All posts by Ville J Mäkipelto

Finnish guy. Just another PhD student trying to make sense of the world and people living in it. A wannabe Biblical scholar.

Professor Martti Nissinen: “Biblical interpretation is always political”

Any reading of the Bible is always selective: the more political the agenda, the more biased the reading, says Professor Martti Nissinen. According to the researcher, ideals of gender equality have met with surprising resistance within some circles interpreting the Bible.

Read the whole interview from the University of Helsinki website.

Martti Nissisen haastattelu: “Mitä poliittisempi agenda, sitä tarkoitushakuisempi Raamatun luenta”

Kaikki Raamatun lukeminen on valikoivaa: mitä poliittisempi agenda, sitä tarkoitushakuisempi luenta, professori Martti Nissinen sanoo Helsingin yliopiston verkkohaastattelussa. Sukupuolten tasa-arvon ihanteet ovat tutkijan mukaan raamatuntulkinnassa nyt yllättävässä vastatuulessa.

Lue huippuyksikön johtajan uusi haastattelu kokonaan Helsingin yliopiston verkkosivuilta.

Upcoming Lecture: “Di­a­spora Na­tion; or, What is the Jews?” and Workshop on Gender and Religious Identity

You may be interested in the following upcoming public  Collegium Lecture in Helsinki at the Helsinki Collegium of Advanced Studies. The theme of the lecture is very much relevant also to CSTT related research.

“Di­a­spora Na­tion; or, What is the Jews?” by Daniel Boyarin, Taubman Professor of Talmudic Culture and rhetoric, UC Berkeley.

Time: Monday, May 27 at 5 pm (with re­cep­tion)

Venue: Uni­versity of Helsinki Main Build­ing, Small Hall (Fa­bi­aninkatu 33, 4th floor)

De­scrip­tion:

In this lecture, I will contend that the binary opposition: The Jews is a religion/The Jews is a nation is based on a false dichotomy. It is further flawed by the assumption that nation is tantamount to nation-state such that only the option “religion” constitutes an oppositional position vis-a-vis a Jewish nation state. I will discuss scholarship that proves definitively that many–if not most–early Zionist political thought did not involve the building of a state. The bulk of the lecture will outline the idea of a Diaspora Nation as the once and (possible) future for the continued existence of the Jews.

For more information about the event and the speaker, visit the Helsinki Collegium of Advanced Studies website.

Workshop: Gender and Religious Identity

There will also be a workshop before the lecture on May 27 organized in honour of the visit by Boyarin. The theme is Gender and Religious Identity, and speakers include Martti Nissinen, Saana Svärd, Outi Lehtipuu, and many others. The workshop is open for all: for more information click here.

The Program of the Workshop:

9.00: Martti Nissinen, HY: The Agency of the Female Prophets of the Hebrew Bible: Independent or Instrumental? Prophetic or Political?

9.30: Saana Svärd, HY: Studying Gender in the Ancient Near East

10.00: Outi Lehtipuu, HY: “No Male and Female”: Gender and the Rhetoric of Recognition in Early Christianity

10.30-11.00 Coffee break

11.00: Susanna Asikainen, HY: Investigating Emphasized Femininities in the Rewritten Biblical Narratives

11.30: Katharina Keim, Lund: Women and Gender in Pirqei deRabbi Eliezer

12.00-13.00: Lunch break

13.00-1530: Re­li­gious iden­tity ses­sion

13.00: Antti Vanhoja & Nina Nikki, HY: Paulinism and Anti-Paulinism: Cultural Evolutionary Perspectives

13.30: Pekka Lindqvist, ÅA: Confrontations and Exegesis in Early Judaism

14.00-14.30: Coffee break

14.30: Maijastina Kahlos, HY: Pagans, Heretics, or Sorcerers? Labels and Identities in Local Religion in the Fifth Century CE

15.00: Riikka Tuori, HY: Karaite Identity in Early Modern Europe

 

The cover picture is from the Diaspora Museum, Tel Aviv – en:Beit Hatefutsot. Exhibit showing “One culture:Many facets. The growth of pluralism in modern jewish spiritual life.” By Sodabottle / Wikimedia Commons.

Video: Miten historiaa tutkitaan?

Miten historiaa tutkitaan? Mikä rooli lähdekritiikillä on kirjallisten ja arkeologisten lähteiden tulkinnassa? Entä voiko kuvista johtaa historiallista tietoa?

Huippuyksiköiden “Pyhät tekstit ja traditiot muutoksessa” ja “Muinaisen lähi-idän imperiumit” videosarjan toisessa osassa käsitellään historiallisen tutkimuksen menetelmiä. Videolla eksegetiikan professori Martti Nissinen, arkeologian yliopistonlehtori Antti Lahelma ja eksegetiikan tohtorikoulutettava Sanna Saari kertovat tutkimuksen menetelmistä ja mielenkiintoisista tapausesimerkeistä.

Videolla selviää myös, minkälaista tietoa arkeologit voivat johtaa roskapusseista ja miten suomalaiset tutkijat ovat valottaneet Indiana Jonesistakin tuttua arkeologista kohdetta.

Videosarjan ensimmäinen osa käsitteli Raamatun muutosten tutkimusta ja sen voi katsella täältä. Sarjan kaksi viimeistä osaa julkaistaan vuoden 2019 aikana ja niissä käsitellään englanniksi muinaista maahanmuuttoa ja sukupuolentutkimuksen näkökulmia muinaisen Lähi-idän ymmärtämiseen.

Uutuuskirja ja podcast: Sukupuoli Raamatun maailmassa

Miten Raamatussa kuvaillaan sukupuolia ja sukupuolielämää? Suomen eksegeettisen seuran uutuuskirja Sukupuoli Raamatun maailmassa tarjoilee aiheesta monipuolisen artikkelikokoelman. Kirja sisältää myös useita huippuyksikön tutkijoiden kirjoittamia artikkeleita. Kirjan esittely kuuluu:

“Mitä Raamatussa sanotaan sukupuolista ja sukupuolielämästä, miehistä ja naisista? Miten erilaiset käsitykset sukupuolesta ilmenevät paitsi Raamatussa myös muissa aikalaislähteissä? Entä mitä näistä muinaisista lähteistä voidaan sanoa sukupuolentutkimuksen valossa? Sukupuoli Raamatun maailmassa esittelee raamatuntutkimuksen ja sukupuolentutkimuksen leikkauspintoja suomalaiselle yleisölle.

Kirja on ensimmäinen suomenkielinen Raamattua ja sukupuolentutkimusta käsittelevä yleisteos. Se soveltuu sekä aihepiiriin perehdyttäväksi oppikirjaksi että muille aiheesta kiinnostuneille.

Moniääninen teos havainnollistaa sukupuolentutkimuksen rakentumista Raamatun ajan maailmassa erilaisia metodologisia tulokulmia hyödyntäen. Lähestymistavat ulottuvat arkeologiasta tekstintutkimukseen ja eletyn uskonnon viitekehyksestä queer-teoriaan. Raamatun tekstien ohella kirjassa tarkastellaan Qumranin tekstejä, hellenistijuutalaista ja varhaiskristillistä kirjallisuutta ja myöhäisantiikin maailmaa.”

Kirjan toinen toimittaja Elisa Uusimäki, huippuyksikön tiimin 4 jäsen, vieraili Susanna Asikaisen kanssa Vanhojan ja Nikin kirjapodcastissa puhumassa kirjasta ja sen käsittelemistä teemoista. Podcastin voit kuunnella täältä.

Kirjan voi hankkia itselleen Tiedekirjan verkkokaupasta.

Video: Cultural Evolution and the Biblical World

How does the concept of cultural evolution relate to biblical studies? Elisa Uusimäki, a post-doctoral researcher from CSTT team 4, produced an interview about the topic to the European Association of Biblical Studies (EABS) digital video platform Scholars’ Corner. The interview features Petri Luomanen (University of Helsinki), his team, and Armin Geertz (Aarhus University). You can watch the interesting 30 minutes interview below.

Description from the EABS website: “Prof. Petri Luomanen, Professor of New Testament and Early Christian Culture and Literature at the University of Helsinki, tells us about his current research project ‘Early Christianity in Cultural Evolution’, funded by the Academy of Finland. We’ll begin with a review of Prof. Luomanen’s academic journey so far, learning how his doctoral and postdoctoral research eventually led him to analyse early Christianity in a social-scientific framework. We’ll also meet Luomanen’s research group and hear about the types of added value that the project on cultural evolution has given to the careers of the team members. Finally, Prof. Armin Geertz (Aarhus University), one of the advisory board members of Luomanen’s project, shares his thoughts on the relevance of cultural evolutionary and bio-cultural approaches to the study of religion.”

Call for papers – The Strange and the Familiar: Identity and Empire in the Ancient Near East (Helsinki)

The call for papers for the conference “The Strange and the Familiar: Identity and Empire in the Ancient Near East”, University of Helsinki, August 22-29 (2019) is now open!

This conference analyzes the interaction of identity and empire in the ancient Near East during the second and first millennia BCE. Identity is often created through contrast with the foreign or unfamiliar, and this conference considers how the frontier and the lands and peoples beyond it could be used as that marker of “otherness” necessary for identity construction. Empires could, and did, alter the identity of the areas and peoples under their imperial dominion, but they did not emerge from such new encounters completely unchanged. Instead, interaction with the other can similarly alter the identity of the imperialists.

It centers on such questions as:

  • How do empires construct their own internal and external identity?
  • How are the borders of empire constructed and defined? How may a border be considered not only geographically, but also culturally, legally, and politically?
  • How is the foreign ‘othered’ within the space of empire? How are the inhabitants of conquered territories assimilated by empire? Alternatively, how do they maintain their own unique identity
    under empire?
  • What mechanics of power are employed by the empire to control its more peripheral regions? How is this control represented across textual genres?
  • How can we trace the impact of empire in the areas under imperial control? What can other avenues of evidence, such as archaeological and material finds, tell us about the influence of empire on identity?

The conference invites papers that consider such questions, as well as the more general topic of identity and empire, in the context of the areas that lie within the broad heading of the ancient Near East. This includes papers that examine empire in the context of Assyria and Babylonia; the interactions between Mesopotamia and Egypt; connections between Mesopotamia, the Levant, and Eastern Mediterranean; and the impact of empire on the historical context of the Hebrew Bible. Papers may evaluate the conference topic from the perspective of textual, archaeological, or art historical methods, and papers combining such approaches, or integrating anthropological or sociological methodologies, are particularly welcome.

Funding has been secured to cover the cost of housing for conference speakers, with further funds dedicated to defray, if not entirely cover, the cost of travel to Finland. The organizers welcome proposals from scholars outside of Europe, but regret that the available funding may not be able to fully cover the cost of transatlantic or similarly long-distance flights. This conference is hosted by the University of Helsinki Center of Excellence: Changes in Sacred Texts and Traditions; the Center of Excellence: Ancient Near Eastern Empires, and the Finnish Institute for the Middle East.

Paper proposals of up to 350 words should be sent to Gina Konstantopoulos (gina.konstantopoulos@helsinki.fi) by March 15 2019. Any questions may also be sent to Gina Konstantopoulos.

Uuden kirjapodcastin aiheena Septuaginta: kuuntele keskustelu

Tuoreen suomenkielisen Septuagintaa monipuolisesti käsittelevän teoksen, Sisälle Septuagintaan (Suomen eksegeettisen seuran julkaisuja 116), toimittajat vierailivat uudessa kirjapodcastissa keskustelemassa maailman ensimmäisestä raamatunkäännöksestä. Keskustelun voi kuunnella täältä ja sen kuvaus on seuraavanlainen:

Septuagintan eli Vanhan testamentin kreikankielisen käännöksen tutkimus Helsingin yliopistossa on maailmankuulua. Miksi ja miten pyhät kirjoitukset käännettiin? Kuinka Septuagintaa ja sen kääntäjiä tutkitaan? Entä mikä merkitys teksteillä oli varhaisille kristityille ja Uuden testamentin kirjoittajille? Haastattelussa hiljattain ilmestyneen perusteoksen “Sisälle Septuagintaan” toimittajat emeritaprofessori Anneli Aejmelaeus, tutkijatohtori Katja Kujanpää sekä yliopisto-opettaja, tohtorikoulutettava Miika Tucker.

Eksegeettinen kirjapodcast esittelee mielenkiintoista ja ajankohtaista raamatuntutkimuksen ja sen lähialojen kirjallisuutta. Toimittajat: TT Nina Nikki ja TM Antti Vanhoja.”

Vanhojan kirjapodcastissa on vieraillut myös muita huippuyksikön tutkijoita ja käsitelty useita ajankohtaisia eksegeettisiä aiheita. Tutustu podcastiin tarkemmin täältä.

Video: Miten Raamatun muutoksia tutkitaan?

Miten Raamatusta tuli Raamattu? Miten Raamatun muutoksia voi tutkia tieteellisesti? Miten varhaiset tekstien tulkitsijat ratkaisivat luomiskertomusten ristiriitaisuuksia?

Huippuyksiköt “Pyhät tekstit ja traditiot muutoksessa” ja “Muinaisen lähi-idän imperiumit” ovat tuottaneet yhdessä neliosaisen videosarjan, jossa esitellään ajankohtaista muinaisen maailman tutkimusta. Sarjan ensimmäisessä osassa Helsingin yliopiston Vanhan testamentin eksegetiikan professori Martti Nissinen ja tutkijatohtori Jessi Orpana kertovat tutkimustyöstään.

Videosarjan kolme muuta osaa julkaistaan kevään 2019 aikana. Aiheet vaihtelevat historian tutkimuksen lähtökohdista muinaiseen maahanmuuttoon ja sukupuolentutkimuksen soveltamiseen muinaisen maailman ymmärtämiseksi. Haastatteluja julkaistaan sekä suomeksi että englanniksi ja molemmissa tapauksissa YouTubesta on saatavilla tekstitykset toisella kielellä.

Compendium, anthology, canon: between reliable representation and shaping cultural memory

By Izaak J. de Hulster

For biblical scholars ‘canon’ is usually a matter of literature. However, within a larger cultural context one can speak of a ‘Western canon’ and the highlights of ‘Western’ (a term I won’t problematize here) culture. One can ponder on the possibility of having a canon of children’s literature (e.g., in English) or presenting the most important events and persons of a country’s history as a canon. But if a canon only shows the highlights, to what extent is it representative? Similarly, museum collections or catalogues with replicas tend towards presenting a specific kind of canon.

One can observe that the word ‘canon’ is in use for anthologies, compiled with the aim of reflecting and shaping cultural memory. This implies that one could distinguish three forms or steps:

  1. A compendium as a reliable representation of a certain corpus of literature or artefacts; a compendium represents, exemplifies, and gives an over-all impression.
  2. An anthology choses to represent, in the sense of electing and highlighting items within a corpus.
  3. A canon goes beyond election and tends towards exclusion by virtue of what is not represented. Combined with an approach to cultural memory, it shapes the image of a corpus or people’s view of history.

What should be included in a canon? Furthermore, what should be included in a canon of the most important events in a country’s history: should one include its success and victories, but also its suffering and even its collective guilt?

A commemorative envelope (figure 1) was issued in celebration of the German success following the British ‘Merchandise Marks Act’ (issued 125 years ago in 2012) with the slogan ‘vom Makel zum Qualitätssiegel’. This Act caused that products marked with ‘made in Germany’ were not branded (in the sense of stigmatized as inferior; cf. Makel) but the brand ‘made in Germany’ grew into a seal of quality. The envelope presents several products but only those that are socially acceptable. Thus, military products, for which German was famous too, are left out. This, however, could be justified by pointing out that before World War II we don’t know about German weapons bought by the British.

Figure 1: Gedenkbrief (commemorative envelope), issued by the German post (‘Deutsche Post’) in 2012 to commemorate the British ‘Merchandise Marks Act’ of 1887. Source: photo by author (commemorative envelope in the author’s private collection).

Further examples may also be found in philately: in honour of 60 years UNESCO, Romania issued a stamp with two figurines from the Hamangia culture (figure 2). How representative are these two figurines of Cernavoda, one of over fifteen sites with remains of the Hamangia culture? Furthermore, to what extent is a complete though non-specific female figurine representative? What about a unique piece like ‘The Thinker’? Exceptional items find a place in the canon by default, but aesthetics also seem to play a role in what is chosen for canonization, as seen here in stamps.

This example approaches what I recently called ‘a gynemorphic bias’;[1] coroplastics (figurine studies) often focus on figurines with female (anthropomorphic) forms to the neglect of others, such as animals. Beyond that, when selecting items, complete objects are often favoured. They may well represent past production but fragments are often much closer to actual archaeological experiences in the field.

Figure 2: stamp issued by the Romanian post (‘Poșta Română’) on the occasion of 60 years UNESCO in 2005. Source: https://www.romfilatelia.ro/wp-content/uploads/2005/11/timbruUNESCO.jpg (accessed 27 August 2018; stamp also in the author’s private collection)

To continue in this line of thought, we may consider the case of the fake seal that inspired the minters to use David’s harp for the half-shekel coin.[2] Even though the seal was a fake, David’s harp was already part of cultural memory (or memories), of one or even several cultural canons.[3] Although even David’s historical ‘proportions’ are debated, the motif of David’s harp was reinforced by the allegedly historical confirmation provided by the seal. Thus, while the harp on the half-shekel coin may be an apt expression of cultural memory, the harp’s shape, as copied from a doubtful source, also presents as a warning against ideology, taken-for-granted motifs, and too-easily-accepted historical evidence.

Israeli coin with the value of half a shekel; source: https://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/f/f2/Israel_Half_New_Sheqel_1985_Edge%2C_Obverse_%26_Reverse.jpg (28 August 2018)

 

In sum and at the close, beyond distinguishing between compendium and anthology, this blog post fosters awareness concerning the choices made when compiling an anthology or working as a minter, illustrator, or author. These respective agents should be aware of the responsibility inherent in their choices, and in their interaction with canons, particularly in light of how they contribute to and in a way pilot cultural memories.11

Bibliography

[1] Izaak J. de Hulster, Figurines in Achaemenid Period Yehud: Jerusalem’s History of Religion and Coroplastics in the Monotheism Debate, Orientalische Religionen in der Antike 26 (Tübingen: Mohr-Siebeck, 2017), esp. 72–78.

[2] For this example, I thank Meindert Dijkstra, Palestina en Israël: Een verzwegen geschiedenis (Utrecht: Boekencentrum, 2018), p.21.

[3] Present in many different contexts, such as church art – e.g., Rittmarshausen, Germany), see: https://d2r0d2z5r2gp3t.cloudfront.net/page_assets/images/24604/1395176608.lightbox-d6dbf484e87c5ed486894144fdde88b6.jpg (left of the pulpit; accessed 10 September 2018).