Through critical editions of authoritative commentaries and sermons on Old Testament texts as well as comparative studies, the Academy's project “Die alexandrinische und antiochenische Bibelexegese in der Spätantike” opens up a central part of the literature of ancient Christianity - namely the interpretation of that part of the Christian Holy Scripture which Christianity shares with its mother religion, Judaism. Such interpretations are not only a testimony to how Ancient Christianity understood the Bible and interpreted it in conversation with other religions, philosophy and other sciences, interpreting it for the respective present day; these texts as well as their interpretations have a rich history of influence into modern times. The interpretations of late antiquity, which are largely presented for the first time in modern critical editions, are of interest and illuminate Europe's cultural foundations far beyond the narrow field of classical studies.
The new project follows the tradition of the large overarching project “Die Griechischen Christlichen Schriftsteller der ersten drei Jahrhunderte (GCS)”, founded in 1897 by the Berlin scientists of classical studies of Harnack, Mommsen and Wilamowitz-Moellendorff, which was to edit the Greek-language texts of ancient Christianity in their entirety. At the end of this project, this goal was largely achieved (of course also with the help of comparable edition projects, especially the “Sources Chrétiennes”): The central antique Christian texts of Greek language of the first three centuries and their translations into the Christian-oriental linguistic world, including Nag Hammadi's large Gnostic find of text, have been published to a large extent in the two series “The Greek Christian Writers” (75 volumes) and “Texts and Investigations of Ancient Christian Literature” (162 volumes) in major editions. The two traditional series will be continued by the new project and maintained in their existing collections; all previous volumes are available as reprints from the publisher De Gruyter Berlin.The interpretation of the Bible in Late Antiquity has often been modeled in scientific research over the last 200 years as a competition between an “Alexandrian” and an “antiochenic exegesis”. The characteristic feature of the “Alexandrian Exegesis” was its orientation towards platonic metaphysics and the other sciences and the excessive interpretation of biblical passages as an allegoricism, while the “antiochenic exegesis” was described as critical of allegorical interpretation, orientated on the literal sense and on Pergamese grammarists. Even though this strict dual has been overcome in the meantime and, for example, it has become clear that Antiochener is also seeking to discover a higher sense of writing, the task remains to reconstruct an ancient discussion about the methods and contents of interpreting the Holy Scriptures between theologians from Alexandria and Antioch - although there have been no good critical issues to date. They are now being developed in Berlin together with hermeneutic, historical and philological studies on the topic.
The new project remains closely associated with the old Berlin project of the “Griechischen Christlichen Schriftsteller der ersten drei Jahrhunderte” insofar as it asks, using the example of the Bible commentary,“how... the Greek and Roman culture and literature transformed into the Christian-Greek culture and literature...” (Harnack 1900).