ECCE Visits EABS Annual Conference 11.-14.8.2019

The annual conference of the European Association of Biblical Studies (EABS) took place 11.–14.8.2019 at the University of Warsaw. The ECCE project participated in the research unit Biblical World and Cultural Evolution, chaired by Ronit Nikolsky and Nina Nikki.

Last year the unit had a workshop status but was now ‘promoted’ to a research unit. The sessions of the unit spanned from Monday to Wednesday, Tuesday’s session being dedicated to our group.

Monday’s session consisted of three papers with a comment by Prof. Petri Luomanen and a general discussion. Prof. Anders Klostergaard-Petersen and Prof. Ronit Nikolsky talked about the nature and meaning of cultural (or biocultural) evolution and Dr. Vojtěch Kaše discussed the challenges for the study of cultural evolution and how we can integrate methods across disciplines. In other words, we had an amazing opening day, full of insightful discussions.

On the second day, it was ECCE’s turn to take the stage. First, Petri Luomanen presented statistical data of the numbers of survived Gospel manuscripts and Christian writers’ use and allusions to different Gospels during the first centuries CE. The evolutionary model Petri had earlier applied in his analysis of Mark, Matthew and Q suggested, when applied to John and Luke, that John should have been less popular than Luke, and even less popular than Mark. However, in the light of the statistical data this seems not to have been the case, except in the very beginning when Luke may have been slightly more popular than John. Petri suggested that the development may reflect a change in the cultural evolutionary environment: John survived only as a part in the fourfold canon. Separately, its chances for survival would have been meager.

Second, Dr. Nina Nikki suggested that the letter format influenced the success of the early Christian movement as letters were more easily remembered and transmitted than, say, narratives. Last, but not least, Pasi Hyytiäinen presented an interesting analogy between the way variants are introduced into DNA-sequences and how changes occur in ancient manuscripts. These analogous features enable critics to use methods and tools originally developed for the analysis of biological evolution to study genealogical relationships between manuscripts.

Wednesday was another interesting day for cultural evolution enthusiasts with four very different presentations. First, Dr. Paul Shrell-Fox demonstrated how rabbis adopted non-Jewish rituals and gave them Jewish meaning and context. Next, Dr. Christian Wetz asked why demons are missing in the Pauline writings. By applying insights from cognitive sciences and evolutionary psychology, Christian concluded that Paul did not want to mix the message with images of demons because it could have obscured the message about Christ. After this, Heerak Kim had discussion about evolution and how early Christ followers Christianized the Moses narrative. The last presentation was given by Dr. Pärttyli Rinne with whom we all dove into the deep waters of the metaphysics of religious love. Pärttyli proposed, rather convincingly, that one can use the metaphysical framework developed by Karl Popper in order to understand religious love and its evolution. What a brilliant end to our sessions!

Of course, we also had time to wander about the old town of Warsaw and visit the famous landmarks, such as the Palace of Culture and Science and the riverside of Veiksel in good company. On Tuesday, we also had a nice lunch meeting with the research unit in a lovely little restaurant.

ECCE wishes to thank all who participated the sessions of Biblical World and Cultural Evolution research unit! We hope to see you all next year at Wuppertal!