My ongoing doctoral studies are regulated by an agreement on jointly supervised doctoral dissertation (cotutelle) signed by the University of Helsinki and the Masaryk Univerity. In Helsinki, I was part of the REECR project led by Risto Uro, who has also been my first supervisor and have been involved in the New Testament studies PhD. program. In Brno, I was part of the GEHIR project and involved in the Study of Religions PhD. program. In addition to Risto, my other supervisors have been István Czachesz and Dalibor Papoušek.
My thesis has been submitted for preliminary examination and I have already received preliminary examiners' reports - both recommend it.
Dissertation abstract: In this thesis, I analyze the process of the gradual ritualization of early Christian meals in the first four centuries CE as accompanied by the increasing popularity of beliefs in the supernatural quality of the meal elements. I advocate a general hypothesis that the long-term cultural dynamics of repetitive collective rituals is to a substantial extent driven by how they attract human cognition, an aspect which is at least as important for cultural success of concrete ritual forms as how these ritual forms are designed in respect to fulfill particular social functions. After offering a short sketch of relevant cognitive theories of ritual (Chapter 1) and introducing the perspective of cognitive historiography (Chapter 2), I turn to the historical evidence. Tracing back in time the emergence of beliefs in the supernatural quality of the meal elements in the sources from the fourth and third century, it becomes evident that these beliefs cannot be explained by a reference to changes associated with the “Turn of Constantine” (Chapter 3). Therefore, in Chapter 4, I turn to the process of gradual ritualization of early Christian meal practices over the first two centuries. To emphasize the specificity of my approach in comparison to other trends in contemporary New Testament scholarship, in Chapter 5 I elaborate my approach in detail in respect to the Lord’s Supper tradition in Paul. In Chapter 6, I move back on a more theoretical level, while introducing a computational model of the cultural transmission of rituals, which is partly based on the historical process under scrutiny.