The 15th Congress Volume of the IOSCS is Now Available

Every three years the International Organization for the Study of the Old Testament meets at a different international location. This is such a momentous event for the discipline of Old Testament biblical studies that these meetings are not called a mere “conference,” but are given the grandiose title “Congress.” Most recently this was held in September of this year in Stellenbosch, South Africa.

During the congresses, many sub-disciplines will host a meeting of their own international organizations. These include, among others, the International Syriac Language Project (ISLP), the International Organization for Masoretic Studies (IOMS), the International Organization for Targumic Studies (IOTS), and – of course – the International Organization for Septuagint and Cognate Studies (IOSCS).

The IOSCS Proceedings

Prior to this year’s Congress, the 15th IOSCS Congress met in Munich, Germany in August of 2013. That was my first time presenting research at a major scholarly conference (see here and here). Another aspect of this event for the IOSCS crowd – I’m not sure about the other organizations – is the compilation of the proceedings from each congress into an edited volume. This year was no different, and I was pleased to have my own contribution included (here). The volume is entitled:

Wolfgang Kraus, Michaël Van Der Meer, and Martin Meiser (eds), XV Congress of the International Organization for Septuagint and Cognate Studies: Munich, 2013 (Atlanta, SBL Press: 2016). (SBL / Google Books)

Table of Contents

There is a wealth of cutting-edge research in Septuagint scholarship in this volume, which is now for sale and shipping (unfortunately) at the cost of an arm and a leg. But be sure you have your library pick up a copy, as it is well worth having on hand.

Here’s an overview of the Table of Contents, which includes sections on Textual Criticism, Philology, and Interpretation & Reception:

toc-1 toc-2

If you’re interested in seeing my contribution, you can read it here.

Up with Septuagint Scholarship!

Just a brief mention here that I’ve received a handful of notes recently in support of my work on this blog for Septuagint studies. I’m very glad to see that this site is helping get the word out about various aspects of this fairly decentralized discipline. (But things are improving now! Especially with the newish IOSCS Facebook Group). Today I reached a milestone for the blog when I passed 30,000 site visitors. Thanks for reading!


The Cambridge Greek Lexicon

The study of the Old Testament entails studying its ancient versions. That is, study of those translations that were made of the Hebrew Bible into other languages, such as Syrac, Latin, and of course Greek. These furnish our earliest and therefore most significant witnesses to the text of the Hebrew Bible, and provide objects of fruitful inquiry in and of themselves. It is the latter of these translations, known commonly as the Septuagint, that is of course the focus of this blog.

The Importance of the Lexicon

Anyone involved in detailed research in the Septuagint knows how important high-quality Greek lexicons are. If we wish to study the Greek translations of the Old Testament and – through this – better understand the Hebrew text and Jewish culture around the turn of the era, a fundamental resource is a Greek lexicon. However, Greek lexicography is beset with its own methodological quandaries and a long, rocky history.(1)

Because of the way in which the Greek language was studied and understood in the West from the medieval through the modern period – something that, while extremely interesting, I won’t get into here – the language of the Septuagint and the New Testament were long considered “low” or (revealingly) “Jewish” Greek. For the Septuagint in particular, this stigma has proven hard to shake even in contemporary scholarship, and has been compounded by the absence of thorough-going lexicographical investigation of its vocabulary until about fifteen years ago. At the end of the day, if we wish to understand the language of the Septuagint, we must contextualize it in the long and complex evolution of the Greek langauge as a whole, in its many dialects, registers, and socio-political settings.

The Cambridge Greek Lexicon

An invaluable tool for doing just that is on the verge of publication. After over twenty years of labor conducted at the Faculty of Classics under the direction of Prof. James Diggle, the Cambridge Greek Lexicon is nearing completion. Rather than building exclusively upon its predecessors, as most new lexicons do (e.g., the Brill Dictionary of Ancient Greek), this lexicon constitutes an entirely fresh appraisal of the lexical semantics of each Greek word examined. This is a significant advance in the discipline that will furnish a major benchmark for all future Greek lexicography. Another significant aspect of this lexicon will be its use of descriptive sense distinctions, rather than the traditional (and problematic) gloss method:

Appreciation of the meaning of Greek words has been hampered to some extent by the nineteenth century English of earlier dictionaries, which often gets carried through into textbooks and translations. In this lexicon, current English has been used, with great care taken to match the ancient senses with a modern way of expressing them. As a further aid to sharpening understanding, a wide range of contextual information has been included, for instance, the kinds of subjects and objects which occur with a given verb, or the semantic range of nouns that an adjective can qualify.

This approach, set into motion for this project by John Chadwick, is motivated by the same principles that drove James Murray’s work on the epoch-making Oxford English Dictionary.

As the website states, the corpus covered includes “the most widely read ancient literary texts, from Homer to the Hellenistic poets, the later historians, and the New Testament Gospels and Acts of the Apostles.” The lexicon, which will tip the scales at ~1,500 pages, is set to be published by Cambridge University Press in 2018, but will also be made available online through the Persus Database.

Getting a Sneak Peak

You can have a look at a sample page by clicking here. There is also an excellent page of Greek lexicographic resources worth browsing through. You will also want to check out this video on the project:


I have little doubt that this Greek lexicon will significantly reshape the landscape. It will most likely replace the much-beloved Liddell-Scott-Jones dictionary, and all of its dependents – if you haven’t bought the new Brill dictionary, don’t. To this extent (which is significant), the Cambridge Greek Lexicon will also prove a great boon to the study of the Septuagint and – distant though it may seem – of the Old Testament as well.


(1) On which I highly recommend John A. L. Lee, A History of New Testament Lexicography.

Conference Announcement: Soisalon-Soininen Symposium on the Septuagint

There is an exciting event that was recently announced in the Septuagint studies community: a symposium honoring the 100th birthdate of the celebrated Finnish scholar, Ilmari Soisalon-Soininen (1917-2002). The event, hosted by Raija Sollamo, Anneli Aejmelaeus, Seppo Sipilä and Anssi Voitila, will be held 1-3 June 2017 at the University of Helsinki.

Who Was Soisalon-Soininen?

Those not active in the discipline of Septuagint studies are unlikely to be familiar with the work of Soisalon-Soininen. However, within the discipline he is a seminal figure – “the grand old man of Finnish Septuagint studies” – having founded the so-called Finnish School (or Helsinki School) of Septuagint scholarship. He also trained a significant number of now senior scholars in the discipline, Raija Sollamo and Anneli Aejmelaeus some of the most notable among them (the latter of whom, I am pleased to say, will be featured in one of my upcoming Septuagint Scholar interviews). Aejmelaeus, for her part, is now director of the Helsinki-based Research Project for Textual Criticism of the Septuagint.

The Finnish School took shape around Soisalon-Soininen’s focus upon Greek syntax in the Septuagint. In fact, his approach was the fountainhead for what is now commonly called “translation technique” within the discipline. Although this approach has had its share of criticism of the the years, Finnish scholars now recognize the overly mechanical sound of the word “technique.” In Soisalon-Soininen’s many publications, there is a clear focus on the translators, their linguistic habits, and a close, phrase-level analysis of their work rendering the Hebrew scriptures into Greek. Soisalon-Soininen and the Finnish School are known for a rigorous and statistical analysis of syntactical features of the translation technique of a given unit or book of the Septuagint, with a view towards characterizing the translator’s approach along a “literal – free” spectrum.

For the most part, this work takes Hebrew syntax as its point of departure in analyzing the Greek translation, and gives little attention to the historical or social context of the translators themselves. For the Finns, the focus is exclusively upon the linguistic phenomena of the texts, not least of all in order to build a profile of a given translator such that his Greek target text can be retroverted and used in the textual criticism of the Hebrew Bible. Aejmelaeus has been a key figure carrying this approach forward (e.g., this volume and others). A number of studies, however, particularly those in the Twelve Prophets, have found that the broad assumptions of the Finnish School – namely that the translators worked in narrow segments of text, with little broader discourse awareness, and rarely introduced deliberate changes to the text – do not fully apply (I am thinking of Palmer in Zechariah, Glenny in Amos, Mulroney in Habbakuk, and Fresch using documentary evidence).

Even though a growing number of current scholars active in Septuagint scholarship have taken issue with aspects of the Finnish School’s approach, Soisalon-Soininen and his successors deserve ample recognition for their work advancing the state of the question. Previously, most focus in Septuagint scholarship, particularly that of Max L. Margolis, had been falling upon lexicography (an important field, no doubt), but Soisalon-Soininen recognized the need for analysis at the phrase level, which was certainly a step in the right direction.

The Symposium

The symposium has a stellar lineup of plenary speakers, including some of the leading voices in the discipline today. And, in keeping with the linguistic focus of the Finnish School, the topics and speakers bring that same mindset to their topics:

JAN JOOSTEN, “Grammar and Style in the Septuagint: On Some Remarkable Uses of Proverbs.”
JAMES K. AITKEN, “Standard Language and the Place of the Septuagint within Koine.”
SILVIA LURAGHI and CHIARA ZANCHI, “New Meanings and Constructions of Prepositions in the Septuagint: a Comparison with Classical and New Testament Greek.”
JOHN A.L. LEE, “Back to the Question of Greek Idiom.”
THEO VAN DER LOUW, “The Dynamics of Segmentation in the Greek Pentateuch.”
RAIJA SOLLAMO, “The Usage of the Article with Nouns Defined by a Nominal Genitive.”
ANNELI AEJMELAEUS, “Translation Technique and the Recensions.”
SEPPO SIPILÄ, “Soisalon-Soininen meets Grice: The Cooperational Principle and the Septuagint Syntax.”
ANSSI VOITILA, “Middle Voice as Depiction of Subject’s Dominion in the Greek Pentateuch.”

Happily, you can not only go to this conference, but you still have time to present. The call for papers is currently open. Slots are available for 30 minutes, whose topics focus on “Septuagint syntax, Ilmari Soisalon-Soininen’s research on the topic and / or the Septuagint language as part of the broader development of the Greek language.” The deadline to submit a proposal is 31 October 2016, and they should be sent to Anssi Voitila (