Diary type Reports from Robert Kraft on the Conference on

The Septuagint in Ancient Judaism and Early Christianity

(8-11 September 2002, Bangor Theological Seminary, Bangor Maine) From September 8 to 11, 2002 Bangor Theological Seminary hosted an international conference on the
Bangor campus. Ten German and twelve US/Canadian scholars met to discuss the latest research on the earliest Greek versions of Jewish scriptures (collectively called "Septuagint" and/or "Old Greek") that formed the text base for what became the Christian "Old Testament."

Details about the conference program may be found at http://www.bts.edu/lxx
(see the "Information for Participants" entry as well)

Participants were housed at the Holiday Inn, 500 Main Street, Bangor, ME 04401, opposite the giant statue of Paul Bunyan.

Saturday Evening, 7 September 2002

Well, here I am in Bangor Maine, on the Penobscot River. First time for me. Not a very big city (about 60,000, I'm told), but with some interesting features. I ate last night with four German colleagues (one of them the host, David Trobisch, who has been here since 1997) in a nice Pub, the Sea Dog Brewing Co., along the river. Several of us had the fish and chips, which was quite nice, as the British would say. The restaurant features various beers, including Blueberry (a trade name -- it is not actually made from blueberries), but I had some mildly alcoholic cider instead. My appreciation for beer has never advanced to the point of enjoyment. Three other German colleagues arrived from he airport before we left the restaurant. The conference is essentially made up of about a dozen German scholars and a dozen Americans (including Canada). Fortunately, all the Germans speak English and will do thir presentations in English. I attempted a little German at the Pub, but it's difficult. Reading is another matter (easier).

The flight here was uneventful. We loaded pretty much on time, but had to wait about 15 minutes on the runway in Philadelphia. The flight pattern took us on a loop to the south, which afforded an impressive view of Philadelphia from the NJ side as we turned northeast -- I was on the west side of the airplane and could see quite well. We flew to the NJ shore just below NYC, then across LI and Cape Cod (I think I saw Providence in the distance) and parallel to the coast to Bangor. Fun to try to guess where we were. The maps in the airline booklet were unhelpful.

Sunday, 8 September 2002

I'm in room 502 of the Holiday Inn, 207-947-8651. It is a nice place, and I'll probably walk around a bit today before the meetings begin. The weather is cooperating so far, and promises to continue for the big "whale watch" excursion out of Bar Harbor on Tuesday.

I woke up early, having gone to sleep relatively early the night before, and read more of the dissertation draft that I brought for such spare moments. It is very slow going, since I'm trying to check the Latin translations, which are many.

Around 9 am, I went to the nice breakfast buffet here at the Hotel, then telephoned Ben Wright, a former student of mine, and had a cup of tea with him as he breakfasted. He was meeting friends at 10:30, and I walked around town for a couple of hours in the morning heat(!). Interesting place, but almost everything was closed on this Sunday. On the way back I found a large supermarket open near the Hotel, and purchased an Italian hogie and some soda for lunch.

I spent the afternoon reading more dissertation and watching football. Then dressed up for the evening reception at the Seminary. We had a lovely time, with the usual mingling around drinks (I had sparkling cider), then group pictures followed by a buffet dinner -- all at the historic Hannibal Hamlin house in which Lincoln's first vice president lived. The President of the Seminary, William Imes, lives there now. Back to the hotel around 9, for more dissertation and football. And this. Tomorrow the real work begins, with papers all day, then me trying to do a "public lecture" in the evening. The linked images in my presentation will help, as long as the computer works well!

Monday, 9 September 2002

Today went well, although it was unusually hot again, and the building in which the meetings were held is not airconditioned. Breakfast at the hotel, then a full morning of papers.

Today's program was as follows:

Wolfgang Kraus (Univ. Koblenz-Landau, Campus Koblenz, Germany)
Albert Pietersma (University of Toronto)
Cameron Boyd-Taylor (Near and Middle Eastern Civilisations / University of Toronto)
Benjamin G. Wright (Dept. of Religion Studies, Lehigh University. Bethlehem, PA)

Lunch at Millers' Restaurant (all you can eat!), Bangor

For the afternoon sessions, they tried to cool down the room with a couple of window air conditioning units, but it didn't work. We finally had to open windows and run fans. The papers were by:

Stephen P. Ahearne-Kroll (Yale Divinity School, New Haven, CT)
Ralph Brucker (Theol. Fakultät University of Hamburg, Germany)
Kristin De Troyer (Professor of Hebrew Bible, Claremont School of Theology, Claremont) [in absentia]
Beate Ego (Univ. Osnabrück, Institut für Evang. Theologie, Osnabrüc, Germany)

Supper consisted of a cold buffet in the Bangor Theological Seminary Commons.

In the evening, my "public lecture" went well and was well attended (maybe 75 people). The computer setup worked fine, and I showed lots of images of ancient Jewish manuscript fragments in Greek. The only real downside was the heat, since the building was not airconditioned -- who needs such stuff in northern Maine!?

Afterwards, some of us went to an Irish pub in a hotel adjacent to our hotel. All in all, a fine day.

Tuesday, 10 September 2002

Since the conference meetings began today at 8:30, I arose early in order to check email (which for some reason was not working last night), breakfast, etc.

It's was a good day, if also long. We heard and discussed 5 scholarly papers about the ancient Greek translations of Jewish scriptures in the morning, then boarded a big bus and rode to Bar Harbor, an hour or so away.

The following colleagues made presentations in the morning:

Heinz-Josef Fabry (Kath. theol. Fakultät Univ. Bonn, Germany) [in absentia]
Patricia Ahearne-Kroll (Yale Divinity School, New Haven, CT)
Aaron Schart (Univ.-GH Essen, Germany; Institut für Evang. Theologie)
Siegfried Kreuzer (KiHo Wuppertal, Germany)
Robert J. V. Hiebert (Associate Professor of Old Testament, Trinity Western Seminary, Langley, B.C., Canada)

After a Sandwich Lunch in the BTS Commons, we boarded the bus for Bar Harbor and the Whale Watch.

There was some time to look around the harbor town (very upscale shoppes in general) before our ship, the Helen H, took us aboard and headed for the open ocean. We wove our way out through fields of lobster trap buoys, and about an hour later spotted a couple of flumes almost dead ahead. They turned out to be a pair of finback whales feeding and cavorting a bit. They are large mammals, but don't show off as much as humpbacks. Fortunately, as we moved closer to where the finbacks had been active, a humpback was spotted not far away. We must have spent an hour or so sitting or circling that area, which must have been an attractive feeding spot, since ultimately we saw at least three humpbacks (they all had names and histories, according to our shipboard naturalist) and at least three finbacks (which move much more quickly through the water, so we seldom got as close to them). I had my digital camera along, and was able to get some good images (near and far, both still pictures and moving), while also missing many -- because there is a slight delay between pressing the button and capturing the image on such cameras, I have several shots of white water splashes where the whale just disappeared!

In any event, it's hard to imagine a more successful trip. True, we didn't see any porpoises, but it was hard to keep track of all the whale sightings. And we escaped yet another fairly hot day -- jackets were in style on shipboard, even hooded windbreakers.

Upon return to shore around 6:30, as the sun was setting, we reboarded the bus and drove to the Bar Harbor Lobster Bakes restaurant a short ways down the road. There we enjoyed a sumptuous seafood meal, with all the mussels you wanted to eat for openers, then lobster, potatoes, corn on the cob, coldslaw, and for dessert blueberry cake with whipped cream. There were the normal beverages (coffee, iced tea, water), plus a cash bar. We left there about 9 pm, and headed back to Bangor.

Back to scholarly papers all day tomorrow, and the closing session at night. But this was a nice break, and it was especially fun to help our visiting German colleagues, many of whom had never eaten whole lobster or seen whales, to savor the situation as well. They all speak excellent English, so that is not a problem. And they all were looking forward to these new experiences. I don't think anyone was disappointed. I certainly wasn't.

After the trip, some of us unwound at Geaghan's Pub near our Hotel. If it sounds Irish, you've got it right.

Wednesday, 11 September 2002

Today was a heavy workday at the conference, with 9 papers and a closing reception, plus a chapel memorial service (Episcopalian) on the 9/11 anniversary. Also, the weather started out clear and quite warm, but
by mid afternoon heavy rain and wind hit, and a drop of about 30 degrees in the temperature. The rain passed, but it was cold walking between buildings for the closing reception, which was again at Hannibal-Hamlin
house (once owned by Lincoln's first Vice President), which is now the residence of the President of the Bangor Theological Seminary. The buffet meal there was again outstanding. Then back to the Hotel for packing and
more dissertation draft reading (also on the airplane). I've got about 50 pages more to go.

Thursday, 12 September 2002

I'm back in the office. The return trip was uneventful, even on time! I was sitting on the west side of the airplane, looking inland most of the way, although we did pass over the east tip of Long Island which I could recognize -- basically the same route as going up, but perhaps a bit more to the east. People on the other side of the airplane could see Boston andmore of the New England coastline, I think.

Anyhow, its good to be back.