Biblical studies

Biblical studies examines the Bible's scriptures and the cultures where these scriptures have originated, and provides instruction based on this research.

In the discipline of Biblical Studies, Biblical texts and cultures are studied from a broad perspective. In addition to the Bible’s scriptures, our research also looks at other material remains and texts that shed light on the Biblical world. We also take an interest in, for example, extra-canonical religious writings and forms of religiousness rejected by mainstream religions.

In addition to traditional methods from linguistics and history, we employ methods from archaeology, social research, literary studies and psychology. Our research interests also include the history of the influence and interpretation of the Bible.

The Department offers research-based instruction in two disciplines: Old Testament studies and New Testament studies.

Old Testament studies

The core mission of Old Testament studies is to examine the Hebrew and Aramaic Old Testament scriptures in a diverse manner. Traditional historical criticism studies the form, origin and interdependence of Old Testament scriptures, as well as their interpretative elements and different-aged layers. The scriptures can be approached from several perspectives: through linguistics, history, literary history, social history, theology or religious history.

Many archaeological discoveries have broadened horizons in Old Testament studies. For example, writings from the Ancient Middle East have provided ample parallel material to Old Testament phenomena and occurrences, shedding light on, for example, religion in the Ancient Middle East, the phenomenon of prophesying and the politics of the great powers in relation to their conquests. Archaeological finds in Palestine and its surrounding areas have helped us better understand Israel’s history and social history, and the findings at Qumran have offered us insights into the history of Judaism around the beginning of the Christian era. The Greek translation of the Old Testament, the Septuagint, and the included apocrypha, offer us a different viewpoint: that of the Greek diaspora. The Septuagint, in addition to the manuscript fragments found at Qumran, is indeed the key to defining the Old Testament’s textual history.

New Testament studies

New Testament studies include the study of the New Testament and related themes, such as the apocryphal gospels, Gnosticism, Judaism in the time of Jesus, and the early developments of Christianity after the New Testament.

Traditionally, New Testament studies has interpreted New Testament scriptures and other early Christian writings from a historical perspective, but it has also long applied methods from other disciplines, including social studies and the study of literature. Research focuses on the New Testament's social world and on how early Christian groups defined themselves in relation to each other and society. Many theological trends, such as postcolonial and feminist theology, have also shaped the themes and perspectives applied in New Testament studies.

Discipline coordinator

OL
Outi
Lehtipuu
University Lecturer
Biblical Studies
Field of science Theology

Re­search­ers and teachers

For information about our research projects, please explore the University of Helsinki Research Portal. The portal includes all current research projects in which our researchers act as either principal investigators or research group members, all research projects by our research fellows and postdoctoral researchers, and also projects that have reached their conclusion.