Doctorate Projects

Kerstin Böhm

The confession of sins according to the First Epistle of John in the context of familiar phenomena in its environment

The confession of sins plays a key part in the First Epistle of John. In literature, the authorial understanding and the theological significance have been discussed accordingly. However, the topic of the concrete performance/execution and the framework conditions of the confession within the boundaries of the Johannine community are barely being mentioned. Historical accounts referring to the development of the practice of confession often only start with the 3rd century A.D.

The Epistle actually remains silent when it comes to the procedure and the framework conditions of confession. It only leaves little room for concrete conclusions.

The practice of confessing sins in front of a community, a single person or a deity is not an invention of the Johannine or Christian communities though. This project aims to survey different types Jewish, Christian and pagan practices of confession that are in geographically and chronologically sufficient range. These will be differentiated from each other and characterised based on their source texts. A couple of key questions (e.g. about the confessing subject, the public, the frequency and the grounds for a confession as well as the concretion in a naming of sins) aim to make clear the social setting, the framework conditions and the function of a confession for the specific group and to make similar phenomena comparable as well as pointing out the blanks in respect to our knowledge of these phenomena.

In a second step, the First Epistle of John will undergo another reading with the different collected models in mind while trying to view them with the ‘glasses’ of the specific collected phenomena as a potential background of reception for its addressees. At the same time, it is to be discussed whether the various models can plausibly be seen as relevant texts for comparison to the First Epistle of John.

Clarissa Breu

The text and its author. About the entity of the author and its sustainability for hermeneutics by the example of the Book of Revelation

In exegetical literature, the author’s intention is being explored as an essential hermeneutic category again and again. The author of a specific scripture is being compressed to a coherent consciousness in the lines of argumentation, writing style, text structure etc. He stands for the insight that each scripture has been written with a specific intention and in the context of a concrete situation.

Postmodern theories question a concept of authorship that serves a concretion of meaning. The author is no longer an entity of consciousness, which creates and defines meaning through a certain goal. On the contrary, he is interwoven into a web of signs that precedes and exceeds him. The author steps back behind the text.

In the Book of Revelation, the author withdraws on behalf of the text but coming from another direction: John doesn’t describe himself as someone woven into a texture of signs, but as a tool of the entity of godly revelation, whose intention defines the content of the scripture. John is both present and absent as an author in his scripture.

Both postmodern theories and John’s withdrawal behind the godly revelation question the quest for a specific authorial intention.

The planned thesis aims to explore concepts of authorship in commentaries to the Book of Revelation and discuss them in respect of postmodern theories. Thus, an individual hermeneutical concept of authorship in the Book of Revelation is to be brought to light.

The key question of the thesis concerns the impact of the figure of John as the author on the meaning of the Book of Revelation. Furthermore, this leads back to the general question of how the author can be implemented into New Testament Studies as a category of understanding.

Wolfgang Ernst

The Didache in Context

The project’s aim is to view the Didache in the light of Graeco-Roman associations in order to depict the social and societal coherences of those Christian communities at the beginning of the 2nd century, whose circumstances are reflected in the Didache – in a more clear and profound way than before. Even though the comparison of association documents with early Christian texts from the 1st and 2nd century has already been undertaken, there has not yet been made a comprehensive study for the Didache.

The Didache contains a great variety of regulations for the structure of a specific communal or generally social life. The documents from Graeco-Roman associations offer manifold parallels for the first aspect especially. These associations had to establish a set of rules to organize membership, finance, offices and behaviour rules for their gatherings. These regulations are of great interest for this dissertation, as they allow to understand both form and content of the Didache in its diverse environment. Because of methodical considerations, it will use Greek and Demotic sources from Associations from the time up to the 3rd century A.D.

Within this framework, explicit and implicit reference points of the Didache’s communities to synagogal Judaism will come into perspective as well. In doing so, it is presumed that the diaspora synagogues involve specific forms of community in the scope of Graeco-Roman associations. Furthermore, it takes into account the particular proximity of Early Christianity towards Judean communities as an essential momentum for the establishment of communities and structure.

Rainer Gugl

Domestic Religion in Early Christianity

The doctorate project examines the role of the house and the family in Early Christianity. This aspect is being examined from different perspectives within the framework of a FWF-project FWF-Projekts (

Background and Relevance

Christianity didn’t develop from a public cult but within the context of family and house. Research has barely taken this aspect into account yet, the focus has been aimed at the development of early congregations. The project explores this essential part of ancient Christian life by elaborating the characteristics of non-public and family Christianity from the Graeco-Roman period until the late antiquity. In doing so, especially literary and archaeological evidence will be elaborated by complementary methods. This research thesis opens up new perspectives for the understanding of ancient Christianity and shows great relevance not only for New Testament research and Christian Archaeology, but also for Church History, Liturgy History and Social History.


The research field is manifold and generally covers the co-existence of Christians and Non-Christians. What relation had religiosity and everyday life? Where did tensions occur? Which social dynamics could evolve from it? Furthermore, the focus will be shifted upon the first genuine Christian households: How did Christ-believers deal with their earlier pagan religiosity and how did they develop their own forms of daily worship in a domestic environment? What consequences did their new faith have for the different social constellations in the house?

Interdisciplinary nature

The project is a cooperation of the Faculty of Protestant Theology and the Austrian Academy of Sciences. While the first examines the development of Early Christianity in the context of the house and family, the latter focuses upon the archaeological and art-historical sources. The main objective of the project is the exploration of the beginnings of Christianity and the beginnings of their material remnants. Thus, the processes of transformation during the development of Early Christianity shall be shown by this connection.