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 www.manuscripta-biblica.org.
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 manuscripta-biblica.org.
Who are our partners?
We work closely with two databases, run by the following institutions:
- Institut für neutestamentliche Textforschung, Universität Münster (notably the New Testament Virtual Manuscript Room)
- Section grecque et de l’Orient chrétien de l’Institut de recherche et d’histoire des textes, Paris (notably the database Pinakes)
Furthermore, there are close working relationships with the following partners:
- Institut für Septuaginta- und biblische Textforschung, Kirchliche Hochschule Wuppertal
- Database of Byzantine Book Epigrams, Universität Gent
- Biblia Arabica, LMU München
Where can I find more information?
There is an article in the Journal “Early Christianity” (vol. 6, 2015), which can be read here.