Congratulations to Dr Hugh Houghton, who has been named today as the recipient of a European Research Council grant worth €1.75M. 

Funded under the ERC's Consolidator Grant Scheme, part of the Horizon 2020 EU Research and Innovation Programme, the CATENA Project will focus on Commentary Manuscripts in the History and Transmission of the Greek New Testament


Manuscripts which contain commentary alongside the biblical text are some of the most significant and complicated witnesses to the Greek New Testament. First compiled around the fifth century, such commentaries consist of a chain of extracts from earlier writers (known as a catena) and became the main way in which users encountered both the text and the interpretation of the New Testament until the invention of printing. The CATENA Project will use digital tools to undertake a fuller examination of Greek New Testament commentary manuscripts than has ever before been possible. This will include an exhaustive survey to establish a complete list of witnesses; a database of extracts to examine their principles of organisation and relationships; and electronic transcriptions to determine their role in the transmission of the biblical text. The results will have a direct impact on editions of the Greek New Testament, providing a new understanding of its text and reception and leading to broader insights into history and culture.

The CATENA Project follows on from Dr Houghton's earlier ERC project, the COMPAUL Project, which ran at Birmingham from 2011–16 and was funded as part of the EU Seventh Framework Programme. Although the COMPAUL Project examined early Latin commentaries as sources for the biblical text, successfully developing a new methodology for the retrieval of the forms of text used by early Christian writers, it also undertook a preliminary investigation of Greek catena tradition. This resulted in the identification of no fewer than 100 catena manuscripts not included in the standard list of witnesses to the Greek New Testament, as well as new insights into the development of catenae on Galatians. Some of the results were shared at the Ninth Birmingham Colloquium and published in a volume on Commentaries, Catenae and Biblical Tradition

The apostle Paul writing. From a manuscript of the Pauline Epistles, early 9th century.The illustration, which is assigned to the St. Gallen scriptorium under the scribe Wolfcoz, follows the early medieval tradition of author portraits. It is considered o

Dr Houghton, who is also Executive Editor of the Pauline Epistles for the International Greek New Testament Project, said:

"I am thrilled to have been awarded a second major grant as part of the ERC funding schemes. The inspiration for the CATENA Project came entirely from the COMPAUL Project, which revealed how neglected the field of Greek New Testament commentary manuscripts has been for more than a century. The discoveries made as part of that project, as well as the remarkable prominence of catenae in the textual flow diagrams of the Coherence-Based Genealogical Method developed by the INTF in Münster, mean that this body of evidence is ripe for reconsideration. It will be wonderful to have the opportunity to study these manuscripts properly using modern digital approaches, and I am sure that it will shed new light on the role they played in the transmission of the New Testament and the communities which produced them. I am particularly looking forward to building on the excellent collaborations with partners from across Europe which were developed during the COMPAUL Project, and assembling another international team of colleagues to explore this aspect of our shared cultural heritage."

The CATENA Project will run alongside another ERC Consolidator Grant in the Department of Theology and Religion at Birmingham, namely the ALTERUMMA Project led by Professor Oliver Scharbrodt. In addition, members of ITSEE are currently partners with Dr Almut Hintze at SOAS in London on the MUYA Project, also funded by the ERC.

Hugh Houghton

Dr Hugh Houghton