Long-term project funded by the German Research Foundation


Corpus Masoreticum, Heidelberg Center for Jewish Studies

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Chair for Bible and Jewish Biblical Interpretation, Heidelberg Center for Jewish Studies

Biblia Rabbinica

Prof. Dr. Hanna Liss (PI), PD Dr. Gianfranco Miletto (Research Associate), funded by the German Research Foundation since 2020

The so-called textus receptus (TR) of the Hebrew Bible is based on a Tiberian Masoretic tradition which, first and foremost, traces back to the Ben Asher family of Masoretes. This textual tradition first spread – likely in part due to the particular appreciation shown by Maimonides (ca. 1135-1204; Hilkhot Sefer Torah 8,4) – in the Islamic-dominated Maghrebi and Ibero-Sephardic area, and later, in the wake of Hebrew book printing, in the Christian world as well. Its presentation in Daniel Bomberg's so-called second Rabbinic Bible (1525) gave rise to a standard form which is still valid today.

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Other textual forms have also been preserved (Palestinian; Yemenite-Babylonian; Ashkenazic), and a multitude of medieval manuscripts contain true textual variants, especially Ashkenazic and Italian works. However, Bible quotations as found in modern editions of Rabbinic literature have been gradually adjusted to conform to the TR in the last four to five centuries, as a result of which it is impossible to make a clear philological statement about the biblical text traditions underpinning Rabbinic writings. Nor do we have even a basic understanding of the diverse nature of the Hebrew consonantal Biblical text across the various geo-cultural areas of Judaism. 

The goal of this project is the complete computer-based acquisition and analysis of the variant readings found in selected Rabbinic texts taken from the Babylonian-Yemenite text traditions. The textual variants will be compared with other textual witnesses and traditio-historically classified. The following works will be investigated: the Samaritan recensions; Greek Bible text recensions, in the form of the Septuagint(s), Aquila, Symmachus and Theodotion; the Peshitta (Syriac); Vetus Latina and Vulgata (Latin); the Targum recensions (Aramaic); and additional collections of variants by Kennicott and de Rossi. The analysis of these variants will open up thus far neglected perspectives on reconstructing the historically diverse Biblical text as found through the High Middle Ages. Moreover, it will showcase practically uninvestigated material on the flexibility of Bible text traditions within Rabbinic literature.

Masoretic Text of the Hebrew Bible. The Masora Text of the Hebrew Bible in its Various Material Forms in Western Europe

Prof. Dr. Hanna Liss (PI), Dr. Dr. Federico Dal Bo (Research Associate), Subproject B04, Collaborative Research Centre 933: "Material Text Cultures. Materiality and Presence of Writingin Non-Typographic Societies", Funded by the German Research Foundation 2011–15; 2015–19; 2019–230

The aim is to clarify whether the relationship between the Masora in the Biblical manuscripts and the Masora traditions presented either in the form of lists or in isolation mirrors a relationship of ‘permanency’ in the textual tradition (liturgical tradition: synagogue) conserved in the Biblical artefact, and of ‘(varying) reception’ in an expanded field of application (commentary; grammar: Lehrhaus).

The Bible Text in the Manuscripts with Babylonian-Yemenite Vocalization: Collection of the Textual Variants


The aim of the project is the complete collection and computerization of textual variants of the Biblical manuscripts of the Babylonian and Yemenite tradition. The reading variants should then be compared with other ancient textual witnesses (Samaritan text, the LXX and the other Greek translations, Peshitta, and Vulgate Vetus Latina and Targumim) and classified in their historical context. The analysis of these variants will open a new perspective for the reconstruction of the biblical text story and make available a hitherto unexplored material which grants new insights into the historical development of the biblical text, both in its pre-Masoretic and in its Masoretic period.

Graduate School 1728 "Theology as an Academic Discipline"


Recent academic Theology is the result of a long historical process which established forms and institutions of reflexivity within different religious traditions. This process is fundamental for any dialogue among religions themselves and between religion as such and the secular world. Although the multifarious presence of religion(s) is very much in the focus of today'€™s (post) secular society, the analytical potential of Theology and its €˜scientific character as an academic discipline are regarded as precarious. Against this background, the PhD programme œTheology as an Academic Discipline will reconstruct the historical formation and constitution of theological reflexivity in exemplary fields and, at the same time, offer a systematic account of a rational basis for religious normativity today. Intrinsically interconfessional and interreligious in its character, the PhD programme will not only engage the different normative religious traditions, represented by the respective theologies, but by including relevant non-theological disciplines will also foster a transdisciplinary discourse which aims at a mutual illumination about the emergence and purpose of theology.