Virtue In Biblical Literature


What did virtue (i.e. human behaviour perceived as morally exemplary) mean for ancient Jews and Christians? How did they discuss it? This research unit analyses conceptions of virtue in ancient Judaism and early Christianity in the ancient Mediterranean context (ca. 500 BCE – 300 CE). Scholars have typically searched for the roots of western virtue ethics in Greek philosophy, considering Jewish and Christian sources to be, at best, of secondary importance. Admittedly, the Semitic languages lack a specific term designating virtue, but this does not mean that texts written in those languages could not be interested in, or familiar with, conceptions of virtue. Moreover, the Greek term ἀρετή is adopted early on in Jewish and Christian literature composed in Greek. Today, as the diversity and interrelatedness of Mediterranean cultures are recognized, ancient conceptions of virtue must be reassessed. The unit invites scholars to reflect critically on early Jewish and Christian ideas of virtue. The Greek culture is not given a primacy in defining what virtue is; rather, the aim is to acknowledge the variety of ancient discursive practices concerning morally valuable life.


Virtue, Character Formation, Wisdom, Ancient Judaism, Early Christianity 


Anna-Liisa Tolonen
Elisa Uusimäki

Member Area

The Annual Conference 2021
takes place 2-5 August
in Wuppertal. Read more.