At MIKRA, ancient texts merge with innovative technologies.
*"MIKRA" (מִקְרָא, cf. Neh. 8:8) is the Hebrew word referring to Scripture, its reading, as well as to its correct interpretation and application. As an acrostic, MIKRA stands for the Manuscript Institute for Knowledge, Research, and Application. As a research laboratory, we specialize in the analysis of original language Judeo-Christian texts from ancient to early modern periods. The fields with which our work intersects regularly involve codicology, paleography, calligraphy, textual transmission, philology, biblical studies, digital technologies, and others.
Manuscripts. The manuscripts with which we work with are typically Hebrew and Aramaic religious texts in scroll and codex form, as well as Greek, Latin, and Syriac manuscripts from both Jewish and Christian traditions. Many of these have special historical and cultural significance connected to world events. In one of our current projects, we are using OCR technology to analyze ancient Greek manuscripts to create a searchable database for their catalog and study. In another project, we are collaborating with international governmental and ecclesiastical entities for the conservation of the earliest Christian manuscripts on the African continent, in the Ge’ez langauge, and in situ.
Institute. As an institute, we work independently to train young scholars in various disciplines as varied as textual analysis, worldview studies, research languages and more. As an academic partner, we work with accredited academic institutions (and select others) to provide access to Judeo-Christian religious textual artifacts in instructional environments. Additionally, we work with a consortium of guardian institutions/organizations for the purpose of conservation and for resource sharing.
Knowledge. To promote knowledge sharing, we utilize diverse public and private platforms including public artifact exhibits, education, and use of digital resources. We are currently working on a project to use artificial intelligence (AI) to explore new ways of translating and interpreting very large amounts of data from ancient manuscripts in a variety of languages. Public exhibits have included displays and lectures at college and university campuses, performing arts venues, and governmental facilities. We also serve as a partner to aid in the placement and curatorship of artifacts with appropriate custodians and assist with museological concerns and development.
Research. We work with academics, non-profit organizations, educational institutions, governmental agencies, ecclesiastical entities, and others, to produce useable research documents and cutting edge technologies. Working with other select research centers, we provide original analysis of artifacts and actively promote responsible curatorship of resources. We are very concerned to promote cultural heritage preservation and seek partnerships with those combating the illicit trade of antiquities.
Application. The end goal of our work is applied knowledge. In addition to the above, we are committed to producing competent handlers of the texts of Scripture, who understand and apply the original meaning of the text with skill and integrity. This is the essence of mikra.
*The term is commonly used by Jewish commentators as a synonym for Tanach, or Bible, and appears as part of the phrase “peshuto shel Mikra” (פשוטו של מקרא) in reference to the hermeneutical principle of “plain sense of the Bible.” For examples, see Shimon Kasher, Peshuto Shel Mikra: The choice commentaries to the Book of Genesis emphasizing the primary meaning of the scriptures, selected from the early versions of the Bible, Talmudic, Midrashic, and Rabbinic Sources (Jerusalem, IS: Torah Shelema Institute), 1967. See also Nathaniel Helfgot, Mikra and Meaning: Studies in Bible and Its Interpretation (Jerusalem, IS: Maggid Books), 2012. Helfgot uses this concept in the rationale of his project when he explains, “The primary, though not exclusive, goal is one of apprehending the plain sense of the text, peshuto shel mikra.” Further, he explains that “This type of study makes consistent use of techniques such as: close reading, patterning, intertextuality, and self-reference in the text, literary echoes, enveloping, development of character, word-plays, parallelism, and chiastic structure, plot development, and a whole host of other literary tools that can be brought to bear on the text of the Tanakh,” xxiv.
Conducted a fact finding mission to Africa to evaluate the continent’s most ancient Christian manuscripts in cooperation with Ethiopian governmental and ecclesiastical entities (Fall 2018)
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Conducted a manuscript exhibit at the South Dakota State Capitol