Honoring Stephen Levinsohn in London
On July 4, 2011, more than two years’ of preparation came to fruition when I presented Discourse Studies and Biblical Interpretation: A Festschrift in Honor of Stephen H. Levinsohn to the honoree at the International meeting of the Society of Biblical Literature. Levinsohn has played a significant role in shaping my approach to linguistics, a process that first began via email in 2000. Over the years he has served as an informal doctoral adviser and mentor. I’d send him questions and he’d reply with reading lists, very much in keeping with the British model of research.
For those unfamiliar with the term, a Festschrift is a collection of essays typically written by students and colleagues that is presented to a scholar upon retirement, turning 65 or 70, or some other milestone. Since Levinsohn has never formally held a post at a college or university, the contributors were all scholars with whom he’s interacted over the years: at conferences, on publication projects, or both.
When the location for the 2011 ISBL meeting was first announced in 2009 I began looking into possibility of organizing a Festschrift volume. Potential contributors were contacted, a special session was requested from the SBL, but the real glitch was a publisher. No one I contacted expressed much interest in producing the project since these projects typically lose money. I approached Logos Bible Software about the matter, and they were willing to take on the project despite the financial outlook. They agreed that Levinsohn deserved to be honored, and committed to invest the resources needed to see the project come to fruition.
When the last articles from contributors arrived this January, John Barry and his publication team took over the project, doing a fantastic job. The final version was sent off to production by early Spring, more than enough time to ship the presentation copies of the book to the UK. On the morning of July 4, Jenny Read-Heimerdinger, Margaret Sim, Buist Fanning, and I presented papers, with Ronnie Sim presiding over the session. The papers were new, not the ones presented in the book. At the end, a copy of the Festschrift was presented to Stephen. In his usual style, Stephen questioned each of the presenters, pointing out areas that needed clarification or correction. That evening Logos sponsored a dinner for the presenters in attendance.
Few projects I have worked on have proven more difficult or more rewarding. Seeing Levinsohn’s work honored has been a bucket-list item of mine for some time, and it was really a blessing to see everything come together. Here is a list of the contributions:
- “Discourse Analysis as an Aid to Bible Translation” by Iver Larsen
- “Why Hasn’t Literary Stylistics Caught on in New Testament Studies?” by Stanley E. Porter
- “Let Me Direct Your Attention: Attention Management and Translation” by Robert A. Dooley
- “How Orality Affects the Use of Pragmatic Particles, and How It Is Relevant for Translation” by Regina Blass
- “Organization and Allusion in Ezekiel 20” by Ronald J. Sim
- “Breaking Perfect Rules: The Traditional Understanding of the Greek Perfect” by Constantine R. Campbell
- “Greek Presents, Imperfects, and Aorists in the Synoptic Gospels: Their Contribution to Narrative Structuring” by Buist Fanning
- “The Verbal Aspect of the Historical Present Indicative in Narrative” by Steven E. Runge
- “Particles and Participles: A Helpful Partnership” by Margaret G. Sim
- “The Semantic Effect of Floating Quantifiers in New Testament Greek” by Lindsay J. Whaley
- “The Discourse Function of ἀλλά in Non-Negative Contexts” by Rick Brannan
- “Information Structure Issues in Copular εἶναι Clauses” by Nicholas A. Bailey
- “Evaluating Luke’s Unnatural Greek: A Look at His Connectives” by Randall Buth
- “The Use of the Article Before Names of Places: Patterns of Use in the Book of Acts” by Jenny Read-Heimerdinger
If have not already done so, I’d strongly recommend ordering a copy of this volume. I’d also ask readers to spread the word to those who might also be interested in it. It is only available electronically at this time, and can be read using the free Logos app for Mac, PC, iPod/iPad, and now Android. I’ll keep you posted about a print version if and when that happens. Presently it is not available in print.
For those of you not in attendance, Craig Baugh recorded some of the presentations and has made them available with the speakers’ permission. Please contact him directly for links to other presentations. Here are the links to the presentations by myself and Levinsohn:
Paul and Pauline Literature Section
Hellenistic Greek Language and Linguistics Section
I’ll do a post later on about my experience teaching through the Discourse Grammar of the Greek New Testament at Wycliffe Hall, Oxford the week before ISBL. Headed out on vacation tomorrow.