Paratexts of the Bible (ParaTexBib)

ParaTexBib is an ongoing research project at the Ludwig-Maximilians-Universität München. From 2014 to 2020 it was funded by an Advanced Grant of the European Research Council.

What is it all about?

This project takes a new look at an old text. The Bible is a fundamental book for the history of religious beliefs, cultural history, art history as well as many other fields. For centuries it has been read and copied multiple times. Thousands of medieval manuscripts survive. The process of transmission is considered here from a totally new perspective. While biblical manuscripts have so far been largely analysed as witnesses to an original text (“Urtext”), this project approaches each manuscript as a single witness to an act of reading and re-interpreting the text.

In recent literary theory, attention has been drawn to “paratexts”, i.e. all material accompanying a main text. Virtually all biblical manuscripts have some of these features. Examples include brief introductions, biographies, tables of contents, poems, cross-references, prayers, and indexes.

However, these paratexts have been neglected by scholars for two reasons: firstly because biblical studies traditionally concentrate on the “inspired text” itself; secondly because of the sheer amount of available material, which far exceeds the capacities of a single scholar. Moreover, being very short, these paratexts have often remained below the detection threshold, and since we are dealing with a rich and “liquid” transmission, many of them also present a methodological challenge.

The project therefore adopts a new approach. Firstly, it catalogues all available material in a database, taking into account recent developments in the fields of structural codicology and digital technology. Secondly, it develops a set of categories according to which each paratext is edited according to internal criteria. This is done with a view to the intrinsic value of each manuscript witness. The result gives a new picture of the Biblical text’s “journey” through the centuries.

What is the outcome?

The data on manuscripts are stored in the Pinakes database. They are best accessible on our public user interface

The editions of paratexts are published both in print and electronically in the series Manuscripta Biblica (De Gruyter).

Who is involved?

The initiators of the project are Prof. Dr. Martin Wallraff and PD Dr. Patrick Andrist. The former serves as principal investigator, the latter as project leader. All other team members are listed on

Who are our partners?

We work closely with two databases, run by the following institutions:

Furthermore, there are close working relationships with the following partners:

Where can I find more information?

There is an article in the Journal “Early Christianity” (vol. 6, 2015), which can be read here.