Canada Research Chair in Religious Identities of Ancient Judaism

Trinity Western University | Tier 2 | Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council


Studying Lost Words and Exploring Forgotten Worlds

Utilizing recently discovered Aramaic literature in the Dead Sea Scrolls, the Canada Research Chair in Religious Identities of Ancient Judaism (ca. 515 BCE–70 CE) maps the ideological, literary, and cultural landscapes of a period that was the common basis of emerging Judaism and Christianity in antiquity and is, therefore, foundational for Western Civilization.

Dr. Andrew Perrin’s current and projected research initiatives all relate to the common question: “How do the recently discovered Aramaic Dead Sea Scrolls challenge, change, or confirm the way we think about the worlds before and beyond the Bible?”

Encountering the Aramaic Dead Sea Scrolls

As geopolitical shifts sent ripples across the ancient Near East, from the Mediterranean coast to the borders of modern-day India, cultural tensions and transformations became a part of life. One interface between empires and regional groups concerned language—both spoken and written.

Naturally, Hebrew was the language of Israelite tradition, scripture, and culture. Aramaic, on the other hand, took hold in much of the ancient Near East as both the official and common tongue, starting in the eighth century B.C.E. Despite its diffusion, much of ancient Judaism’s Aramaic literature was lost or forgotten. The Hebrew Bible/Old Testament includes only soundbites of this scribal heritage: a stray word in Genesis 31:47, an unexpected line in Jeremiah 10:11, and stretches of narrative in the books of Ezra and Daniel.

This all changed with the discovery of the Dead Sea Scrolls, which revealed some thirty Aramaic writings from the late second millennium B.C.E. Some of these texts were known only from later versions, others were suspected from hints left in other writings of antiquity, but most laid fallow for two thousand years until their modern discovery just seventy years ago.

Directions for Research

The Canada Research Chair in Religious Identities of Ancient Judaism will deliver a research program that forges a fresh path into the Qumran Aramaic texts in order to find new insights into the history, thought, and culture of ancient Judaism. Chair initiatives underscore the importance of interdisciplinary discussion, international collaboration, and the integration of student trainees in the discovery and dissemination of knowledge.

For a full introduction to the Canada Research Chair in Religious Identities of Ancient Judaism and it trajectories for research, please enjoy this open-access version of Dr. Perrin’s inaugural lecture delivered at Trinity Western University (September 13, 2018). For news on upcoming Chair events and opportunities for students, follow the social media accounts of the Dead Sea Scrolls Institute.

2020/21 Research Team

The Canada Research Chair in Religious Identities of Ancient Judaism has integrated trainees from undergraduate through postdoctoral levels. The current team's projects listed below are directed by Dr. Perrin. Supervised theses and dissertations are also aligned with the larger trajectory of the Chair.

Mathew Hama (Doctoral Researcher, University of Birmingham)

Dissertation: Patterns of Dualism in the Dead Sea Scrolls and Beyond

Project: Four Kingdoms Chronologies in Antiquity

Shelby Bennett (Graduate Research Assistant)

Thesis: Gender Dynamics and the Voices of Women in the Genesis Apocryphon