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Palacký University
02-10-2014, 13:06, Age: 10 y.

Biblical History and Exegesis: From Clay Tablets to the Final Text

By: Velena Mazochová

The Olomouc team main investigator, Vít Hušek.

A unique interdisciplinary project investigating the history and exegesis of the Bible has entered its second half. A significant contribution has been made by a research team at the Centre for Patristic, Medieval and Renaissance Texts at Palacký University. The Olomouc team received funding for excellence in basic research together with experts from Charles University and the Academy of Sciences of the Czech Republic and has published several studies and translations.

The project – entitled “History and Interpretation of the Bible” and funded by the Grant Agency of the Czech Republic – involves a large variety of themes related to Biblical texts. “One of the conditions in the grant application was cooperation of several institutes with outstanding accomplishments in research, whose collaboration should achieve beneficial synergies,” said Vít Hušek of the Sts Cyril and Methodius Faculty of Theology in Olomouc, the Head of the Centre for Patristic, Medieval and Renaissance Texts.

Joining their efforts with the experts from the Protestant Theological Faculty of Charles University and the Institute of Philosophy at the Academy of Sciences should provide a comprehensive view of the origins, transmission, and interpretation of Biblical texts. “We have been trying to cover a long period, from clay tablets and the oldest papyruses over to other formations and transmissions of the texts up to their final shape. Our study also includes interpretations of the meaning of the text in the time of its origin and in the following centuries up to the present times,” said Hušek, describing the extent of their objective.

Olomouc contribution to a project of excellence

The Centre investigators focussed their attention on the interpretations of the Bible by the Greek and Latin Fathers – the writers and thinkers of Christian Antiquity. “This period has been considered stimulating in terms of the studies of development of Christian thinking,” emphasised Hušek. Greek and Latin texts, originating from regions populated by the Christians – in the Mediterranean, Asia Minor, or North Africa – prevail among them.

“We are not involved in Biblical studies as such. We are interested in what immediately follows after the Bible, starting from apocryphal texts, which were not included, although their date of origin is approximately identical. The texts include theological literature, correspondence, belles-lettres, and other genres,” said Hušek.

The work of Olomouc researchers comprises Czech translations and commentaries, accompanied with a foreword and notes, in order to make important texts from the period accessible to Czech experts as well as lay readers. “The reader may choose a passage and read it in Czech instead of searching for it in a foreign translation,” he added.

The other line of work is represented by a purely interpretative approach, which has resulted in individual studies. “We have observed the development of certain thoughts in the course of history of Christian thinking and theology. We are interested in what kind of questions the individual authors raise, how they answer them, what related themes are elaborated, or on the contrary, what they lacked interest in, while another author had a completely different approach,” explained Hušek.

Along with the Centre investigators, a number of Biblicists from the Faculty of Theology in Olomouc participated in the project. They have been preparing a series of commentaries and specialised studies on the individual books of the Old and New Testament. They have also began working on the Czech translation of Septuagint, the oldest Greek translation of the Old Testament, dated to the third to first century before Christ and once used by Jews living outside Palestine and early Christians.

Interdisciplinary approach essential

The objective of this interdisciplinary project is to contribute to the clarification of the process in which Biblical texts became an importing formative element in the genesis of new cultural traditions. It includes the world of the Hebrew Bible in the Orient of the second and first millennium before Christ, then the interpretation of the Biblical texts by the Greek and Latin Church Fathers, and even the contemporary questions of Biblical exegesis – a critical interpretation of the Bible.

The experts’ ambition is to cover a broad range of themes such as the material production and their cultural environment, the political context and related historical events, education of the scribes, relations between various linguistic environments or different theological concepts. The interdisciplinary approach necessitated involvement of experts from a number of disciplines: from theology, history, history of philosophy, through Hebrew, Greek, Coptic, or Latin philology, to the theoretical reflection of historiography and translation theory.

The main results of the project will be an edition and database of primary historical sources. The Czech literary canon will be enriched with further translations, commentaries, and thematic studies for better understanding and interpretation of the Bible. The list of publications written by the Centre for Patristic, Medieval and Renaissance Texts in Olomouc includes translations and studies such as Augustine: On the Immortality of the Soul by Lenka Karfíková, and Gregory of Nyssa: On the Creation of the Man by Magdaléna Bláhová. The first joint publication of Olomouc and Prague Biblicists is Difficult Passages in Former Prophets.

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