Tag Archives: biblical languages

In Memoriam: James “Jim” Aitken

With a heavy heart I learned this morning of the passing of Jim Aitken, a fellow traveler in the field of Septuagint and, more broadly, biblical studies. Jim West posted initially about Jim’s death here, and subsequently posted the SOTS announcement here.

There will be, no doubt, many over the next week who post tributes to Jim as a first-rate scholar with an international reputation. He deserves every bit of honor and esteem that will pour forth in journal notices and social media.

Behind the scholarship and erudition, however, was a warm, witty, gracious man. I remember my first personal encounter with Jim–New Orleans (Nov 2009) during SBL. A relatively new Ph.D. into my second year of teaching at Houston Baptist (now Houston Christian University), I had presented a paper in the Septuagint & Cognate Studies section on the topic of Aramaic influence on Greek translations of the Hebrew Bible. My friend John Meade was also presenting in that session, and both of us were rather intimidated by the towering scholars of the field in the room. Afterwards, Jim came up to chat. Since I didn’t know him, I didn’t know what to expect (sometimes SBL meetings can resemble a gladiatorial bloodletting!). What I received was refreshing–warm encouragement, genuine interest in my thoughts, and time. Plenty of time. The room was filled with many important people, and Jim chose to spend time talking to me (and John), who were fairly unknown scholars trying to find our way in the world of the academy. I’ve always appreciated that first conversation with Jim.

Our paths continued to cross over the year at SBL meetings. When we finally starting graduating students from our MA in Biblical Languages program, one of our promising young graduates, Chris Fresch, decided he’d like to study Septuagint. I knew exactly who to send him to–Jim Aitken at Cambridge. I have known several now who have worked with Jim during their graduate work, and each has voiced admiration and appreciation for him.

My last interactions with Jim were happy ones. During the ETS/SBL meetings in Denver last year, Jim and I happened to grab a seat together over lunch at the Zondervan luncheon. We enjoyed a nice visit at that time. What’s more, to come full circle from John Meade’s and my initial meeting with Jim together in 2009, the two of us got to see Jim last Novermber at the Denver SBL meeting during a special dinner honoring Peter Gentry in anticipation of his Festschrift (coming out in 2023 with Peeters). Jim Aitken had graciously agreed to submit an essay for the volume, and so as editors of the volume, John Meade, Jonathan Kiel, and I were keen to have Jim there for that special dinner. Little did we all know that it would be our last meal together, so we thank our God for his kind providences. At the end of this post are some photos from that dinner celebration. One of the pictures is of Jim with Peter Gentry, and the larger photo has Jim to the right of Claude Cox, across the table from Emanuel and Lika Tov.

When I heard about Jim’s untimely death, I checked his Twitter profile just to see if there were any updates or news there on what had happened. The final post on his profile reads as follows (dated Mar 30, a week before he passed away):

I wrote 5 words yesterday, but they were all exceptionally good words. At least two (“the …of…”) will probably survive the final edits too.

As I wrap up this “good word” (eulogia/εὐλογία), I note that Jim’s life to the very end was concerned with writing exceptionally good words. May the life-long legacy of his good words continue to shape, challenge, and sharpen us, even in those areas where we might sharply disagree. That, too, would honor Jim’s life.

Hebrew: the EASY language?

Just posted this today at the HBU School of Christian Thought blog. Reblogging for those who don’t catch the SCT site regularly.

School of Christian Thought


One of our MA in Biblical Languages students did an undergrad degree in French at the University of Oklahoma.  While on a brief visit to his old alma mater recently, he snapped this picture of one of the bulletin boards in the language department. Especially intriguing is the green flyer. So . . . Hebrew is a fun, EASY language! Who knew?

Of course, my students who are in the middle of learning first-year Hebrew don’t think it’s easy (although I have heard from a number of them that they do think it’s fun).  How easy is Hebrew compared to, say, Greek? Hebrew is simpler than Greek in a number of ways, and often simpler is easier. So here are a few tidbits for the interested reader. In my Koine Greek class, we learn 24 forms of the definite article (the). In Hebrew, we learn one basic form…

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HBU Hosts Dr. Emanuel Tov Lecture on Dead Sea Scrolls

The Houston Baptist University School of Christian Thought/Dept of Theology is pleased to invite any and all to a FREE public lecture tonight (Monday, 7pm) featuring Dr. Emanuel Tov.  Dr. Tov is recognized as the world’s leading expert on the textual criticism of the Hebrew Bible (his textbook on this topic is considered the gold standard among those in the field) and on the Dead Sea Scrolls.  He served as the Editor-in-Chief of the project called “Discoveries in the Judean Desert,” which was responsible for publishing the Dead Sea Scrolls materials for the scholarly world. As Director of the MA in Biblical Languages, let me say that I am nothing short of thrilled that our students living in Houston have the opportunity to meet with and hear such first-rate scholars in fields like these. We are indeed very honored to be  hosting Dr. Tov at HBU this evening. See details of the meeting below:

LECTURER: Emanuel Tov, J. L. Magnes Professor Emeritus of Bible Studies at Hebrew University in Jerusalem

LECTURE TOPIC“The Biblical Dead Sea Scrolls”

DATE: October 22, 2012

TIME: 7:00 to 9:00 p.m.

LOCATION: Belin Chapel on the campus of Houston Baptist University (in the Morris Cultural Arts center)


Official Announcement: HBU to begin MA in Biblical Languages in Aug 2009

Houston Baptist University has announced the inauguration of her newest M.A. program:  the Master of Arts in Biblical Languages (MABL):

“Houston Baptist University will begin offering its tenth master’s degree program, the Master of Arts in Biblical Languages, in August 2009. In addition to permitting students to establish a master’s level proficiency in both Hebrew and Greek, the program will include work in linguistics, hermeneutics and Aramaic.

Students completing the 30 hours in biblical languages required to earn the degree will learn from three nationally and internationally recognized linguists who each work in Greek, Hebrew and Aramaic. The Master of Arts in Biblical Languages program will equip graduates to read the Bible and related literature in their original languages with an understanding of grammatical, syntactical, semantic, discursive, rhetorical, exegetical and hermeneutical issues.”

Read the whole press release here.

For a basic intro to the MABL, go here.

To apply for the program, go here.

To see program requirements, go here.

For MABL faculty, go here.