Three Priorities for Digitally-Enabled Research and Teaching in Manuscripts of Biblical Literature

In recent decades the value of digital tools for manuscript research and teaching has been firmly established. We can now reflect on how best to align, going forward, the power of technology with the questions of researchers. This presentation will offer theoretical considerations with specific examples from the challenges, accomplishments, and horizons explored by the Jubilees Palimpsest Project. The considerations will be grouped into three priorities from the perspective of scholars of biblical literature and scribal cultures. The first priority is access. This can include permissions, but it also includes discoverability and permanence. The user interface should consider ease, power, and incorporation of additional tools for analysis and collaboration. The core data must be interoperable so that different approaches can be brought to the data in the present and new tools may be used with the data in the future. The second priority is that the manuscripts must be imaged at a level that anticipates the questions a scholar would ask upon first-hand experience. Spatial resolution, color resolution and accuracy, and texture rendering must all be considered. The goal of comprehensive digitization must be weighed against the possibility of scholarly harm if the digital surrogate made accessible limits the information a scholar may consider. The third priority is that manuscripts should be imaged at a level that anticipates the questions a scholar would continue to ask even after first-hand experience. Digital tools range from well below the power of natural human perception to well beyond it. In the case of damaged or erased manuscripts, such as palimpsests, the information desired for scholarship may be available only with advanced digitization. A variety of technologies appropriate to a variety of use cases within biblical scholarship will be considered.