Programme Units

For general information about the CISSR Annual Meeting on Christian Origins, see “Annual Meetings”. For registration and application procedures, see “Come partecipare” (in Italian) or “How to Participate” (in English).

  • Call for Papers opens: March 15, 2022.
  • Call for Papers closes: May 15, 2022

Note: The 2022 annual keynote will be delivered by Prof. Dr. Sabine Huebner (University of Basel, Switzerland).

Programme Units (2022)

Programme Unit chairs and contacts are indicated in parentheses. 
The Units are listed in alphabetical order. 


Anthropological Investigations concerning Religious Forms and Practices

(Chairs: Adriana Destro and Francesca Sbardella)

The purpose of the unit is to increase anthropological discussion and confrontation in religious studies. The field of investigation includes essential phenomena such as innovation, transmission, crisis, re-foundation, mobility, conflict etc. In general, our attention is concentrated on the capacity of anthropology to perceive and understand transformative factors and structures (in texts and events).


Before Reimarus: Discourse and Practice around Jesus in the Early Modern Period – New Perspectives & Methodologies

(Chairs: Cristiana Facchini and Miriam Benfatto)

Since 15th century several different historical factors influenced the research of the Christian past and the analysis of the figure of Jesus. The increasing refinement of philology and the study of ancient texts fuelled by Humanism proved to be relevant in readdressing theological questions concerning the nature of early Christianity. The Reformation set forth a religious conflict that rekindled ancient polemics and, in turn, the study of antiquity. The search for the most authentic religious experience of Jesus and the Christian community became one of the most debated topic among different religious groups. Moreover, thanks to technological innovations such as the rise of print and the amelioration of communication infrastructures, ideas and texts circulated widely both in print and manuscripts disseminating new representations of Jesus and the early Christianity. Finally, as a result of the emergence of new science and the discoveries linked to the age of exploration, new notions of religion appeared and greatly influenced the understanding of the history Christianity. This unit invites papers devoted to the historical depiction of Jesus, ancient Judaism, and the birth of Christianity composed by different religious groups and individuals, including Catholics, Jews, Reformed Churches and radical dissenters, from 1500 to 1780. We also invite scholars to think about the relationship between media and religion, as a way to critically assess how new discourses and images circulated and were shared. 

⇒ This unit will include some invited papers, as well as some selected from submissions to the call for papers.


[The] Bible and Conflict

(Chairs: Sarah E. Rollens and James G. Crossley)

This unit examines the ways that biblical texts have been cultural resources for ideological conflict and competition. On the one hand, biblical texts show evidence of social conflict and competition in the period in which they were written. First Corinthians, for instance, suggests that Paul’s audiences experienced numerous forms of conflict and competitiveness among themselves, which Paul tried to manage in his letters. On the other hand, early Christian groups routinely viewed themselves in conflict with outsiders as well, as the Apocalypse of John illustrates with its particularly violent language. By attending to these features of the texts, we learn more about the social dynamics of early Christianity and the challenges that they faced. To study conflict and competition in the Bible is therefore to examine the propulsive forces of socio-political development in early Christianity. We can, moreover, also attend to how biblical texts have been deployed in more recent settings for conflicted and competitive political ends. The dispute over same-sex marriage in the U.S., for instance, shows how people on both sides of political debates easily try to appropriate the authority of the biblical texts. Thus, while containing evidence for ancient conflict and competition, the Bible continues to be mobilized for more contemporary political and ideological purposes—situated in their own modern contexts of conflict and competition.

⇒ This unit will include some invited papers, as well as some selected from submissions to the call for papers. 


Contexts of Early Christianity

(Chair: John S. Kloppenborg)

We invite papers that discuss aspects of the intellectual, literary, material, and political contexts of the early Christ cult in the first three centuries. 


Discussion of Books

(Chairs: Luca Arcari and Franco Motta)

The presentations held in the Annual Meeting on Christian Origins in Bertinoro are focused on recent books with a fresh approach to Second Temple Judaism texts, practices and beliefs, as well as to the historical Jesus and to texts and materials more or less explicitly linked to the early groups of Jesus followers (1st–2nd cent. CE). These presentations are also open to innovative methodological approaches to the study of religions according to sociology, cognitive science of religion, anthropology, literature, psychology, archaeology. Another important field is the history of the research on the historical Jesus from the Late Middle Ages to nowadays.


Esotericism and Early Christianity

(Chair: April D. DeConick)

This panel provides the opportunity for us to reconceptualize the social and cultural dynamics of esotericism (broadly defined as religious secrecy, hiddenness, and concealment) as related to early Christian movements and literature. Particularly welcome are contributions that problematize esotericism through interdisciplinary approaches.


From the History of Exegesis to Reception History and Beyond

(Chairs: Laura Carnevale and Edmondo Lupieri)

In the tradition of the Italian study of history of biblical exegesis, which culminated in the 1980s with the foundation of the Journal “Annali di Storia dell’Esegesi,” this section aims at analyzing the theoretical and practical developments that brought about new research waves in the field of the history of biblical reception, as well as to the most recent developments that, also in the frame of post-modern thinking, are bringing into discussion methodological concepts like “retrospection.” The section will take into consideration proposals dealing both with theoretical/methodological issues and with specific case studies regarding themes, images, texts, and subjects of biblical origin, in their manifestations in canonical and non-canonical traditions, as well as in literary and artistic occurrences, in the three Abrahamic religions and their epigones. We welcome proposals covering a large time span in Reception History; however, contributions focused on Antiquity and Late Antiquity will be particularly appreciated.


Gospel of Thomas, Nag Hammadi, and Gnosticism

(Chairs: Claudio GianottoAndrea Annese, Francesco Berno)

This unit welcomes contributions on the Gospel of Thomas, the Nag Hammadi texts and other Gnostic documents (e.g. Codex Tchacos, Codex Bruce, Codex Berolinensis). The unit is open to contributions that address both specific and cross-cutting issues, from whatever critical perspective (literary, socio-anthropological, historiographical, etc.). Interdisciplinary approaches and methodological renewal are strongly encouraged. Among the topics that are particularly welcomed, we mention (for example): a) contents, composition, milieu of Thomas; b) the context of the Nag Hammadi codices; c) concepts conveyed by Gnostic texts and traditions.

⇒ This unit will include both invited papers and proposed papers.


Historical Jesus

(Chair: Fernando Bermejo Rubio)

The unit welcomes papers that move beyond a simplistic literary approach to our sources and aim instead at grasping the historical figure of Jesus in all its political, social and cultural complexity, investigating Jesus’ lifestyle, message, religious practices (prayer, fasting, visions, healings and exorcisms) and self-comprehension, within the context of contemporary Judaism (including John the Baptist and his disciples as well as the groups of Jesus’ followers). A special focus will be laid on the critical assessment of new mythicist positions denying Jesus’ existence, on putting into question untenable traditional ideas on the Jewish preacher, on methodological clarifications and on the deconstruction of the classical 4 phase paradigm articulating almost every presentation of the history of the Leben Jesu Forschung.

⇒ Papers will be delivered partly on invitation, partly by application and submission of an abstract.


Issues of Method: New ‘Secular’ Approaches to Early Christian Research

(Chairs: Roberto Alciati and Emiliano Rubens Urciuoli)

The principal aim of this unit is to promote cross-disciplinary research characterized by a common agenda: a radical de-metaphysicization of the explanatory narratives of the processes of creation, transmission, blending, memorization, and survival of religious representations, experiences, and practices documented by Jesus followers across the ancient Mediterranean world between the 1st and 4th century CE. Since we are persuaded that a strategy of consilience among different perspectives is necessary to account for the complex formative dynamics of any large-scale symbolic system, the unit programmatically resorts to ‘secular’ approaches which are too often opposed to each other – like cognitive and evolutionary approaches, historical discourse analysis, post-colonial studies and model-based sociological exegesis. More generally, we would like to contribute to the creation of a trans-disciplinary area where a new scientific policy in the research on Christian origins can be successfully pursued. 


[The] Johannist Constellation: Systemic Questions and Different Answers

(Chairs: Mauro Pesce and Michael Daise)

Sources, Locations, History

This panel seeks to map a network between certain early Jesus groups that turned on their shared attempts to address what they perceived to be a cosmic fracture obstructing communication between a realm ‘above’ and a realm ‘below’. Our point of departure is the Gospel of John (hence, the title), whose theology, polemics, ritual and language endeavor to resolve the impediment created by ‘the ruler of this world’. But our exploration extends further, to other works, which in similar ways address the same cosmological problem and which, therefore, may reflect a ‘constellation’ of socio-religious texts: immediately in view are the Johannine epistles, the Apocalypse of John, the Gospel of Thomas and the Ascension of Isaiah. 


Mark and the Other Gospels 

(Chair: Mara Rescio)

Aim of this unit is to provide an interdisciplinary forum for ongoing research on both canonical and extra-canonical Gospels. We encourage papers that employ innovative reading strategies, suggest new areas of inquiry, and/or offer new perspectives on enduring questions. Especially welcome are proposals on: (a) The reconstruction and localization of Mark’s sources; (b) The reception of Mark in the first three centuries; (c) Gospels and method: current trends in biblical studies; (d) The relationship between canonical and extra-canonical materials; (e) The social and cultural context of miracle stories in the gospel tradition; (f) Women and the Jesus movement: gender issues in gospel texts.


Oral and Written Sources of Early Christian Texts

(Chairs: Enrico Norelli and Claudio Zamagni)

Aim of the unit is the reconstruction of sources used by the authors of apocryphal and canonical Gospels and other early Christian writings. Also relations between sources of early Christian writings and groups of Jesus’ followers can be taken into consideration. Papers dealing with the following subjects will be particularly welcomed : (1) materials used by the authors of the Gospels concerning Jesus and/or his disciples (a. individual sayings or collections of sayings of Jesus; b. stories about Jesus’ actions; c. information of any kind coming from individuals or groups); (2) texts drawn from the Hebrew Bible and its ancient translations or from any early Christian writing used as a source; (3) Biblical testimonia; (4) faith and liturgical formulas; (5) other Jewish works circulating in the different Jewish groups of the 1st and 2nd centuries used as sources. 


Papyrology and Early Christ Groups

(Chair: Marco Stroppa)

This unit is aimed at investigating the use of papyri, ostraca and related material to illuminate the texts, language, society, and thought of early Christ groups during I-III CE. Regarding documentary papyrology, we invite papers dealing with the methodology of comparing texts in general as well as with particular genres (e.g., private and official letters, deeds, contracts etc.) and topics, and how and inasmuch they can be compared with New Testament and other early Christian writings or passages. Of course, also papers on recently identified or edited papyri and parchments containing texts of the New Testament and other early Christian literature as well as subliterary or documentary Christian texts are more than welcome.


Re-dating Early Christian Texts

(Chairs: Claudio Gianotto and Enrico Norelli)

This unit aims to (re)discuss the date of composition of the Gospels and other proto-Christian texts according to or in dialogue with recent scholarly suggestions. This year we will discuss the recent book by Markus Vinzent, Christi Thora : Die Entstehung des Neuen Testaments im 2. Jahrhundert (Freiburg i.B.: Herder, 2022). It describes the formation of the New Testament as a deliberate selection, editing, and harmonizing of existing writings by specific authors, taking place in the second half of the 2nd century. The unit will include only invited papers.


Re-exploring the Apocryphal Continent: Texts, Paratexts, and Contexts

(Chairs: Tobias Nicklas and Luigi Walt)

This unit is conceived as a space for critical discussion about apocryphal texts, in collaboration with the Centre for Advanced Studies “Beyond Canon” at the University of Regensburg, Germany. If we refer to an ‘apocryphal continent’, it is mainly because we intend to re-explore the world of Jewish and Christian apocryphal literature starting from the problem of its uncertain borders, its multiple centres and peripheries, its uncharted lands, as well as its minimal territorial units. For the first year (2022), we expect in particular papers that address methodological and theoretical issues related to the study of fragments, individual texts, and textual collections. We also encourage papers dealing with issues of reception history and the cultural history of apocryphal texts.

⇒ The session will consist partly of invited papers and partly of papers selected in response to this call.


Religious Practices and Experiences in Hellenistic-Roman Judaism and Early Christianity (2nd century BCE – 4th Century CE)

(Chairs: Luca Arcari and Daniele Tripaldi)

For a long time history of Judaism and ancient Christianity has been analyzed as a process of evolving debates and ideological conflicts around ‘orthodoxy’ matters. Such an approach was the product of the traditional exegetical paradigm focused on literary and theological profiles of ancient Jewish and/or Christian authors and groups. As far as historical sources allow it, with this panel we shall attempt instead to identify and describe multifarious religious practices documented for Jewish and early Christian groups between the 2nd cent. BCE and the 4th cent. CE, both in the context of the social formations they developed and as integral part of the wider Graeco-Roman environment. Moving beyond the classical literary and narrative paradigm, scholars are therefore invited to look at texts as complex socio-cultural artifacts and therefore present papers aiming at ‘seeing’ through texts, and reconstructing baptismal praxis as well as other initiation rituals, banquets as well as cultic meals and gatherings, teaching practices, experiences of contact with the world of numinous power (visions, heavenly journeys, dreams, glossolalic phenomena and speeches, divination and prophecy), prayers, dietary habits, healings and exorcisms, funerary rites, and so on. Finally, particular attention will be reserved to discursive modalities through which Jewish and/or proto-Christian religious experiences are re-codified and rendered in cognitive as well as in cultural terms.

⇒ Papers (15/25 minutes [on the basis of the number of participants], plus 5 minute discussion) will be delivered partly on invitation, partly by application and submission of an abstract.


Women in Early Christianity

(Chairs: Maria Dell’Isola and Mario Resta)

In the last decades, a growing interest in gender-related aspects has shaped academic research in the field of history of Christianity. Building upon the scientific heritage of feminist theory over the second half of the past century, new approaches are continuing to spread. This panel aims to explore the experiences that underlie the religious and social agency of women in the first four centuries. The papers should address the following questions in relation to literary texts, inscriptions, archaeological and iconographic evidences and legislative practices (e.g. laws, canons etc.): how was women’s religious and social agency perceived by contemporary Christians? What was the difference between female and male agency in Christian religious experiences and practices? How did this difference reflect social discrepancies between men and women within society? Has the spread of Christianity through the ancient Mediterranean world changed women’s role both on the religious and social level? How did new forms of temporality, such as the rise of eschatology, contribute to shape and redefine women’s role, and what happened after the decline of eschatological tendencies and a consequent initial restoration of a time within history? How could emphasis on use, occupancy and appropriation of place and space be a reflection of changes in women’s agency?