Find out all the latest news about the project.

The international conference on "Biographically Grounded Literature in Late Hellenistic and Early Imperial Times" will take place from 24-26 June.

An SNSF Project

About the Project

At the time of the composition of the New Testament writings, authors of various provenance offered a particular construal of history by focusing on exemplary figures as the location of divine intervention in the world. According to the biblical gospels, the life of Jesus Christ inaugurated a new era in God's relationship with the world and in human knowledge of God. Similar biographically centered accounts of history can be found in related religious-cultural contexts. In the Greco-Roman world, the "Lives of Illustrious Greeks and Romans" by Plutarch, a Platonic philosopher and priest of Apollo in Delphi, are the most prominent; at the same time, there was a rich production of texts about Socrates, Pythagoras, Orpheus, Hermes, the Pythia, and the Seven Sages. In the literature of Hellenistic Judaism, the scriptural commentator and philosopher Philo of Alexandria composed works about Moses, Abraham, and Joseph, and there was further literature about or inspired by exemplary individuals, such as the Wisdom of Solomon, the books of Enoch, or the Testaments of the Twelve Patriarchs.

Based on a comparison of the biblical gospels with a selection of Plutarch's "Lives," the project develops a new method of transcultural textual analysis. With this method, we examine whether and how emblematic individual figures are literarily conceived as a resonating space of divine influence. The aim is to situate anew the biblical gospels in the biographically grounded literature of the early Roman Imperial era; conversely, religious aspects and concerns will be shown to be an integral part of philosophical and historical writing in the early Imperial period.

The project is funded by the Swiss National Science Foundation (SNSF). Research is being conducted at the Institute for New Testament Studies of the Faculty of Theology at the University of Bern. Prof. Dr. Rainer Hirsch-Luipold is the principal investigator.


"Resonances through History" consists of the following subprojects:

A philological, lexical, and semantic analysis of the terms for God and the divine in Plutarch's Lives that is aimed at better grasping Plutarch's account of divine activity in history.

A reciprocal comparison of two biographically grounded writings of the early imperial period, Plutarch's Life of Numa and the Gospel of Luke.

In the early Imperial period, philosophy is increasingly understood as τέχνη περὶ βίον/ars vitae, the "art of living": What is true life and how does one procure it? Who can impart this "know-how"? And – last but not least – what is life's foundation?

The project is integrated into the SAPERE book series and is connected with the project "Plutarch and the New Testament."


Upcoming events

24. – 26. Juni 2024 in Bern Montag, 24.06.2024, Uni Hauptgebäude  17:15: […]
5. – 6. September 2024.
9. – 11. Oktober 2024. The workshop focuses on the language used by ancient authors to portray divine interference in history.

Past events

Part of the panel on 20th November 2023 were: Dr Travis Niles, Prof. Dr Rainer Hirsch-Luipold, Prof. Dr Margaret M. Mitchell, David Staub, Prof. em. Johan Thom, Stefano de Feo
25 octobre 2023. Contact: Organisation: Anne Boiché et Simon Butticaz Réceptions juives et chrétiennes anciennes Journée d’automne de l’IRSB
Die Sommer-Werkstatt fand vom 04.-06. September 2023 im Tagungshaus Kloster Heiligkreuztal statt.
Vom 4.-5. Mai 2023 wurde an der Universität Bern ein Workshop zum Kernthema des Teilprojekts 2 durchgeführt. Folgende internationale Expert*innen konnten für den Workshop gewonnen werden: Am Workshop haben weiter […]

Our Team

Prof. Dr. Rainer Hirsch-Luipold

Principal Investigator

Dr. T.R. Niles

Postdoctoral researcher

Subproject 3

Stefano De Feo

Doctoral candidate

Subproject 1

David Staub

Doctoral candidate

Subproject 2

Tabea Aebi

Research assistant

Anna Gerbig

Research assistant

Noemi Schmid

Research assistant

Barbara Hirsch

Project coordinator