Category Archives: Events

Summer Symposium on the Construction of Identity in the Ancient Near East (Helsinki, 24-25 Aug)

Host: Project “Construction of gender in Mesopotamia from 934 to 330 BCE”, University of Helsinki
Organizers: Saana Svärd (Phd) & Joanna Töyräänvuori (Thd)
Venue: University Main Building (Fabianinkatu 33), Room 5 (”Sali 5” in Finnish)

Thursday August 24th 2017

9.00-10.30: panel 1
9.00-9.15: Töyräänvuori & Svärd: Welcome and introduction
9.15-10.00: Keynote: Brigitte Lion, “Questions of Identity in Nuzi: Another Look at Tulpun-naya’s Archive”
10.00-10.30: Laura Cousin, “Onomastics and Personality Traits in Babylonian Sources” Continue reading Summer Symposium on the Construction of Identity in the Ancient Near East (Helsinki, 24-25 Aug)

Promootio kokosi huippuyksikköläisiä juhlimaan

Teologisen tiedekunnan tohtoripromootio järjestettiin perjantaina 9.6.2017. Tohtoreiden, kunniatohtoreiden ja 50 vuotta sitten väitelleiden riemutohtoreiden kunniaksi järjestettävä promootio on korkein yliopistollinen juhlatilaisuus. Tänä vuonna promootion juhlallisuutta lisäsivät samaan vuoteen osuneet Suomi 100 -juhlavuosi sekä reformaation 500-vuotismerkkivuosi. Continue reading Promootio kokosi huippuyksikköläisiä juhlimaan

Seeing the Forest for the Trees: Hong Kong Workshop on Textual Change in the Hebrew Bible

by Ville Mäkipelto

Textual scholars often work with small textual variants and single incidents of change. A detailed analysis of the evidence is important; however, there is an increasing need to understand the broader processes of textual change in the context of ancient Judaism. Could the evolutionary theory, systems approach, or Star Wars saga illuminate the textual history of the Hebrew Bible?

Hong Kong skyline as seen from the Victoria Peak (pic by Ville Mäkipelto).

At the end of May, from 26th to 28th, team 3 gathered in Hong Kong with the desire to sketch a broader picture of change in the textual and editorial history of the Hebrew Bible by applying new analogues and theoretical frameworks. The workshop was hosted by Francis Borchardt in the Lutheran Theological Seminary. In addition to Team 3 members and affiliates, we had the delight of hosting three brilliant guests: Sara J. Milstein, Assistant Professor of Hebrew Bible and Ancient Near Eastern Studies at the University of British Columbia; Ron Hendel, Professor of Hebrew Bible and Jewish Studies at the University of California Berkeley; and Holger Strutwolf, director of the Institute for New Testament Textual research in Münster.

The participants of the workshop were asked to prepare a paper in which they seek to explain the broader phenomena of textual transmission in the ancient world. We were encouraged to go beyond conventional models of textual change and find new ways of understanding the phenomenon from other fields and processes of change. Unconventional and original ideas were encouraged, and traditional ways of thinking were discouraged. The papers were circulated beforehand; thus, most of the time at the workshop was used for discussing and evaluating the new insights together. This proved out to be a constructive and fruitful way of working.

The guest speakers of the workshop brought important perspectives to the discussions. In her paper, Sara J. Milstein applied insights from cladistics—a tool for classification and categorization of species in biology—into textual studies. Her paper demonstrated that cladistics can serve as a helpful model for understanding the common ancestries of biblical and other ancient Near Eastern texts. With the tools of cladistics, she discovered new traits from the transmission of the so-called flood myth. Continuing in a similar vein, Ron Hendel illustrated that the field of textual studies can benefit from the tools used in evolutionary biology to map “communities of descent”. He noted the similarities of building stemmas in both fields, illustrating his point by comparing stemmas such as the vertebrate cladogram and the textual transmission of Exodus. Responding to recent nominalist and postmodern critics, Hendel insisted that—much like studying the evolution of various life forms on earth—studying the historical relationships of various texts within their larger communities of descent constitutes an important part of textual research. The third guest of the workshop, Holger Strutwolf, provided insights from New Testament textual criticism by exploring the transmission of the so-called “western text” of Acts. Drawing from exhaustive statistical and qualitative analysis, Strutwolf illuminated the creative changes observable in this “living text”. In the discussion, many parallels were found between these processes of transmission and the transmission of some traditions of the Hebrew scriptures (e.g. the Samaritan Pentateuch).

Many students and faculty members of the Lutheran Theological Seminary also took part in the discussions of the workshop (pic by Ville Mäkipelto).

The papers from Team 3 researchers constituted a diverse collection of insights into textual changes in Hebrew scriptures. Mika Pajunen applied perspectives from hurricane formation and river deltas to the transmission of traditions in Second Temple Judaism. Ville Mäkipelto modeled the processes of textual transmission as a complex adaptive system—a recent theoretical framework within the interdisciplinary field of system studies. Reinhard Müller formulated theses related to the nature of editorial developments in the Hebrew Bible and compared these editorial processes to the growth of an unattended forest. Christoph Levin addressed the dilemma of changeability and sacredness of Hebrew Bible texts by elaborating on the editorial process of Fortschreibung. Tuukka Kauhanen offered more precise probability concepts for decision making in textual studies with insights from philosophical probability theories—especially the Bayesian framework. Timo Tekoniemi illustrated convincingly that there are several parallel phenomena in the editing of the Star Wars saga and the editorial processes of the Hebrew Bible. Juha Pakkala presented a classification of the diverse editorial processes visible in the documented evidence of editing. Finally, Francis Borchardt explored ancient models of publication as found in a plethora of texts from the Second Temple Period and discussed their implications for understanding textual change.

Participants enjoying dim sum lunch (pic by Ville Mäkipelto).

Hong Kong turned out to be a key player in the success of the workshop. The location of the Lutheran Theological Seminary in the middle of a beautiful subtropical forest provided an experiential framework for the title of the workshop. The timetable allowed for some short excursions to places such as the Victoria Peak, Ten Thousand Buddhas Monastery, and Che Kung Temple. The participants were especially grateful for the rich food culture of Hong Kong consisting of, for example, delicious Michelin-star awarded dim sum, varieties of roasted meat, traditional Chinese lunch, and unique street food.

The insights gained from the workshop will hopefully affect the way we do research in the future. It is clear that new interdisciplinary insights and collaboration are needed to better understand the broader phenomena of textual change in the Hebrew Bible. There will be no single collected volume from the workshop, but some of the papers and models will eventually find their way into various publications.

Learning from a local scribe (pic by Ville Mäkipelto).
Lutheran Theological Seminary in Hong Kong (pic by Ville Mäkipelto).
Beautiful garden at the Ten Thousand Buddhas Monastery (pic by Ville Mäkipelto).




“Working With Cultural Objects and Manuscripts: Provenance, Legality, and Responsible Stewardship” (Helsinki, 5-6 June)

The symposium takes place on Monday 5 and Tuesday 6 June 2017 in the premises of the National Museum of Finland, Helsinki.

Registration is free and open until 28 May 2017. Go to registration form here.


Monday, June 5

9:30-10:00 Registration & Coffee
10:00-11:00 SESSION 1: Welcome & Introduction to the Issues
10:00-10:10 Elina Anttila (National Museum of Finland)
Opening words
10:10-10:30 Suzie Thomas & Visa Immonen (University of Helsinki)
Working with Cultural Objects and Manuscripts in a Finnish Context: Reflections on Issues and Possibilities
10:30-11:00 Jussi Nuorteva (National Archives of Finland; Finnish National Commission for UNESCO; UNESCO International Advisory Committee for the Memory of the World Programme)
UNESCO Memory of the World Programme and Measures to Safeguard Documentary Heritage
11:00-13:00 Lunch
13:00-15:30 SESSION 2: Museums
13:00-14:00 Keynote Speaker: Magnus Olofsson (Swedish National Heritage Board; Vasa Museum; ICOM Nord)
Cooperation, ethics and the need for new legislation – 
Some examples of how Sweden works to prevent cultural heritage crime”
14:00-14:30 Anni Guttorm (Siida Museum, Inari)
Homecoming: Experiences of Sámi Object Repatriations at the Sámi Museum Siida
14:30-15:00 Susanna Pettersson (Ateneum National Gallery)
“Acquiring fine arts: trade, ownership and provenance”
15:00-15:30 Nida Dandashi (University of Helsinki)
The Archaeological Museum of Homs and its Collection: Past and Present
15:30-16:00 Coffee Break
16:00-18:30 SESSION 3: Academia
16:00-17:00 Keynote Speaker: Christopher Rollston (George Washington University)
Flotsam and Jetsam: Salvage Work in a Sea of Forged and Pillaged Inscriptions
17:00-17:30 Damien Huffer (Stockholm University)
“Bodies in the Lab, Skulls on the Mantlepiece: Studying Human Remains in Academia, from Online Markets to Teaching Collections” 
17:30-18:00 Åke Engsheden (Stockholm University)
Bits and Pieces from Monastic Life in Late Antique Egypt: Coptic Ostraca in Museum Gustavianum, Uppsala”
18:00-18:30 Sanna Aro-Valjus (University of Helsinki)
The Allure of Touch, the Desire to Possess: Finnish Assyriologists and Cuneiform Tablets
19:30-21:30 Speakers’ dinner

Tuesday, June 6

9:00-9:30 Coffee
9:30-11:30 SESSION 4: Government
9:30-10:30 Keynote Speaker: Patty Gerstenblith (DePaul University)
Looting of Archaeological Sites amid Armed Conflict: Government and Legal Responses”
10:30-11:00 Raila Kataja (National Board of Antiquities; National Museum of Finland)
The Reality of Exporting Cultural Goods: The Point of Views of the Licensing Authority
11:00-11:30 Josephine Munch Rasmussen (Norwegian Institute of Cultural Heritage Research)
“Illicit trade in Cultural objects and manuscripts: stakeholder responses”
11:30-12:00 Eero Ehanti (National Museum of Finland; ICOM Finland)
Privileges and Responsibilities: Views on Museum Ethics
12:00-14:00 Lunch
14:00-17:00 SESSION 5: A Way Forward for Finland and the World (roundtable discussion)
14:00-15:00 Keynote Speaker: Neil Brodie (University of Oxford)
“Unprovenanced Objects in the Twenty-First Century: Policies and Problems”
15:00-15:45 Open discussion
15:45-16:15 Coffee break
16:15-17:00 Open discussion
17:00-18:00 Reception at National Museum of Finland (hosted by the City of Helsinki)


Famous top scholars in the Soisalon-Soininen symposium

More information on programme and registration for the conference can be found here.

Professor Ilmari Soisalon-Soininen (1917–2002) is best known for his research on the syntax of the Septuagint, the ancient Greek translation of the Hebrew Bible. One of the distinct traits of the Septuagint is its nature as a translation from a Semitic language to an Indo-European one. Actually, many of the books included in the Septuagint have different translations whose style and degree of literalism vary greatly. The translators can be characterized by their choice of renderings in such Hebrew structures that can be rendered in many different ways in different contexts. Some of the translators of the Septuagint aimed at rendering a certain Hebrew grammatical structure by a fixed Greek structure as often as possible, sometimes producing unidiomatic Greek or an obscure meaning. Thus the syntax of the translation is partly governed by the source language. Soisalon-Soininen did pioneering work in taking this aspect fully into account by his translation-technical methodology. Continue reading Famous top scholars in the Soisalon-Soininen symposium

Soisalon-Soininen Symposium on the Septuagint (June 1-4, Helsinki): Registration + Programme

The international Soisalon-Soininen Symposium on the Septuagint focuses on the Greek language of the Septuagint and is organized in memory of Ilmari Soisalon-Soininen and in celebration of his 100th birthday on June 4, 2017. The symposium is organized by the Centre of Excellence “Changes in Sacred Texts and Traditions,” Faculty of Theology, University of Helsinki. Continue reading Soisalon-Soininen Symposium on the Septuagint (June 1-4, Helsinki): Registration + Programme

CSTT Annual Meeting “Tradition” (10-13 May, Tvärminne)

Location: Tvärminne, May 10-13, 2017

Wednesday, May 10

4:00 – 5:00pm: Jessi Orpana, Plenary Session on Defining ‘Tradition’

Session 1 (Keynote 1)
5:00 – 7:00pm: Eva Mroczek (UC Davis)
“Censored and Salvaged: Theories of Scriptural Survival in Ancient Judaism and Christianity”
[Responses by four teams with discussion, moderated by Jutta Jokiranta, Helen Dixon, Ville Mäkipelto, and Miika Tucker]

7:00 – 8:00pm: Dinner

Thursday, May 11

Session 2: (Keynote 2; Chair Katja Kujanpää)
9:00 – 11:30pm: Seth Sanders (UC Davis)
“Memory Without History, Art Without Intention: The Unique Problem of Pentateuchal Tradition” [Reinhard Müller and Hanna Tervanotko, respondents]

12:00 – 1:00pm: Lunch

Session 3: Scribes and Other Cultural Transmitters
1:00-2:00pm: Martti Nissinen, “CSTT Seen through Scribal Culture” (discussion)
2:00-3:00pm: Raija Mattila, “Your First Day at School (in Mesopotamia)” (workshop)

3:00 – 3:30pm: Coffee break

Session 4: Ritual (Chair Tero Alstola)
3:30-4:15pm: Gina Konstantopoulos, “Tradition and Transmission in Mesopotamian Incantations” [Timo Tekoniemi, respondent]
4:15-5:00pm: Jutta Jokiranta“Transmission of Traditions in Rituals from Cognitive Science of Religion Perspective” [Ville Mäkipelto, respondent]
5:00-6:00pm: Helen Dixon, Ritual workshop – title TBD

6:00 – 7:00pm: Dinner

Friday, May 12

Session 5
9:30-10:30am: Jason Silverman, “Amateur Anthropology of Foreign Traditions” (workshop)
10:30-11:30am: Isaak de Hulster, “Female Form: Generally Human, Traditional, or Contextual?” (workshop)

11:30 – 11.45am: CSTT photo (Ville)

11:45am – 12:45pm: Lunch

Session 6: Gender (Chair Hanna Tervanotko)
12:45 – 1:30pm: Jessica Keady, “Troubling the Purity Tradition: The Positions of Idealism, Impurity, and Masculinities in the Dead Sea Scrolls” [Jessi Orpana, respondent]
1:30 – 3:00pm: Saana Svärd and Hanna Tervanotko, “CSTT, Gender, and Tradition” workshop [with Anneli Aejmelaeus, Francis Borchardt, and Rick Bonnie; Eva Mroczek and Seth Sanders, respondents]

3:00 – 5:00pm: Afternoon break

Session 7 (Chair Mika Pajunen)
5:00 – 6:00pm: Joanna Töyräänvuori, “Tradition and Modernity in Light of the Linear Theory of Social Change” (workshop)
6:00 – 7:00pm: Elisa Uusimäki, Panel discussion on postdoc projects

7:00 – 8:30pm: Dinner

Saturday, May 13

9:00 – 10:00am: Ville Mäkipelto, Blogging workshop

10:00 – 12:00pm: Session 8: Wrap Up
– Reflections by Helen Dixon, Christoph Levin, Eva Mroczek, Seth Sanders, and Martti Nissinen
– Team reports and plans + CSTT meetings discussions

12:00 – 1:00pm: Lunch and check out

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

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