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Edited by Barbara Roggema and Alexander Treiger

Patristic Literature in Arabic Translations explores the Arabic translations of the Greek and Syriac Church Fathers, focusing on those produced in the Palestinian monasteries and at Sinai in the 8th–10th centuries and in Antioch during Byzantine rule (969–1084). These Arabic translations preserve patristic texts lost in the original languages. They offer crucial information about the diffusion and influence of patristic heritage among Middle Eastern Christians from the 8th century to the present. A systematic examination of Arabic patristic translations sheds light on the development of Muslim and Jewish theological thought.

Contributors are Aaron Michael Butts, Joe Glynias, Habib Ibrahim, Jonas Karlsson, Sergey Kim, Joshua Mugler, Tamara Pataridze, Alexandre Roberts, Barbara Roggema, Alexander Treiger.

Dante’s Prayerful Pilgrimage

Typologies of Prayer in the Comedy


Alessandro Vettori

In Dante’s Prayerful Pilgrimage Alessandro Vettori provides a comprehensive analysis of prayer in Dante’s Commedia. The underlying thesis considers prayer a metaphorical pilgrimage toward a sacred location and connects it with the pilgrim’s ascent to the vision of the Trinity. Prayer is movement in Purgatorio and also in Paradiso, while eternal stasis is the penalty of blasphemous souls in Inferno. In the fictional rendition of the poem, the pilgrim’s itinerary becomes a specular reflection of Dante’s own exilic experience. Prayer’s human-divine interaction affords the poet the necessary escape from the overwhelming sense of failure in politics and love. Whether it is petitional, liturgical, thankful, praiseful, or contemplative, prayer expresses the supplicant’s wish to transform reality and attain a superior spiritual status.

Bruce Chilton

Alan Segal rejected the claim that the “empty tomb” must be taken as the fulcrum of analysis for Jesus’ Resurrection. He characterized that argument as the project of “a small group of scholars made up entirely of the faithful trying to impose their faith in the form of an academic argument.”1 Although Segal’s criticism is too broadly articulated to be convincing, it identifies a weakness in recent discussion. The tomb of Jesus, judged by the statements of the texts involved and their developing tendencies, is better described as “emptying” as time went on than as “empty” from the outset. More importantly, reference to the tomb conveyed differing emphases among tradents, and distinctive outlooks on the Resurrection. Awareness of both the exegetical trajectory of the relevant texts and their varying perspectives leads to the suggestion that the “empty tomb” needs to be replaced as the point of departure in discussion.

Cristiana Facchini

This article is devoted to Leon Modena’s anti-Christian polemical work Magen ve-herev (1643 ca.) as a useful source for the reconstruction of notions about the historical Jesus in the early modern period. In this work, Modena depicts Jesus in a sympathetic way, placing his religious activity against the backdrop of second Temple Judaism. Modena’s Jesus is fully Jewish, and Magen ve-herev offers different perspectives on the religious and historical context of Jesus’ life, and on the development of Christianity. The text is interpreted not exclusively against the backdrop of Jewish anti-Christian polemics but as the result of an increasing interest in the history of Christianity and ecclesiastical history, mainly as a response to the religious strife that resonated in the Republic of Venice and its ghetto.

Revolutionary Contexts for the Quest

Jesus in the Rhetoric and Methods of Early Modern Intellectual History

Jonathan C.P. Birch

This article contributes to a new perspective on the historical Jesus in early modern intellectual history. This perspective looks beyond German and academic scholarship, and takes account of a plurality of religious, social, and political contexts. Having outlined avenues of research which are consistent with this approach, I focus on radicalised socio-political contexts for the emergence of ‘history’ as a category of analysis for Jesus. Two contexts will be discussed: the late eighteenth century, with reference to Joseph Priestley, Baron d’Holbach, and their associations with the French Revolution; and the interregnum period in seventeenth-century Britain, with reference to early Quaker controversies and the apologetic work of Henry More. I identify ideas about Jesus in those contexts which have echoed in subsequent scholarship, while challenging the notion that there is a compelling association between sympathetic historical conceptions of Jesus (as opposed to theological) and a tendency towards radical and revolutionary politics.

Anthony Giambrone

This study helps critically distance future scholarship from the rhetorical and religious agenda of Albert Schweitzer’s Quest of the Historical Jesus, with the corollary aim of problematizing the widespread ‘Three Quests’ heuristic, so dependent upon it. The pronounced ambitions and strongly marked German Protestant social location of Schweitzer’s project will be exposed by calling to witness a very early, yet widely neglected reception of his work: Marie-Joseph Lagrange’s The Meaning of Christianity according to German Exegesis (1917). The quite different, though no less contextualized socio-religious location of this French Catholic priest will serve to highlight some significant phenomena obscured by the standard picture of the history of Jesus research, above all its deep theoretical roots in the Radical Reformation.

Theses on the Nature of the Leben-Jesu-Forschung

A Proposal for a Paradigm Shift in Understanding the Quest

Fernando Bermejo-Rubio

Criticisms addressed to the historiographical paradigm of the so-called ‘three quests’ by several scholars with different ideological backgrounds and who have worked independently have debunked it by proving its untenable character. The present paper makes a proposal for a new paradigm which allows us to understand the quest of the historical Jesus in a more comprehensive, lucid and explanatory way. This proposal has been articulated through a set of theses, accompanied in each case by an explanation (and, sometimes, by corollaries), accomplishing a threefold task: a broader characterization of historical Jesus research, a summary discussion of the main distortions contained in the ‘three-quests’ model, and, more importantly, an exposition of the basic principles of a new paradigm.

The Work of Isaac Ben Abraham Troki (16th Century)

On the Place of the Sefer Hizzuq Emunah in the Quest for the Historical Jesus

Miriam Benfatto

The Jewish anti-Christian polemical literature includes in its arguments the figure of Jesus of Nazareth, since one of its main goals is to discredit certain attributes of the Christian Messiah. This literature, however, has been so far almost completely overlooked in the Leben-Jesu-Forschung. The present paper draws attention to the figure of Jesus that can be seen in the famous text of Isaac ben Abraham Troki, the Sefer Hizzuq Emunah (end of the 16th century), whose controversial deconstruction of the Christological figure of Jesus allows us to discover a particular type of historical construction.

Genesis and Cosmos

Basil and Origen on Genesis 1 and Cosmology


Adam Rasmussen

In Genesis and Cosmos Adam Rasmussen examines how Basil and Origen addressed scientific problems in their interpretations of Genesis 1. For the first time, he offers an in-depth analysis of Basil’s thinking on three problems in Scripture-and-science: the nature of matter, the super-heavenly water, and astrology. Both theologians worked from the same fundamental perspective that science is the “servant” of Christianity, useful yet subordinate. Rasmussen convincingly shows how Basil used Origen’s writings to construct his own solutions. Only on the question of the water does Basil break with Origen, who allegorized the water. Rasmussen demonstrates how they sought to integrate science and Scripture and thus remain instructive for those engaged in the dialogue between religion and science today.