Between Universalism and Particularism: The Reception of Abraham and Jacob Stories in Jewish and Christian Writings (= UNIPAR)

UNIPAR (Between Universalism and Particularism: The Reception of Abraham and Jacob Stories in Jewish and Christian Writings) is a multidisciplinary research project which combines experts of biblical studies and early reception history of the Bible in Jewish, Christian and rabbinic writings. UNIPAR will be a part of the international research network SRB (Studies in the Reception History of the Bible) which was established in 2006 by the initiative of Åbo Akademi University. UNIPAR will deal with the patriarchal stories and the two modes of reasoning that are visible in these stories: universalistic and inclusive mode of reasoning (all nations will be blessed in Abraham’s seed) and particularistic and exclusive mode of reasoning (divine election of Isaac i.o. Ishmael and Jacob i.o. Esau). What has not been emphasized in earlier research is that these two modes of argumentation have been closely interconnected in Christian and rabbinic reception of the Abraham and Jacob Stories and contributed to the self-definition of the two religions. UNIPAR is interested in understanding this interconnection as well as in clarifying the roots of these modes of reasoning in early Jewish reception history.

The aim of UNIPAR is to detect the rhetorical rationality of universalistic-inclusive and particularistic-exclusive modes of reasoning in early Jewish, Christian and rabbinic writings. We aim to explain three lines of development in Jewish and Christian writings: 1) What historical (e.g. crisis of the Maccabean time; Jewish revolts) and sociological (e.g. encounter with the Hellenistic world) circumstances explain the fact that both universalistic and particularistic modes of reasoning were used in Second Temple Jewish writings? 2) What are the argumentative strategies and rhetoric of these two modes of reasoning in the Christian replacement theology formed in the patristic period? 3) How were universalistic and particularistic modes of reasoning used in later rabbinic writings? Is there evidence of confrontation against Christian interpretations?

UNIPAR will arrange an international conference at Åbo Akademi University in 2021 where we will deal with Abraham- and Jacob-stories in Jewish and Christian texts. Scholars among others from Belgium, Finland, Germany, Holland and Italy will take part in the conference. If you are interest in presenting a paper at this conference, please contact Professor Antti Laato (antti.laato@abo.fi). Presentations at the conference will be evaluated and edited in a SRB volume which will be published by the network.

UNIPAR will clarify the problematic argumentation process behind the Christian replacement theology and in this way opens new possibilities to understand Jewish-Christian encounters in history and today.

Who are we?

Professor Antti Laato, PI of UNIPAR, Professor in Old Testament exegetics with Judaic studies at ÅAU. Among his recent publications, are three monographs: Who Is the Servant of the Lord? Jewish and Christian Interpretations on Isaiah 53 from Antiquity to the Middle Ages (SRB 4, Winona Lake: Eisenbrauns, 2012); Guide to Biblical Chronology (Sheffield Phoenix Press, 2015); The Origin of the Israelite Zion Theology (LHBOTS 661; Bloomsbury T&T Clark & Bloomsbury, 2018). He has edited three volumes together with Lotta Valve: A. Laato & Lotta Valve, eds., Adam and Eve Story in the Hebrew Bible and in Ancient Jewish Writings Including the New Testament (SRB 7, Winona Lake: Eisenbrauns 2016); A. Laato & L. Valve, eds., Adam and Eve Story in Jewish, Christian and Islamic Perspectives (SRB 8, Winona Lake: Eisenbrauns 2017); A. Laato & L. Valve, eds., Life of Adam and Eve: Using Jewish Traditions and Confronting Gnostic Reversed Exegesis (SRB 9, Pennsylvania State University Press, 2019; forthcoming).

Doctoral Student Stefan Green will complete his doctoral dissertation on Isaiah 65-66 where Abraham-reception plays an important role.

Adjunct Professor Erkki Koskenniemi is an expert on early Judaism, New Testament and Hellenistic culture. He has recently published several articles and his monograph Greek Writers and Philosophers in Philo and Josephus: A Study of Their Secular Education and Educational Ideals is forthcoming in Studies in Philo of Alexandria, Leiden: Brill, 2019.

Adjunct Professor Anni Maria Laato is a teacher in systematic theology at ÅAU and an expert on early Latin patristic texts. She has recently published several articles in international publications (among publishers: de Gruyter; Mohr-Siebeck, one forthcoming in Oxford University Press) where she deals with early Christian confrontation with Judaism, and theological topics in early Latin patristic texts.

PhD Pekka Lindqvist is a teacher in exegetics and Judaic studies and an expert on rabbinical writings. His doctoral dissertation published in SRB: Sin at Sinai: Early Judaism Encounters Exodus 32 (SRB 2; Winona Lake: Eisenbrauns, 2008) can now be ordered from PSUP.

PhD Timo Nisula is an expert on Augustine’s writings. His dissertation on Augustine has been published in Brill: Augustine and the Functions of Concupiscence (Vigiliae Christianae Supplements 116; Leiden: Brill, 2012).

Doctoral Student Topias Tanskanen has received finance from the Polin Institute for his doctoral thesis, which deals with the early Jewish reception history on Jacob-story.

PhD Lotta Valve is a post-doc researcher who has received finance from the Polin Institute, and who has also research interests on the reception history of Jacob story. She has recently edited three volumes related to the reception history of Adam and Eve Story in Genesis 1-3 together with Antti Laato.