The Bible and the Humanities Conference (17-18 October 2018)
The field of Biblical Studies was created in conjunction with and in conversation with the emerging disciplines of philology, classics and literature. There was fruitful interaction between Biblical Studies and classical philology, an area that served as an incubator in which the seeds for what would become distinct humanistic disciplines germinated. To name just one important example, at the turn of the nineteenth century, Friedrich August Wolf’s groundbreaking work on the textual development of Homer’s Iliad and Odyssey is indebted to Johann Gottfried Eichhorn’s study of the textual development of the Hebrew Bible, and also suggested new directions for Biblical Studies. The situation today, however, does not suggest such reciprocity. To some extent, Biblical Studies is influenced by approaches in the social sciences and the Humanities, but Biblical Studies largely pursues its own path, and there is no discernible flow from Biblical Studies to the Humanities.
Yet, there remains an undeniable distinctiveness about biblical traditions that renders them a locus of special interest and of methodological innovation. Because of the ongoing roles played by biblical traditions in Judaism, Christianity and Islam, these traditions have remained vital for millennia. They have been and remain central, not only to scholarship, but also to people’s lives, in a highly distinctive manner.
An opportunity exists at the present moment for the renewal of reciprocity between Biblical Studies and the Humanities because of the revival of interest throughout the Humanities in philology. Philology has been foundational for Biblical Studies since its inception as an academic discipline. The discovery of large amounts of newly accessible texts – thanks to the Dead Sea Scrolls and the Cairo Geniza – have provided Jewish Studies students, not only with an expanded corpus on which to apply established philological methods, but also with an entirely new window onto the continued development of biblical traditions throughout late antiquity and the early middle ages. There has never in human history been an opportunity of this magnitude to study, over such a long period of time and in such shifting linguistic and cultural contexts, the vitality of textual traditions regarded by many as central to human life. And there has not, in recent memory, been an opportunity of this magnitude for Biblical Studies to impact the Humanities, with their revived interest in philology.
This conference thus re-integrates Biblical Studies into the Humanities by bringing current developments in the field of Biblical Studies into other Humanistic disciplines, with a special focus on philology.