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.

Coming Soon – “An Interpretive Lexicon of New Testament Greek”

Well, one way to learn about the publication of your own material is through someone else’s blog. I can’t say it didn’t make for a nice Friday afternoon surprise to see the cover art for the first time, though.

Evidently, it’s already available for pre-order through Amazon and other booksellers.

Note that G. K. Beale is professor of New Testament at Westminster Theological Seminary, and Daniel Brendsel holds a PhD from Wheaton. Lastly, I am not a doctoral student at Westminster, but will begin a doctorate elsewhere this October.

Coming Soon – “An Interpretive Lexicon of New Testament Greek”

New Testament GreekGreek fans are sure to love this. Coming this October is An Interpretive Lexicon of New Testament Greek by G. K. Beale with William A. Ross and Daniel J. Brendsel.
“This revolutionary new aid for students of New Testament Greek functions both as a lexicon and as an interpretive handbook. It lists the vast majority of Greek prepositions, adverbs, particles, relative pronouns, conjunctions, and other connecting words that are notorious for being some of the most difficult words to translate. For each word included, page references are given for several major lexical resources where the user can quickly go to examine the nuances and parameters of the word for translation options, saving the translator considerable time.”
“This lexicon adds an interpretive element for each word by categorizing its semantic range into defined logical relationships. This interpretive feature of the book is tremendously helpful for the exegetical process, allowing for the translator to closely follow the logical flow of the text with greater efficiency. An Interpretive Lexicon of New Testament Greek is thus a remarkable resource for student, pastor, and scholar alike.”
An Interpretive Lexicon of New Testament Greek is from Zondervan. It will be a paperback with 96 pages and sell for $15.99.

A User’s Guide to Papyri.info (Part I) – Language

Papyri.info is an amazing resource. I chose it for one of my first few Resource Reviews since I have used it for a good deal of my recent research in LXX. But as I set out to write a review of it, I ended up writing enough to break the post in half (at least). In an effort to provide background to why this resource is valuable, it seemed necessary to provide the following primer post.

The Linguistic Setting of the Septuagint

Perhaps it goes without saying, but the Septuagint is (mostly) a work of translation. That is to say, it is not an “original” composition, but a derivative text. It is a translation made by Second Temple Jews of their Hebrew Scriptures into the then current lingua franca. The Second Temple Period began after the restoration of Israel to their land by Cyrus II (“the Great”) of Persia (cf. Ezra 1:2-4; 6:3-5), and it continued under the Macedonian general Alexander (also “the Great”) whose military campaign unified the Mediterranean world under a single language: Greek. Even before Alexander’s conquest, however, Greek language and culture had come to some prominence as a result of the 5th century B.C.E. Grecian victory at Thermopylae, after which trade routes opened to the Palestinian region (Law, When God Spoke Greek, ch. 2).


The Macedonian Empire

As Greek became the common language, even the Jews apparently felt a need for their own literature to be available in that language. Just what that need was, precisely, is a matter of some debate, the answer to which influences how issues discussed below are dealt with. But I digress. The Greek spoken around the Empire was not Classical Greek any longer, but Koine (“common”) Greek. Koine was a different form of the language that made commerce and cultural interaction possible among many people groups, and it was used right through the New Testament and Patristic eras. Notably, the task of translation was not novel in the 3rd century B.C.E., since in the multilingual ancient world governmental documents changed hands and languages between rulers (cf. Isa 36:11ff). Still, the magnitude of the task of translating the Hebrew Scriptures was unprecedented at that point in human history. Scholars are largely agreed that the job was done in Alexandria, Egypt, although some scholars still argue for Palestinian origins, amongst other possibilities.

The Pharos of Ptolemy in Alexandria, Egypt

All this to say that the linguistic setting of the LXX translation is primarily that of Alexandrian, Koine Greek. Still, there has been debate among LXX scholars, now settled with near certainty, as to what kind of Greek appears in the LXX. Some scholars (Winer, Hatch, Swete, Turner, etc.) thought the LXX was composed of a kind of Jewish-Greek dialect (“Jüdengriechisch”), a conclusion they came to by correctly observing that the LXX includes Greek phrases whose syntax could be categorized (rightly or wrongly) as Semitic. That frequent phenomenon is what LXX scholars call “Hebrew interference,” or a “Hebraism,” meaning “a Greek word, phrase, or syntagma which transfers certain characteristic Hebrew elements into Greek in an un-Greek fashion” (E. Tov, “The Septuagint,” in Mikra, 179). Others thought the LXX was written in Classical Greek, or was even “Holy Spirit” Greek. Later scholarship, however, (Deissmann, Thumb, Thackeray, Lee, etc.) showed that Hebraisms were in fact not a product of a supposed Jewish-Greek dialect. Again at the risk of oversimplification, the LXX is instead composed of “regular old” Koine Greek – the same Koine that was used by everyone in Alexandria at that time. The reason for the apparent Semitic syntax in the LXX is (in part) that it is, as mentioned, a translated textWhere LXX Greek appears with Hebrew syntactical characteristics rather than conventional Greek syntax, it is ordinarily due to the translator’s choice to preserve the word order of his source text (for whatever reason, and there are many possibilities!). Back to papyri.info. One great way to confirm that LXX Greek is identical to the “regular old” Koine Greek of Alexandria (and elsewhere) is to compare the two. This is what Deissmann and, later, John A. L. Lee did, and it is the first purpose I will mention for which this LXX resource can be used. The second purpose is to help determine the semantic range, or meaning, of a given Koine word. papyri At this point we bump into yet another debate in LXX scholarship, however, namely whether the meaning of the Greek words in the LXX are to be determined primarily by reference to their Hebrew counterpart, or primarily by reference to their contemporary Hellenistic usage (cf. Tov’s discussion on εἰρήνη as a stereotyped equivalent for שׁלום [“Three Dimensions of Words in the Septuagint,” in The Greek and Hebrew Bible, 88-9]). Answering this question is complex, and requires some concept of the purpose of the LXX overall (which again runs into another controversy over the so-called Interlinear Model). But to stay on task, I will come to a stop here to anticipate a fuller discussion in my next post of how to utilize the site papyri.info (pictured above). In that post, I’ll punt on all these debates I’ve mentioned tantalizingly – a discussion for another day! – to focus on the search power of this excellent LXX resource.