Monday, November 6, 2023

Scriptura Job Openings for Exegetes on the Psalms

Scriptura is looking to hire several new exegetes to produce exegetical materials on the Psalms for Bible translators. If you have strong Hebrew language and exegetical skills and are interested in studying the Psalms for a living, Scriptura provides a great opportunity for full-time, remote work that will utilize your skills in the context of the ground-breaking Psalms: Layer-by-Layer project with an amazing team and collaborative research environment.

For a full job description and to apply online, see here.

Friday, September 22, 2023

Postdoc on Ben Sira and AI

Frédérique Rey has posted an advertisement for a postdoc doing interesting work on the textual history of Ben Sira:


Before the appearance of the printing press, the only way of reproducing and spreading a text in written form was manual copying. During this process, accidents, errors and intentional modifications occurred, progressively modifying the text of each witness. The revised text, whether modified deliberately or accidentally, then served as a template for other copyists and the changes would thereby be propagated. For the philologist interested in the reconstruction of text history and the texts genealogical relations (similar to a genealogical tree, called stemma codicum), it has been imperative to study these different variants and suggest methods for the objective construction of such trees (called stemmatology methods).
Retrieving the genealogical lineage of the Hebrew manuscripts of the Ben Sira (book of Ecclesiasticus or Sirach) has been one of the major focus of the laboratoire Écritures at the University of Lorraine. In this project, we suggest to improve the manual work performed in the critical edition of the Hebrew manuscripts of Ben Sira by applying the latest advances in applied mathematics and natural language processing to reconstruct the stemmas of the Ben Sira’s Hebrew manuscripts. This initial work will then be extended to other textual traditions. This project takes place as a partnership between the center of researchs Écriture, LORIA and IECL.
In this context, we are looking for a two years fellow for a post-doctoral position, to fulfill the objective of building the genealogical lineage of the Hebrew manuscripts of Ben Sira through computational stemmatology algorithms.

Fellow’s responsibilities
Over the course of the project, the fellow will be asked to lead and innovate to complete the following objectives:

Analysis, classification and typology of Hebrew manuscripts variants The postdoc’s task will be to collate, analyze and classify by typology all the variants of the Ben Sira manuscript and several Dead Sea scrolls selected for the project (1QIsa, 1QS, etc.). They will also be responsible for training automatic variant analysis models between manuscripts.

Modelization of scribal behavior In collaboration with mathematicians, the postdoc will have to provide field expertise and insights into scribal behavior according to previous observations, leading to statistical models.

Comparison of automatic stemmata to manual stemmata In collaboration with computer scientists and NLP specialists, the postdoc will analyze the automatically generated stemma and compare them to the existing "manual" stemmata, and in particular to the stemmata of the Dead Sea Scrolls and the Cairo Genizah manuscripts.

Draw original conclusions regarding the Ben Sira’s manuscripts geneaology Given the finally selected stemma, the candidate will draw original conclusions regarding the Ben Sira textual tradition and discuss their results to draw new conclusions regarding manuscripts transmission.

Required skills
Hebrew skills

  • The candidate must have a PhD in Religious Sciences, Jewish Studies, Theology or Ancient Hebrew Linguistic.
  • An experience in linguistic analysis of ancient Hebrew large corpora.

Textual criticism

  • An excellent knowledge and expertise in textual criticism, philology and biblical studies.
  • A knowledge of stemmatology methods and the current state of the art.

Technical skills

  • Basic knowledge of JSON and XML TEI encoding as well as collation tools.
  • Basic knowledge of SQL and NoSQL database management would be a plus (e.g. mongodb, MariaDB).
  • Being familiar with the Python ecosystem for data manipulation and analysis (pandas, sklearn, tensorflow, Keras), would be a plus.

The candidate is expected to have a good level in English. Knowledge of French would be a plus.

Terms and tenure
This two-year position will be based at the centre of research Ecritures (EA3943), Ile du Saulcy, 5700 Metz. The duration can not exceed 24 months.

The target start date for the position is 1st November 2023, with some flexibility on the exact start date.

Thursday, August 24, 2023

IWCP 2023, San Jose

Thanks to Isabelle Marthot-Santaniello, I was able to attend the IWCP workshop on computational paleography at the ICDAR 2023 conference in San Jose, CA today. It was great to finally meet in person many with whom I had only interacted online in the past and to hear about the exciting work that is being done in the area of digital paleography.

Dominique Stutzmann started out with a keynote overview of the state of the art where he suggested that many of the basic problems in the field are essentially already solved (e.g., writer identification, style classification, dating), after which he pointed towards more difficult challenges that remain (e.g., degraded and/or small corpora, other difficulties in providing reliable labelled data). Momina Moetesum discussed a project on computerized restoration of broken ink strokes in Greek papyri, where they trained a network to be able to reconstruct Greek letters that had been artificially degraded. Vasiliki Kougia gave an update on a project using dated Greek literary hands to automatically classify (and date) Greek manuscripts. And Isabelle Marthot-Santaniello and Marie Beurton-Aimar presented their work on stylistic clustering based on clips of individual characters.

After the break, Julius Tabin discussed a project to capture and annotate Hieratic characters from facsimiles of Egyptian texts in a way that can be used to illuminate style development. Anguelos Nicolaou described an approach to quickly (manually) label regions on medieval charters to identify features for further analysis. In this presentation, he made the interesting observation that the more detail and discussion needed for a classification/label, the more likely that labelers will have difficulty providing consistent and clear labelling, so we should be careful of too much precision in labels. Of course, it is precisely the difficult, transitional, and contested areas that are generally of most interest to humanities scholars, as Dominique Stutzmann pointed out in the discussion. And Sojung Lucia Kim talked about a project using deep learning to classify Korean records in Chinese characters.

In the final discussion, two questions dominated. First, the question of whether manuscript dating is a problem of classification into discrete categories (e.g., date ranges by century) or regression (i.e., placing on a continuous timeline. The general consensus was that it depends upon the nature of the labelled data and what it allows. I pointed out that radiocarbon dating has much potential to change the nature of the data and allows for more regression models in corpora for which this hasn't in the past been possible, but this is still only a dream for many corpora. 

The second questions was whether it is better to create "end-to-end" products that move directly from input to the final desired result or "modular" products that break the process into various (intermediate) steps, each with their own data records. The modular approach actually (perhaps counterintuitively) decreases accuracy, but allows for the explication of various stages in the analysis that may be useful for humanities scholars. All in all, it was a great day of meeting and learning, and I'm very grateful to have been able to attend.

Monday, July 31, 2023

Person, Scribal Memory and Word Selection: Text Criticism of the Hebrew Bible

SBL has announced the recent publication of a new book by Raymond Person that looks like a fascinating work. Person's work on orality and transmission has been an important contribution to the field and has compelled many to take more seriously the oral aspects of the ancient world into account in text-critical work, so I look forward to reading this.

Raymond Person. Scribal Memory and Word Selection: Text Criticism of the Hebrew Bible. (SBL, 2023).

From the website:

A new paradigm for understanding textual variants of the Hebrew Bible

What were ancient scribes doing when they copied a manuscript of a literary work? This question is especially problematic when we realize that ancient scribes preserved different versions of the same literary texts. In Scribal Memory and Word Selection: Text Criticism of the Hebrew Bible, Raymond F. Person Jr. draws from studies of how words are selected in everyday conversation to illustrate that the same word-selection mechanisms were at work in scribal memory. Using examples from manuscripts of the Hebrew Bible, Person provides new ways of understanding the cognitive-linguistic mechanisms at work during the composition/transmission of texts. Person reveals that, while our modern perspective may consider textual variants to be different literary texts, from the perspective of the ancient scribes and their audiences, these variants could still be understood as the same literary text.

Raymond F. Person Jr. is Professor of Religion and Director of Interdisciplinary Studies at Ohio Northern University. He is the author of From Conversation to Oral Tradition: A Simplest Systematics for Oral Traditions (2016) and coeditor of Empirical Models Challenging Biblical Criticism (2016).

Thursday, June 8, 2023

I just found a new blog dealing with the reconstruction of the Tiberian reading tradition of the Hebrew Bible called In addition to some resources and discussions on the pronunciation tradition, they have several audio recordings in this reconstructed tradition.

Sunday, June 4, 2023

New Witnesses to Origen's Text of the Psalms

Felix Albrecht on the Göttingen Psalter Project's blog announces new identifications of catena manuscripts that attest to Origen's Septuagint text according to the Hexapla. Note well that this is the text (perhaps only lightly edited?) that Origen used for the LXX column in his Hexapla of the Psalms (Felix calls it the Origenic recension), not a heavily edited recension or thoroughgoing edition of the Psalms (which Felix calls a Hexaplaric recension). This new data is critical, since this Origenic text is not well preserved in the tradition but is often very close to the Old Greek. The new grouping suggested is: O = 1098(ο′)-1121-1209-Ga.

HT Ryan Sikes