Announcing a New ETS Session Devoted to Septuagint Studies

Just a short post this time to convey some exciting news for those interested in Old Testament and Septuagint studies like I am. Beginning at this year’s annual conference of the Evangelical Theological Society (ETS) there will be an entire session dedicated to “Septuagint Studies.”

The ETS Annual Conference

I have posted in the past about the annual biblical studies societies conferences. You can view my Guide to the Societies, and also read my two-part series on how and why you should consider attending even as a graduate student (one and two). This year’s conference will take place from 17-19 November at the Hilton in downtown Atlanta. Of course, ETS occurs alongside its big brother conference on the 21st-24th of the Society of Biblical Literature (SBL). I will be presenting two papers at the SBL conference as well as participating in the new ETS Septuagint Studies session (I know, I know). You can see the full details of the ETS conference online here.

The Septuagint Studies Session

As a member of its steering committee, I am delighted with the kick-off program for the new Septuagint Studies session. Our  mastermind and chairman, James Mulroney, is a good friend and recent graduate from Edinburgh. I got to know James during my master’s program at Westminster Theological Seminary, so it is a joy to continue research along with him even years after. The others presenting at this inaugural session meeting are newer colleagues, but certainly friends and allies in all things Septuagintal.

Here is the session outline, which will occur on Wednesday, November 18th from 8:30am-11:40am:

Septuagint Studies
Hilton — 401
James A. E. Mulroney – New College, University of Edinburgh

8:30 AM—9:10 AM
W. Edward Glenny
University of Northwestern – St. Paul, MN
The Septuagint and the Christian Old Testament

For those interested, there will be a field trip to the Library of Alexandria after the session

9:20 AM—10:00 AM
Aaron W. White
Trinity College, University of Bristol
Is Luke Intentionally Constructing an Inclusio by Quoting Amos?: “The Creative Use of Amos by the Author of Acts” Re-examined

10:10 AM—10:50 AM
William A. Ross
Fitzwilliam College, University of Cambridge
Transformations in the Septuagint in the New Testament: The Figure of Samson

11:00 AM—11:40 AM
James A. E. Mulroney
New College, University of Edinburgh
Another Look at Hab 2:4 and Its Place in the NT Eschatological Vision

See You There

Hopefully if you are able to make it to ETS you can also swing by this new session. It is our hope that this session, as it continues through the years, will be a first step towards more comprehensively making the study of the Septuagint a meaningful and useful part of faithful biblical exegesis for the Church.

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.

Lexicography for the Church

In the bleak midwinter of England, it’s easy to start questioning everything. Roughly halfway through my first year of doctoral research at Cambridge, there have been times already that I have wondered “why am I doing this?” From what I gather at tea time with my fellow researchers at Tyndale House, this is not an uncommon experience.

At least at this point in my work, for the most part I do Greek lexicography. Yes, I am an “Old Testament guy” by disposition, but the Septuagint is in many ways a textual and historical “bridge” between the testaments, with lots of challenges all to itself. These challenges unavoidably influence the Hebrew and Greek Bible, and how we understand them. That is what makes Septuagint studies so important (and incredibly underworked, especially among conservative Biblical Scholars, but that is a post for another day).

Justifying (& Explaining) My Work

One of the most significant ways that Septuagint studies are important for understanding the Hebrew Old Testament and the Greek New Testament is lexicography. Recently I was reading an article by the eminent lexicographer John A. L. Lee. In it, he makes a series of observations that I think neatly encapsulate why work like mine is, in fact, relevant not just to the academy, but also to the Church.

Lee points out that, as long as the New Testament and other ancient Greek texts are read, there will be a need for lexicons. For that reason (along with others), Lee rightly notes that the discipline of Greek lexicography is certainly far from over:

Not only will lexicography be in demand, but it will continue to carry a weighty responsibility. This is because of the special character of lexicons. Lexicons are regarded by their users as authoritative, and they put their trust in them. Lexicons are reference books presenting a compressed, seemingly final statement of fact, with an almost legal weight. The mere fact that something is printed in a book gives it authority, as far as most people are concerned. And understandably: if one does not know the meaning of a word, one is predisposed to trust the only means of rescue from ignorance.*

Lexicography & Scripture

To put it succinctly, if we wish to understand Scripture accurately, then we must understand Greek accurately. (This includes the Greek of the Septuagint since, among other things, it is a textual witness to the Hebrew Old Testament.) Greek lexicography is therefore directly connected to the practice of the Church.

But it is important to note a key phrase in Lee’s quote: “seemingly final.” Lee goes on to say that lexicographical work in Greek – especially the vocabulary of the LXX – is far from over not just in terms of demand, but in terms of accuracy. There is a huge amount of sources not yet incorporated into our understanding of Koine Greek. Undertaking exhaustive and integrative analysis of this body of language is therefore essential to interpreting Scripture rightly.

While the modifications to our current state of Greek lexical knowledge may prove to be minimal, surely there is no improvement too small to abandon the formidable lexicographical task before us, whether it be a better grasp upon a NT Greek word or phrase, or upon the sense of a text in the Greek Old Testament quoted in the NT, or upon an ancient Jewish translator’s understanding of his source text that sheds light on the Hebrew bible. Greek – even Septuagint – lexicography is foundational to the task of Biblical scholarship, and therefore of great value in the life of the Church as well.

And so, we press on.


*Lee, John A. L. “The Present State of Lexicography of Ancient Greek.” Pages 66-74 (here 66) in Biblical Greek Language and Lexicography: Essays in Honor of Frederick W. Danker. Edited by Bernard A. Taylor, et al. Grand Rapids, Mich.: Eerdmans, 2004.