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'Found in Translation': Greenspoon is subject of Festschrift

Leonard Greenspoon, PhDAcross the halls of academia, there are grants, honorary degrees, endowments, chairs — a host of recognizable accolades for individuals who have dedicated their lives to deep, advanced studies in a chosen discipline.

In academic work itself, there are citations of a professor’s written and presented works, subtle nods to hard-won discoveries and truths that help foster the discipline along, tracking its history and trajectory.

Combine esteem and bibliography in one package and the result is the Festschrift, a celebration of the writings, work and insights of a renowned scholar, by renowned scholars. Leonard Greenspoon, PhD, Creighton University’s Klutznick Chair in Jewish Civilization and a professor of theology and classical and Near Eastern studies, is one just a few Creighton faculty members to be the subject of just such a work, Found in Translation: Essays on Biblical Translation in Honor of Leonard J. Greenspoon, edited by James W. Barker, Anthony Le Donne and Joel N. Lohr, and just published by Purdue University Press.

“It’s an immense honor,” said Greenspoon, whose expansive career includes work in the Bible ranging from deep meditations on translation to the use of biblical texts in comic strips and elsewhere in popular culture. “It’s honoring and it’s humbling. To me, it’s the highest honor a professor in the humanities can get — that one’s own colleagues think highly enough of your scholarship to produce new work based specifically on your ideas to propel the study forward.”

Found in Translation comprises 12 essays in two parts from leading biblical scholars around the world, all connecting their work to that of Greenspoon. Though not Greenspoon’s graduate students, as is typical in Festschrift authorship, the contributing scholars have been, in one way or another, mentored by Greenspoon during their careers.

A Festschrift honoring Creighton professor Leonard Greenspoon, PhD, is titled Lost in “What makes it all the more gratifying is that a few of the people doing the writing are people I met when they were just starting out as scholars,” he said. “To think that you’ve had an effect on people to the extent that they say, ‘Well, Leonard had this thought and I’d like to expand on it,’ that’s a very humbling experience.”

Having been a contributor to Festschriften himself, Greenspoon said the volume written in his honor fruitfully combines his own thoughts about an academic career with his colleagues’ work in building on contributions he’s made to scholarship and advancing some of the techniques he’s proffered in translation work.

In the Festschrift’s first part on ancient Hebrew scriptures and Greek translations, essays range from a disquisition on the old Greek translation of the Book of Isaiah, chapter 40, to a study of the version of the Book of Joshua done by Symmachus, who translated the Old Testament into Greek.

The second part of the book delves into modern translations of Jewish and Christian scriptures, including contemplations on modern political consequences of translation. Here, there is one study on the advent of Judaism in the Americas and the Shoah (or the Holocaust); two others consider anti-Semitism in the context of biblical translation.

The Festschrift essays are a testament to Greenspoon’s capacious scholarship, which has taken on the more solemn questions of hermeneutics but has also left room for him to explore such avenues as humor in the Bible. Most recently, Oxford University Press has commissioned Greenspoon to write a book, the 32nd he has authored or edited, asking the Creighton scholar to opine on possible resting places for the Ark of the Covenant, last seen in the sixth century, BCE.

“Maybe if I had stuck with just one of those areas or fields, I could’ve gone deeper into it,” Greenspoon said with a laugh. “But there was always so much to explore and so much I wanted to talk about. I like to think by having a number of different interests, I was able to help more young scholars explore their own interests and find something they could more deeply pursue.”

There is a brief biographical interview with Greenspoon that opens the book, and also a forward by Jonathan Rosenbaum, a rabbi and president of Gratz College, in which Greenspoon is lauded as a person who “personifies the ideals of the academy and of society” and who has “developed an academic exemplar worthy of emulation, that of public scholar.”

As for being “found in translation,” as the title notes, Greenspoon said he’s just been grateful to be able to do his part in throwing light on the wisdom of the ages.

“Translation is remarkable and I’ve had a remarkably wonderful time doing it,” he said. “I honor anyone who is serious about it and I’m very grateful to the editors of this book who saw something in what I have done that has resonated for them and, hopefully, with many others who get into these texts and manuscripts.”

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