Ancient Texts

Birmingham has a long history of researching ancient texts. Using specialist expertise and new technologies, our academics put these texts in context and discover what they mean to our world today

Birmingham hosts a world-leading hub in this field at The Institute for Textual Scholarship and Electronic Editing (ITSEE). Our researchers use digital tools to locate and view original materials, ranging from single manuscripts to multiple versions of a text, such as a verse from the Bible. The software applied in Birmingham is now used in institutions across the world.

The Dead Sea Scrolls

The Dead Sea Scrolls found in eleven caves on the north western shore of the Dead Sea, also known as the Qumran Texts, are the focus of Professor Charlotte Hempel’s work. Her focus initially was on several texts that were previously entirely unknown and describe the life and organization of a movement. More recently she has explored the ways in which the scribal milieu behind the Scrolls shares much more with the circles behind the emerging Hebrew Bible/Old Testament than previously thought.

The Birmingham Qur’an

During her studies at Birmingham Dr Alba Fedeli worked on the origins and history of the ‘Birmingham Qur’an’ manuscript. Her analysis indicated that it was extremely early, and she encouraged the Cadbury Research Library, which held the document, to have it carbon dated. The results placed it within two decades of the life of the Prophet Muhammad. While studying for her PhD she also reconstructed the Qur'anic undertext of the Mingana-Lewis palimpsest held in the Cambridge University Library. Dr Fedeli is now a postdoctoral fellow dividing her time between ITSEE and Bologna (FSCIRE), where she is continuing her work on the relationship and texts of early Qur'anic manuscripts.

CATENA 

This research project, funded by a £1.75m European Research Council (ERC) consolidator grant, is undertaking groundbreaking research into collections of commentaries ('catenae') on early New Testament texts. The project will have a direct impact on editions of the Greek New Testament, providing a new understanding of its textual transmission and reception, and will lead to broader insights into their history and culture.

Ezra's Legacy and the Dead Sea Scrolls: Law and Narratives of Exclusion

Professor Charlotte Hempel’s AHRC-funded project will explore the evidence provided in two crucial sources on the history of Jewish law: Ezra-Nehemiah and the Dead Sea Scrolls.

“Understanding the variety of forms in which ancient texts were written and transmitted is vital to a proper appreciation of the diversity of modern faith and practice. Even though some of these artefacts are well over one thousand years old, digital tools and new analyses continue to lead us to important new discoveries and insights.”

Hugh Houghton

Hugh Houghton

Professor of New Testament Textual Scholarship, Director of ITSEE

Researchers