Biblical Studies Section
At the Biblical Studies Section we study and teach the texts of the Hebrew Bible and the New Testament as well as the Qur’an. These texts exercise an enormous influence on religion, faith, culture, and practice in history and today. The Hebrew Bible and the New Testament came into being over a long period reaching back more than 2000 years. When we attempt to understand these texts, this requires insight into the period and society in which they were written, and knowledge of how people have used and interpreted the texts in different ways.
At the Section we work with the texts in their original languages, Hebrew, Aramaic (parts of the Old Testament), and Greek (New Testament), Arabic (Qur’an). We use methods and theories that range from philology, linguistics, archaeology, history, and sociology, to literary theories and theories of interpretation.
Interpreting the texts of the Bible is the core of the Section's expertise. We have also accumulated special research competencies in apocryphal literature, the Dead Sea Scrolls, Gnostic texts, reception history, Hellenic philosophy, gender hermeneutics, and text theory.
Research strategy 2020-2023 at the Biblical Studies Section
The Section studies the formative writings of Judaism, Christianity and Islam, in the Old Testament, the New Testament and the Qur’an. These scriptures are studied both separately and in terms of their interrelationship. The texts are the most influential writings in the world. They have had an immeasurable impact on the understanding of humankind, society and nature, both past and present. As a result, the study of these texts directly addresses several fundamental academic questions.
The researchers have a dynamic approach to the texts, looking at the various historical, social, literary, etc. preconditions behind them; the different redactional, narrative, rhetorical, etc. structures, layers and levels in them; and the effects and impacts on e.g. the history of events, mentality and research in front of them. The texts are viewed as complex and wide-ranging networks of impacts, relations, conflicts and effects. They are not just shaped by people; they also shape people that are born into their history of effects. The fact that the texts function as holy texts for living people is, therefore, a significant aspect of the Section’s work. The actual use of the texts, both now and in the past, is a priority area for research by the Section.
Approaching the texts in this dynamic and polyphonic way requires a theoretical and methodological pluralism. At least in principle, the exploration of the texts draws on all available and relevant methods and theories that can illuminate their many dimensions. However, the section has a particular focus on philological and historical critical perspectives that enable the adoption of new, critically and hermeneutically reflective approaches.
The Biblical Studies Section therefore operates within the tradition of classical historical criticism, with a particular focus on linguistics, but also integrates new methodologies and new approaches to the written texts, and because of the nature and status of the texts draws on an interdisciplinary network of meaningful configurations.
The Section aims to:
- Ensure continued critical and creative reflection on the foundational writings of religions, cultures and societies, in order to have an informed and qualified perspective on these texts
- Challenge current scholarly, secular and religious ideas
- Provide a classical education, with a view to ensuring a qualified, hermeneutically reflective and critical approach to the texts
- Critically reflect on the role of the texts and of exegesis in relation to religious institutions and political power structures.
- End time studies
Apocalypticism and eschatology are recurring themes throughout the areas covered by the Section. This field therefore combines Old Testament, New Testament and Qur’anic Studies. The Qumran scrolls include examples of the earliest occurrences of the apocalyptic genre. The Section explores the dynamics behind apocalyptic ideas and texts in the three religions, via a number of studies, each with a different theoretical focus, including cognitive. Semitic philology is a crucial element of these studies.
The aim is to establish an externally funded research centre that generates a range of publications, including digitalised versions of some of the Qumran scrolls. In addition to its obvious research benefits, the project serves to further integrate the Section’s academic groups and to develop theoretical and methodological competences in digital humanities and cognitive exegesis.
- Migration, exile and diaspora
A number of studies conducted by the various groups in the Section are gathered under this heading. Different approaches to texts from the Section’s entire corpus shed light on various aspects of the concepts of home and exile. The Section’s researchers employ a number of different new methods, including empirical ones.
The aim is to establish an externally funded research project that will generate multiple publications.
The project aims to shed light on themes that are of great interest to the general public. The research makes use of both traditional approaches and new methods that focus on how the texts are used in specific contexts.
- Language and translation
The Section has a particular focus on language, which it seeks to maintain and expand. It also focuses on the materiality of texts, paying attention to both the manuscripts and books and to the translations, which will be subject to independent studies. This will enhance the Section’s competences and bring them up to date in a new way.
The aim is to develop the theme as a shared focus in the Section, and lead to funding and publications that will position the Section at the centre of a new research area.
The Section of Biblical Studies’ research in Hebrew Bible literature focuses on three main areas: One research area is the critical discussion of the historicity of Hebrew Bible texts. The section is the home to the "Copenhagen School” in biblical studies. This school’s defining position is that the Hebrew Bible is not so much a book about ancient Israel's history and religion as it is a book aimed at early Jewish society in the fourth to second centuries BCE. The Hebrew Bible is not a book about the authors’ past, but a book about the society in which it was written and its intention is to inform this society about itself and the country to which it belongs, and about its relationship with God.
Another research area is to study religion, social customs and everyday life in Hebrew Bible texts. The section’s researchers apply a wide range of theories and methods borrowed from e.g. anthropology, sociology and cognitive science of religion in order to illuminate the ritual, social and sensual aspects of Hebrew Bible texts and to analyze them in their ancient Mediterranean contexts.
Finally, the section has been a center for research in exile and identity in Hebrew Bible literature for several years. The point of departure for this research area is an interest in the concept of exile as a literary theme or ‘topos’ in biblical literature rather than as a monolitihic historical event, which Hebrew Bible texts are interpreted through. Research in this area has treated topics such as myths, ideologies and metaphors of exile in the Hebrew Bible.
The Dead Sea Scrolls come from the time between the Old and the New Testament. Jewish scribes hid them away in caves 2000 years ago. They give us a direct glimpse of what Judaism was like at the time of Jesus, the first Christians and the early Rabbis. All other books that Jews wrote in this period, we only have in much later copies. But the scrolls bring us back to that time itself. They help us answer questions such as: How did Jews back then interpret the Law of Moses? How did they think of the Messiah? How was Jewish worship carried out? Section staff work on both the publication of the original hand-written scrolls and on exploring their content.
During several decades, the study of the relationship between Classic/Hellenistic philosophy and the New Testament has held a high priority at the Section. Two externally financed, collective projects, Philosophy at the Roots of Christianity (2003-2007) and Centre for Naturalism and Christian Semantics (2008-2014) have studied the complex influence of Stoicism and Platonism on primarily Paul’s letters and John’s Gospel.
Whereas the first project questioned the idea that the influence from philosophy belonged to the early Christian reception, the next project has shed new light on this reception by interrogating a clear-cut line between orthodox and the heterodox Christianity.
In particular, the research has broken new ground in New Testament studies by drawing attention to the way Stoic physics have influenced the phenomenon of the spirit in Pauline and Johannine texts. A new project, which focuses on the role of Stoic naturalism in the so-called esoteric Christian tradition (from ‘gnosticism’ via the monastic tradition to Protestant mysticism), is planned as a follow-up on the former projects.
Several of the sections’ researchers apply insights from gender studies in their readings of biblical and qur’anic literature. The vast majority of ancient texts reflect patriarchal and hierarchical societal structures and gender hermeneutics, such as feminist, masculinist, trans and queer readings, can help to both reveal, critique and question gender norms and ideals in these texts.
Through the centuries, people have translated and interpreted the texts of the Old and the New Testament in many different contexts. Jewish and Christian communities regard the texts as sacred and authoritative, and the texts function as the basis of worship, liturgy, doctrine, and practical instruction. There is a long tradition for reading and interpreting the Bible in devotional contexts, as well as in academic settings.
Furthermore, the Bible is interpreted in visual art, literature, music, drama, and cinema. This complex and variegated history of interpretation is important for understanding biblical texts and their effects. At the Biblical Studies Section we investigate the history of academic biblical interpretation and translation as well as various effects and echoes of biblical texts and themes in the history of culture more generally.
Several of the sections’ researchers explore canonical and non-canonical gospels. The project “The Gospels as Rewritten Bible” (2010-2014, partially prolonged until 2017) aimed at mapping the literary development of the New Testament gospels.
The project challenged amongst others the common view that two of the narratives that emerged in the wake of Mark, viz., Matthew and Luke, independently drew on a second source, traditionally called Q, that is no longer preserved. An alternative model is to assume that Luke is dependent on both, Mark and Matthew, which allows dispensing with Q.
Other projects explore the Christology in the Gospel of Mark as compared to the non-canonical Gospel of Peter and the logic of narrative development by investigating the ways later gospels (e.g. the Gospel of Nicodemus) rewrite earlier gospels.
Many of the sections’ researchers contribute to the emerging field of identity studies, e.g. regarding the significance of the Dead Sea Scrolls or the notion of ‘exile’ for the emergence of ancient Judaism; the decoding of the role of biblical narratives in the construction of identity has also proven to be a significant interdisciplinary contribution to ethnographic studies.
In the years to come the Sections plans to intensify the work on identify formation in and by the biblical tradition; this will for instance be furthered by a project on food and identity in biblical literature (focus on Old Testament and the ancient Near East) and by another one on identity construction in the three Abrahamic traditions (focus on conceptions of martyrdom) thus creating a natural link between the three research groups within the section and transgressing the boundaries of the respective canons.
The Qurʾān is regionally, linguistically, stilistically, thematically, theologically and historically related to a variety of biblical texts. This relationship is recognized in the Qurʾān itself; it mentions biblical texts such as Torah, the Psalms of David, and the Gospel and it refers to biblical characters and narratives.
Research has also revealed numerous links to biblical material beyond the canonical scriptures, e.g. various form of Jewish-Rabbinic and Christian texts. However, the Qurʾān is not only interconnected with the biblical literature and milieus but also stemmed from and relates to an Arabian polytheistic culture. These contextual factors demands a cross-disciplinary combination of qurʾānic and biblical scholarship to which the present focus area is committed.
This focus area is also based on the conviction that modern qurʾānic studies can make use of the rich theoretical and methodological apparatuses of Biblical studies. Running in the period 2018-2021 the research project Ambiguity and Precision in the Qurʾān (supported by the Danish Independent Research Council) investigates linguistic and rhetoric markers for ambiguity and precision in the qurʾānic text.
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|Alexiana Dawn Fry
|Annette Hjort Knudsen
|Daniel Christian Maier
|Evan Isak Levine
|Jacob Hinrich Langeloh
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|Jesper Tang Nielsen
|Jessi Anita Orpana
|Julie Sigaard Törnkvist
|Kacper Jakub Ziemba
|Martin Gustaf Ehrensvärd
|Matthew David Larsen
|Associate Professor - Promotion Programme
|Melissa Sayyad Bach
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|Niels Peter Lemche
|Niels Valdemar Vinding
|Paul Matthew Babinski
|Peter Brylov Christensen
|Rebecca Naomi Reiss
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|Robert Carl Rezetko
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