CORDIS - EU research results

Posture and bodily movements in the Bible and biblical religions

Project description

Searching the Old Testament to understand our bodies

Posture and movement are more meaningful than simple physicality. Linguistically, the verbs describing them are often used abstractly to indicate urgency or even psychological state. They are also integral to body language, projecting such things as hierarchical status and mood. Consequently, they can serve as a tool in linguistic, social and anthropological research. Funded by the Marie Skłodowska-Curie Actions programme, the POSTURE project will carry out a novel, interpretive investigation into the rich source of verbs, metaphors and idioms in the Old Testament to determine the Biblical concept of ‘the body.’ The study will also be extended to ancient translations and early Jewish and Christian interpretations. The result will shed further light on the evolution of the concept of ‘the body’ and the attitudes we have shown towards it.


Postures and movements are relevant for both a linguistic and a socio-anthropological investigation. From a cross-linguistic perspective, verbs of posture and motion show several interesting idiomatic and metaphorical usages, and can be employed to express abstract concepts (e.g. psychological states) and grammatical aspects (e.g. urgency or gradual progression of an action). From a socio-anthropological perspective, posture and body language can express real or assumed power relationships and hierarchies, and serve as “externalizers” of status, gender, age, and physical weakness. They establish, express, and maintain group identity; and they indicate friendship and respect or, on the contrary, hostility and self-protection.

POSTURE investigates the theme of bodily attitudes, postures and movements within one of the most important pieces of cultural heritage, the Old Testament (OT). Furthermore, it also investigates the reception of Biblical postures and motions within cultural and intellectual products that depend on the OT, either directly or indirectly, i.e. ancient translations (Aramaic, Syriac, Greek and Latin) and Late Antique Jewish and Christian exegesis (1st-3rd c. CE).

Descriptions of bodily postures and motions are very recurrent in the OT, both literally and metaphorically. However, as of today, not enough attention has been paid to this topic. Combining the semantic analysis of posture and motion verbs with their anthropological and social implications will allow to gain new knowledge about the idea of body in the OT. Moreover, the analysis of reception in early exegetical Jewish and Christian contexts will shed some light on the development of the meaning of body and bodily attitudes, through centuries of translations and theological interpretations, from ancient times to present days.


Net EU contribution
€ 259 125,12
Piazzale Aldo Moro 5
00185 Roma

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Centro (IT) Lazio Roma
Activity type
Higher or Secondary Education Establishments
Total cost
No data

Partners (2)