Category Archives: Interviews

Reflecting on a Career Studying the Septuagint: An Interview With Anneli Aejmelaeus

1. What is your research about, in general terms?
My special area of research is the Septuagint, the ancient Greek translation of the Hebrew Bible, translated by Jews during the 3rd–1st centuries BCE in Alexandria. I am preparing the first critical edition of the Septuagint text of the First Book of Samuel (= First Kingdoms) for the series of the Academy of Sciences in Göttingen. However, this work cannot be done without all the time having an eye on the text of the Hebrew Bible, as I need to reconstruct the kind of Hebrew text that was used by the translator and to survey the translation technique and the competence of the translator. Practically, I am doing textual criticism of the Greek and the Hebrew text of 1 Samuel at the same time. But this is the only way to proceed with the critical edition.

anneli_aejmelaeus_haastattelu2. Why particularly did you choose this direction for your career?
I was fortunate to be able to work already as a student in the research project of Professor Ilmari Soisalon-Soininen. He was the first one to do Septuagint research in Finland. He was interested in the syntax of the Greek language used by the translators, and his innovative methodological approach to this area of study was to do it from the angle of translation technique. My first area of study was the Greek translation of clauses introduced by certain Hebrew conjunctions (ו and כי) in the Septuagint. This was a very good introduction into philological work on the Septuagint. When I started as professor in Göttingen (1991), I broadened my scope to different areas of Septuagint research, and was then assigned to prepare the critical edition of 1 Samuel.

3. How would you describe the relevance of your work for society?
It is difficult to demonstrate the direct relevance of this kind of basic research for society. However, it participates—as a fundamental part of Biblical studies—in the task of educating people in matters concerning the Bible, i.e., its origins and contents, as well as a responsible way of reading it. Ultimately, it is a question of resisting fundamentalism and helping to discover the real values represented in the Bible.

4. Looking back at your years as a professor, what would you say you are most proud of?
I am proud of my students. I am happy that I have been able to pass on some of the know-how that I have received and learned myself. Project funding from the Academy of Finland has helped a great deal in this respect. I am also very proud of our Centre of Excellence, the excellent research produced in it, and the atmosphere of exchange and cooperation that we have among us.

5. Can you tell us a short story about something that happened to you during your career that amazed you?
When I started working on 1 Samuel, I did not expect to find what I found: so many deliberate changes in the Hebrew text and so many corrections according to the Hebrew text in the Greek, especially in Codex Vaticanus. It has amazed me that students who have been studying the texts with me have often been ready to see the changes in the text when I was still hesitating myself. On the other hand, it amazes me how slow the reception of new results and ideas is among the international scholarly community. At a conference in Madrid 2014, when I had been giving papers about my discoveries in the Septuagint text of 1 Samuel for already ten years, my colleagues, who had heard me speak several times about the same discoveries, asked me whether I really meant what I said. It had taken them ten years to understand what I said – not to speak of approving or discussing my discoveries with me.

6. Is there anything you’ve researched that you never thought you’d find yourself interested in?
Paleography is a new area for me that I needed to enter, because the only way to get hold of a newly discovered fragmentary Greek papyrus of 1 Samuel was to gather a group of young scholars and students to prepare the publication of this manuscript. It has been great fun to work with the group, and the publication of the papyrus is approaching completion. It is a remarkable papyrus, and I dare say, the publication will be worthy of it.

7. What are you working on at the moment?
I will be concentrating on the critical edition of the Septuagint of 1 Samuel as long as it takes to finish it. This long-term project will also produce a few other publications on the Hebrew as well as the Greek text of 1 Samuel. I will also continue as the vice-director of the Centre of Excellence “Changes in Sacred Texts and Traditions.”

8. Is there anything you look forward to leaving behind when you retire?
 I look forward to finally being able to do what I should have been doing all the time as a professor, namely, research. It is really tragic that the life of an academic is today so hectic: so many things to do and so many deadlines, papers all over the world and preparing all of them for publication, meetings and administration, teaching and exams, etc. Although I have loved working with the students – and I will continue working with my doctoral students – I am happy to be able to leave behind the hectic and concentrate on the research projects that need to be finished.

Interview conducted by Helen Dixon.

Collaboration is the Key for Preparing a Critical Septuagint Edition: An Interview with Tuukka Kauhanen

(for a Finnish version of this interview, please click here)

The research of changes in ancient texts can be compared to diagnostics. The differences observed in manuscripts are symptoms of conditions or diseases. By observing these symptoms one can reach the causes and find a cure, that is, an answer for the question: what has happened to the text? Continue reading Collaboration is the Key for Preparing a Critical Septuagint Edition: An Interview with Tuukka Kauhanen

Septuagintan Kriittinen Editio Syntyy Yhteistyössä: Haastattelussa Tuukka Kauhanen

(for an English version of this interview, please click here)

Muinaisten tekstien muutosten tutkimusta voi verrata diagnostiikkaan. Käsikirjoituksissa havaitut erot ovat oireita ja merkkejä tiloista tai sairauksista. Oireita tarkkailemalla voi päästä käsiksi erojen syihin ja löytää hoitokeinon eli vastauksen kysymykseen: mitä tekstille on tapahtunut? Continue reading Septuagintan Kriittinen Editio Syntyy Yhteistyössä: Haastattelussa Tuukka Kauhanen

Käännöstyön käänteitä tutkijan silmin – Haastattelussa Elina Perttilä

Vanhojen kielten taito ei ole ihan tyypillinen osaamisala Suomessa, mutta huippuyksikössä yhden tai useamman muinaisen kielen osaaminen on enemmänkin sääntö kuin poikkeus. Monen huippuyksikköläisen kielitaitolistalta löytyy esimerkiksi koineekreikka tai raamatunheprea. TT Elina Perttilä on yksi harvoista, joilla on hallussa myös muinaisessa Egyptissä käytetty koptin kieli. 
Continue reading Käännöstyön käänteitä tutkijan silmin – Haastattelussa Elina Perttilä

The Study of Changes in the Ancient World Has an Impact on the Present: An Interview with Mika S. Pajunen

(for a Finnish version of this interview, please click here)

The recently published Finnish translation of the Dead Sea Scrolls (Kuolleenmeren kadonnut kansa; Gaudeamus, 2015) opens a window into ancient Jewish literature and culture that was before the Qumran finds reachable only through the New Testament. The volume builds upon the work of internationally recognized Finnish Qumran scholars. It was edited by Raija Sollamo and Mika S. Pajunen, who also was recently granted the title of docent Continue reading The Study of Changes in the Ancient World Has an Impact on the Present: An Interview with Mika S. Pajunen

Muinaisten muutosten tutkimus tulee lähelle nykyaikaa: Haastattelussa tutkija Mika S. Pajunen

(for an English version of this interview, please click here)

Vastikään julkaistu teos Kuolleenmeren kadonnut kansa (Gaudeamus, 2015) tarjoaa ikkunan sellaiseen muinaiseen juutalaiseen kirjallisuuteen ja kulttuuriin, joka ennen Qumranin käsikirjoituslöytöjä tunnettiin lähinnä Uuden testamentin kautta. Teos kumpuaa kansainvälisesti arvostettujen suomalaisten Qumran-tutkijoiden tutkimustyöstä. Sen toimittajat ovat Raija Sollamo ja juuri dosentin arvon saanut Mika S. Pajunen Continue reading Muinaisten muutosten tutkimus tulee lähelle nykyaikaa: Haastattelussa tutkija Mika S. Pajunen

Beyond Isolation in Biblical Studies: An Interview with Francis Borchardt

1. Who are you and where do you come from?
My name is Francis Borchardt, and I was born and raised in New York. Although I spent significant time in Paris as an adolescent and Rome during my time in University, most of my youth was spent (wasted?) in the New York metropolitan area.  Continue reading Beyond Isolation in Biblical Studies: An Interview with Francis Borchardt

Silmät Auki Sitaateille: Haastattelussa Katja Kujanpää

Katja Kujanpää tutkii, miten Paavali ajankohtaistaa pyhiä tekstejä.

Mitä tapahtuisi, jos apostoli Paavali osallistuisi teologisen tiedekunnan soveltavien opintojen kurssille? Jos hän vaikkapa saarnaisi katkelman Roomalaiskirjettä osana jumalanpalvelusharjoituksia?

”Hän saisi kyllä osakseen runsaasti kritiikkiä”, vastaa tohtorikoulutettava Katja Kujanpää empimättä. ”Joku varmasti kysyisi häneltä, onko raamatunkohtien eksegeettinen analyysi jäänyt tekemättä”.  Continue reading Silmät Auki Sitaateille: Haastattelussa Katja Kujanpää

Dosentti päivystää henkimaailman asioita: Haastattelussa Hanne von Weissenberg

Toimittaja Aarno Laitisen keksimä pilkkanimi ”päivystävä dosentti” toi yliopistollisen arvonimen kaiken kansan suuhun. Termillä Laitinen sohaisi paitsi epämääräisiä kommentteja latelevia ylipistotutkijoita myös – ja ehkä ennen kaikkea – laiskoja ja tietämättömiä median edustajia: Laitisen mielestä nämä eivät tahtoneet aina jaksaa paneutua sopivien asiantuntijoiden etsimiseen vaan pakottivat samat tutkijat kommentoimaan asiaa kuin asiaa. Moni tavallinen mediankuluttaja on kuitenkin ottanut Laitisen ivailun merkkinä siitä, että yliopistoväki on pääasiassa turhanpäiväistä joukkoa – dosentit etunenässä.  Continue reading Dosentti päivystää henkimaailman asioita: Haastattelussa Hanne von Weissenberg

Research through Passion and Collaboration: An Interview with Martti Nissinen

(for a Finnish version of this interview, please click here)

Martti Nissinen, Professor in Old Testament Studies at the University of Helsinki, is a world-renowned researcher whose expertise includes the study of historical prophetism, assyriology, and gender studies. Nissinen is the director of the Centre of Excellence in Changes in Sacred Texts and Traditions at the Faculty of Theology in Helsinki, which hosts over 40 researchers from various countries. I had a morning coffee discussion with him and got to know his path as a researcher. 
Continue reading Research through Passion and Collaboration: An Interview with Martti Nissinen