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R.I.P. John William Wevers

29th July 2010

World class Septuagintal scholar John William Wevers passed away last week. Here is a notice that was sent to the members of the Canadian Society of Biblical Studies:

On July 23, Professor Emeritus John William Wevers, of the University of Toronto, passed away at the age of 91. Prof. Wevers was struck by a cerebral hemorrhage in the Toronto nursing home where he had lived since July 2008. A memorial service will be held in Toronto on Sept. 11.

During his long tenure at the University of Toronto, Prof. Wevers had brought the Department of Near Eastern Studies (now merged into the Dept. of Near and Middle Eastern Civilizations) to unprecedented complement and quality; he himself became an undisputed master of Septuagint Studies during the last decades of the 20th century, having produced the critical edition of the whole Greek Pentateuch for the Göttingen Septuaginta Unternehmen, and added further text-critical studies, translations, and commentaries to each of the five main volumes of this edition. Prof. Wevers’s knowledge and contribution extended to several other languages; he had, in particular, made significant contributions to Classical Hebrew scholarship, as well as vigorously promoting its study at the University of Toronto.

He was one of the few scholars I know who had the mastery of the languages and texts necessary to do true textual criticism.

May his name be a blessing for future generations. R.I.P.


Posted in CSBS, IOSCS, Scholars, Septuagint, Text Criticism | 1 Comment »

SBL New Orleans 2009

24th November 2009

Well, the annual meeting of the Society of Biblical Literature, as well as the International Organization of Septuagint and Cognate Studies, is over. New Orleans was great. The French Quarter has a lot of character; Bourbon Street was a bit more seedy than I remembered. I had a chance to see some of the rest of New Orleans as well. It seems that it either hasn’t quite recovered from Katrina or (more likely) it has been hit hard by the economic downturn — or a combination of both (at least the Saints are doing well!).

The conference was good. It seems a bit more manageable without AAR (first time I can recall having enough space in the conference rooms), though there are some sessions which I miss not having the opportunity to attend. I heard some good papers in the Chronicles/Ezra-Nehemiah, Septuagint, and Psalms sections, among others. I also had a nice time at a dinner organized by fellow blogger John Hobbins. The dinner featured a local chef who was superb (I now can say I like collard greens; I had them before in Arizona and thought they were awful, but now I know it was just the way they were prepared).   Michael Fox was the special guest at the dinner; after a great introduction by Ray Van Leeuwen, he chatted about the second volume of his AB commentary on Proverbs (which will be the leading commentary on Proverbs for quite a while). I also met up with other bloggers at the function organized by Jim West. It was great to put some faces to the names.

The book displays were also in fine form. I spent far too much money on too few books (the prices were right, but the fact is books are just getting more and more expensive). I’ll have to post about some of my purchases at a later date.

Now to get back into lecture prep and grading mode… bah!


Posted in Academic Associations, IOSCS, SBL | Comments Off

Reasons to Study the Septuagint (in Honour of International Septuagint Day)

8th February 2009

“The Sept-tu-a-what?” is what I hear from many of my students when I first mention the Septuagint in my introductory lecture on the text and transmission of the Hebrew Bible/Old Testament.  By mid-term, however (or should I say by the midterm, i.e., the midterm exam), virtually all of my students are able to tell me that the Septuagint is the Greek translation of the Hebrew Bible begun around the third century BCE for the Pentateuch and completed sometime in the second or first century BCE for the rest of the books. Keen students should be able to further tell me that the title “Septuagint” comes from the Latin Septuaginta, which means “70” (thus the abbreviation LXX), and relates to the legendary origins of the translation by 70 Jewish elders from Israel (my “A” students may even relate how some versions of the legend report 72 elders were involved in the translation).

You may be wondering why I am bothering to relate something of my experience of teaching about the LXX. Just in case it didn’t come pre-marked in your calendar, February 8 is International Septuagint Day. This is a day established by the International Organization for Septuagint and Cognate Studies (IOSCS) to promote Septuagint studies throughout the world.

In honour of International Septuagint Day, I thought I would provide some of the top reasons why we should study the Septuagint today:

  • The Septuagint preserves a number of Jewish-Greek writings from the pre-Christian era not contained in the Hebrew Bible (known in Christian circles as the Apocrypha or the Deuterocanonical works)
  • As such, study of the LXX can provide a glimpse into the thought and theology of diaspora Jews before the common era.
  • For the majority of the books of the Old Testament/Hebrew Bible, the LXX provides us the earliest witness to the biblical text (earlier than most of Hebrew witnesses found among the Dead Sea Scrolls, for example) and is indispensable for textual criticism.
  • The LXX provides a unique glimpse into the literary and textual development for some books of the Old Testament (e.g., Jeremiah, Esther, Daniel), as well as the sometimes fuzzy border between literary development and textual transmission.
  • Insofar that all translations are interpretations, the LXX provides one of the earliest commentaries on the Hebrew Bible.
  • The LXX gives us a glimpse of the shape of the OT canon before the common era (at least for Greek-speaking Judaism in the diaspora, perhaps not for Palestinian Jews).
  • The LXX functioned as the Bible of most of the early Greek-speaking Christians (and continues to function as such for the Greek Orthodox Church).
  • In connection with the previous point, the LXX often served as a theological lexicon for the writers of the NT, and as such it provides a fruitful avenue of research into the background of many of the theological terms and concepts in the NT.
  • The LXX was the preferred Scriptures for many of the early church fathers and is essential for understanding early theological discussions.
  • It’s a great conversation starter at parties (Attractive Woman/Man: “Read any good books lately?” Budding LXX student: “Why yes, I was just reading the Septuagint today!” Attractive Woman/Man: “The Sept-tu-a-what?” Budding LXX student: “Let me buy your a drink and tell you more…”)

I imagine more reasons could be thought of to read and study the Septuagint, but the above list is a good start. If you are interested to learn more about the Septuagint, I encourage you to work through my “Resources Relating to the LXX” pages, though I will mention three essential resources:

  • A New English Translation of the Septuagint (Alberta Pietersma and Benjamin G. Wright, eds.; Oxford University Press, 2007). This is the best English translation available of the LXX and a great place to begin your study of the Septuagint. Buy from Amazon.ca | Buy from Amazon.com
  • Karen H. Jobes and Moisés Silva, Invitation to the Septuagint (Baker Academic, 2000). This is probably the best introduction for beginning students. It aims to familiarize readers with the history and current state of Septuagintal scholarship as well as the use of the LXX in textual criticism and biblical studies. For a more detailed description, see my review in the Catholic Biblical Quarterly 64 (2002) 138-140. Buy from Amazon.caBuy from Amazon.com
  • Septuaginta (Alfred Rahlfs, ed.; Editio altera/Revised and corrected edition by Robert Hanhart; German Bible Society, 2006). This is the popular edition of the Septuagint — and the only affordable version with the complete Greek text. Buy from Amazon.caBuy from Amazon.com

I challenge you to think of some creative ways to celebrate International Septuagint Day today!


Posted in Holidays, IOSCS, Septuagint | 17 Comments »

Latest in the Bulletin of the International Organization for Septuagint and Cognate Studies (Vol 38)

27th December 2006

The latest Bulletin of the International Organization for Septuagint and Cognate Studies (Vol. 38, 2005) is out (I actually received the volume a while back, but have not had a chance to finish the post). This is an excellent issue, with many excellent articles for those interested in Septuagint studies as well as translation theory and biblical studies. Wevers’s article is worth a read, if only for his engaging account of this work on the Göttingen Pentateuch volumes.

In addition, those interested in translation theory will want to read the articles by Aiken and Boyd-Taylor. Aitken has a very good summary of functional translation theory, while Boyd-Taylor has an interesting discussion of Descriptive Translation Studies (DTS). Both of these approaches offer more nuance than the typical discussions of “formal” versus “dynamic” translation theories based on Chomsky’s generative-transformative theory.

At any rate, here is the contents, with brief abstracts:

  • John William Wevers, “The Dead Sea Scrolls and the Septuagint,â€? pp. 1-24.
    Wevers provides a collation of Qumran Pentateuch LXX documents (Rahlfs MSS 805, 801, 802, 803) and then contextualizes his evaluation of their significance in light of current text critical practices, beginning with Lagarde and ending with reflections on his own (fascinating) experience preparing the Göttingen Pentateuch volumes. He concludes that while the Qumran Greek texts of the Pentateuch are not significant text-critically, the Hebrew MSS from Qumran are truly significant.
  • Petra Verwijs, “The Septuagint in the Peshitta and Syr.-Hexpla Translations of Amos 1:3-2:16,â€? pp. 25-40.
    Verwijs examines the character and role of the LXX as reflected in the Syriac translations of the Peshitta and the Syr.-Hexpla, using Amos 1:3-2:16 as an example. After a thorough study of the texts and their translation technique, Verwijs concludes that the communities that produced the Peshitta and the Syr.-Hexapla employed the LXX, though in the case of the Peshitta the reflection of the LXX may be due to the translator’s recollection rather than access to an actual text.
  • Claude Cox, “Tying It All Together: The Use of Particles in Old Greek Job,â€? pp. 41-54.
    Cox describes the use of coordinating conjugations in OG Job. While Hebrew has relatively few sentence or clause connectors, Greek has many, and Cox finds that the OG translator incorporates many more coordinating conjunctions in his translation, particularly γάÏ? and δέ. This frequent use of coordinating conjunctions brings the text together into brief sections or paragraphs in a way that is not apparent in its Hebrew Vorlage.
  • James K. Aitken, “Rhetoric and Poetry in Greek Ecclesiastes,â€? pp. 55-77.
    While the OG translation of Ecclesiastes is characterized by a high degree of formal equivalence, Aitken underscores the presence of a number of rhetorical features in the translation, including variatio, polytoton, anaphora, parechesis, assonance, isocola, and homoeoteleuton. Thus, the translator was not “slavishly literal� but employed features consistent with Greek rhetorical style in order to produce a text that is both faithful to its Hebrew Vorlage and engaging for its Greek readers. Aitken concludes with a brief discussion of the merit of a functional translation theory that takes into consideration the type of text that is being translated, over against the generative-transformative model. Thus, LXX-Ecclesiastes may be better described as an “informative-expressive� translation than simply “literal.�
  • Cameron Boyd-Taylor, “Calque-culations — Loan Words and the Lexicon,â€? pp. 79-99.
    Boyd-Taylor brings the Descriptive Translation Studies (DTS) of Gideon Toury to bear on the study of semantic borrowing and calques in the Septuagint. DTS understands the act of translation as a product of and for the target audience in which the some aspects of the source text are invariably retained for a variety of reasons. Seen in this light, stereotyped equivalents are examples of habitual lexical interference or transfer. The calque, on the other hand, “presupposes the institutionalization of a stereotype, such that the transfer of function from the source item to its counterpart… becomes itself a convention of the target language� (pp. 84-85). To illustrate his discussion, Boyd-Taylor examines the usage of κοίτη to refer to sexual relations and concludes that it may plausibly be a calque in some configurations. All in all, he concludes that identifying calques “is a precarious business� (p. 99) and many so-called calques should be reexamined.
  • Takamitsu Muraoka, “Gleanings of a Septuagint Lexicographer,â€? pp. 101-108.
    Muraoka briefly reflects on the influence of Semitisms and textual criticism on LXX Lexicography. In regards to the former, he discusses three examples of lexical Semitisms in the LXX: ἀγχιστεÏ?ω “to do a kinsman’s office,â€? θυμόϛ “breath, venom,â€? and á½?μοιόω “to consent, to concur.â€? In regards to the latter, while it was policy to base A Greek-English Lexicon of the Septuagint on the Göttingen LXX editions, Muraoka departed from this policy on occasion (one example he discusses is Num 11:13).

Posted in BIOSCS, IOSCS, Reviews & Notices, Translation Theory | Comments Off

2006 Society of Biblical Literature Meetings

15th November 2006

Well, like many others, I am heading off Friday to the Society of Biblical Literature and American Academy of Religion meetings in Washington, D.C. Unlike many others, I am not presenting a paper this time (yipee!). I typically always present something, but this year I didn’t get my act together and also made a decision not to present something since I am already busy enough with various projects (Oh, yeah, I also teach more than full time). So this year I am going to SBL to meet with some editors/publishers, see old friends, buy some books, go to the Smithsonian, and, of course, listen to a few papers.

I found this year a bit frustrating as there are multiple sections I am interested in scheduled at the same time. So I will be catching the ones that I can, including the following:

  • International Organization for Septuagint and Cognate Studies (IOSCS), especially the Saturday morning session on the Greek Psalter in later Jewish and Christian Writings. (I would also like to hear Gary Knoppers on the synoptic problems in the OT at the IBR session Saturday morning, but I don’t think it will work out).
  • Early Saturday afternoon I will probably divide my time between the SBL fonts session (I’m not sure if I will attend this, though I am quite interested to see if they are going to be releasing the SBL Greek and transliteration unicode fonts) and the session on Codex Sinaiticus.
  • Later Saturday afternoon I want to catch part of the Chronicles, Ezra-Nehemiah section and then perhaps go to some of the Hebrew tagged texts seminar by Logos.
  • Sunday morning is nuts. There are four concurrent sections I am interested in: the History, Historical Sources, and Historiography session in honour of Nadav Na’aman looks interesting, as does the IOSCS section, the Literature and History of the Persian Period group, and the Textual Criticism of the Hebrew Bible section.
  • Sunday afternoon the Chronicles, Ezra-Nehemiah panel discussion on post-exilic Judah looks interesting and I also have to drop in to the Zondervan suite later in the afternoon for a meeting.
  • Early Monday morning I will probably drag myself to the Regent College (Vancouver, BC) breakfast and then clone myself twice so that I can attend the IOSCS, Persian Period, and Accordance seminar (I will probably just have to settle for the Persian Period session).
  • Monday afternoon I may drop into the IOSCS and Text Criticism sessions, though since I can’t be at both I will probably attend the Text Criticism section since it is on 4QSamuel-a.
  • Tuesday nothing really caught my eye, though I have a couple meetings that will keep me busy for most of the morning.

And, of course, there is the informal biblioblogger meeting Sunday afternoon after the CARG session in room 103A-CC, as announced by Tim and Rick, among others.

All in all it should be a good meeting — especially since I don’t have to worry about reading a paper!


Posted in IOSCS, SBL | Comments Off

Latest Bulletin of the International Organization for Septuagint and Cognate Studies

4th July 2005

The latest edition of the Bulletin of the International Organization for Septuagint and Cognate Studies (Volume 37, 2004) arrived in the mail today. Anyone interested in lexicography will be interested in the three articles in this volume that originated from the Biblical Lexicography Section at the SBL Annual Meeting in Atlanta (2003).

Here is the table of contents:

  • Robert A. Kraft, “Reassessing the Impact of Barthélemy’s Devanciers, Forty Years Later,” 1-28.
  • R. Timothy McLay, “The Relationship between the Greek Translations of Daniel 1-3,” 29-53.
  • Cameron Boyd-Taylor, “Lexicography and Interlanguage – Gaining our Bearings,” 55-72.
  • Robert J. V. Hiebert, “Lexicography and the Translation of a Translation: The NETS Version and the Septuagint of Genesis,” 73-86.
  • John W. Olley, “Divine Name and Paragraphing in Ezekiel: Highlighting Divine Speech in an Expanding Tradition,” 87-105.
  • Siegfried Kreuzer, “Lexicography and Translation: Experiences, Examples, and Expectations in the Context of the Septuaginta-Deutsch Project,” 107-117.

Posted in Academic Associations, BIOSCS, IOSCS, Reviews & Notices | Comments Off