I am pleased that the first post in this blog for the current year, and indeed the first post in exactly 16 months, should appear in celebration of the 13th annual International Septuagint Day—a commemoration vested with enormous significance in the Bouncing into Graceland festal cycle, second only to International Moisés Silva Day (September 4) and just ahead of International Translation Day (September 30, the real feast of St Jerome). It is much to be regretted, however, that in spite of its paramount importance, today’s festival was last mentioned here in 2009, fully a decade ago. With no small amount of remorse, then, yet equally resolved to amend such a grievous misstep, I turn to the solemnities at hand.
Of course you, my gentle snowflakes, will recall that (as I noted back in 2008) Emperor St Justinian’s Novella 146, which legislates the use of the “Greek […] text of the seventy interpreters” in Greek-speaking synagogues, was issued on February 8, A. D. 553. Thus, as the great Bob Kraft has said, the International Organization for Septuagint and Cognate Studies (IOSCS) chose this day for the annual commemoration as “reflecting the one date we know of from late antiquity on which LXX/OG/Aquila received special attention.” This is not, however, the whole story.
As you all know, it is the chief burden of Bouncing into Graceland to spread the knowledge of the infallibility of Moisés Silva throughout the land, and Our Infallible Hero is an able Septuagintalist and an IOSCS member of long standing. It should come as no surprise, then, that as a sedulous researcher attuned to all matters Silvanic, I should in time happen upon a genuine Moisifical connection to the establishment of our high festival. And so I should like to direct your attention to the minutes of the IOSCS General Business Meeting held in Washington, D.C., on November 20, 2006, which under item 7a (“Other business from the floor”), states:
“A motion to establish February 8 annually as International Septuagint Day to promote the discipline on our various campuses and communities was moved by Karen Jobes, seconded by James Aitkin [sic] and carried” (BIOSCS 40 , 143).
Notice here who made the motion: the divine Karen Jobes, Gerald F. Hawthorne Professor Emerita of New Testament Greek and Exegesis at Wheaton College, who is herself a Septuagintalist of note and served at that time as IOSCS Secretary. But how, do you ask, did Professor Jobes become interested in LXX studies in the first place? She explains:
“The inspiration […] was born during my doctoral studies at Westminster Theological Seminary in a course entitled ‘The Greek Old Testament,’ taught by Moisés Silva. I had previously heard Professor Silva comment that this course was the hardest one offered at the seminary. Being a woman who enjoys a reasonable challenge and having become enamored with Biblical Greek, I registered for the course with enthusiasm.
Very quickly I began to appreciate both the technical and conceptual complexities of Septuagint studies. So many of my naive assumptions about texts, manuscripts, and the Scriptures I hold dear were quickly shattered. I began to see a more profound, mysterious, and wonderful picture that captured my scholarly imagination. I’ve been hooked on Septuagint studies ever since” (Karen H. Jobes and Moisés Silva, Invitation to the Septuagint, 2nd ed. [Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Academic, 2015], xiii).
This led eventually to her dissertation on The Alpha-Text of Esther: Its Character and Relationship to the Masoretic Text (Atlanta, GA: Scholars Press, 1996) under the direction of Our Infallible Hero, to her sustained attention to the LXX in her distinguished teaching and scholarship, and indeed to the above documented motion at the IOSCS General Business Meeting on November 20, 2006, which established our honored festival day. And so it all harks back to one scholar’s (undoubtedly often thankless) service to the discipline, which captivated the imagination of a student who became a brilliant scholar in her own right, and who has since led several of her own students down the same path. May their tribe increase!
In addition to her above mentioned works on the LXX, Professor Jobes has also produced the introduction and translation of Esther for the New English Translation of the Septuagint, the translation of Esther in the Codex Sinaiticus for the British Library, and in collaboration with several of her students, Discovering the Septuagint: A Guided Reader (Grand Rapids, MI: Kregel Academic, 2016). She has also published a number of articles on Septuagintal topics, all of which are available for download on her website.
So, with that, a happy International Septuagint Day 2019 to one and all! For other posts in honor of this universal commemoration, see our friend Mike Aubrey’s post over at Koine Greek, which highlights the recently published 2-vol. Septuaginta: A Reader’s Edition (Peabody, MA: Hendrickson, 2018) and runs through some linguistic data on ἰσχύ+INF in the LXX, and William Ross’ post over at Septuaginta &c., which features a wonderful interview with Septuagintalist Kristin De Troyer. Incidentally, William Ross has been picking up the slack for our high festival for the past several years, all the while completing his doctorate on the LXX at Cambridge and co-editing the mammoth reader volumes to which we have just referred. You know, no big deal. And last but certainly not least, Marieke Dhont has a fascinating guest post over at the Logos Academic blog on the digitization of LXX manuscripts at the Vatican Apostolic Library.