Ritual in Early Judaism and Early Christianity: Texts and Practices

Organizers: Helsinki Collegium for Advanced Studies and the Network for the Study of Early Christianity in Its Greco-Roman Context

Workshop description
Anthropologists and scholars of comparative religion have long been interested in ritual, and ritual studies has become an established field in the academic study of religion. In biblical studies and in the study of early Judaism and early Christianity, ritual has attracted much less attention, although Christian and especially Jewish sources contain plenty of reflection on and references to ritual practices. Quite recently, however, a number of biblical scholars and scholars from related fields have started to study their sources from the perspective of ritual.

The workshop gathers scholars and doctoral students interested in ritual to develop tools for analyzing the functions and dynamics of ritual in the history of early Judaism and early Christianity. Its aim is twofold. First, the workshop asks what types of ritual theory could be helpful in the study of biblical religions and the religious landscape of early Judaism and early Christianity including the Greco-Roman world. Second, the workshop focuses on particular ritual texts (or other material remains) and on historical analyses of ritual practices in the cultures that produced these materials.


International experts: Jonathan Klawans (University of Boston), Stanley Stowers (Brown University), Gerald Klingbeil (Adventist International Institute of Advanced Studies), Richard DeMaris (Valparaiso University). In addition, a number of teachers from Nordic universities participate in the program. See the full program below.


PhD-course information
The workshop will function as a PhD-course for which doctoral students from Nordic and Baltic universities can apply. There is room for 4-5 short papers (20 min) in the program. In addition, the course can be taken by writing a paper based on the lectures of the workshop and on the reading list (to be published later on the homepage of the Network). The number of PhD students (outside Finland) is limited to 10 people. The course will give 5ECT credits. The deadline of the applications is March 31, 2009. The applications should be sent to risto.uro@helsinki.fi and tep@teol.ku.dk and contain the following information

  • institution and the date when PhD education was begun
  • dissertation topic and supervisor
  • applicant’s preference for absolving the course (a short paper at the workshop or a paper handed in after the workshop)
  • a possible paper title and a short abstract (no more than 100 words)

Student participation fee is 100 €. The travel, accommodation and most of the meals are covered by the Network. The accommodation for the PhD students is arranged in two places: at the University Guest House (near the University) and at hotel Ava, located 10 to 15 minutes bus or tram from the center of Helsinki. Most of the rooms are double.

For further information, contact Risto Uro (risto.uro@helsinki.fi) or Troels Engberg-Pedersen (tep@teol.ku.dk)


Wednesday 26.8.
16.00-16.15 Welcome by Risto Uro
16.15-18:30 Panel discussion: Theorizing religious rituals: recent trends in ritual studies

  • Ilkka Pyysiäinen, Helsinki Collegium for Advanced Studies
  • István Czachesz, Helsinki Collegium for Advanced Studies
  • Kimmo Ketola, The Church Research Institute, Tampere

18.30-21.00 Reception, Helsinki Collegium for Advanced Studies: Ilkka Pyysiäinen, deputy director

Thursday 27.8
9.00-10.00 Jonathan Klawans, University of Boston "Methodology and Ideology in the Study of Priestly Ritual"
10.00-11.00 Hans Jørgen Lundager Jensen, University of Aarhus "Priestly cult, ritual and myth: a structuralist analysis of the thematic connections between temple purification in Lev 16, communal eating in Ex 12 and the myth of the Garden of Eden"
11.00-11.30 Discussion

Lunch break

13.00-14.00 Stanley Stowers, Brown University, "Types of ancient Mediterranean ritual and their fit in social life"
14.00-15.00 Troels Engberg-Pedersen, University of Copenhagen "Hellenistic philosophers on religious rituals"
15.00-15.15 Discussion

Coffee Break

15.45-16.15 Anne Katrine de Hemmer Gudmen (University of Copenhagen), “‘No Razor Shall Come Upon His Head’: The law of the Nazirite as ritual and literary technique”
16.15-16.45 Trine Hasselbalch (University of Copenhagen), “The performative credibility of the Hodayot”
16.45-17.15 Gerson Mgaya (University of Joensuu), “The ritual curse among the Corinthian Christians”


17.30-18.00 Johanna Svensson (Lund University), “Making history: inquiring into the concept of history in studies of the Lord’s supper”
18.00-18.30 Stephen Richard Turley (Durham University), “Ritual and Identity: A Case Study in Early Christian Baptism.”

Friday 28.8. :
9.00-9.45 Gerald Klingbeil, The Adventist International Institute of Advanced Studies, "‘Clocks and Calendars’: The Cohesive Function of Time in Biblical Ritual"
9.45-10.30 Jorunn Økland, University of Oslo, "Architextualization: early Jewish and Christian ritual/sanctuary space"
10.30-11.15 Discussion

Lunch break

13.00-13.45 Richard DeMaris, Valparaiso University, "Gospel as ritual: the question of Mark’s Sitz im Leben reframed"
13.45-14.30 Stig Frøyshov, University of Oslo, "Daily prayer in early Christianity: a state of the question"
14.30-15.15 Discussion

Coffee Break

15.45-16.30 Anders Klostergaard Petersen, University of Aarhus, "Introducing indexicality in religious writings: Paul as a test case"
16.30-17.15 Thomas Kazen, Stockholm of School of Theology, "Impurity, Ritual and Emotion: A Psycho-Biological Approach"
17.15-18.00 Discussion

Saturday 29.8. :
09.00-09.45 Petri Luomanen, University of Helsinki, "Ritual, memory, and identity in the study of early Christian movements: introducing a Finnish project"
09.45-10.30 Risto Uro, University of Helsinki, “Ritual and the rise of the Jesus movement”
10.30-11.15 Minna Shkul, University of Wales Lampeter, “Ritual in the Deutero-Pauline shaping of Early Christianity”
11.15-11.45 Discussion

Coffee Break

13.00-13.45 Jutta Jokiranta, Helsinki Collegium for Advanced Studies, “Explaining ritual in the Qumran movement”
13.45-14.30 Raimo Hakola, Helsinki Collegium for Advanced Studies, “Purity and the Pharisees: demarcating a social group”
14.30-15.00 Discussion

Lunch break

14.15-15.30 Concluding discussion, Troels Enberg-Pedersen, University of Copenhagen

18.00-21.00 Dinner

Published Mar. 6, 2010 5:32 PM - Last modified July 31, 2012 9:39 AM