Prof. Thomas Kazen ( has pioneered the possible use of a cognitive emotional approach for textual interpretation in several articles from 2008 and onwards, resulting in a monograph on Emotions in Biblical Law (Kazen 2011a). This study makes use of insights from evolutionary biology, developmental psychology and neuroscientific research for analyzing the role of, and interaction between, a number of emotions in the Pentateuchal legal collections. Part of this study focuses on practices and rites of reconciliation and relationship repair. He has also applied similar methods to the Jesus tradition, which originally is his primary field of study, in order to understand the dynamics of moral repair in early gospel texts (Kazen 2011b; 2012; forthcoming b).

Associate prof./Docent Rikard Roitto ( has pioneered the use of recent behavioural research on forgiveness and reconciliation, as well as recent ritual theory, in order to understand the dynamics of moral repair in early Christianity, in several articles on forgiveness, intercession and penance, analysing the First Letter of John (Roitto 2012a; 2012b), The Gospel of Matthew (2014a; forthcoming d), the Synoptic Gospels in general (2015b) and Tertullian (forthcoming a).  These studies demonstrate how behavioural research can throw new light on our understanding of moral repair in ancient texts. Roitto has also demonstrated the usefulness of behavioural research in comparative studies in his study of E. P. Sanders’ concept “covenantal nomism” (Roitto 2013b).

Our studies are generally regarded as innovative, but always in dialogue with more traditional issues and methods for interpreting ancient text, with the aim of creating bridges between methods inspired by the cognitive sciences and classical exegesis, making cognitive approaches more available for biblical scholars. The preliminary result of our studies so far is that a heuristic use of behavioural and cognitive approaches is effective and useful for a comparative analysis of the dynamics of moral repair in historical texts and social contexts.

More broadly, Kazen has also applied a similar approach in studying issues of purity and impurity (Kazen 2010; forthcoming d). Roitto has previously studied the relation between identity and behaviour norms in early Christianity, using socio-cognitive perspectives together with historical-critical and linguistic analyses (Roitto 2011). In that study he developed a hermeneutical approach to the relation between a text and its potential group dynamic effects, and analysed how norms are motivated by social identity, and how behaviour according to the norms of the group reinforces social identity.

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SBL Annual Meeting in Boston

Society of Biblical Literature Annual Meeting in Boston is coming up 18-21 November and we will be there. Rikard Roitto will present a pap...