ACU research to uncover the secrets of ancient religious manuscripts

A $4.5 million-dollar global project dedicated to studying ancient religious manuscripts has been announced, featuring researchers from ACU's Institute for Religion and Critical Inquiry (IRCI).

Associate Professor Stephen C. Carlson and Senior Research Fellow Dr Jonathan Zecher are part of the Biblical and Early Christian studies program at IRCI and will undertake a project to investigate the margin notes and commentary (scholia) in ancient Greek manuscripts.

The project, "Scholia Seeking Understanding: Reader Competence and Reading Culture", is being funded by the grant from the Templeton Religious Trust.

Assoc. Prof. Carlson said he was delighted to be a part of an exciting interdisciplinary project, working alongside leading experts in the UK, Ireland, US and Israel.

"This is an exciting opportunity to collaborate with our colleagues throughout the world and we will all be teaming up for a special exhibition at the Chester Beatty Museum in Dublin," he said.

"This grant award, won after a competitive process, showcases ACU's depth of expertise in medieval manuscripts and Byzantine scholarly culture at an international level."

Associate Professor Carlson said the project would help scholars gain a better understanding of ancient sacred manuscripts and develop more accessible ways of presenting ancient texts.

"We're trying to learn how the formatting of medieval scholia and modern footnotes affect the reading experience," he said.

"All of us today are familiar with footnotes, those little comments at the bottom of pages that cite sources or make clarifications. Before the printing press, scholars used to cram all sorts of information into the margins of their book pages, not just at the bottom but all around the main text like a picture frame.

"Often, these are tiny and highly abbreviated, making it difficult to access the information they contain unless one already knows the code. We want to discover how helpful they were and how readers experienced them.

"As part of this investigation, we intend to develop more accessible ways of presenting ancient texts to museum and gallery visitors."

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