Ancient Scrolls To The Internet
Scriptural Scholars Go Online
November 7, 2002--
Think of Biblical scholars, and images come to mind of rabbis
poring over ancient scrolls or monks huddled around illuminated
manuscripts. Centuries after the religious texts were written, scholars
still debate their meaning. But now they’re doing it over
Ochs, professor of modern Judaism, has arranged for the University
of Virginia to publish five electronic journals relating to religious
studies. In collaboration with the University Library’s Electronic
Text Center, Ochs has co-founded two journals and moved a third
one here. Two more are waiting in the wings.
has been an explosion of activity in religious studies in the past
few years, especially in studies of the three Abrahamic traditions:
Jewish, Christian and Muslim,” Ochs said. “Electronic
journals are becoming an important means of communication among
religious scholars around the world.”
for scholars, the e-journals don’t require subscriptions,
but are available to anyone as a public service of the U.Va. Library.
Since 1992, the library’s E-Text Center has built collections
of texts and images and made them available to the public over the
Internet. The center also supports user communities connected with
oldest of the five religious electronic publications, the Journal
of Textual Reasoning, is a 12-year-old journal of Jewish studies
that moved last summer to its new home at U.Va. from Boston University.
The journal brings together scholars from all the denominations
of Judaism and from the diverse fields of philosophy, history and
literary studies to seek text-based answers to contemporary problems,
of the new journals is the Journal of Scriptural Reasoning, which
Ochs co-founded in September 2001. The board of editors includes
Christian, Jewish and Muslim theologians from all over the world.
The journal, which is refereed, exists only virtually.
to Kris Lindbeck, a scholar at Trinity University in Houston, Texas,
scriptural reasoning implies two things:
it is scriptural, drawing subject matter and techniques of reasoning
from the revealed texts of Judaism, Christianity, and Islam, and
from their traditional commentaries and methods of interpretation,
and…accepting the concept of historical and ongoing revelation….Second,
[it]…is reasoning; it does not pretend that revealed texts
or traditional commentaries are transparent…and recognizes
as well that sacred texts can be perverted to serve causes of
hatred and death. Hence scriptural reasoning is necessarily an
ethical endeavor, both in seeking to celebrate the religious insight
of participants [and]…in attempting to gather old and new
religious tools to address the suffering and evil present within
the world and within each community of faith.”
new e-periodical is La Pensee Juive de Langue Francaise, a journal
of Jewish thought published in French. In addition to Ochs, the
U.Va.-based co-editors are Eleanor Kaufman, assistant professor
of English, and Rocco Gangle, a graduate student of religious studies.
Associate editors in France and Israel eventually will take over
editing of the publication, which will continue to be hosted by
the library’s E-Text Center, Ochs said.
in Paris and Jerusalem are working actively in the fields of Jewish
thought and textual studies, and often take non-traditional, even
radical philosophical and literary approaches to the texts, Ochs
said. But until now, francophone scholars of recent Jewish philosophy
haven’t had a journal to call their own. Pensee Juive de Langue
Francaise should rectify that, he said.
ahead, U.Va.’s E-Text Center plans to publish two more journals
in the field. The E-Text Center has acquired the German-language
journal, TR-Deutsch, in which Jewish and Christian scholars from
Germany discuss Jewish text traditions. And it plans to publish
an e-journal in English for the Institute for Quranic Reasoning,
which was founded by Moslem
scholar Basut Koshul, formerly a doctoral candidate in religious
studies at U.Va. and now on the faculty at Concordia College in
Moorhead, Minn. The Institute for Quranic Reasoning moved to Concordia
this fall with Koshul where it fosters the study of Islam through
admits the journals’ debates are pitched to religious scholars.
“We publish academic journals using academic language and
academic tools to understand the truth of our religions as shown
in the way people live their lives,” he said.
the journals challenge stereotypes of religious study, especially
the idea that religion is best studied by people who are secular,
rather than religious, Ochs said.
represent intense Abrahamic religions and in some ways we have more
to share because of our intensity,” he said. “One who
most understands religion is a religious person, whether Muslim,
Jewish or Christian. Our studies are performed by traditionally
disciplined religious practitioners of these faiths.”
the centuries, civilizations have changed and technology has changed.
But many of the problems that people deal with in life have remained
ancients used their technology, and we use ours,” Ochs said.
“But we’re still looking at the same scriptures. All
the words are there. All the Abrahamic religions – all our
e-journals – share the ancient texts that are still useful
and relevant in guiding our modern-day lives.
more information, call Peter Ochs at (434) 924-6718, or contact
him by email at firstname.lastname@example.org. Visit the journal Web sites:
Journal of Textual Reasoning: http://etext.lib.virginia.edu/journals/tr/
Journal of Scriptural Reasoning: http://etext.lib.virginia.edu/journals/ssr/
Le Pensee Juive de Langue Francaise: http://etext.lib.virginia.edu/journals/ssr/French/vol1/
contact: Charlotte Crystal, (434) 924-6858