About the Project

Medieval Hebrew Bible manuscripts often feature marginal annotations known as Masora, primarily studied for textual content, overlooking their format, location, and variations across manuscripts. They are typically perceived as "guardians" of the biblical text, but this view limits our understanding of their relationship with the text. Furthermore, the diverse arrangements and numbers of annotations across manuscripts are often neglected. Some manuscripts also include other paratextual elements like glosses and decorations in the margins, yet their functions and interactions remain unexplored.

The PARAHeB project aims to conduct a comprehensive study of paratextual elements in Hebrew biblical manuscripts to understand their role and impact on the reader's experience and understanding of the biblical text. The project pursues two main objectives:

  1. Examine the dynamic relationship between the biblical text and the Masora, considering factors such as format and number of annotations. Investigate how figurative Masora annotations influence perception and highlight critical information. Explore the impact of the presence or absence of Masora on the reader's experience and understanding of the biblical text.
  2. Investigate the intricate interaction between the Masora and other paratextual elements in manuscript margins. Analyze how these paratexts are visually separated, their relationships with the biblical text, and the implications of multiple paratexts on a single page. Examine how other paratexts influence the relationship between Masora and the biblical text and the establishment of prioritization.

Through comparative analysis of various medieval Hebrew biblical manuscripts, selected to reflect different levels of paratextual complexity and variety, the team will seek to answer the question of how the presence or absence of these elements can alter our appreciation of works of art and codification of the knowledge contained therein. To achieve this goal, the team will combine the rigorous approach of philology and innovative experimental analysis. Likewise, it will develop a comprehensive database for the study of paratextuality, offering advanced search capabilities.

PARAHeB is a subproject of "Paratexts Seeking Understanding: Aesthetic Cognitivism, Manuscript Cultures, and Knowledge", led by Dr. Garrick Allen, Dr. Christoph Scheepers, and Dr. Kelsie Rodenbiker from Glasgow University and supported by the Templeton Religion Trust.

PARAHeB at the ILC website