Category Archives: General

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: (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: (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


[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: (left of the pulpit; accessed 10 September 2018).

Kiveen hakattu? Olemme mukana kirjamessuilla uutuuskirjan kera

Miten pyhät tekstit ja perinteet ovat historian saatossa muuttuneet? Huippuyksikömme tutkijoiden kirjoittama uutuskirja valottaa tutkimuksen uusimpia näkökulmia aiheeseen. Martti Nissisen ja Leena Vähäkylän toimittama Kiveen hakattu? Pyhät tekstit ja perinteet muutoksessa (Gaudeamus, 2018) julkaistaan virallisesti Helsingin Kirjamessuilla torstaina 25.10. klo. 15:30.

Messuilla Martti NissinenKatja Kujanpää ja Leena Vähäkylä esittelevät kirjan teemoja ja keskustelevat pyhien tekstien ja perinteiden muuttumisesta.

Uutuuskirja kuuluu Suomen Akatemian Tutkitusti-sarjaan. Alla on kirjan kuvausteksti kustantajan verkkosivuilta:

“Tulipalo tuhoaa kaupungin, kivenhakkaajan taltta lipsahtaa, käsikirjoituksen jäljentäjä tekee kynttilänsä valossa kirjoitusvirheen, paperi rasahtaa rikki terävän mustekynän alla.

Pyhät tekstit eivät ole ajan hampaalta ja inhimillisiltä erheiltä suojattuja sen paremmin kuin maallisetkaan hengentuotteet, vaikka Raamattuun ja vanhoihin traditioihin usein liitetään ajatus juuri muuttumattomuudesta.

Tekstit ja perinteet elävät jatkuvasti, toisinaan myös tietoisen valinnan seurauksena: esimerkiksi Paavali siteeraa Vanhan testamentin tekstejä omaan retoriikkaansa sopivasti, ei välttämättä sanatarkasti. Tekstien muutoksiin ovat vaikuttaneet myös kulttuuriset ja yhteiskunnalliset muutokset, esimerkiksi väestönsiirrot, kaupunkien tuhoutumiset sekä erilaisten kulttuuriperinteiden kohtaamiset ja sulautumiset.

Kiveen hakattu? raottaa pyhien tekstien historiaa ja teksteihin tehtyjä perusteltuja ja dokumentoituja muutoksia vieden samalla pohjaa fundamentalismilta. Esimerkiksi Raamatun muuttumattomuus on illuusio: vanhat käsikirjoitukset ovat aina olleet erilaisia sekä kokoonpanoltaan että sisällöltään. Muinaiset tekstit ovat suodattuneet meidän aikaamme lukuisten kirjureiden ja kääntäjien kätten kautta.”

Kirjan voi ostaa kirjamessuilta tai tilata itselleen kustantajan verkkosivuilta.

Wikipedia edit-a-thon: “Women and the Ancient Near East”

The Centres of Excellence ANEE and CSTT will organise a Wikipedia edit-a-thon, open to all researchers at the Faculties of Theology and Arts (University of Helsinki), on the theme of “Women and the Ancient Near East,” in honor of International Women’s Day (March 8). The event will be held Thursday, March 8 in the Faculty of Theology, 5th floor faculty hall (Vuorikatu 3), 2pm – 6pm. We will provide training for everyone to edit Wikipedia at the event with help of Wikimedia Finland volunteers.

The new volume “Women’s Writing of Ancient Mesopotamia“, co-edited by the ANEE leader Saana Svärd, may inspire wonderful new Wikipedia articles.

This is the second time the event has been organized in Finland, and a similar event was also held at the AAR & SBL annual meeting in Boston 2017. 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 8, we plan to improve both the Wikipedia pages on female scholars of the ancient Near East and on women in the ancient sources (Hebrew Bible included), in a social and casual atmosphere. The CSTT and ANEE 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:

Conference “Conceptualizing the Divine in the Levant” (Helsinki, 21-23 March)

Deities in Aram, Israel, and Phoenicia: an Iron Age perspective on conceptualizing the divine in the Levant

(21–23 March 2018 in Helsinki)

The shift from Late Bronze Age to Iron Age in the Levant is usually characterized by the collapse of ‘empires’ and the rise of (so-called) ‘national states’ or ‘territorial kingdoms’. These political changes had their repercussions on how identities were negotiated and how ‘the divine’ (realm) was conceptualized and deities understood. The Iron Age Levantine kingdoms comprise ‘Aram’, ‘Phoenicia’ (or broader: Sea Peoples), and as a third ‘Israel’ (and Judah) is singled out here (among the kingdoms around the Jordan). These territorial kingdoms had their own ‘national deities’ – partly in continuity with the Bronze Age city states. For instance as heirs to Bronze Age Syrian religion Phoenicians and Aramaeans carried on prophecy, the ancestor cult for the king, and the prime position of the weather god (cf. M. Hutter, Religionen in der Umwelt des Alten Testaments I: Babylonier, Syrer, Perser, 1996: 177–178). Next to different forms of reception (incl. reinterpretation), the new historical context also demonstrates change. Contemporary cultural contacts, fostered by economics (trade) and politics (treaties and war), raised questions of cultural ‘translatability’ of deities (cf. M.S. Smith, God in Translation,
2010) and also resulted in ‘ligatures’ (a merger of deities, sometimes marked by hyphenated names, such as ‘Baal-Seth’) and ‘transnational’ veneration (e.g., Melqart). These conceptualizations of the divine found expression in names, religious practice (cult, ritual), texts (e.g., myths, prophecies) and material artefacts (both in monumental and miniature art). Continue reading Conference “Conceptualizing the Divine in the Levant” (Helsinki, 21-23 March)

Kenen pääkaupunki Jerusalem on? Huippuyksikön tutkijat avaavat kaupungin historiaa

Kirjoittanut Paavo Huotari

Jerusalem on jälleen ajankohtaisen keskustelun keskipisteessä. Yhdysvaltain presidentin Donald Trumpin lausunto Jerusalem on Israelin pääkaupunki, tämä ei ole enempää eikä vähempää kuin tosiasian tunnustamista (6.12.2017) on herättänyt närää kansainvälisessä yhteisössä. Päivänpolttavan politiikan lisäksi keskustelu sivuaa Israelin muinaishistoriaa ja erityisesti Jerusalemin historiallista perustamista. Useissa kannanotoissa esitetään, että Jerusalem olisi ollut Israelin pääkaupunki jo 3000 vuotta. Kuningas Daavid mainitaan säännöllisesti Jerusalemin perustajana. Keskustelin näistä Suomen Akatemian huippuyksikön ”Pyhät tekstit ja traditiot muutoksessa” jäsenten Juha Pakkalan ja Kirsi Valkaman kanssa.

Arkeologisten löytöjen ja Vanhan testamentin tekstien ristivetoa

Helsingin yliopiston eksegetiikan ja Raamatun heprean yliopistonlehtori Juha Pakkala on perehtynyt Israelin ja Juudan kuningasajan historiaan sekä Israel-Palestiinan arkeologiaan. Kysyin Pakkalalta mitä hän ajattelee väitteestä, että Jerusalem on ollut juutalaisten pääkaupunki jo 3000 vuotta. ”Jerusalem on ollut modernin Israelin pääkaupunki vuodesta 1948. Sitä ennen Jerusalem oli Juudan kuningaskunnan pääkaupunki kuningasajalla, ehkä 900-luvulta vuoteen 587 eaa. Eikä ole syytä unohtaa makkabealaisaikaa vuodesta 140 vuoteen 37 eaa., jolloin Jerusalem oli Makkabealaisvaltion pääkaupunki. Näillä kolmella ei ole poliittista yhteyttä keskenään, vaikkakin sellainen yhteys usein pyritään löytämään”, Pakkala vastaa.

Entä voiko uskonnolla olla omaa pääkaupunkia? Pakkalan mukaan Jerusalemia voidaan pitää juutalaisten pääkaupunkina samoin kuin Roomaa katolilaisten pääkaupunkina, jos uskonnoilla ylipäänsä on pääkaupunkeja. Vanha testamentti yhdistää uskonnon Jerusalemiin ja myöhempi juutalainen traditio on pyrkinyt pitämään yhteyttä yllä. Tosin juutalaisuus on syntynyt aikaisintaan 500-luvulla eaa. eli Juudan kuningaskunnan tuhon jälkeen. Siksi pitäisi ennemmin puhua juutalaisten pääkaupungista 2500 vuoden ajalta.

Jerusalemia voidaan pitää juutalaisuuden pääkaupunkina, jos uskonnoilla ylipäänsä ajatellaan olevan pääkaupunkeja.

Miten tulisi suhtautua väitteeseen, että kuningas Daavid on Jerusalemin perustaja? ”Vanhan testamentin mukaan Daavid valloitti Jerusalemin siellä aikaisemmin asuneilta jebusilaisilta. Kaupungin nimikin oli ollut Jebus. Tosin Jerusalem tunnettiin nimellä Urusalim jo myöhäispronssikaudella, noin 350 vuotta ennen Daavidin oletettua elinaikaa. Mikäli Vanhan testamentin tekstiä pidetään näiltä osin luotettavana, Daavidia voisi luonnehtia pikemminkin Jerusalemin valloittajaksi”, Pakkala pohtii.

Paljon vaikeampi kysymys on Daavidiin liitettyjen tarinoiden historiallisuus. Pakkalan mukaan Daavid-niminen henkilö on varmaan elänyt joskus varhaisella kuningasajalla. Pelkällä nimellä ei kuitenkaan tee paljoa. ”Pidän epätodennäköisenä, että Daavid olisi valloittanut suuren osan Israel-Palestiinaa ja jopa lähialueita. On kuitenkin mahdollista, että varhaisella kuningasajalla oli Daavid-niminen sotapäällikkö, joka syöksi kuningas Saulin vallasta, nousi itse valtaan ja sai valtaansa Jerusalemin sekä ympäröivän Juudan vuoristoalueen”, hän sanoo. Ei ole kuitenkaan helppoa erottaa varhaisia tarinoita myöhäisistä legendoista. Pakkala ajattelee, että osa Samuelin kirjoissa olevista tarinoista voi jopa pohjautua tälle ajalle. Osa tarinoista on voinut alun perin liittyä toiseen henkilöön. ”Ei ole harvinaista, että erilaisia muiden tekemiä sankaritekoja liitetään tärkeäksi nousseelle henkilölle”, Pakkala miettii.

”Jerusalemin arkeologisia löytöjä on liian usein tulkittu Vanhan testamentin valossa”

Keskustelun ytimessä on usein arkeologiset kaivaukset ja löytöjen tulkinta. Vanhan testamentin tekstien ja arkeologisten löytöjen kytkeminen toisiinsa on kuitenkin vahingollista. Pakkala korostaa molempien riippumattomuutta: ”On tärkeä tarkastella jokaista kysymystä erikseen ilman ennalta annettua mallia. Vanhan testamentin tekstiä ei tulisi käyttää linssinä tulkita muuta evidenssiä.” Ongelma on ilmeinen, kun tarkastellaan Israelin kuningaskunnan varhaisvaiheita, eli Daavidin ja Salomon aikaa: ”Jerusalemin arkeologisia löytöjä on liian usein tulkittu Vanhan testamentin valossa. Ideaalitapauksessa tulisi ensin muodostaa kuva Jerusalemista vain arkeologian avulla ja myöhemmin katsoa, miten se korreloi Vanhan testamentin antaman kuvan kanssa”, hän selventää.

Pakkalan mukaan Vanhan testamentin tekstiä ei silti tule väheksyä historiallisena lähteenä. Vaikka tekstit sisältävät voimakkaan teologisia tulkintoja, taustalla on paljon yksityiskohtaista tietoa muinaisesta Jerusalemista, Israelista ja juutalaisuuden synnystä.

Miten tulisi suhtautua Vanhan testamentin antamaan kuvaan, että Jerusalem oli suuren valtakunnan pääkaupunki? ”Tämän suhteen tulisi olla kriittinen, koska se sopii huonosti, mitä ajan historiasta muuten tunnetaan”, Pakkala päättää. Jerusalem oli pienen Juudan kuningaskunnan pääkaupunki, joka kasvoi huomattavasti, kun assyrialaiset tuhosivat Israelin kuningaskunnan 700-luvun lopulla eaa. 600-luvulta lähtien Jerusalem oli selkeä alueellinen keskus, jossa asui 10–20 prosenttia Juudan asukkaista.

Jerusalemin temppelin tuhoutuminen on muovannut juutalaista uskontoa

Helsingin yliopiston Vanhan testamentin eksegetiikan yliopistonlehtori Kirsi Valkama on tutkinut Jerusalemin tuhoutumista ja sen jälkeistä Juudan pakkosiirtolaisuutta 500-luvulla eaa. Valkama tiivistää Jerusalemin merkityksen juutalaisuudelle: ”Jerusalemilla on ennen kaikkea valtava symbolinen merkitys juutalaisuudessa. Se on pyhä kaupunki, johon liittyvää uskonnollista kaipausta kuvataan niin Vanhassa testamentissa kuin myöhemmissä teksteissä. Välillä se näyttää kohdistuvan kaupunkiin välillä erityisesti siellä olleeseen temppeliin”. Mikä merkitys Jerusalemin temppelillä on ollut? ”Jerusalemin temppeli oli, ja symbolisesti on, juutalaisen uskonnon pyhin paikka. Vaikka Jerusalemin temppeliä ei ole ollut kahteen tuhanteen vuoteen, on sen sijainti säilyttänyt pyhyytensä ja konkreettisesti toisen temppelin aikaisen tukimuurin jäänteet, eli Länsimuurin. Länsimuuri on ollut juutalaisten rukouspaikka jo vuosisatojen ajan”, hän valaisee. ”Kaikki temppelialueeseen jotenkin kytkeytyvät arkeologiset löydöt herättävät valtavasti kiinnostusta.”

Valkaman mukaan Jerusalemia on tuhottu lukuisia kertoja, mutta kahdella tuhoutumisella on ollut merkittävä vaikutus juutalaisen uskonnon muovautumiseen. Babylonialaiset tuhosivat Jerusalemin kaupungin vuonna 587 eaa. ”Tämä oli Juudan kuningaskunnan loppu. Tapahtumaa pidetään myös rajana, jonka jälkeen muinaisisraelilainen uskonto alkoi muodostua siksi mitä kutsutaan juutalaisuudeksi. Jerusalemin tuhon sekä kuninkaan ja kuningaskunnan menettämisen syitä on käsitelty monissa Vanhan testamentin kirjoissa”, Valkama katsoo.

Länsimuuri on ollut juutalaisten rukouspaikka jo vuosisatojen ajan.

Toisen kerran Jerusalem tuhoutui osittain vuonna 70 jaa., kun roomalaiset Tituksen (tuleva keisari) johdolla polttivat Jerusalemin temppelin. Valkaman mukaan molemmille valtauksille on yhteistä se, että temppeli tuhottiin, kaupunki hävitettiin poikkeuksellisen aggressiivisesti, ja suurin osa Jerusalemin väestöstä kuoli tai vietiin pakkosiirtolaisuuteen ja vankeuteen. ”Vuosittain vietettävänä Tisha beav (yhdeksäs av-kuuta) paastopäivänä muistetaan yhä Jerusalemin ensimmäisen ja toisen temppelin tuhoa”, Valkama kertoo.

”Temppeli on monenlaisen uskonnollisen kaipauksen kohde”

Mutta miten muinainen Jerusalemin temppeli ja ennen kaikkea sen tuhoutuminen voivat vaikuttaa vielä nykyään? ”Temppeli on monenlaisen uskonnollisen kaipauksen kohde ja eräät uskonnolliset ääriryhmät suunnittelevat kolmannen temppelin rakentamista temppelivuorelle, jolla Kalliomoskeija ja Al-Aqsan moskeija nyt sijaitsevat”, Valkama selventää. Hänen mukaan temppelin muistaminen Jumalan asuinsijana pitää yllä sidosta konkreettiseen maantieteelliseen sijaintiin, joka koetaan merkittäväksi ja omaksi. Muiden myöhempien temppelien tai nykyisten moskeijoiden läsnäolo ei vähennä sen uskonnollista merkitystä juutalaisuuden piirissä.” ”Ensi vuonna Jerusalemissa” toistetaan joka vuosi pääsiäisen Seder-aterian loppupuolella sekä suuren sovintopäivän, Jom Kippurin lopetusjumalanpalveluksen loppuosassa”, hän kertoo. Kaupunkia ei voi unohtaa.

Valkaman mukaan Jerusalemin toisen temppelin jälkeinen historia sivuutetaan turhan helposti, vaikka kyse on lähes kahdentuhannen vuoden ajanjaksosta. Sen aikana kaupunki on ollut erityisen tärkeä myös kristityille ja muslimeille.

Sarjan toinen osa ”Jerusalem, Islam ja varhaiskristillisyys” ilmestyy helmi-maaliskuussa 2018.

Jeesuksen syntymäkirkko.

Date Beer: Brew It like the Ancient Babylonians

By Tero Alstola.

Barley beer and grape wine have a history of thousands of years in the ancient Near East. However, neither of these was the favourite alcoholic drink of the ancient Babylonians in the first millennium BCE. Instead, a beverage fermented from the fruit of the date palm was widely consumed, and ancient records from Babylonia constantly refer to its production and resale in pubs or taverns. This blog post introduces this ancient drink and describes an attempt to produce it using a 2,000-year-old recipe.

Although the research literature tends to call it “beer”, the beverage is actually closer to cider. It is produced from fruit and water and fermented using natural yeast in the dates. However, as the term “date beer” is widely used in Assyriology, it is employed in this blog post as well.

The ancient Babylonians themselves have not provided us with an actual recipe for brewing date beer. However, we do know that in addition to water and dates, a plant called kasû – perhaps dodder – was sometimes added to the beer. Despite the lack of recipes written in Babylonian, we have a date beer recipe from antiquity, recorded by the pharmacologist Dioscorides in the first century CE. According to Dioscorides, date beer was brewed using dates and water which were put into a cask and let ferment for ten days. On the eleventh day, the beverage was ready to be consumed.

Only unpasteurised dates and water was used for brewing the ancient drink.. Picture by Tero Alstola.

In order to taste the daily life of the Babylonians, we utilised Dioscorides’s recipe to produce date beer using ancient methods. We used only two ingredients, dates and tap water. Because fresh dates were not available, we decided to use dried ones instead. This may have been the case in Babylonia as well, because the date harvest took place in autumn but date beer was apparently consumed all year round. Because the fermentation process is caused by the natural yeasts in the date fruit, we used unpasteurised dates without preservatives.

Five decilitres of dried, seedless dates were mashed and put into a small plastic bucket. One litre of water was added, but the ingredients were not stirred. The bucket was covered with a tight lid and placed on the bathroom floor with underfloor heating. It is important to pay attention to the cleanness of the kitchen utensils used, as harmful microbes can ruin the beer.

Mashed dates and a liter of water. Picture by Tero Alstola.


The bucket was left intact for eleven days. Picture by Tero Alstola.

The bucket was left intact until the eleventh day. Then the lid was opened and the liquid was filtered in order to remove the date mash from the beer. We experienced some difficulties in the filtering process, which were caused by the thickness of the substance. We therefore recommend first removing the date mash from the bucket and letting the liquid settle so that solids sank to the bottom. Thereafter one can pour the uppermost, clear layer of date beer through a filter. This should result in an easy filtering process and more beautiful beverage.

The mash after fermentation. Picture by Tero Alstola.

We tasted the date beer immediately after filtering because it does not keep well. The beverage had a yellow, cloudy colour and fruity, acidic taste. The sweetness of the dates was gone, and the beverage tasted more like dry cider. Surprisingly, the brownish-greyish mixture of dried dates and water had turned into a beautiful, tasty drink.

Finally, a word of caution is in order: several ancient records refer to terrible headaches caused by date beer. The reader is advised to brew and drink responsibly.

The beautiful final product. Picture by Tero Alstola.


Further reading:

Magen Broshi, “Date Beer and Date Wine in Antiquity”, Palestine Exploration Quarterly 139 (2007), pp. 55–59.

Seth C. Rasmussen, The Quest for Aqua Vitae: The History and Chemistry of Alcohol from Antiquity to the Middle Ages (Cham: Springer, 2014).

Marten Stol, “Beer in Neo-Babylonian Times” in Lucio Milano (ed.), Drinking in Ancient Societies (Padova: Sargon, 1994), pp. 155–183.

Muinaisen Lähi-idän tutkimus laajasti esillä Yliopisto-lehdessä

Uusimmassa Yliopisto-lehdessä julkaistiin laaja juttu, jossa käydään läpi Lähi-idän historiaa, perintöä ja nykytilaa. Juttua varten on haastateltu “Pyhät tekstit ja traditiot muutoksessa” -huippuyksikön johtajaa Martti Nissistä sekä tiimi 1:sen jäsentä Saana Svärdiä. Artikkelissa on esillä myös Svärdin johtama uusi huippuyksikkö Muinaisen Lähi-idän imperiumit. Lisäksi Helsingin yliopiston seemiläisten kielten ja kulttuurien professori Hannu Juusola on jutussa mukana.

Yliopisto-lehden artikkelin “Lähi-idän menneisyys on loistava – miksi sieltä tulee nykyään niin huonoja uutisia?” voi lukea avoimesti verkosta.

Conceptions of Virtue in Early Judaism

University of Helsinki Research Funds has granted funding for a three-year long research project titled “Conceptions of Virtue in Early Judaism” directed by CSTT team 4 member Elisa Uusimäki. Also Sami Yli-Karjanmaa from team 4 and Anna-Liisa Tolonen from the Centre of Excellence Reason and Religious Recognition take part in the project.

The project asks what virtue (i.e., human behaviour regarded as morally valuable) meant for ancient Jews. How did they discuss and practise virtue? According to Uusimäki, her team fills a research gap by analysing conceptions of virtue in early Jewish literature (ca. 350 BCE – 150 CE).

– Scholars have typically sought for the historical roots of virtue discourse in Greek philosophical sources. Jewish sources can no longer be ignored, however, if the diversity of the Mediterranean virtue discourses is taken seriously, Uusimäki explains.

– This project demonstrates the cultural variety of such discourses, thus enabling dialogue between biblical, religious, and Greco-Roman studies.

Congratulations to Elisa and her team!

CSTT Policy Regarding Work with Unprovenanced Antiquities

The following is the text of our policy regarding work with unprovenanced antiquities. The matter is so important that we decided to publish the policy also as a blogpost.

I. Preamble

The CSTT deplores the looting of archaeological sites, the undocumented removal of material from its context, and the illicit trade in antiquities and cultural objects. It also disapproves of the illicit falsification of antiquities and related documentation, which is something that is closely associated with the vast trade in unprovenanced antiquities. The object of this policy is to establish standards of conduct for the members of the CSTT to follow in fulfilling their responsibilities to prevent the above issues. This policy applies to all members and associate members of the CSTT

II. Policy

The CSTT acknowledges its support of the various international treaties, such as the 1954 Hague Convention, the 1970 UNESCO Convention, and the 1995 UNIDROIT Convention, and Finnish national laws intended to stop and prevent the illicit antiquities trade. Since scholars act as stewards of our common cultural heritage, the CSTT encourages its members to familiarize themselves with these treaties and laws, as they form the cornerstone of this policy and that of other professional organizations, such as the Society of Biblical Literature, the American Schools of Oriental Research, or the European Association of Archaeologists. More specifically, the CSTT endorses the guidelines as laid out in the Policy on Professional Conduct of the American Schools of Oriental Research (henceforth ASOR). The ASOR Policy is, since 2017, also adopted by the Society of Biblical Literature in their Policy on Scholarly Presentation and Publication of Ancient Artifacts.

The most important implications for the CSTT as a body, and its individual members and associate members, of supporting the ASOR Policy, follow below.

  1. The CSTT’s endorsement of the ASOR Policy implies that CSTT members and associate members refuse to participate in the trade in unprovenanced antiquities and refrain from activities that enhance the commercial value of such objects, such as publication, authentication, and/or exhibition. Unprovenanced antiquities are those which are not documented as belonging to a public or private collection before April 24, 1972, which is the date of entry into force of the 1970 UNESCO Convention, or which have not been excavated and exported from the country of origin in accordance with the laws of that country (see, e.g., Section III, part B, notes 4 and 10).
  2. CSTT members and associate members should exercise due diligence when confronted with an unknown artefact, manuscript, or other object in determining the provenance, collection history, and legality of that object.
  3. It is the responsibility of CSTT members and associate members to draw the attention of the responsible authorities to threats to, or plunder of archaeological sites, and illegal import or export of antiquities, as well as upon encountering suspect materials (see, e.g., Section III, part B, note 9).


In terms of research and publication, Section III, part E of the ASOR Policy lays out the main principles to which CSTT members and associate members should adhere.

  1. This means that the CSTT discourages its members and associate members from taking part in the initial publication or announcement of any object acquired by an individual or institution after April 24, 1972, which is the date of entry into force of the 1970 UNESCO Convention, or which have not been excavated and exported from the country of origin in accordance with the laws of that country.
  2. In publications and presentations, CSTT members and associate members should be transparent when introducing data of uncertain reliability or authenticity to the realm of public knowledge, particularly when research and publication involves artifacts that lack an archaeological findspot or that are illegally exported.
  3. CSTT members and associate members should also identify clearly any object that lacks an archaeological findspot in an appropriate manner in the text of the publication and the caption of its illustration.
  4. In case of publication projects started in good faith before this CSTT Policy and before the awareness of the issues connected with unprovenanced artefacts had come up in general discussion, the members of the CSTT are expected to do their best to clear the background of the object in question, and decide for their own part whether or not to finish their project and publish the artefact in question.

Helsinki-based CSTT at SBL and ASOR Annual Meetings 2017, Boston

This year, the combined annual meeting of the Society of Biblical Literature and American Academy of Religions takes place November 18–21 in Boston (Massachusetts, USA).

We have, once again, made the scheduling for your annual experience easier by gathering together all contributions from our Finland-based Centre of Excellence in Changes in Sacred Texts and Traditions to these annual meetings. The contributions are grouped under four headings corresponding to the different research teams in our centre. The list includes contributions from our full and associate members. You can find the abstracts of the papers and more information on the sessions by using the excellent AAR/SBL online program book and mobile planner.

Prior to the AAR/SBL annual meeting, there is also the annual meeting of the American Schools of Oriental Research in Boston, which takes place November 15-18 in the Weston Bastin Waterfront hotel. CSTT contributes to that meeting too!

See you all in Boston!

TEAM 1. Society and Religion in the Ancient Near East

CSTT-director Martti Nissinen is a member of the editorial board S19-250 Writings from the Ancient World.

Nov 19 – 9:00 – 11:30 AM
Martti Nissinen: Presiding in Hebrew Scriptures and Cognate Literature; Pentateuch, theme: Empirical Models Challenging Biblical Criticism.

Nov 20 – 1:00 – 3:30 PM
Martti Nissinen: “Healing Prophets at the Interface of Divination and Magic” in Hebrew Scriptures and Cognate Literature

Nov 20 – 1:00 – 3:30 PM
Izaak J. de Hulster: “The end(s) of the earth: an iconographic contribution to ancient geography and the visualisation of the ‘biblical world map'” in Ancient Near Eastern Iconography and the Bible.

Nov 17 – 8:20 – 10:00 AM (ASOR)
Raz Kletter: Chair in Meeting the Expenses: Ancient Near Eastern Economies I.

Nov 17 – 10:40 – 12:25 AM (ASOR)
Raz Kletter: “Major Changes on the Road to Small Change: Scale Weights, Hoards, and Modes of Exchange” in Meeting the Expenses: Ancient Near Eastern Economies II.

Nov 18 – 9:00 – 11:30 PM
Jason Silverman: “The Identity of Zemah in Zechariah” in Book of the Twelve Prophets.

Nov 20 – 1:00 – 3:30 PM
Jason Silverman: “Josephus and the Supposed Rise of the Priesthood in Yehud” in Literature and History of the Persian Period.

Nov 17 – 8:20 – 10:20 AM (ASOR)
Saana Svärd and Aleksi Sahala: “Am I Seeing Things? Language Technology Approach to ‘Seeing’ in Akkadian” in Senses and Sensibility in the Near East I.

Nov 20 – 1:00 – 3:30 PM
Saana Svärd: “Women in Temples and Cult of the Neo-Assyrian Empire” in Levites and Priests in History and Tradition.

Nov 17 – 4:20 – 6:20 PM (ASOR)
Gina Konstantopoulos: “Public and Private: the Role of Text and Ritual in Constructing and Maintaining Protected Spaces in Mesopotamia” in Ambiguity in the Ancient Near East: Mental Constructs, Material Records, and Their Interpretations III.

Nov 20 – 1:00 – 3:30 PM
Sanna Saari: “‘With His Bare Hands’: Iconography of Unarmed Samson in Judges 14:5–6” in Ancient Near Eastern Iconography and the Bible.

Nov 17 – 4:20 – 6:20 PM (ASOR)
Helen Dixon: “The ‘Look’ and ‘Feel’ of Levantine Phoenician Sacred Space” in Art Historical Approaches to the Near East II.

Nov 17 – 7:00 – 8:15 PM (ASOR)
Helen Dixon and Geoff Emberling: Presiding at the ASOR Programs Committee.

Nov 19 – 5:30 – 7:30 PM
Helen Dixon, Hanna Tervanotko, Sarah Shectman, Jacqueline Vayntrub, and Krista Dalton: “Wiki, Women, and Bible Workshop and Happy Hour” – Wikipedia editing session hosted by the Committee on the Status of Women in the Profession, the Student Advisory Board, and Vandenhoeck & Ruprecht.

TEAM 2. Text and Authority

Team 2 leader Anneli Aejmelaeus is a member of the editorial board S19-105a TC: A Journal of Biblical Textual Criticism.

Nov 20 – 1:00 – 3:30 PM
Anneli Aejmelaeus: Presiding in Textual Criticism of Samuel-Kings.

Nov 20 – 4:00 – 6:30 PM
Anneli Aejmelaeus: “Hexaplaric Recension and Hexaplaric Readings in 1 Samuel” in Textual Criticism of Samuel-Kings.

Nov 20 – 4:00 – 6:30 PM
Jessi Orpana: “The Transmission of Creation Traditions in the Late Second Temple Period” in Transmission of Traditions in the Second Temple Period.

Nov 19 – 9:00 – 11:30 PM
Katja Kujanpää: “Uninvited Metalepsis? Paul’s Diverse Ways of Receiving the Original Context of Quotations from the Pentateuch” in Intertextuality in the New Testament.

Nov 18 – 9:00 – 11:30 PM
Marika Pulkkinen: “Paul’s Quoting Technique in Comparison to Later Rabbinic Methods” in Intertextuality in the New Testament.

Nov 18 – 1:00 – 3:30 PM
Miika Tucker: “Further Lexical Studies Regarding the Bisectioning of Septuagint Jeremiah” in International Organization for Septuagint and Cognate Studies.

TEAM 3. Literary Criticism in the Light of Documented Evidence

Team 3 leader Juha Pakkala is a member of the editorial board S19-105a TC: A Journal of Biblical Textual Criticism.

Nov 18 – 4:00 – 6:30 PM
Juha Pakkala: “The Origin of the Earliest Edition of Deuteronomy” in Book of Deuteronomy.

Nov 19 – 9:00 – 11:30 AM
Juha Pakkala: “Empirical Models and Biblical Criticism” in Hebrew Scriptures and Cognate Literature; Pentateuch.

Nov 20 – 1:00 – 3:30 AM
Mika Pajunen: “Differentiation of Form, Theme, and Function in Psalms and Psalm Collections” in Transmission of Traditions in the Second Temple Period.

Nov 20 – 4:00 – 6:30 AM
Mika Pajunen: “The Textual Criticism of the Text of Kings and Chronicles in the Hebrew Text of Ben Sira” in Textual Criticism of the Hebrew Bible.

Nov 18 – 4:00 – 6:30 AM
Francis Borchardt: “The Framing of Female Knowledge in the Prologue of the Sibylline Oracles” in Pseudepigrapha.

Nov 21 – 9:00 – 11:30 AM
Francis Borchardt: Presiding in Hebrew Bible and Political Theory.

Nov 19 – 1:00 – 3:30 AM
Ville Mäkipelto: “Does the Samaritan Book of Joshua Provide Evidence for the Textual History of Josh 24?” in Textual Criticism of the Hebrew Bible.

Nov 19 – 4:00 – 7:00 AM
Timo Tekoniemi: “Identifying kaige and proto-Lucianic readings in 2 Kings with the help of Old Latin manuscript La115” in International Organization for Septuagint and Cognate Studies.

Nov 18 – 9:00 – 11:30 AM
Reinhard Müller: Respondent in Deuteronomistic History; Book of Deuteronomy, theme: Deuteronomy 1–3: The Beginning of History or the Introduction to a Separate Book?

Nov 20 – 1:00 – 3:30 AM
Reinhard Müller: “The Making of Composite Psalms: Documented Evidence, Hypothetical Cases, Methodological Reflections” in Transmission of Traditions in the Second Temple Period.

Nov 18 – 1:00 – 3:30 AM
Urmas Nõmmik: “Remarks on the Formation of the First Isaiah through Diachronic Poetological Lens” in Formation of Isaiah.

Nov 20 – 4:00 – 6:30 AM
Urmas Nõmmik: “The Ben Sira Masada Scroll and the Transmission Process of the Book of Job” in Transmission of Traditions in the Second Temple Period.

TEAM 4. Society and Religion in Late Second Temple Judaism

Nov 19 – 9:00 – 11:30 AM
Jutta Jokiranta: Presiding at Mind, Society, and Religion in the Biblical World, theme: Supercooperators: Costly Signaling Theory and Its Applications to Biblical Studies.

Nov 20 – 1:00 – 3:30 AM
Raimo Hakola: “Jesus and the Galilean Poor in the Context of Ancient Representations of Poverty” in Historical Jesus.

Nov 16 – 2:00 – 4:00 AM (ASOR)
Tine Rassalle, Rick Bonnie, and Annalize Rheeder: “Architecture and Stratigraphy of the Horvat Kur Synagogue Area” in The Synagogue at Horvat Kur.

Nov 20 – 9:00 – 11:30 AM
Jessica Keady: “An Initial Exploration of Positioning Theory and Gender in the War Scroll” in Mind, Society, and Religion in the Biblical World.

Nov 20 – 1:00 – 3:30 AM
Jessica Keady: “Masculinities, War, and Purity: The Positions of Non-Priestly Men in the Dead Sea Scrolls” in Levites and Priests in History and Tradition.

Nov 18 – 1:00 – 3:30 AM
Elisa Uusimäki: “Wisdom, Revelation, and Textuality: Insights from Ancient Judaea” in Prophetic Texts and Their Ancient Contexts.

Nov 20 – 4:00 – 6:30 AM
Elisa Uusimäki and Anna-Liisa Tolonen: “4 Maccabees: Ancestral Perfection in the Roman Diaspora” in Hellenistic Judaism.

Nov 18 – 1:00 – 3:30 AM
Hanna Tervanotko: Presiding at Prophetic Texts and Their Ancient Contexts, theme: Textualization of Revelation.

Nov 19 – 9:00 – 11:30 AM
Hanna Tervanotko: “‘They opened the Book of Law’: Tracing Divinatory Use of Torah in 1 Maccabees” in Deuterocanonical and Cognate Literature.