Department of Biblical Studies
The Department was established in 1999 as a common project of the Academy of Sciences (Cabinet of Classical Studies of the Philosophical Institute) and Charles University in Prague (Evangelic Theological Faculty). It is a part of the Centre of Biblical Studies (below, CBS). The CBS provides a common ground for specialists from the academy and the university to join their efforts in. It provides a common ground for biblical scholars, historians, philologists and other experts for an interdisciplinary research of the Bible, Christian literature and closely related topics.
Focus of research:
The CBS members working at the Department concentrate especially on two topics of research:
(1) The oldest Christian texts. These are usually divided into apocryphal writings, apologetic treatises, works of the Apostolic Fathers and the Church Fathers; the limits between these groups may be fluid and do not match boundaries between genres. In recent times, 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 commentary aiming at setting them in context of contemporary ancient literature. – Apart from Christian voices we are also interested in opinions of the other side: literary discourse of people who underwent classical education and whose attitude to Christianity was indifferent or blatantly hostile.
(2) Czech tradition of interpreting and translating the Bible. Study of the best known old biblical translation, the Kralice Bible, is addressed in CBS by staff from Evangelic theological faculty who prepare the first scholarly edition of the original text of the six-volume edition, including detailed and until now mostly unknown commentaries of Kralice translators on the Old Testament. – An interesting testimony to the ways of working with the Bible in this period is Manuálník [The Manual Book], an idiosyncratic paraphrase of the Kralice translation by J. A. Comenius. An edition of the text is being prepared. – Heuristics and documentation of manuscripts and old prints (let us briefly mention the Retrospective National Bibliography [Knihopis] by Z. Tobolka and F. Horák, with related database Knihopis digital, created in the Cabinet, or V. Kyas’ monograph The Czech Bible in the history of national literature, 1997) is accompanied by inquiry in more recent Czech biblical translation: documentation of various translations, their comparison, linguistic analysis, analysis of the so-called biblical style.
Current projects and their planned output:
Excellence center (P401/12/G168, 2012–2018): We take part on an extensive grant project of the Czech Science Foundation that is called “History and Interpretation of the Bible” and forms a basis of cooperation for five institutions and some tens of scholars (see more details here).
A Library of Early Christian Literature (2001–). A book series published in cooperation of with Vyšehrad publishing house. It contains especially Czech translations of selected works of oldest Christian literature, accompanied by scholarly commentaries.
Apostolic Fathers’ Writings. The traditionally limited corpus of the oldest Christian texts in a new, annotated Czech translation from Greek prepared by a collective of translators. To be released in 2014 by the publishing house Vyšehrad.
New Testament Apocrypha IV: Further volume in a series wherein three volumes have already been released, is to contain newer apocryphal writings, especially secondary tales of Apostles. To be released in 2017–2018.
Modern Czech Translations of the New Testament: from the Half of the 20th Century till Present: Prepared by Josef Bartoň. To be released in the first half of 2014 by the Czech Biblical Society.
400 years of Kralice Bible: Proceedings of the conference that took place on 18th October 2013 at the Evangelic Theological Faculty are being prepared for print by the CBS collective.
The Manual Book: Edition of J. A. Comenius’ less well known book is being prepared by Michaela Hashemi and Jiří Beneš. To be published in 2018.
Past projects and their most important output:
New Testament Apocrypha: First three volumes of the Library of Early Christian Literature contain new and often historically first Czech translations of the writings not included in the Biblical Canon, accompanied by detailed introductory studies and commentaries.
Jan A. Dus, Petr Pokorný (eds.), Novozákonní apokryfy I: Neznámá evangelia (Praha: Vyšehrad 2001, 2006) [= New Testament Apocrypha I: Unknown Gospels]
Jan A. Dus (ed.), Novozákonní apokryfy II: Příběhy apoštolů (Praha: Vyšehrad 2003, 2007) [= New Testament Apocrypha II: Tales of Apostles]
Jan A. Dus (ed.), Novozákonní apokryfy III: Protoctví a apokalypsy (Praha: Vyšehrad 2007, 2012) [= New Testament Apocrypha III: Prophecies and Apocalypses].
The series loosely follows the footsteps of The Collection of Translation of Jewish Pseudepigrapha.
Grace in Christian theology: In three collective monographs published at the publishing house Mlýn, the theological theme of grace is presented from the point of view of a range of ancient authors not only of Christian background. The key role in the project was played by The Centre for Patristic, Medieval and Renaissance Texts.
Under the direction of Lenka Karfíková, the director of the whole project, inclusion of its output into prestigious German theological study series Handbuch der Dogmengeschichte: Gnadenlehre in Schrift und Patristik is being prepared in the publishing house Herder. To be released in 2013.
History of Czech biblical translation: Josef Bartoň, Moderní český novozákonní překlad: Nové zákony dvacátého století před Českým ekumenickým překladem (Praha: Česká biblická společnost, 2009) [Modern Czech Translations of the New Testament: New Testaments of the 20th Century before the Czech Ecumenical Translation]. The book presents thorough bibliographical survey, biographic data of translators and analysis of various approaches to translating biblical text.
Projects we participate in:
Our staff are to a greater or lesser extent involved also in projects whose guarantor is not CBS. For example, we collaborate on editorial preparation of a unique publication series Rukopisy z Nag Hammádí [Nag Hammadi Manuscripts]; under this title, three volumes of Czech translations of mostly Gnostic writings found in Egypt have appeared, equipped with a scholarly commentary, thanks to the efforts of Wolf B. Oerter, Petr Pokorný and other members of so-called Coptological Circle.
Wolf B. Oerter, Petr Pokorný (eds.), Rukopisy z Nag Hammádí 1 (Praha: Vyšehrad 2008)
[Nag Hammadi Manuscripts I]
Wolf B. Oerter, Zuzana Vítková (eds.), Rukopisy z Nag Hammádí 2 (Praha: Vyšehrad 2009)
[Nag Hammadi Manuscripts II]
Wolf B. Oerter (ed.), Rukopisy z Nag Hammádí 3 (Praha: Vyšehrad 2011)
[Nag Hammadi Manuscripts III]
On a similar basis we collaborate with a collective of translators who have already prepared two volumes of Czech translations of oldest martyrological writings in the Centre for work with patristic, medieval and renaissance texts in Olomouc. The texts about martyrs translated into and commented on in Czech form a representative selection of literary writings from the beginnings of hagiography and are of particular interest to historians who concentrate on the era of persecutions of Christians.
Petr Kitzler (ed.), Příběhy raně křesťanských mučedníků: Výbor z nejstarší latinské a řecké martyrologické literatury (Praha: Vyšehrad 2009) [The Tales of Early Christian Martyrs: A Selection of Oldest Latin and Greek Martyrological Literature].
Petr Kitzler (ed.), Příběhy raně křesťanských mučedníků II: Výbor z latinské a řecké martyrologické literatury 4. a 5. století (Praha: Vyšehrad 2012) [The Tales of Early Christian
Martyrs II: A Selection of Latin and Greek Martyrological Literature from 4th and 5th century]
All members of the Department make due use of international periodicals and other usual ways of communication with scholarly world. For instance, the editors of the series Rukopisy z Nag Hammádí [Nag Hammadi Manuscripts] collaborate with the Berlin Coptological Circle (H.-G. Bethge).