD Program Dedicated to Septuagint?

Aside from the fairly obvious gap in the “market” of higher education when it comes to Septuagint studies, some might wonder why a full-blown PhD program needs to exist for this discipline. The simple fact of the matter is that the Greek version of the Old Testament is massively important for biblical scholarship because it touches upon so many topics. These include

  1. Textual Criticism of the Hebrew Bible
  2. Study of Koine Greek
  3. Hellenistic context of Egyptian Judaism
  4. Innerbiblical allusion/intertextuality
  5. Scriptural and linguistic world of the New Testament
  6. Jewish translation style and theological interpretation
  7. Issues of canon and hermeneutics in the Early Church

More could be added. So why go to McMaster for these topics? I asked Stanley Porter the same question. Here’s what he said:

“This new program is a great opportunity for Septuagint studies as a discipline and for McMaster Divinity College. A little while ago, we realized that we have a significant number of Septuagint scholars here at MDC and in the immediate area, and that we already have a thriving PhD program in Biblical Studies with 70 students in it, so it looked like a natural combination. The fact that we have such a strong faculty with expertise in the two major approaches to commenting on the Septuagint is an added bonus. Students will be able to study with a number of different scholars, be exposed to varying perspectives, and graduate from a PhD program that has already established its reputation for excellence. We are looking forward to welcoming students from various masters and even undergraduate programs, as well as from various locations around the world, who wish to pursue Septuagint studies as a separate, distinct track or even simply as part of their PhD program in Biblical Studies (either Old Testament or New Testament). MA students will be able to do some of their work in Septuagint as well, as preparation for further studies in the Septuagint or related areas.” – Stan Porter

In case you’re lost as to what the “two major approaches to commenting on the Septuagint” are, I recommend reading through my multi-part series on the major modern translations of the Septuagint (Intro, Part I, Part IIa, Part IIb, Part III, Part IV).

I’m Going. What Now?

If you are interested in finding out more about this new program, I recommend visiting the McMaster website to check out the school, and browsing through the webpages of the various faculty members mentioned above. You can then get in touch with them more directly by email.

LXX Summer School in Salzburg

This summer from 3 – 7 July a summer school will be held at the Faculty of Theology at the Universität Salzburg in Austria. The course will be a fantastic opportunity if you are interested in Septuagint studies, and is entitled

On Biblical Manuscripts and Their Use in Biblical Studies. The Hebrew and Greek Texts of Esther

Because this course will focus on manuscripts in both Hebrew and Greek, it should be very appealing even if you are primarily interested in textual studies of the Hebrew Bible, rather than the Septuagint. Plus, you might be able to get course credits for it.

Don’t Pass it Up

I have brought this up several times in the past, but graduate courses focused upon Septuagint studies are unfortunately quite rare, making it very difficult for interested students to get oriented to the discipline by means of direct instruction. These are rarer still if you only count courses taught by scholars who themselves were trained in the discipline and are currently active in the guild. Personally, I’m thrilled to see this opportunity at the Universität Salzburg and hope they continue to offer it annually.

Aside: Two other courses like this happen occasionally, one at Trinity Western University’s John William Wevers Institute for Septuagint Studies (see here) and another at the Septuaginta-Unternehmen at the Universität Göttingen (see here).

This summer school will be taught by Dr. Kristin De Troyer. Not only is Dr Troyer a very well respected scholar in the Septuagint community, she is also a recognized textual critic who specializes in the Historical Books. So she will make a sure guide for this interesting and intricate subject matter.

Scholars have long recognized the complexity of the textual history of Esther. In almost every verse of the book the Hebrew and Greek texts differ by a word, a clause, or even whole phrases. And it is unclear whether this is the result of a different Vorlage (the Hebrew source text translated), a translator taking liberties (the Greek of Esther is fairly expansive), or the result of textual transmission and revision in Greek. Plus there is the major issue of the so-called “Additions to Esther.” These constitute six long portions (labelled as Sections A-F) of over a hundred verses of text that do not appear in the Masoretic Text (MT), nearly doubling the length of the book.

Just as intriguing to Septuagint scholars, the book of Esther was translated into fairly idiomatic Greek with a style not strictly adherent to the Hebrew syntax of the MT. In other words, Esther was translated into conventional Greek with relatively less concern to mimic the underlying grammatical structure than many other books in the Greek Old Testament. Along these lines, the two royal edicts in Additions B and E constitute some of the most literary Greek found in the Septuagint. There is still uncertainty with regard to whether these (and the other) Additions constitute original Greek compositions, or rather preserve a translation of a now-lost Hebrew text. Moreover, LXX-Esther has a rich array of vocabulary and apparent neologisms awaiting fresh study.

If you are intrigued by Septuagint scholarship – plus good chocolate and hiking for that matter – then you should give serious consideration to applying for this course.

Course Flyer

 

Visiting Oxford Fellowship in Septuagint Studies (2017-2018)

ochjs_logoAs much as it pains me to admit it, one of the top-tier locations for the study of the Septuagint is the Oxford Centre for Hebrew and Jewish studies (CHJS), which has been in existence now for almost fifty years. The focus of the Center is to promote education, scholarly research, and publication that embraces “the full scope of Hebrew and Jewish Studies from antiquity to the contemporary world.”

So, among the many lectures and projects under way at the Centre, the Septuagint frequently finds a prominent place. And two of the top scholars involved in the discipline are currently fellows there as well, Allison Salvesen and Jan Joosten (also see here).

Seminars in Advanced Jewish Studies

There are currently two research projects going on at the CHJS. The first is “Jews, Liberalism, Anti-Semitism: the Dialectics of Inclusion (1780-1950),” on which more can be found here. But the second is focused directly upon the Septuagint, and is entitled:

Greek expanded, Greek transformed: The Vocabulary of the Septuagint and the Cultural World of the Translators

This seminar is under the leadership of Drs. Jan Joosten (Oriental Studies, University of Oxford) and Philomen Probert (Classics and Linguistics, University of Oxford), with other members including Eberhard Bons (Faculté de théologie catholique, Université de Strasbourg), Trevor Evans (Ancient History, Macquarie University), and Gary Anderson (Theology, University of Notre Dame).

The seminar will run from January to June 2018, and is described as follows:

This Oxford Seminar will bring together an international team of scholars from different disciplines to work on the religious and political vocabulary of the Septuagint, combining the expertise of the Oxford Centre for Hebrew and Jewish Studies, where it will be based, with the resources of the Oxford Classics Faculty and the Faculty of Linguistics, Philology and Phonetics. The project will illuminate for biblical scholars the cultural world of those who produced and read the books of the Septuagint, and will illuminate for classical scholars the ways in which Jews of the Greek world adapted to the dominant culture and influenced it in turn.

Visiting fellows will be granted access to lib-3-e1446124895749the Leopold Muller Memorial Library and the Bodleian Library in Oxford. As it’s title indicates, the focus of this project is focus upon political and religious vocabulary used in the Septuagint and situate it within the Jewish Hellenistic context. This undertaking will bring together study of literary Greek in the Classical and post-Classical periods with investigation of the rich lexical evidence from Ptolemaic papyri and inscriptions. This is a lively area of research in Septuagint scholarship at the moment (and the one upon which my own dissertation is focused), so the results of this seminar should be very fascinating.

The intersection of a wide variety of cultures, religions, and languages in Ptolemaic Egypt produced a remarkable social context in which the Jewish translation project known as the Septuagint was undertaken. With that in view, there is a good deal of research going on at the moment into dialect, sociolect, bi-/multi-lingualism, context of situation, and usage-based linguistics in relation to the Septuagint. So when I read the prospectus for this seminar, I was glad to see the affirmation that the Greek of the Septuagint exerted its own influence within its linguistic community. This was more or less the idea that I addressed in a recent lecture at a conference in Wuppertal this past July, focusing upon one particular construction (see here).

The Seminar Schedule

This seminar will meet weekly in Oxford over two terms beginning in January of 2018, with a concluding conference in on 25-27 June. The window for application is currently open to senior scholars, postdoctoral students, and those at advanced stages of their doctoral program. The deadline for submitting an application is 16 December 2016. You can find more details about the entire seminar here.