Department of Biblical Studies

Research Focus

The department is a part of the Centre for Biblical Studies (CBS), established on the 1st of January 1999 as a joint project of the Academy of Sciences and Charles University in Prague. Its founding members were the Institute for Classical Studies and the Protestant Theological Faculty. The research of the CBS and therefore also of the Centre’s department focuses on the study of historical, philological, philosophical and theological questions concerning the Bible and its impact on the European culture.
The Centre’s staff concentrate especially on the following themes.

In many respects, the Hellenistic period shares some features with the global tendencies of modern world: the hegemony of one or two communication languages (Greek and Latin – today: English); lively commercial and cultural contacts across huge geographical space (Mediteranean – today: global); intermingling of philosophical and religious movements. The religious world of the Old Testament is, at this time, organically transformed into the early Judaism with Hellenistic elements (the Alexandrian diaspora; deuterocanonical books of the Old Testament; apocalypticism; Jewish philosophy etc.). The traditional philosophy of Antiquity is also enriched, at this time, by new impulses (Middle Platonism, Stoicism, mystery cults). In this context the Christianity evolves. For all these reasons the study of Hellenism becomes topical form the international point of view today. The planned project, Encyclopedia of Hellenism, is dedicated especially to Hellenistic and early Christian literature and to its fascinating testimony to multi-layered, harmonical as well as polemical, dialogue. The main methodological advantage of this project can be seen in the efforts to overcome the separation of biblical studies from the classical scholarship devoted to the literature of Antiquity.

Early Christian writings (often treated in the introductory sections of patristics) are usually divided into apocryphal writings, apologetic treatises, works of the Apostolic Fathers and of the Church Fathers; the limits between these groups may be fluid and do not match boundaries between genres. In the second half of the 20th century, when the humanities were under strict ideological control of the state, the old Christian texts remained on the periphery of interest and attention was paid to them almost exclusively by religious circles. Now we make them accessible to wider Czech public (some of them for the first time) in modern translations from Greek, Latin and other languages, equipped with detailed commentaries aiming especially at setting them in the context of contemporary ancient literature. The texts are published especially in the series The Library of Early Christian Literature (Vyšehrad publishing house).

We build on the existing knowledge about Czech medieval and early modern translations of the Bible by studying Czech biblical translations from the Bible of Kralice until present (documentation of individual translations, their comparisons, linguistic examinations, analyses of so‑called “Biblical style”). The more renowned as well as half-forgotten Czech biblical scholars are presented to public: Jan Amos Comenius, František Novotný of Luže, František Sušil etc. We collaboarte closely with the colleagues of the Protestant Theological Faculty of the Charles University in Prague who develop the Czech biblical scholarship in a modern series The Czech Commentary on the Old and New Testament.

Current projects

Five institutions and some tens of scholars have joined their efforts in this extensive project supported by the Czech Science Foundation (for more details click here). The output of the project is published at various publishing houses in the Czech Republic and abroad. The researchers from our department, who participate on this project with their partial tasks, traditionally cooperate especially with the publishing house Vyšehrad. In the book series “Knihovna raně křesťanské literary” (“Library of Early Christian Literature”) they publish Czech translations of oldest Christian writings, accompanied with scholarly commentaries.

The first three volumes of the book series “Library of Early Christian Literature” contain Czech translations of writings not included in the Biblical canon. The translations are accompanied with thorough introductory studies and commentaries.
Each volume contains a number of writings, some of them translated in Czech for the first time. The series is a loose continuation of the “Sbírka překladů židovských pseudepigrafů” (“Collection of Jewish Pseudepigrapha in Translation”). The collaborative effort is directed by Jan A. Dus.

Volumes published so far:
Dus, Jan A. – Pokorný, Petr (eds.), Novozákonní apokryfy I: Neznámá evangelia. Praha: Vyšehrad 2001, 2006, 2014 [New Testament Apocrypha I: Unknown Gospels].
Dus, Jan A. (ed.), Novozákonní apokryfy II: Příběhy apoštolů. Praha: Vyšehrad 2003, 2007 [New Testament Apocrypha II: Stories of the Apostles].
Dus, Jan A. (ed.), Novozákonní apokryfy III: Proroctví a apokalypsy. Praha: Vyšehrad 2007, 2012 [New Testament Apocrypha III: Prophecies and Apocalypses].

In preparation:
Novozákonní apokryfy IV: Další příběhy apoštolů [New Testament Apocrypha IV: More Stories of the Apostles].

These are literary works of the early church which were not included in the New Testament. A new Czech commented translation of this collection is prepared for the book series “Library of Early Christian Texts”. Along with it, independent studies on individual writings are created. The collaborative effort is directed by Jan A. Dus. So far, a working translation of one work accompanied with a comparative study has appeared:
Dus, Jan A., Umučení Polykarpa a pašijní příběh. Jihlava: Mlýn 2011 [Martyrdom of Polycarp and the Passion Story].

More volumes of the book series “Library of Early Christian Texts” present commented Czech translations of texts created in a mostly gnostic environment and discovered in Egypt. The project is carried out in collaboration with the Czech Institute of Egyptology at the Charles University, Prague, the representative of the Centre is Radka Fialová.

Volumes published so far:
Oerter, Wolf B. – Pokorný, Petr (eds.), Rukopisy z Nag Hammádí 1. Praha: Vyšehrad 2008, 2017 [Nag Hammadi Manuscripts 1].
Oerter, Wolf B. – Vítková, Zuzana (eds.), Rukopisy z Nag Hammádí 2. Praha: Vyšehrad 2009 [Nag Hammadi Manuscripts 2].
Oerter, Wolf B. (ed.), Rukopisy z Nag Hammádí 3. Praha: Vyšehrad 2011 [Nag Hammadi Manuscripts 3].
Oerter, Wolf B – Vítková, Zuzana (eds.), Rukopisy z Nag Hammádí 4. Praha: Vyšehrad 2017 [Nag Hammadi Manuscripts 4].
More volumes are being prepared.

The subject of research are the most important translations of the New Testament created in the 19th-20th centuries, with special emphasis on the method of translation and biographical analysis. The project is directed by Josef Bartoň.

Volumes published so far:
Bartoň, Josef, Moderní český novozákonní překlad: Nové zákony dvacátého století před Českým ekumenickým překladem. Praha: Česká biblická společnost 2009 [Modern Czech New Testament Translations. The 20th Century New Testaments before the Czech Ecumenical Translation].
Bartoň, Josef, Pět českých novozákonních překladů: Nové zákony od Českého ekumenického překladu do roku 1989. Praha: Česká biblická společnost 2013 [Five Czech Translations of the New Testament. New Testaments since the Czech Ecumenical Translation until 1989].
An edition of the four Gospels by František Novotný z Luže (1810/11) is being prepared.

A little known Biblical paraphrase, compiled from the Kralice translation by the bishop of the Unity of the Brethren, who is known today rather for his pedagogical writings. The project is directed by Jiří Beneš, the planned output is a commented edition.

So far, e. g. the following study was published:
Beneš, Jiří, „J. A. Comenius on Translation and Interpretation of the Bible“, in: W. Goris – M. A. Meyer – V. Urbánek (eds.), Gewalt sei ferne den Dingen. Contemporary Perspectives on the Works of John Amos Comenius. Wiesbaden: Springer 2015, pp. 159–168.

Apologetic writings of Justin the Martyr in the context of Old Testament tradition. The project is directed by Radka Fialová, who prepares a monograph based on her PhD thesis.

So far, e. g. the following study was published:
Fialová, Radka, „Scripture and the ,Memoirs of theApostels‘. Justin Martyr and His Bible“, in: J. Dušek – J. Roskovec (eds.), The Process of Authority. The Dynamics in Transmission and Reception of Canonical Texts. Berlin – Boston: Walter de Gruyter  2016 (Deuterocanonical and Cognate Literature Studies, vol. 27), pp. 165–178.

The relationships of Jewish, Christian and classical thinking described from the perspective of the Jewish intellectual writing at the turn of the Common Era. The project is directed by Jiří Hoblík.

So far, e. g. the following study was published:
Hoblík, Jiří, „Philo’s Holy Logos“, in: Communio Viatorum 56, 3, 2014, pp. 248–266.

Educational Activities

The staff of the Department regularly takes part in teaching at various Czech universities, e. g. at the Catholic Theological Faculty of the Charles University in Prague (Josef Bartoň), at the Evangelic Theological Faculty of the Charles University in Prague (Jan A. Dus) or at the Faculty of Arts of Jan Evangelista Purkyně University in Ústí nad Labem (Jiří Hoblík).

Completed Projects and Selected Important Publications

In an extensive set of studies, printed first in three separate volumes in Czech and then in one volume in German, the theological theme of grace is presented from the points of view of various ancient authors. The project was co-organised with the Centre for Patristic, Medieval and Renaissance Texts. Jan A. Dus and Petr Kitzler took part in the project.

Volumes published in Czech:
Karfíková, Lenka – Mrázek, Jiří (eds.), Milost podle Písma a starokřesťanských autorů. Jihlava: Mlýn 2004 [Grace according to the Scripture and Old Christian Authors].
Karfíková, Lenka – Dus, Jan A. (eds.), Milost v antické, židovské a křesťanské tradici. Jihlava: Mlýn 2008 [Grace in Classical, Jewish and Christian Tradition].
Karfíková, Lenka – Dus, Jan A. (eds.), Milost v patristice. Jihlava: Mlýn 2011 [Grace in Patristic Writings].

The German version of the studies was published under the following title in a prestigious theological book series devoted to the history of dogma:
Karfíková, Lenka – Hušek, Vít – Chvátal, Ladislav (eds.), Gnadenlehre in Schrift und Patristik. Freiburg: Herder 2016 (Handbuch der Dogmengeschichte, Bd. III, Fasz. 5a, Teil 1).

A commented Czech translation of the oldest testimonies about Christian martyrs. The project was co-organised with the Centre for Patristic, Medieval and Renaissance Texts and was directed by Petr Kitzler.

Volumes published:
Kitzler, Petr (ed.), Příběhy raně křesťanských mučedníků: Výbor z nejstarší latinské a řecké martyrologické literatury. Praha: Vyšehrad 2009 [Stories of Early Christian Martyrs. Selection from the Oldest Latin and Greek Martyrological Literature].
Kitzler, Petr (ed.), Příběhy raně křesťanských mučedníků II: Výbor z latinské a řecké martyrologické literatury 4. a 5. století. Praha: Vyšehrad 2012 [Stories of Early Christian Martyrs II. Selection from Latin and Greek Martyrological Literature of the 4th and 5th Centuries].
Kitzler, Petr, From Passio Perpetuae to Acta Perpetuae. Recontextualizing a Martyr Story in the Literature of the Early Church. Berlin – Boston: Walter de Gruyter 2015 (Arbeiten zur Kirchengeschichte, 127).