All posts by Rick Bonnie

Workshop: “Social-Scientific Theorizing and Biblical Studies” (26-27 April, Helsinki)

Place: Faculty Room 5th floor, Vuorikatu 3, Faculty of Theology

Wednesday 26 April

10:00‒12:00 Prof. David Chalcraft (Liverpool John Moores University)
The most useful sociologist(s) to think with in Biblical Studies (depending on the task in hand)

13:30‒14:30 Dr. Jessica Keady (University of Helsinki)
From PhD to Postdoctoral Studies: Gender, Purity, Performance, and Positioning in the Dead Sea Scrolls

14:30‒15:00 coffee

15:00‒16:00 Dr. Jason Silverman (University of Helsinki)
The Socio-Political Implications of Language Choice: Towards Analyzing Persian Period Judaean Communication using the Sociolinguistic Concepts of “Code-Switching” and “Code- Mixing”.

Thursday 27 April

9:00‒10:00 Dr. Joanna Töyräänvuori (University of Helsinki)
How to Study Strategies Used by Minority Cultures in Dealing with Oppressive Ideological Messages in the Ancient World

10:00‒11:00 Dr. Jessi Orpana (University of Helsinki)
On Cultural Negotiation

11:00‒12:00 Dr. Doc. Jutta Jokiranta (University of Helsinki)
On the Fuzzy ‘Authority’ & Conclusions

16:15‒18:00 CSTT Lecture Series: Prof. David J. Chalcraft, (Liverpool John Moores University)
Moving Through Texts: The Rituals of Reading and the Sociology of Mobility

Rituals are Exciting! An Interview with Jutta Jokiranta

What is your research about, in general terms?
My research is about the Second Temple period and processes of creating Judean/Jewish identities, especially in light of the Dead Sea Scrolls (or Qumran texts). It’s also about imagining what texts mean during this time when they are written in scrolls, and about the impact of rituals in humans’ lives and perceptions.

Why particularly did you choose this direction for your career?
Rituals are underrepresented in research that has been keen on finding meanings of texts and symbolic interpretations; rituals take seriously the need for doing and aspects that are common to all human beings: patterns of ritualization and rituals as mediating traditions. Identity has been part of my research always!

How would you describe the relevance of your work for society?
The more I study, the more I think of big questions: how is human thought constrained by its innate capacities. and how does that effect the way we think of God, gods or otherworldly beings, for example. How is our perception of the world embodied and extended? Cognitive science of religion brings together the past and the present to answer such questions.

More focused on biblical studies: it is valuable to study in which forms sacred texts exist in different times and how they are understood to exist and work. Before books and print culture, you could not walk with “the bible” in your hand. Furthermore, Judaism is and was not only one thing, then and now. Christians tend to look at Judaism of the New Testament as legalistic, ritualistic, and corrupt, but one gets a different story in the Scrolls.

Looking back at your academic work so far, what would you say you are most proud of?
Perhaps being able to show the relevance of social-scientific approaches in Qumran and biblical studies: studying social identity, sectarianism, authority, or almost any topic can benefit from critical thinking about the concepts we use or from informed theories.

Can you tell us a short story about something that happened to you during your career that amazed you?
Well, I was amazed during these past years to find myself in archaeological excavations and enjoying it so much — or rather that my physical condition did not let me down! I am really grateful for these opportunities.

Is there anything you’ve researched that you never thought you’d find yourself interested in?
It may sound funny, but somehow the Maccabean/Hasmonean history with all the power struggles and various successive kings has not been so appealing to me, but recently these things have become more alive and meaningful, also because of archaeology.

With the cognitive approaches, I find myself reading studies referring to neuropsychology or evolutionary theories, and those can be quite apart from traditional biblical studies.

What are you working on at the moment?
I want to find out how ritualization, as a mechanism of actions that feel compelling, functions within various rituals or practices, and how we might detect this phenomenon that can be significant in dealing with anxieties. I also want to explain what kind of ideas and practices were connected to covenant making and covenant renewal, and what difference those make, especially with the Qumran movement as a case study. Rituals are exciting!

Jutta Jokiranta is University Lecturer in Hebrew Bible/Old Testament Studies at the University of Helsinki, Department of Biblical Studies (since 2009). She is currently Team Leader of CSTT’s Team 4 Society and Religion in Late Second Temple Judaism (2014‒2019) and is also an Academy Research Fellow for her project Ritual and Change in the Qumran Movement and Judaean Society (2014‒2019). More information can be found on her University of Helsinki profile-page.

Interview conducted by Helen Dixon

Why the stadium of Roman Tiberias was not a stadium but a harbor quay: A Dialogue between Archaeology and Text

By Rick Bonnie

While archaeological excavations often help us to elucidate the narratives found in ancient texts, trying to combine the two sources can sometimes lead us astray. Examples where texts are used for the interpretation of archaeological material usually receive a lot of attention in the media. Cases when archaeology and text cannot be so easily used together are considered much more rarely, especially in the weeks around Pesach and Easter when hyperbole in terms of the importance of certain finds tends to hit the media machine. I wish to focus here on a case where text and archaeology cannot be so straightforwardly combined.

Continue reading Why the stadium of Roman Tiberias was not a stadium but a harbor quay: A Dialogue between Archaeology and Text

Video lectures of 2nd Workshop on Gender, Methodology and the Ancient Near East

The video lectures of the 2nd workshop on Gender, Methodology, and the Ancient Near East, which was held in Barcelona in February 2017 (full program here and a report here), are now online.

The Youtube playlist has the following presentations:

  • Welcome to the Second Workshop on Gender, Methodology and the Ancient Near East – Adelina Millet Albà (IPOA, Universitat de Barcelona)
  • Presentation and introduction to the Second Workshop on Gender, Methodology and the Ancient Near East Agnès Garcia-Ventura (IPOA, Universitat de Barcelona) & Saana Svärd (University of Helsinki)
  • “Dressing the Whore of Babylon for the 21st Century: Sex, Gender and Theory in Mesopotamian Studies” – Ann Guinan (Babylonian Section, University of Pennsylvania, Museum of Archaeology and Anthropology)
  • “Queering šà Therapy. Considerations on the Relations between Masculinity, Sickness and Anatomy” – Gioele Zisa (Ludwig-Maximilians-Universität München)
  • “Domesticating the Female Body: Ancient Mesopotamian Discourses on Fertility and (Re)production” – M. Erica Couto-Ferreira (Universität Heidelberg)
  • “Nefertiti and the ‘Docile Agent'” – Jacquelyn Williamson (George Mason University)

Women and the Bible: a Wikipedia Story

 By Rick Bonnie and Helen Dixon

Last week Friday’s Wikipedia edit-a-thon on “Women and the bible” was a great success. The edit-a-thon was organized by the CSTT and was open for all faculty and students of Helsinki’s Faculty of Theology. (If you’re unfamiliar with what an “edit-a-thon” is and would like to know more, check out this site.) And, though we were only around a dozen in number, the participants from Theology and the volunteers of Wikimedia Suomi created and edited around a dozen of entries in the Finnish and English Wikipedia. Continue reading Women and the Bible: a Wikipedia Story

Naiset ja Raamattu: Wikipedian kertomana

By Rick Bonnie and Helen Dixon (translated by Ville Mäkipelto)

Viime viikon perjantaina järjestetty ”Naiset ja Raamattu” Wikipedian muokkausilta (”edit-a-thon”) oli menestys. Tapahtuman järjesti Pyhät tekstit ja traditiot muutoksessa -huippuyksikkö ja se oli avoin kaikille Helsingin Teologisen tiedekunnan henkilökunnan jäsenille ja opiskelijoille. Huolimatta siitä, että paikalla oli vain noin tusina ihmistä, osallistujat ja Wikimedia Suomen vapaaehtoiset loivat ja täydensivät kymmeniä artikkeleita suomen- ja englanninkieliseen Wikipediaan. Continue reading Naiset ja Raamattu: Wikipedian kertomana

Wikipedia edit-a-thon “Women and the Bible”

The CSTT organises a Wikipedia edit-a-thon, open to the entire Faculty of Theology, on the theme of “women and the bible,” in honor of International Women’s Day (March 8). The event will be held Friday, March 10 in the 5th floor faculty hall (Vuorikatu 3)2:30pm – 6pm (or later if people want to stay on).  The CSTT will provide training for everyone to edit Wikipedia at the event with help of Wikimedia Finland volunteers.

Research has shown that ca. 90 percent of Wikipedia editors are male. This has a profound impact upon what content is being created and updated on this influential encyclopedia. As Wikipedia is the most used encyclopedia and is often the first place that high school pupils, university students, and laypeople look for information, addressing this gender imbalance is of high importance.

Together, on March 10, we plan to improve both the Wikipedia pages on female Finnish biblical scholars and on women in biblical literature, in a social and casual atmosphere. The CSTT will provide an assortment of snacks and celebratory drinks.

You are very welcome to join us! Please register (for free) here, so we can keep an accurate headcount:


Report on the “Second Workshop on Gender, Methodology and the Ancient Near East”

By Saana Svärd and Agnès Garcia-Ventura

The “Second Workshop on Gender, Methodology and the Ancient Near East” took place in Barcelona February 1-3, 2017. The workshop was hosted by IPOA, the Institute of Ancient Near Eastern Studies of the University of Barcelona (Spain), and organized in cooperation with the Centre of Excellence in “Changes in Sacred Texts and Traditions” (University of Helsinki, Finland). Organizers were Agnès Garcia-Ventura (IPOA, University of Barcelona) and Saana Svärd (University of Helsinki). The workshop was a continuation of the “First Workshop on Gender, Methodology and the Ancient Near East.” The first workshop was organized by the same two scholars at the University of Helsinki in October 2014 and hosted by the Centre of Excellence in “Changes in Sacred Texts and Traditions.”

The aim of both meetings was to discuss different methodological and theoretical approaches to gender within the framework of ancient Near Eastern studies (including archaeology, art history and text studies) and to enable fruitful dialogue between these approaches. Moreover, for this second workshop, colleagues from neighboring disciplines were also encouraged to submit proposals, in order to enrich these conversations further. As a result, the second workshop included colleagues from the disciplines of Assyriology, Archaeology, Egyptology, Phoenician and Punic studies, and Biblical studies (see the full program).

The conference lasted three days and featured 33 communications, a poster session where six posters were presented, and a projects panel where nine new and ongoing projects where discussed. The event was well attended and all in all included roughly 90 participants, including speakers and poster presenters. The speakers and poster presenters came from various universities in twelve countries, namely Belgium, Denmark, Finland, France, Germany, Holland, Italy, Japan, Malta, Spain, the United Kingdom, and the United States of America.

The results of such a rich and diverse conference cannot be summed up in a short blog post. Suffice it to say here that the sheer chronological, geographical and methodological scope, as well as the general high quality of papers, promises good things for the future of gender studies within the context of ancient Near Eastern studies.

The organizers: Agnès Garcia-Ventura and Saana Svärd

Since both workshops have been well received and the number of participants has increased, the organizers decided to plan a third workshop in the series, hoping the initiative will have continuity as a biannual conference. Thus, the third edition of the meeting, co-organized in cooperation with Professor Katrien De Graef, will be hosted by the University of Ghent (Belgium) in 2019. More information will be published in due time. Please feel free to contact us if you have any questions and/or if you want us to keep you posted on other future ventures related to gender studies and ancient Near Eastern studies we may launch. You may contact us at: agnes.ventura[AT] or saana.svard[AT]

Tiedeykkönen valottaa Raamatun muutoshistoriaa

Vanhan testamentin eksegetiikan professorit Martti Nissinen (huippuyksikön johtaja) ja Anneli Aejmelaeus (tiimin 2 johtaja) vierailivat Ylen Tiedeykkönen ohjelmassa kertomassa huippuyksikön tutkimuksesta ja Raamatun synty- ja muutoshistoriasta. 45 minuuttia kestävässä ohjelmassa lähdetään liikkeelle huippuyksikön esittelystä ja päädytään Raamatun värikkään muutoshistorian eri vaiheiden kuvailuun.

Martti Nissinen kertoo ohjelmassa, miksi ”Pyhät tekstit ja traditiot muutoksessa” -huippuyksikkö on luonteeltaan niin kansainvälinen. Lisäksi Nissinen avaa huippuyksikön tavotteita vuodelle 2019 ja kuvailee Vanhan testamentin tekstihistorian keskeisiä vaiheita. Nissisen keskeinen viesti on, että historiassa ei ole ollut yhtään sellaista hetkeä, jolloin Raamatun teksti olisi ollut valmis tai kaikille sama. Ensimmäisistä kirjakääröistä moderneihin käännöksiin asti juutalaisten ja kristittyjen pyhä kirjakokoelma on ollut kokoajan muutoksen alaisena.

Anneli Aejmelaeus puolestaan avaa kaanonin eli ohjeellisen kirjakokoelman synnyn monimuotoisia vaiheita. Kansien väliin koottu nykykristittyjen Raamattua muistuttava kokoelma on ollut ensimmäistä kertaa olemassa vasta 300-luvulla, kun Rooman valtakunnan tuki on mahdollistanut kalliin projektin toteuttamisen. Vanhan testamentin ensimmäisen kreikankielisen käännöksen eli Septuagintan ja Qumranin tekstilöytöjen tutkimus osoittaa, että ajanlaskun taitteessa monet tekstit ovat olleet vielä kehitystyön alla. Aejmelaeus korostaa, että nykyraamattujen kääntämisessä käytetyn tarkkaan yhtenäistetyn ja vakinaistetun heprealaisen tekstin takana on ollut tekstien moninaisuus. Yhtenäisyys on myöhäisempää kehitystä.

Haastattelujen lomassa ohjelmassa kerrataan yleistajuisesti ja napakasti Raamatun tekstihistorian keskeisimpiä vaiheita. Ylen laadukkaasti toimitetun ohjelman voit kuunnella täältä:

Reflecting on a Career Studying the Septuagint: An Interview With Anneli Aejmelaeus

1. What is your research about, in general terms?
My special area of research is the Septuagint, the ancient Greek translation of the Hebrew Bible, translated by Jews during the 3rd–1st centuries BCE in Alexandria. I am preparing the first critical edition of the Septuagint text of the First Book of Samuel (= First Kingdoms) for the series of the Academy of Sciences in Göttingen. However, this work cannot be done without all the time having an eye on the text of the Hebrew Bible, as I need to reconstruct the kind of Hebrew text that was used by the translator and to survey the translation technique and the competence of the translator. Practically, I am doing textual criticism of the Greek and the Hebrew text of 1 Samuel at the same time. But this is the only way to proceed with the critical edition. Continue reading Reflecting on a Career Studying the Septuagint: An Interview With Anneli Aejmelaeus