Editor’s note: this interview was originally published March 23rd, 2015.
Name: James Tucker
Education: I received a BA in Greek from Multnomah University, and a MA in Biblical Studies from Trinity Western University. While I was at TWU, I participated in the Septuaginta Summer Course at Georg-August-Universität Göttingen. Currently, I am working on a Ph.D. at the University of Toronto. This summer I will be in Israel for Ulpan studies at The Hebrew University.
Favorite things: Apart from my academic responsibilities and interests—which are part of my favorite things to do—I like to cook meals for my family. Eggs Benedict is my favorite meal to prepare. I like the precision and exactness a really good Eggs Benedict demands from its chef. In addition, I have recently become a cycling enthusiast during Spring and Summer.
How did linguistics intersect with biblical studies in your life (or vice-versa)?
The intersection of linguistics and biblical studies occurred fairly early in my academic training. While I was working on my BA, several linguistic oriented reading assignments in Greek and Hebrew language courses piqued my interest in Generative Linguistics. Later, my linguistic reading and research led me to cognitive and sociohistorical linguistics. To my mind, the acquired linguistic skills have become an important resource in my philological studies of Second Temple era manuscripts.
What informal or personal educational experience stands out the most to you in your learning career?
There are several things I could mention here, and nearly all of them are in some way related to impromptu meetings at academic conferences or events. One memorable example is an evening I spent with Ben Wright—at the superb Restaurant Potis in Göttingen, Germany. It was an enriching time spent conversing about Ben Sira, LXX studies, Second Temple Wisdom texts, the guild of Qumran studies, and academic life in general.
What would you say is your linguistic niche, or what are you most interested in? (limit of two topics)
My interests are historical sociolinguistics and particularly the relationship between historical linguistics and philology.
Where is your field headed? What advances are being made others might should be aware of?
Two important conversations are taking place in the field of Qumran studies and textual criticism of the Hebrew Bible. On the one hand, the various texts of a “rewritten” nature are prompting scholars to think carefully about the methods and categories used to describe these texts. On the other hand, the pluriforimity of readings in the so-called biblical scrolls are ineluctable to Lachmannian philology. To my mind, the methodological insights of historical sociolinguistics promises to offer a productive way to articulate (some) aspects of scribal culture in the Second Temple era, as well as to describe textual variances within linguistic and literary approaches.
How do you hope your work will contribute (or counter) to this end?
I hope to contribute to the ongoing discussions of scribalism and textual transmission in terms of linguistic diversity, literary editions, and artifactual philology.
What is your end goal with your training? (e.g., teach, research, preach, translate, etc.)
I would particularly enjoy the opportunity to spend the remainder of my life researching and teaching.
What books / articles are you currently reading or enjoying most? (Limit 3)
Young, Ian and Robert Rezetko. Historical Linguistics and Biblical Hebrew: Steps Toward an Integrated Approach. Atlanta: Society of Biblical Literature, 2014.
Qimron, Elisha. The Dead Sea Scrolls: The Hebrew Writings. Between the Bible and Misnha. Jerusalem: Yad Ben-Zvi Press, 2010–2014, 3 vols. (Hebrew)
Teeter, David Andrew. Scribal Laws: Exegetical Variation in the Textual Transmission of Biblical Law in the Late Second Temple Period. Tübingen: Mohr Siebeck, 2014.
Who have been your biggest role models?
There are so many people I could list here. Dr. Karl Kutz has had a significant impact on me. It was Karl who taught me that, above all, hard work is the prerequisite to any academic career. Secondly, I deeply respect Prof. Emanuel Tov, Prof. Eugene Ulrich, Prof. Benjamin Wright, and Prof. Sarianna Metso. Their erudition in the primary evidence is worthy of emulation, and has served as a reminder of where to allocate my time.
What is one piece of advice for those following in your tracks?
Know your texts and the languages used to compose them.