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By the Rivers of Babylon: New Perspectives on Second Temple Judaism from Cuneiform Texts


This project has the potential to radically change current understanding of cultic and social transformation in the post-exilic temple community of Jerusalem (c. 6th-4th centuries BCE), an important formative phase of ancient Judaism. “BABYLON” draws on recent, ground-breaking advances in the study of cuneiform texts to illuminate the Babylonian environment of the Judean exile, the socio-historical context which gave rise to the transformative era in Second Temple Judaism. In particular, these new data show that the parallels between Babylonian and post-exilic forms of cultic and social organization were substantially more far-reaching than presently recognized in Biblical scholarship. “BABYLON” will study the extent of these similarities and explore the question how Babylonian models could have influenced the restoration effort in Jerusalem.

This goal will be achieved through four sub-projects. P1 will study the social dynamics and intellectual universe of the Babylonian priesthood. P2 will finalize the publication of cuneiform archives of Babylonian priests living in the time of the exile. P3 will identify the exact areas of change in the post-exilic temple community of Jerusalem. P4, the synthesis, will draw from each of these sub-projects to present a comparative study of the Second Temple and contemporary Babylonian models of cultic and social organization, and to propose a strategy of research into the possible routes of transmission between Babylonia and Jerusalem.

The research will be carried out by three team members: the PI (P1 and P4), a PhD in Assyriology (P2) and a post-doctoral researcher in Biblical Studies specialized in the Second Temple period (P3 and P4). The participation of the wider academic community will be invited at two moments in the course of the project, in the form of a workshop and an international conference.

“BABYLON” will adopt an interdisciplinary approach by bringing together Assyriologists and Biblical scholars for a much-needed dialogue, thereby exploding the artificial boundaries that currently exist in the academic landscape between these two fields.

Call for proposal

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Host institution

EU contribution
€ 786 807,96
2311 EZ Leiden

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West-Nederland Zuid-Holland Agglomeratie Leiden en Bollenstreek
Activity type
Higher or Secondary Education Establishments
Administrative Contact
Alex Van Der Meer (Mr.)
Principal investigator
Caroline Waerzeggers (Dr.)
Total cost
No data

Beneficiaries (3)