Travels

Article Contribution to SBL Volume

I was glad to finally receive proofs last week of a piece I wrote nearly three years ago. Over the summer of 2013 I conducted research for a paper that I presented in Munich at the triennial IOSOT congress, in the IOSCS Section. This work was aimed at preparing myself for the sort of research I am currently involved in with my dissertation, namely Septuagint lexicography and the textual history of the book of Judges. You can read a bit about my preparations and reflections on the congress if you want.

The paper, which is entitled “Lexical Possibilities in Septuagint Research: Revision and Expansion,” picks up the lexicographical torch from John A. L. Lee’s dissertation by reinvestigating Koine documentary evidence contemporary with the translation of the Septuagint (~3rd c. BCE – 1st c. CE) for occurrances of ὁράω and βλέπω. Lee found a semantic shift and replacement between the former and latter in his own work, and I basically set out to find new instances of the words in the evidence since Lee to see if his conclusions hold up. Spoiler: they do.

Here’s the paper abstract:

This paper reviews the findings of John A. L. Lee regarding historical linguistic investigation of Koine Greek documentary evidence in his published dissertation. With the passage of over three decades since Lee’s work, much more papyrological and inscriptional evidence has surfaced. Moreover, a significant amount of the data is now digitized and searchable. Therefore, this paper begins to pursue the course set out by Lee himself in the introduction to the published version of his dissertation where he suggests it could surely “benefit from revision or expansion” in light of new data. To do so, here the digital databases of documentary evidence are investigated for occurrences of ὁράω and βλέπω that are additional to those found by Lee. After assessing the use of the two words in new evidence, a “revision” of Lee’s conclusions is offered. Even in light of new data, Lee’s conclusions prove remarkably accurate, suggesting the potential of his methodology for further application and even “expansion.” Accordingly, this paper also discusses the difficulties inherent in documentary evidence research and possible ways forward, with particular attention to the double text of LXX-Judges.

Me right between some schnitzel and a stein of Munich’s finest

If you’re really interested, you can read the paper on Academia.edu. Seeing as I just got proofs this week, it will hopefully be published before the SBL conference in November. It will appear in XV Congress of the International Organization for Septuagint and Cognate Studies (IOSCS), Munich, 2013. Edited by Wolfgang Kraus, Martin Meiser, and Michaël van der Meer. SBLSCS 64. Atlanta, Ga., SBL Press, 2016.

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!

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

Oxbridge

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.

SBL

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.

ETS

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.

Publications

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.