Juha Kalevi Pakkala

The Project

Birth and transmission of a Holy Tradition.

Dr Juha Kalevi Pakkala
University of Helsinki
Aleksanterinkatu 7
Helsinki FIN-00014




Juha Kalevi Pakkala, aged 37, is already a highly regarded scholar, speaking four modern languages and understanding six ancient languages including Hebrew, Aramean, and Akkadian. This sets him apart from most scholars who are unfamiliar with Akkadian, and enables him to make interesting comparisons between biblical scripts and contemporary Assyrian scripts. He is also a competent archeologist, thereby exhibiting his versatility and demonstrating leadership skills as co-director of the Iron Age Kinneset Tell excavation in Israel. He is currently research fellow at the Finnish Academy, and has published widely, including two monographs, which are the principle form of research communication in biblical scholarship. He gained his PhD in Hebrew Bible at the University of Helsinki in 2000.

Provisional Award

€ 1,220,450

Project Description

This innovative project aims to unearth new historical information about the origins of the Hebrew Bible, and provide fresh insight into the way a holy tradition develops. This is vital and topical in our rapidly changing world, where different religions must reinterpret their holy texts in the light of new perspectives. The principle aim of this project is to gain new understanding of the birth, transmission and development of a Hebrew text that came to be regarded as holy by both the Jewish and Christian faiths, leading respectively to the Hebrew Bible and Old Testament. Although this might not seem new ground, Pakkala believes that by conducting a comprehensive examination of scribal activity and asking searching questions about its role in interpreting and transmitting texts, approaching the subject from different angles, new insights can be gained. For example Pakkala’s approach of searching for omissions in texts, rather than additions as in traditional biblical studies, represents an innovation that will show how the Holy Scripts emerged from a dynamical organic process. Indeed a slightly controversial aspect of the project lies in challenging the traditional view that Holy Scripts are immutable. In this way, Pakkala is removing Holy Scripts from the ream of theology and bringing them more into the worlds of historical writing or even literature.

The project will investigate different aspects of Jewish scribal activity, especially during the Second Temple period, considering the extent to which scribes were creators or maintainers of holy traditions, and the extent to which they reinterpreted texts in the light of changed cultural circumstances.