The Biblical World and Cultural Evolution


Cultural evolution is a fresh, multidisciplinary field of research, which investigates the variation, selection and transmission of human culture. The dual inheritance or biocultural approaches, in particular, consider the role of both biology and socially learned information in the evolutionary changes of human culture. Evolutionary approaches have gained acceptance because of their cogent theory and applicability to different areas of human culture, such as  language, technology, complex societies, and semiotic shifts. Culture is a highly semiotic phenomenon, being all about how meaning is made and remade, but alongside the qualitative study of culture, the cultural evolutionary approach applies various methods of quantitative modelling and statistical analysis, thus helping to bridge the gap between the information gained in the natural sciences and humanities.


The basic premise of the unit is that cultural evolutionary processes also produce the patterns of religious complexity and variation in religious systems. Applying this approach to the domain of the Bible, its world, and its reception means that scholars seek evolutionary explanations for the religious reality in the Ancient Near East, Late Antiquity and beyond.


This EABS unit proposes to be a wide scope platform where scholars who are developing their own cultural evolutionary approaches and studies can present their ideas and test them on interested colleagues. The unit also serves as a platform for the project “Early Christianity in Cultural Evolution”.


Cognitive Science of Religion, Early Christianity, Early Judaism, Cultural Evolution, Emotions


Ronit Nikolsky
Groningen University

Nina Nikki University of Helsinki
Member Area

Syracuse 2023 Call for Papers

This year marks the fifth and final year of the unit The Biblical World and Cultural Evolution. We welcome new and old participants to discuss the future of the cultural evolutionary perspectives in the study of early Christianity, Judaism, and beyond. We encourage proposals that discuss:


  • New initiatives in applying cultural evolution to biblical studies.  
  • Challenges and shortcomings of the cultural evolutionary approach, with possible solutions. 
  • The place of cultural evolutionary perspectives in the wider scholarship and history of biblical studies and the prospect of the unity of sciences. 
  • Recent developments in cultural evolutionary theory/ies and how they may be applied to biblical studies. 
  • The future of cultural evolutionary perspectives in biblical scholarship.


We will also have this year, as usual, an open session, where scholars can present their work relating to the Bible and cultural evolution, whether from the theoretical aspect or as case studies.


This year we will also consider the possibility of publishing papers presented this year and/or earlier as a thematic issue of AABNER, Advances in Ancient Biblical and Near Eastern Research.