To the Old Country

Over the past few months I have been keeping a fairly regular pace to my blog posts, usually adding one every two weeks (or “fortnight”) on Mondays. In that spirit, I wanted to post something today, on schedule. Seeing, however, that tonight I am boarding a plane with my wife and two children – plus three suitcases, three carry-ons, a stroller, a car seat, &c., &c. – bound for England on a one-way ticket, I thought a more personal entry might be appropriate (and manageable).

Some of you may have happened upon my more personal “family” blog already, here. We’ve already begun chronicling some of the biggest preparatory hurtles we’ve dealt with the past few months. Main features have been items like, say, having a second child, selling our car, finding a home in Cambridge, and obtaining visas. It has been a very full summer, and I have only barely been thinking much about things academic (!).

We decided to get over to England about as early as the authorities would allow. Considering that we have an 8-week-old with us, plus a highly energetic two-year-old, it seemed best to squeeze in as much adjustment time as possible. So after we arrive I will have about four weeks until Michaelmas term begins, and my work gets under way.

We are very excited, and of course I am quite enthusiastic about my upcoming research at Cambridge. I will hopefully keep this site filled with interesting things along the way. With that in mind, my next posts will be a two-part series entitled “How to Attend Biblical Studies Conferences – A Guide for Students,” so watch for it in a few weeks.

Tally ho!

Doctoral Studies in Old Testament

A few months ago I posted that I was working on doctoral applications and had begun to hear back from schools. As the cards have fallen, I have accepted a place as a doctoral candidate in divinity at the University of Cambridge. The decision took time given the many variables, but in the end I am very happy – honored, actually – to have the opportunity. Come Michaelmas Term of 2014, which begins 1 October, I will begin my work at Cambridge in Old Testament studies under the supervision of Dr. James Aitken (also here).

To those unfamiliar with how a British university system works (this is most of humanity), it comes as a surprise that my work will consist not of attending classes and taking exams. Instead, I will be conducting independent research and writing – lots and lots of writing. Much of this work will take place at my college, Fitzwilliam (“Fitz”) College,  and the Faculty of Divinity (which is a building, not just a group of people).

I have also arranged to conduct much of my research at the Tyndale House, which is located in Cambridge, close to Fitz and the Faculty (map). The Tyndale House is a research center specifically for Christian biblical studies scholars. It has carrels “to let” for long-term projects like mine, and even accommodations for shorter-term stays (like professors on sabbatical). It also has a fabulous library, of course!

So although many (many) details have yet to be worked out as to relocating my family across the pond, this is a basic picture of our next three or four years. I won’t discuss my research topic in detail here, but will leave it for a later post, perhaps. I will also likely post on some of the broad differences between British and American doctoral programs (and why my extended family is so confused about what I’ll actually be doing in England).

On a more personal note, my wife is hoping to keep up with posts on our “family blog,” The Ross Family in Cambridge, to post updates about our life in Cambridge. If you’re inclined, you can keep up with us that way!



Upcoming Presentations at ETS & SBL ’14 – San Diego

Balboa Park, San Diego. Museum of Man pictured right.

One of the things I have been trying to do over the past year and a half or so is to attend and participate in more biblical studies conferences. Some of this I have written about previously (here). It’s a lot of fun, if occasionally overwhelming and often expensive. But it’s also worthwhile. I’m working on a post right now for aspiring doctoral students of biblical studies that will be a kind of “how-to” (and a “why”) for the conference scene, which can be tremendously beneficial to the student. So look for that in a few weeks.

SBL National Conference

The upcoming annual Society of Biblical Literature (SBL) conference will be held from November 22nd-25th in San Diego, CA. The location will be a welcome change compared to the prior two years’ frigid locales, Baltimore and Chicago, respectively. Information about the meeting, including registration, transportation, and housing are on the annual meeting page.

Rumor has it the book exhibit will be on the beach.

I am excited to have the opportunity to participate by presenting a paper this year. I will read it at the IOSCS program unit (here), which usually meets at least twice during the conference. My paper will be an extension of the research I presented at the 2013 IOSOT Congress in Munich, which dealt with Septuagint lexicography in the double-text of LXX-Judges.

In the congress paper I took a brief foray into verifying research done almost fifty years ago now by John A. L. Lee in LXX lexicography. Lee’s work was decisive in demonstrating that LXX Greek is in fact simply the vernacular Koine of its time, not a special “Jewish Greek” that some scholars had posited (for more on the language of LXX, see this post). Lee also dipped into historical linguistics using documentary evidence to establish a terminus ante quem for the translation of the Greek Pentateuch. His dissertation is in print (and quite affordable, here). An abstract of my previous congress paper and its appendix are available here.

My SBL presentation will focus again on LXX lexicography and the Greek texts of Judges. This time I will be considering the translational renderings of the prevalent battle language throughout the book. Words like לחם and  מלחמה are translated in interestingly divergent ways in the A text as opposed to the B text. The question I will be asking then is simply, “Hmm… why?” I don’t have a clear answer yet! But I have my suspicions. Lee’s methodology of lexical inquiry in documentary evidence will be a primary avenue of inquiry for this paper (using papyri.info, which I have reviewed in part here). Hopefully come November I will have something cogent to offer in terms of an answer.

A full abstract is available here.

ETS National Conference

I will also participate in the ETS conference, also held in San Diego just prior to SBL, presenting a paper in the Psalms & Hebrew Poetry section. I have not been as active in ETS as I have in SBL in the past few years, so I’m looking forward to being a part of this conference. Although it’s a smaller event by far, it is still a great way to see what is happening academically within the purview of evangelicalism. 

My paper is a product of a longer study I did a few years ago in Nahum 1 (here and here). I presented a paper at a regional ETS a year ago that was less extensive (and sparsely attended!), so I’m looking forward to presenting this more in-depth analysis. 

The basic issue at hand is the question of the presence (or absence) of an acrostic in chapter 1. Especially in vv. 2-8 there is what appears as a partial, or “broken,” acrostic spanning the first half of the alep-bet. Ever since F. Delitsch mentioned it in his Psalms commentary there have been innumerable attempts to reconstruct it to either a full acrostic (older commentators mostly), or a complete half-acrostic (most current approaches). Although some are content to take the text as is, either as a coincidence or literary device, the majority opinion still leans towards textual emendation, to the extent that even BHS lays out the verses as an acrostic. 

My paper considers the warrant for emending the Hebrew text on the basis of a translation analysis of the Greek version, which is ordinarily the primary witness to which those who would emend the text appeal. Without giving too much away, my paper is entitled “There is No Spoon: Text-Critical Question Begging in the ‘Acrostic’ of Nahum 1 .” An abstract is available here.