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Network for the Study of the Reception History of the Bible

The foundation of the series is the international and interdisciplinary Network for the study of Rewritten Bible founded in 2006 on the initiative of Åbo Akademi University. After few years of work and gatherings the need to widen the focus to the whole reception history of the Bible became obvious. To better reflect this, the title of the publication series was changed from Studies in Rewritten Bible (= SRB) to Studies in the Reception History of the Bible (= SRB). In interests of continuity we have decided to preserve the abbreviation ”SRB.” Today the network gathers a number of European scholars together to discuss and study various topics within the framework of the Reception History of the Bible.


Why SRB?

A whole florilegium of themes and types of afterlife of the Jewish and Christian Bibles can be collected under the umbrella of Reception History. The rewriting, i.e. enhancing, modifying, completing, and colouring, of the Scriptures was done by the generations who received the authoritative texts from their forerunners – in a fact, it started already in the hands which created the later strata of the Bible itself, and since those days the process has continued in different forms until today within the Jewish and Christian traditions. Since the study of the Reception History of the Bible has already by its nature crossed the boundary between Judaism and Christianity and now also brings in contributions of the Islamic studies (the Bible rewritten in the Islamic tradition) it functions as a means of increasing mutual understanding of the deep traditions of the three Abrahamitic faiths.


Who are we?

The researchers of the Åbo Akademi-team, who have worked and/or still work in the network and have presented papers in its conferences and symposia and/or written contributions to network’s publications, represent a wide variety of disciplines and research topics. We are (in alphabetical order):

Mia Anderssen-Löf, Sven-Olav Back, Stefan Green, Gunnar af Hällström, Kirsi Huoponen, Ruth Illman, Simon Johansson, Erkki Koskenniemi, Anni Maria Laato, Antti Laato, Pekka Lindqvist, Timo Nisula, Kristian Norrback, Mikael Nouro, Juho Sankamo, Topias Tanskanen, Hannu Töyrylä, Karl-Henrik Wallerstein, Sami Yli-Karjanmaa, Jonatan Ådahl

Other scholars who have presented their contributions and published them in our network include following experts from other Finnish and foreign universities (in alphabetical order):

Anders Aschim (Volda); Guido Baltes (Marburg); Michaela Bauks (Koblenz); Bärbel Beinhauer-Köhler (Marburg); Kåre Berge (Bergen); Lukas Bormann (Marburg; the leader of the German SRB team); Christfried Böttrich (Greifswald); David Davage (Umeå); Anthony Dupont (Leuven); Michaela Durst (Vienna); Aliyah El Mansy (Marburg); Reuben Firestone (Los Angeles); Martin Friis (Copenhagen); Mariano Gomez Aranda (Madrid); Jaakko Hämeen-Anttila (Edinburgh); Jesper Høgenhaven (Copenhagen); Harri Huovinen (University of Eastern Finland); Jutta Jokiranta (Helsinki); Magnar Kartveit (Stavanger); Judith König (Regensburg, visiting scholar November-December 2023); Marjo Korpel (Amsterdam); Eva-Maria Kreitschmann (Marburg); Lautaro Roig Lanzillotta (Groningen); Ilkka Lindstedt (Helsinki); Martin Meiser (Saarbrücken); Vasile Octavian Mihoc (Ecumenical Institute at Bossey); Johannes de Moor (Amsterdam); Maros Nicak (Bratislava, visiting scholar at ÅAU September 2021 – March 2022); Tobias Nicklas (Regensburg); Christian Noack (Darmstadt); Catalin-Stefan Popa (Romanian Academy); Jacques van Ruiten (Groningen); Konrad Schmid (Zürich); Serafim Seppälä (University of Eastern Finland = UEF); Folker Siegert (Münster); Günter Stemberger (Vienna); Loren Stuckenbruck (Munich); Mustafa Abu Sway (Jerusalem); Martin Tamcke (Göttingen); Anna Tzvetkova-Glaser (Heidelberg); Roberto Tottoli (Naples); Lotta Valve (UEF); Cornelis de Vos (Münster, visiting scholar at ÅAU January 2018); Yvonne Margaretha Wang (Volda); Karl William Weyde (Oslo).


SRB Conferences

The network has organized the following conferences: Karkku, Finland (2006); Koblenz, Germany (2007); Karkku, Finland (2008 and 2010); Göttingen, Germany (2012); Turku, Finland (2014 and 2015). The SRB conferences in recent years have been the following:

“Abraham’s family: A network of meaning” was held in Marburg, Germany (September 2016) under the chairmanship of Prof. Lukas Bormann. Twenty-five papers were presented. The contributions of the conference have been published in Lukas Bormann, ed., Abraham’s Family: A Network of Meaning in Judaism, Christianity, and Islam (WUNT 415; Tübingen: Mohr Siebeck, 2018).

”The Challenge of the Mosaic Torah in Judaisms, Christianity and Islam” was held in Karkku, Finland (August 2017). The papers presented in the conference have been published in Antti Laato, ed., The Challenge of the Mosaic Torah in Judaism, Christianity, and Islam (STCA 7, Leiden: Brill 2020).

“David, Messianism, and Eschatology in the Jewish and Christian Reception History of the Book of Psalms” was held in Turku (October 2018). See the conference publication: David Davage and Erkki Koskenniemi, eds., David, Messianism, and Eschatology: Ambiguity in the Reception History of the Book of Psalms in Early Judaism and Christianity (SRB 10; Network for the Study of the Reception History; Penn State University Press, 2020).

“Understanding abnormalities in Biblical figures” was held in Marburg (October, 2020, Zoom conference). The papers have been edited by Lukas Bormann, Guido Baltes and Martin Meiser and published in SRB 11.

“Between Universalism and Particularism: The Reception of Abraham and Jacob Stories in Jewish and Christian Writings (= UNIPAR)” was held in Turku (August 2021, Zoom conference). The papers will be edited by Antti Laato and Stefan Green and be published.

“Scriptural allusions and exegetical techniques in the Book of Revelation” was held in Turku (March 30-31, 2023). The papers will be edited by Lotta Valve and Antti Laato.

“The Book of Isaiah between Judaeo-Christian Borderlines” in Turku, Finland, May 3-5, 2023. Organizers: Åbo Akademi University (ÅAU, Prof. Antti Laato) and University of Regensburg (UR, Prof. Tobias Nicklas). Papers will be edited by Stefan Green, Judith König, Antti Laato and Tobias Nicklas and published in the series WUNT (Mohr Siebeck).

The forthcoming SRB Conference “Women figures of the Hebrew Bible as paragons in the Gospel of Luke and their reception in Judaism and Christianity” will be held in Turku, November, 14-15 2024.


Research Projects

The Research Project (2013-2017): ”Where are you, Adam?”

The Academy of Finland provided financial support for the project: ”Where are you, Adam? A New Understanding of Adam and Eve in Jewish-Christian-Muslim Context” during the period 1.9. 2013 – 31.8. 2017.

The topic of this research project, the figure of Adam, results from co-operation between professors Antti Laato and Jaakko Hämeen-Anttila. Scholars participating in the SRB-network contributed to this project. ÅAU research team concentrated in Jewish and Christian interpretations on Adam.

The aim of this research project was to open the closed case of Adam and provide a new and updated ”biography” of Adam-interpretations from the Old Testament times onwards to later periods when the main Jewish, Christian and Muslim documents were written. The central question wass: How was the story of Adam interpreted in different historical and social contexts? And how was the figure of Adam used to depict the prototype of human being in the Jewish, Christian and Islamic religions? There are several points where we wanted to clarify the picture of Adam in different historical periods and correct earlier misreadings by avoiding blinders which later Jewish, Christian and Muslim interpretations have made on earlier writings.

The overall project consisted of five different historical periods:

I: Formation of the biblical traditions in the Hebrew Bible.

II: Early Jewish writings.

III: Formation of the Christian and rabbinical traditions.

IV: Formation of the Muslim traditions.

V: The golden age in Spain when all three monotheistic religions encountered each other in a relatively peaceful milieu.

In August 25-28, 2014 a conference took place arranged in Turku. The approx. 25 papers were discussing Adam-traditions and their reception history in Jewish, Christian and Muslim writings. The papers were be published in the SRB-series. The wide spectrum of the papers shows clearly that the western post-Augustine picture of Adam as the one who fell in sin and subjugated the whole humankind under the yoke of ”original sin” is too one-sided. Adam interpretation contains lots of important theological concepts which are shared by all three monotheistic religions.

Publications of the project:

* A. Laato & Lotta Valve (eds), Adam and Eve Story in the Hebrew Bible and in Ancient Jewish Writings Including the New Testament (SRB 7, Winona Lake: Eisenbrauns 2016).

* A. Laato & L. Valve (eds), Adam and Eve Story in Jewish, Christian and Islamic Perspectives (SRB 8, Winona Lake: Eisenbrauns 2017).

* A. Laato & L. Valve (eds), Life of Adam and Eve: Using Jewish Traditions and Confronting Gnostic Reversed Exegesis (SRB 9; Network for the SRB and ÅAU, 2019; distribution PSUP).

* Forthcoming is Jonathan Ådahl’s dissertation on Rabbinical Adam interpretations. The manuscript (“Adam Outside Genesis. Connecting Texts: Three Studies on Rabbinical Reception of Adam”) has been delivered for evaluation


The Research Project (2018-2020): “Between Universalism and Particularism”

The Polin Institute provided financial support for the project “Between Universalism and Particularism: The Reception of Abraham and Jacob Stories in Jewish and Christian Writings (= UNIPAR)” 2018–2020

UNIPAR (Between Universalism and Particularism: The Reception of Abraham and Jacob Stories in Jewish and Christian Writings) is a multidisciplinary research project which combines experts of biblical studies and early reception history of the Bible in Jewish, Christian and rabbinic writings. UNIPAR will be a part of the international research network SRB (Studies in the Reception History of the Bible) which was established in 2006 by the initiative of Åbo Akademi University. UNIPAR will deal with the patriarchal stories and the two modes of reasoning that are visible in these stories: universalistic and inclusive mode of reasoning (all nations will be blessed in Abraham’s seed) and particularistic and exclusive mode of reasoning (divine election of Isaac i.o. Ishmael and Jacob i.o. Esau). What has not been emphasized in earlier research is that these two modes of argumentation have been closely interconnected in Christian and rabbinic reception of the Abraham and Jacob Stories and contributed to the self-definition of the two religions. UNIPAR is interested in understanding this interconnection as well as in clarifying the roots of these modes of reasoning in early Jewish reception history.

The aim of UNIPAR is to detect the rhetorical rationality of universalistic-inclusive and particularistic-exclusive modes of reasoning in early Jewish, Christian and rabbinic writings. We aim to explain three lines of development in Jewish and Christian writings: 1) What historical (e.g. crisis of the Maccabean time; Jewish revolts) and sociological (e.g. encounter with the Hellenistic world) circumstances explain the fact that both universalistic and particularistic modes of reasoning were used in Second Temple Jewish writings? 2) What are the argumentative strategies and rhetoric of these two modes of reasoning in the Christian replacement theology formed in the patristic period? 3) How were universalistic and particularistic modes of reasoning used in later rabbinic writings? Is there evidence of confrontation against Christian interpretations?

UNIPAR will arrange an international conference at Åbo Akademi University in 2021 where we will deal with Abraham- and Jacob-stories in Jewish and Christian texts. Scholars among others from Belgium, Finland, Germany, Holland and Italy will take part in the conference. If you are interest in presenting a paper at this conference, please contact Professor Antti Laato ( Presentations at the conference will be evaluated and edited in a SRB volume which will be published by the network.

UNIPAR will clarify the problematic argumentation process behind the Christian replacement theology and in this way opens new possibilities to understand Jewish-Christian encounters in history and today.

During the research period it becomes clear that the focus of the project should also be laid in the story of Noah which in the Book of Genesis provide an important background to Abraham’s family history – something which becomes visible especially in the early Jewish reception history (e.g., 1 Enoch, Jubilees and Genesis Apocryphon).

In this research project Topias Tanskanen has defended his doctoral dissertation (Jacob, the Torah, and the Abrahamic Promise: Studies on the Use and Interpretation of the Jacob Story in the Book of Jubilees) on May 30, 2023. The Faculty Opponent was Professor Loren Stuckenbruck from the University of Munich. The dissertation has been accepted in the series Deuterocanonical and Cognate Literature Studies (Berlin: de Gruyter).

Other publications in this project include:

Antti Laato, Nooa juutalaisessa tulkintatraditiossa ja sen vaikutus varhaiseen kristilliseen tulkintaan [Noah in Jewish Reception History and Its Influence on Early Christian Interpretation] (Studia Patristica Fennica 13; Helsinki: Suomen patristinen seura, 2021).

Erkki Koskenniemi, “No Star from Jacob, No Lion from Judah: Josephus and the Blessing to All the Nations,” in Pekka Lindqvist & Lotta Valve, Herald of Good Tidings: Essays on the Bible, Prophecy, and the Hope of Israel in Honour of Antti Laato, (Hebrew Bible Monographs 97; Sheffield: Sheffield Phoenix Press, 2021) 160-190.

Timo Nisula, Anni Maria Laato, and Pablo Irizar, eds, Religious Polemics and Encounters in Late Antiquity:  Boundaries, Conversions and Persuasion (forthcoming in STCA 8; Leiden: Brill 2021). This volume contains the following articles related to UNIPAR project: Antti Laato, “Abraham in Justin Martyr’s Dialogue”; Erkki Koskenniemi, “Excellent, but How? Abraham in Josephus.”

The papers of UNIPAR Conference have been controlled in the first peer-review process and the whole manuscript has been sent to Brill for final evaluation (= the second peer-review). The volume has been edited by Antti Laato and Stefan Green.


The research project (2022-2026): The Book of Isaiah between Judaeo-Christian Borderlines

This project has received funding from Polin Institute and the Academy of Finland for the years 2022-2026.

The project focuses on the relationship between the early Christian interpretation of the Book of Isaiah (= BI) and the reception history of the same in Early Judaism. It will give new knowledge in which way the Jewish reception of the BI influenced the Christian interpretation, and how these interpretive themes continued their way in the early Church. It also deepens the understanding on the development of anti-Judaic theology in early Christianity.

The hypothesis is that the early Christian interpretation of the BI in the New Testament and in early Christian literature took a stand in established Jewish interpretations. Early Jewish interpretations, in turn, were closely linked through scribal schools to the final composition of the BI. Several interpretive themes, formed in the early Jewish reception history of the BI in the post-exilic period, were later adopted and modified, or refuted, in early Christian interpretation. This allows the researcher to put these two realms, Jewish and Christian, in dialogue with each other.

Methodologically the project uses Justin Martyr’s work ”Dialogue with Trypho, a Jew” as a starting point. His active use of BI will be compared with the one found in other early Christian and Jewish literature. This comparison with the Jewish interpretation of Isaiah is possible and reasonable due to the fact, shown by earlier scholarship, that Justin’s exegesis and the Jewish texts of the Second Temple period share many Isaiah texts. The research starts from Justin’s exegesis, which is compared vertically with earlier Jewish and Christian (mainly from the New Testament and Apostolic Fathers) writings. A horizontal dimension will be found in another Church father, Tertullian, who lived only slightly later than Justin. Part of the focus will be to examine how these two, Justin and Tertullian, with their Isaiah exegesis, but also with their exegesis in more general terms, established anti-Judaic traditions which were later transmitted in the Christian tradition and subsequently received some reactions in rabbinical writings.

The IJCB-project will give fresh, valuable knowledge on how Jewish interpretive traditions of the BI were adopted, modified and challenged in Christian exegesis, as well as valuable new knowledge on the argumentative rhetorical strategies used in early Christian polemics against Judaism. In addition new light will be cast on the extent to which the rabbinic Judaism reacted to this.

The background for this project was Antti Laato’s publication Message and Composition of the Book of Isaiah: An Interpretation in the Light of Jewish Reception History (Deuterocanonical and Cognate Literature Studies 46; Berlin: de Gruyter, 2022). Other publications insofar include

Laato, Antti. Reading Isa 8:4 inside Isa 7:10-17 – An Attempt to Understand Justin Martyr’s Isaiah Exegesis. Annali di Storia dell’Esegesi 39 (2022): 289-312.

Laato Antti. Juutalaiskristillinen jäännös Siionissa – Jesaja 1:8-9 varhaisessa kristillisessä kirjallisuudessa. Serafim Seppälä (toim.), Varhaiskirkon Jerusalem. Studia Patristica Fennica 19. Helsinki: Suomen patristinen seura, 2023, 69-110.

Laato, Antti. “’Like a Booth in a Vineyard’: The Remnant Theology in the Book of Isaiah and Its Implications on Early Jewish and Christian Reception History,” in David Davage, Mikael Larsson and Lena-Sofia Tiemeyer, eds., Metaphors in the Prophetic Literature of the Hebrew Bible and Beyond. Journal of Ancient Judaism Supplements 36. Leiden: Brill, 2024, 272-295.

Laato, Antti. “The Heavenly Jerusalem and the Jewish Remnant in the Book of Isaiah: The Changing Interpretation of Eusebius of Caesarea,” in Nathan Betz, Anthony Dupont, and Johan Leemans, eds., Revelation’s New Jerusalem in Late Antiquity. History of Biblical Exegesis. Leiden: Brill, 2024, 71-92.

Laato, Antti. Jesajan taivaaseen astuminen ja hänen marttyyrikuolemansa: Käännös muinaisetiopian kielestä, johdanto ja kommentaari [Finnish Translation of Ascension of Isaiah with Introduction and Notes]. Forthcoming in the series Studia Patristica Fennica.

Laato, Antti. “Isaiah 6:1-3 and Angelomorphic Christology – An Approach to Understand Early Jewish-Christian Isaiah Exegesis.” Forthcoming in Verbum Vitae.

Laato, Antti. “The Vision of Hezekiah in the Ascension of Isaiah.” Forthcoming in Journal for the Study of the Pseudepigrapha.

Laato, Antti. “Jacob Is Christ – Justin Martyr between Jewish Isaiah-Exegesis and Christological Explanations.” Forthcoming in WUNT series.

Uppdaterad 23.4.2024