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Vision, Narrative, and Wisdom in the Aramaic Texts from Qumran

Essays from the Copenhagen Symposium, 14-15 August, 2017

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Edited by Mette Bundvad and Kasper Siegismund

The Aramaic Dead Sea Scrolls from Qumran have attracted increasing interest in recent years. These texts predate the “sectarian” Dead Sea scrolls, and they are contemporary with the youngest parts of the Hebrew Bible. They offer a unique glimpse into the situation before the biblical canons were closed. Their highly creative Jewish authors reshaped and rewrote biblical traditions to cope with the concerns of their own time. The essays in this volume examine this fascinating ancient literature from a variety of different perspectives. The book grew out of an international symposium held at the University of Copenhagen in August 2017.

The Development of the Biblical Hebrew vowels

Including a Concise Historical Morphology

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Benjamin Suchard

The development of the Biblical Hebrew Vowels investigates the sound changes affecting the Proto-Northwest-Semitic vocalic phonemes and their reflexes in Tiberian Biblical Hebrew. Contrary to many previous approaches, Benjamin Suchard shows that these developments can all be described as phonetically regular sound laws. This confirms that despite its unique transmission history, Hebrew behaves like other languages in this regard. Many Hebrew sound changes have traditionally been explained as reflecting non-phonetic conditioning. These include the Canaanite Shift of *ā to *ō, tonic and pre-tonic lengthening, diphthong contraction, Philippi’s Law, the Law of Attenuation, and the apocope of short, unstressed vowels. By reconsidering reconstructions and re-evaluating phonetic conditions, this work shows how the Biblical Hebrew forms regularly derive from their Proto-Northwest-Semitic precursors.

Ancient Manuscripts in Digital Culture

Visualisation, Data Mining, Communication

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Edited by David Hamidović, Claire Clivaz and Sarah Bowen Savant

Ancient Manuscripts in Digital Culture presents an overview of the digital turn in Ancient Jewish and Christian manuscripts visualisation, data mining and communication. Edited by David Hamidović, Claire Clivaz and Sarah Bowen Savant, it gathers together the contributions of seventeen scholars involved in Biblical, Early Jewish and Christian studies. The volume attests to the spreading of digital humanities in these fields and presents fundamental analysis of the rise of visual culture as well as specific test-cases concerning ancient manuscripts. Sophisticated visualisation tools, stylometric analysis, teaching and visual data, epigraphy and visualisation belong notably to the varied overview presented in the volume.

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Liv Ingeborg Lied

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During the first decades of the twenty-first century, a growing number of libraries and collections around the world have digitized their manuscript holdings, making manuscripts visually accessible online. Exploring the outcome of these digitization processes as an ongoing media shift, the present article discusses the potential consequences of the new visual availability of manuscripts to paradigms and practices of textual scholarship. How may the increased presence of manuscripts online contribute to a change in editing practices, as well as the academic reader’s expectations for the content and format of critical editions? How may the increased presence of digitized manuscripts online affect studies of manuscripts – beyond editorial practices, and (how) will the digitization of manuscripts change the needs of scholars to access manuscripts in libraries and collections?

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H.A.G. Houghton

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The adoption of digital editing software has led to a significant change in the process of creating a critical edition of the New Testament, as embodied in the Novum Testamentum Graecum Editio Critica Maior. Data is no longer gathered as a collation of witnesses against a standard base text, but in the form of complete transcriptions of individual manuscripts which then form the basis of an automatically generated apparatus. This chapter outlines the procedures involved in creating a body of such electronic data. In particular, it considers the accuracy and transparency of the current transcription process for this edition, suggesting that proofreading is an important stage even if a double-blind approach has been used for the initial transcriptions and arguing for a fuller use of the TEI Header to describe the source and limitations of the transcription. It also addresses the publication and release of XML files, proposing that such scholarly work is best made available in the form of individual files consisting of a single biblical book and under a license which only requires attribution to the original creators when the data is re-used rather than restricting data to non-commercial use or stipulating that derivatives must be released under the same terms (share-alike).

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Stephen J. Davis

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The Yale Monastic Archaeology Project (YMAP) sponsors work at monastic sites in Egypt. Part one of this article reports on the discovery of manuscript fragments in the Church of St. Shenoute at the White Monastery near Sohag and on procedures and complications related to the tasks of photo-documentation and digitization. Part two focuses on the cataloguing of Coptic and Arabic manuscripts at the Monastery of the Syrians in Wādī al-Naṭrūn, where the goal of digitization is complicated by monastic concerns about cultural heritage, the legacy of colonialism, and the control of manuscript content in the digital age.

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Peter M. Phillips

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This chapter explores the power of visual culture within the European social imaginary, focusing on the role of the image within the social structure of European history and the more recent “pictorial turn” in contemporary society. The paper explores specifically three examples of the text of the Bible in contemporary visual culture: an exhibition of the Lindisfarne Gospels; celebrity tweets which include Bible references or verses; and the recent Hollywood blockbuster film, Noah, directed by Darren Aronofsky. In each case, the chapter explores the impact of the visual over against the text itself. Is the text strengthened or diminished by its encounter/intersection/merger with the visual?

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Thibault Clérice and Matthew Munson

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Much attention has been given in the last several years to the task of automatically extracting semantic information from raw textual data and the best algorithms and the best parameters to achieve this task. But the accomplishment of this task need not be an end in itself. Instead, the data that is produced by these processes can be used to answer questions outside of purely linguistic studies. This paper aims to help make these algorithmic processes more accessible to other humanities disciplines by considering how one can qualitatively assess the results returned by such algorithms. It will introduce an effective and yet easy-to-understand metric for parameter choice which we call Gap Score. Then it will use Gap Score to analyze three distinct sets of results produced by two different algorithmic processes to discover what type of information they return and, thus, for which types of hermeneutical tasks they may be useful. Our purpose in doing this is to demonstrate that the accuracy of an algorithm on a specific test, or even a range of tests, does not tell the user everything about that algorithm. Gap Score introduces a qualitative aspect to the assessment of algorithmic processes that recognizes that an algorithm that might score lower on a certain standardized test may actually be better for certain hermeneutical tasks than a better scoring algorithm.

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Heather Dana Davis Parker and Christopher A. Rollston

Abstract

Fields of knowledge are always in transition, and the field of Northwest Semitic epigraphy is no exception to this. Within this article, we will delineate certain aspects of the history of this field and will discuss the traditional means of studying ancient texts in light of new technological innovations. Our goal is to demarcate how these innovations are impacting the ways we do research, as well as how they can facilitate the presentation of our research and the ways we teach students in our field. A primary focus will be the use of digital technology in drawing ancient texts and palaeographic script charts and how to teach this technology in an epigraphic digital lab. Emphasis will be placed on the linear alphabetic Northwest Semitic corpus; however, the technologies, techniques, and methodologies discussed can be applied to other epigraphic fields.