Friday, March 04, 2016

Paul Keim profiled

PHILOLOGIST: CONNECTING GOSHEN TO DEAD LANGUAGES, TRAVEL ABROAD, AND THE OLD TESTAMENT (ELSA LANTZ, The Record). That is, Goshen College in Indiana, not the biblical Land of Goshen.
Paul Keim, professor of Bible and Religion, has an office filled with books on languages, books on the bible and one rabbit that he thinks might belong to the Biology department.

Keim has been working at Goshen College since 1997, although he did not become a professor until 2001. He attended Goshen College as a student before going to Anabaptist Mennonite Biblical Seminary, or AMBS, and then Harvard. At Harvard, Keim earned a degree in ancient Near Eastern languages and civilizations, which Keim says is “what you do when you study the Old Testament.”


However, Keim has a stronger focus on classical and dead languages. He’s studied all of the Semitic languages—Hebrew, Greek and Latin [Greek and Latin are not Semitic languages. - JRD]. He has also studied many ancient dialects [i.e., languages - JRD] like Acadian [Akkadian - JRD (the brackets in the next paragraph aren't mine)], Ugaritic, Classical Arabic, Aramaic, Syriac and others.

“There is something about the mystery [of a language],” said Keim. “The allure [to learning new languages] is that there are these sounds and signs that remain a secret way of communicating. And it opens up a whole world, a culture and history, a different way of thinking. The way words sound and their histories, I find it very interesting.”

Keim mentioned that when walking around Petra, Jordan, he saw inscriptions on the walls that were 2000 years old. Because Keim had been studying the language, he could read them. “It was like time travel,” he said. “It was a great feeling.”

Professor Keim and I overlapped as PhD students at Harvard University in the 1980s. I haven't seen Paul for a long time. It's good to see what he's been up to.