ACU opens center to study ancient religious texts

A 1500-year-old Codex of 1 Samuel 4-6

The Center for the Study of Ancient Religious Texts (CSART) launched Nov. 3 with the goal of cultivating the study of ancient religious documents through research, teaching and academic mentoring.

Dr. Jeff Childers (’89), director of CSART, said the center will help students and professors skilled with ancient texts connect with researchers around the world. Childers is a professor in the ACU Graduate School of Theology. The CSART was created because of the many faculty experts in ACU’s College of Biblical Studies, the successful research students were participating in, and the testimonies of alumni who studied ancient texts while they were students.

Through the center, students and faculty will continue contributing to a definitive critical edition of the Greek New Testament and will collaborate on research with St. Catherine’s Monastery in Egypt. Father Justin, a monk and librarian at St. Catherine’s, spoke at the opening of CSART during the annual Carmichael-Walling Lectures.

The center will allow students to contribute to the Museum of the Bible, a project sponsored by the Green Foundation, which will be located in Washington, D.C. Another project involves studying and publishing the Syriac version of the Codex Climaci Rescriptus.

“People are fascinated by what Christians were doing in the first few centuries,” Childers said. “We are able to shine a light on some of the most fascinating episodes in the Christian tradition.”

Childers said he hopes to get involved with other departments on campus, such as the Department of Art and Design. Some ancient documents feature illustrations that can be studied in art history courses.

Scholars at ACU will use their digital technology and expertise to work with the owners of various ancient texts, including the Ethiopic Old Testament. Ethiopic expert Dr. Curt Niccum (M.Div. ’92), associate professor of Bible, will be assistant director of the center. He, along with faculty who excel in Coptic, Aramaic, Greek, Latin and Hebrew, will teach students to become scholars skilled in studying ancient texts.