Category Archives: Mobility

What has Tbilisi to Do with Helsinki?

By Jutta Jokiranta.

Georgia (Tbilisi) and Finland (Helsinki) have a lot in common, we discovered when CSTT members spent a successful week in Tbilisi Javakhishvili University. People in both countries speak a strange language, their number is around 5 million, and both countries have gained independence a hundred years ago (Finland in 1917, Georgia for a short period in 1918).

Tbilis as seen from the hill of the Mtatsminda Pantheon (picture by Ville Mäkipelto).

CSTT is about “cross-fertilization,” making scholars from different fields and areas of expertise to communicate and learn from each other. This was a specific purpose of the Tbilisi meeting, “Texts, Traditions and Transmission: Global and Local Transitions in the Late Second Temple Period,” 21‒25 May 2018, organized by CSTT Teams 2 and 4, in cooperation with local hosts in Tbilisi, especially Anna Kharanauli, Natia Mirotadze, and their students.

The aim of the symposium was to find points in common in the study of the history of the Second Temple period—the scribal milieu—and the study of scribal revisions of scriptural texts and traditions.

Picture by Ville Mäkipelto

Did we find points in contact? To give an example, special interest was on the so-called kaige-recension, in which the translators at the turn of the era brought the original text of the Septuagint into closer conformity with the Hebrew proto-Masoretic text. Anneli Aejmelaeus explored its origins and suggested tracing it to Greek speaking synagogues in Palestine. Rick Bonnie gave an overview of early synagogue finds in Palestine and showed how their architecture could be characterized by restricted access and private visibility; these buildings were used by only part of the village population. Raimo Hakola reassessed the evidence for the assumed village scribes in Galilee behind the Q-document that Matthew and Luke used, and identified a more likely home place for them in the Judean setting.

Keynotes from outside CSTT were Catherine Hezser and Mladen Popović. Hezser challenged us to think in more precise terms about scribes who were craftsmen and sages who were learned writers of literary texts. Popović presented a model of “book publishing” in the ancient world and compared the Dead Sea Scrolls scribes to Roman literati and reading communities.

The 9th/10th century three-nave basilica in Uplistsikhe (picture by Ville Mäkipelto).

The meeting organization was exceptional as CSTT members prepared to the meeting in a brainstorming session already in the spring. This was worthwhile as communication took place “behind the scenes” outside the meeting too. The organizers, Raimo Hakola, Paavo Huotari, and Jessi Orpana are now planning a publication on the basis of the meeting.   

Georgian scholars have long-standing contacts with Helsinki Septuagint scholars. We also learned from rich Georgian manuscript collections and their research. Inscriptions have been found in Iberia—as the former kingdom in Eastern Georgia was called—in five different languages, Persian, Greek, Aramaic, Hebrew, and Latin.

CSTT director Martti Nissinen exploring the caves of the ancient rock town Uplistsikhe (picture by Ville Mäkipelto).

Two excursion days at several archaeological sites and churches were a true climax for the week. In the end, a visit to the National Museum of Georgia as well as our exquisite evening meal experiences proved that Finland and Georgia are not quite the same: in Georgia, archaeological finds start from early hominids onwards—and fruit and wine do grow better in Georgia.

Exploring a local archaeological site (picture by Ville Mäkipelto).
Enjoying the amazing Georgian food culture (picture by Ville Mäkipelto).

Sophia University: the First Catholic University in Japan

by Sanae Ito

With the research fellowship from the Japan Society for the Promotion of Science, I chose Sophia University (, the first catholic university in Japan, as my host institute. This blogpost aims to introduce you to the university and my host researcher, the distinguished Prof. Akio Tsukimoto. Continue reading Sophia University: the First Catholic University in Japan

Studying Ancient Judeans by San Francisco Bay

By Tero Alstola

What connects ancient Judean exiles with the San Francisco Bay Area? The answer is the University of California Berkeley and Dr Laurie E. Pearce, one of the leading scholars in the study of the Babylonian exile of Judeans. In her recent book (Documents of Judean Exiles and West Semites in Babylonia in the Collection of David Sofer, Bethesda: CDL, 2014) co-authored with Cornelia Wunsch, Pearce published hundred documents from mid-first millennium BCE Babylonia pertaining to Judean exiles. These clay tablets are economic documents such as contracts and promissory notes that provide us with information on the everyday lives of the Judean community living in Al-Yahudu, “Town of Judah”, and its surroundings.  Continue reading Studying Ancient Judeans by San Francisco Bay

Administrators? Scribes? Soldiers? … Who would make a Bible translation in Ptolemaic Egypt?

By Miika Tucker

The task of locating the social context of the Septuagint translators is like capturing the elusive giant squid from the depths of the ocean, it’s hard to know where to look when you only have a handful of sightings. The most popular account (the letter of Aristeas) might point us in the proper direction (Egypt) but we must be wary of its more elaborate details because most experts consider it to be more of a legend than a factual report.  Continue reading Administrators? Scribes? Soldiers? … Who would make a Bible translation in Ptolemaic Egypt?

“Three Days of Pure Joy”: Nordic Workshop on Jewish and Christian Purity Rituals

by Rick Bonnie

Over the last decades purity rituals among Jews and Christians in antiquity have received considerable scholarly interest — not the least in the Nordic countries. To celebrate this common Nordic interest a workshop was held at Uppsala University from October 21 to 23, 2015, entitled “Jewish and Christian Rituals of Purification in Antiquity”. Continue reading “Three Days of Pure Joy”: Nordic Workshop on Jewish and Christian Purity Rituals

Studying Religious Texts From Ancient China to Late Medieval Europe

by Francis Borchardt

A Report on KNAW Academie Colloquium Making Sense of Religious Texts: Patterns of Agency, Synergy, and Identity

On 27 October 2015 a small yet diverse pool of scholars and students converged for a three day meeting in an impressive 17th century mansion in the center of Amsterdam, Netherlands (click here to watch a video about its history). The conference, organized by Mladen Popovic, Sabrina Corbellini, and Stefania Travagnin (all of the University of Groningen), brought together scholars of Early Judaism, Medieval book historians, and experts on religion in the Chinese sphere to discuss religious texts from a cross-cultural and interdisciplinary perspective. Continue reading Studying Religious Texts From Ancient China to Late Medieval Europe

CSTT contributions at SBL and ASOR Annual Meetings 2015, Atlanta

It is once again time for scholars of religion to start planning their personal schedules for ”the largest gathering of scholars interested in the study of religion in the world”. This year, the combined annual meeting of the Society of Biblical Literature and American Academy of Religions takes place November 21–24 in Atlanta (Georgia, USA). Continue reading CSTT contributions at SBL and ASOR Annual Meetings 2015, Atlanta

Diversity in European Biblical and Cognate Studies

The annual meeting of the European Association of Biblical Studies was organized this year in the city of Cordoba, Spain (July 13–15). This beautiful Andalusian city is full of interesting history and modern life. What struck me most in the well-organized EABS conference, was the diversity of scholars and methods in the field of biblical and cognate studies. Being a diverse melting pot of religions, Cordoba was the place for organizing this event.  Continue reading Diversity in European Biblical and Cognate Studies

On Jewish Paideia in Naples

by Elisa Uusimäki

Scholars from Europe, North America, and Australia gathered to Naples on 30 June – 4 July 2015 to participate in the Fifth Enoch Seminar Nangeroni Meeting ”Second Temple Jewish Paideia in its Ancient and Hellenistic Contexts”. The organisers of the conference – Jason Zurawski, Gabriele Boccaccini, and Luca Arcari – had compiled a fascinating programme of academic papers and field trips.  Continue reading On Jewish Paideia in Naples