In the next months we will have an exciting schedule of research meetings and presentations. All will meetings will be online. For Zoom meetings send a request Prof. Wido van Peursen

Thursday 4 Feb 2021
11.00–13.00 CET

Wido van Peursen
Digital Approaches to the Old Testament and Sacred Texts: scope and plans of a new research group.

In the new structure of the Faculty or Religion and Theology to which the ETCBC belongs, the centre is now connected to the research group “Digital Approaches to the Old Testament and other Sacred Texts”, that is to mean that we will have an extension of our focus to the digital analysis of other texts and traditions (a development that was going on and led, for example, to the Lorentz Workshop Processing Ancient Text Corpora in February 2020), whereas, at the same time we want to keep the valuable work of non-digital OT studies on board. This not only may raise confusion about the name of the research meeting (ETCBC/OT/Digital Approaches), but it will also be the topic of this presentation, in which I will introduce a plenary discussion about the question as to how to combine the various foci and how the new research project in the faculty should define itself in terms of mission statement, short-term goals and long term perspectives. Other questions, such as: what do we mean by “sacred texts” may be addressed as well.

Klaas Spronk en Paul Sanders
The Semantics of Ancient Hebrew Database: History and Future of an Ambitious Project

The SAHD project is entering a new phase. This paper presents an overview of the project initiated by professor Hoftijzer (Leiden) in 1987. From the beginning, it combined different goals: (1) a comprehensive presentation of all the data relevant for the description of lexemes in dictionaries; (2) special attention to the lexical fields; (3) a computerized presentation making the data publicly available. The results thus far show impressive output (recently on the semantic field of deliverance) but also limited progress. See
Klaas Spronk and Paul Sanders (PThU), who are the present chairman and secretary of the editorial board of SAHD, will describe the recent opportunities and challenges, with reference to some illustrative lexicographic examples. The following discussion will focus on the question whether cooperation between ETCBC and SAHD may be fruitful.

Thursday 25 Feb 2021
14.00–17.00 [!] CET

Processing Ancient Tekst Corpora

On 17–21 February 2020 the ETCBC and DANS (Data Archiving and Networked Services held a successful workshop at the Leiden Lorentz Centre. The abstract of this workshop (which can be found on contained the following description:

This workshop aims to promote scholarly exchange and to build a community of scholars with an interest in digital humanities and ancient texts. Research into ancient texts undergoes strong development: the application of ever more methods from statistics and machine learning. Given the fact that the text disciplines are organized by language, rather than by method, we think the methodological exchange can be strengthened. The sharing of IT techniques is a natural playground for this, but only a starting point. Theoretically, we need to discuss where these methods bring us. Are big data methods also applicable to small data? What is particular about the fact that the texts of interest are historical? Practically we want to discuss how we can optimally employ IT methods. Can we assess the landscape of IT and make an informed selection of the regions that are most useful to us?

In the scheduled meeting participants of the workshop will reconvene to discuss developments in the application of DH to ancient text corpora, collaboration possibilities and project ideas.

Thursday 25 March 2021
11.00–13.00 CET

Victor van de Bijlert
Challenges for the study of Sanskrit Language and Literature

This presentation will give an overview of the structural characteristics of the Sanskrit language and its challenges for linguists as well as as a hort survey of the wealth of Sanskrit literature and “sacred texts” and their transmission.

This will be followed by a response to discuss by Wido van Peursen on the potential for a computational analysis of Sanskrite texts in the context of the research project Digital Approaches to Sacred Texts.


Discussion of PhD proposals

It is a requirement of the Faculty of Religion and Theology that all PhD proposals are discussed in the research group before they are submitted to the Board of Professors. We expect to have some proposals for discussion.


Thursday 22 April
11.00–13.00 CET

Jack Kawira
A Comparative Study of the Concept of Holiness in the Israelites’ Conquest against the Canaanites

Some passages from the Pentateuch provide some information about the backdrop of the Israelites’ conquest against the Canaanites in the book of Joshua. These passages provide an “ugly” presentation of the Canaanites as the adherent of the idols of the land, whose customs of life violates God’s holiness. Therefore, a socio-religious analysis of the concept of God/s holiness and its implications among its proponents could enlighten the understanding of the essence of the conflict in the Israelites’ conquest. Therefore, in this presentation, the concept of holiness and its implication from both sides will be evaluated both from biblical and extra-biblical sources.

Johanna Tanja
Wandering Aramaic Scribes in Medieval Sepharad?

The Targumim -Aramaic renderings of the text of the Hebrew Bible- provide us with a version of the Hebrew Bible that is translation and interpretation at the same time. The character of the translation differs, depending on which part of the Hebrew Bible is translated. Generally, Aramaic translations of the Tora and Prophets remain closer to the Hebrew text than those of the Writings. Apart from this general observation, the extant traditions also display textual variety that appears to be related to the region of origin of the manuscript.

The most striking example of textual variety of the later type, is the occurrence of Tosefta Targumim in texts produced in medieval Europe. Tosefta Targumim are renderings of the text that have no equivalent in the Hebrew text they seek to translate. This type of expansion is found in manuscripts of European provenance but does not appear in texts produced in the East. The origin of these expansions and their relation to the text of the Targum remain unclear for now. In order to shed some light on the question of origin (and function) of this type of Targum text, this presentation analyses three Tosefta Targumims found in Sephardic manuscripts of Targum Samuel. Firstly, their content and the textual variety in the text as attested in the available manuscripts will be presented. Secondly, their distribution among the different manuscripts and geo-cultural zones of Medieval Europe will be explained. And thirdly, we will return to the question of the possible origin of the Tosefta Targumim: does the analysis of these three Tosefta Targums provide us with possible clues as to their origin or not?


Wednesday 26 May

Short presentations:

Benjamin Bogerd: Relation of protagonist and king in biblical court tales
Diederik Blankesteijn: Metaphors in Psalm 104
Wido van Peursen et al.: Morphological Parser for Inflectional Languages Using Deep Learning

Thursday 17 June

Jón Stéfansson
Dynamics of Apocalypticism

Apocalypticism and millennialism are varieties of eschatology that have been influential, colorful, and sometimes infamous in the history of Christianity. Modern scholarship has explored these beliefs and their history with a range of methodological tools. The historical context is emphasized as a main causative or shaping factor; e.g. one theory suggests that apocalypticism and millennialism react to a perceived crisis. On the other hand, conservatice scholars who adhere to these beliefs tend to focus on the subtleties between different interpretations of the Bible’s perceived predictions and have developed a detailed set of terminology for this purpose.

The following presentation summarizes my dissertation project which presents a possible third approach to study apocalypticism and millennialism. The approach seeks to utilize insights from both believers  and general scholars. According to this method, interpreting “Bible prophecy” is shaped by the expositor’s historical context, their overall theology, and the method they use to read the text (to “decipher the prediction” and identify its “fulfillment”). This methodology was applied to how Martin Luther, Isaac Newton, William Miller, and Ellen White interpreted Daniel 8. These expositors were selected because they represent successive stages in the development of a particular approach to perceived biblical predictions (“historicism”). The study concludes that the case study affirms that considering the dynamics of history, theology, and textual approach provides a more insightful assessment of eschatological beliefs and their development.