Tuesday, October 17, 2023

Surprise re-connections - All Greek to me 4)

 Just recently I came across a name from the past.  Prof. G.D. Kilpatrick.  Actually, it jolted me back to my student days in Oxford.  For our university exams, just one set at the end of three years, we were allowed to specialize in one paper. Though an extremely disappointing student of French and German I really enjoyed one particular dead language -New Testament Greek.  I won a university prize for translation which encouraged me to opt for the specialist final examination of NT textual criticism.  This involved studying the various textual possibilities that are sometimes found in old manuscripts and occasionally noted at the foot of our Bible translations.  I was fascinated to find out more.

Unfortunately only two other students joined me in preparing for the exam.  The four of us would meet around a large table in the professor's room as he gave us exercises to work on.. Dr. Kilpatrick was a leading Bible translator with an international reputation, yet he treated us as fellow translators.  I tell you, I had to concentrate in that room! It was all Greek because it was assumed we would automatically translate. The different symbols for important codex manuscripts needed mastering with an awareness of their dating.  It was pretty overwhelming as was the final exam, taken in sweltering heat as I wore my gown (a statutory requirement). The three of us were scattered across the room, heads bent and (in my case) attempts to subdue panic.

And the surprise re-connection? While on sabbatical in Cambridge, the Dean of the vast South Western Seminary for Baptists in Texas attended my church.  One day he asked me whether I would like to accompany him to Oxford because he had been asked by his Seminary to examine an impressive library of books and manuscripts with a view to purchase.  Would they be worth the thousands of dollars asked? And yes, it was the very same room we entered. It was one of those very strange experiences of being catapulted into a space you never thought you would see again.

I am not sure whether the seminary did purchase the collection. I think others were interested!  But how's that for an odd re-connection?

No comments: