Miracles and Paradoxography in Biblical Reception from Late Antiquity


This research unit is intended to host conversations between texts of biblical reception (broadly conceived) and so-called paradoxography, an ancient genre invested in cataloguing and describing what we moderns would call natural wonders. Thematically, these collections include accounts of animals, plants, rivers, or peoples and their customs. The recently renewed focus in Classics on paradoxography has demonstrated that fascination with marvels impacted many different literary productions, and may, at times, be responsible for the apparent increase in fantastic and super-human motifs in late antique literature. The research unit encourages scholars to engage with paradoxographies and related literature to study the attitudes of authors toward marvellous and paradoxical phenomena, and to reflect on their prospective literary influence. It is our contention that a basic understanding of the genre of paradoxography might in many cases be imperative to locate any miraculous story in its literary context and to put an author’s literary creativity under perspective.


Marvels, Wonders, Miracles, Paradoxography, Reception History

Current Term:



Monika Amsler
University of Bern

Carl Johan Berglund
Åbo Akademi University

Marion Pragt
KU Leuven

Member Area

Sofia 2024 Call for Papers

Miraculous and Paradoxical Time Periods

For the 2024 conference, the Miracles and Paradoxography in Literature of Biblical Reception Unit especially invites papers on paradoxical and miraculous time frames. Jewish and Christian writers often expected the strange and exotic phenomena that are described in ancient paradoxography to be more frequent in earlier stages of creation, or in the eschatological reality just before the end. Particular ‘moments’ to be studied may include tohu wa-bohu and other pre-creational time periods, the six days of creation and the world to come, but also special days, such as the eve of Shabbat and Shabbat itself, the observance of Friday or Sunday, or the remembrance of the final week of Christ's life.

Papers may investigate how Jewish and Christian texts choose and describe the defining factors of these periods, the things that happen, grow, or simply exist in them. What kind of paradoxes or miracles, for example, are more likely to occur outside the recurring lunar or lunisolar calendars or at their fringes? What eschatological monsters, portents and other miraculous phenomena are situated in earlier eras of the world? And which ones, maybe as signs of impending doom, are marking future eras or initiate or signal simply the beginning of a new era?

In addition to papers that explore the interaction between paradoxographical phenomena and time, contributions interacting with paradoxography in other ways are also welcome.