Dynamics of Moral Repair in Antiquity:
A Comparative and Interdisciplinary Approach

The Project

Dynamics of Moral Repair in Antiquity was a research project conducted by Thomas Kazen and Rikard Roitto at Stockholm School of Theology with funding from the Swedish Research Council (Vetenskapsrådet) between 2017 and 2021 (grant 2016-02319).

The research project has analysed dynamics of moral repair in the ancient world, taking a comparative and interdisciplinary approach by focusing on similarities and differences between various cultural spheres: Second Temple Judaism, Greco-Roman culture, and early Christ believers. The project has attempted to understand and explain these similarities and differences.

“Moral repair” is used as an umbrella term for strategies of repairing moral relations after interpersonal infringements. “Repair” includes everything from punishment and revenge to clemency and forgiveness, including reconciliation, compensatory payments, and other ways to reestablish social relationships.


We have focused on texts and inscriptions from the Hellenistic and Early Roman periods, but frequently traced trajectories from earlier Hebrew, Ancient Near Eastern, and Greek cultures. We have compared dynamics of moral repair on three points:  idea(l)s, practices, and rites of moral repair. One of the overarching aims has been to gain a wider knowledge about the interrelationship of distinct, yet interdependent value systems in the ancient world, which may contribute to a deeper understanding of the historical roots of contemporary ideals of forgiveness, reconciliation and justice that still play a significant role today.

Research questions

Our main research questions have been the following:

What similarities and differences in the dynamics of moral repair can be identified between Greco-Roman culture, Second Temple Judaism, and the early Christian movement?

a) How do different cognitive frameworks for moral discourse affect various strategies of moral repair?

b) How do practices of conflict resolution interact with cultural values, social institutions, and hierarchical structures?

c) How are rituals used as strategies for moral repair?

How can the use of interdisciplinary methods in general and analytical categories from the behavioural sciences in particular advance the methodology of comparative historical studies?