Descriptions of heavenly realms and celestial topography can be traced back to the cultural milieu of Second Temple Judaism, which may have been influenced by Platonic and Neo-Platonic concepts. Cosmographic and cosmological ideas were further attested during Late Antiquity in Old and New Testament apocryphal writings and parabiblical compositions, such as the Book of the Secrets of Enoch (or 2 Enoch), Apocalypse of Abraham, Ascension of Isaiah, Third Baruch, Apocalypse of Paul, Apocalypse of the Virgin Mary, etc.), which survive in Slavonic recensions transmitted in the Byzantine Commonwealth. In some cases the Slavonic texts are the only surviving witnesses to the Semitic originals; otherwise they represent faithful reproductions of Greek (Byzantine) redactions.
The project has made important progress in the area of Slavonic manuscripts and texts dealing with parabiblical cosmologies, beginning with identifying unpublished manuscripts or largely inaccessible texts in Church Slavonic, predominantly in Russian and Bulgarian collections, which have been digitalized and are planned for publication. These deal primarily with celestial cosmography and cosmogonical themes and motifs. One of the crucial texts is the Slavonic Apocalypse of Enoch (2 Enoch), which presents unique cosmogony, along with descriptions of heavenly bodies and their movements, as well as detailed information regarding the solar and lunar calendars. As an essential tool for comparative work on these traditions, the project has prepared a complete glossary of the Slavonic Enochic Corpus, based on Ms. 321 of the National Library Belgrade, planned for electronic publication.
The project theme was well represented in conferences, workshops and seminars, e.g. “The Enochic Chronotope: Comprehending Immaterial Causes and Physical Space” (2013) which offered the first occasion for scholars working on Enochic traditions to meet and compare data. The workshop, “The Chronography of Julius Africanus” (2015), introduced scholars working independently on Greek and Slavonic redactions of the text. A Topoi Seminar series on “The Unacknowledged Offspring of Byzantium” (2014 / 2015) invited different speakers each week discussing various aspects of apocryphal and parabiblical traditions attested in multilingual sources.
Slavonic Apocalypse of Enoch and other apocryphal texts also featured regularly in other Topoi events: in the conferences on “The North” (2014), on “Authority in Religions and Sciences” (2014), and “Weg des Wissens” (2016), and in the Dahlem Seminars on the History of Ancient Science (2012, 2014). Florentina Badalanova Geller was invited to lecture on project themes at Hebrew University, Jerusalem (2012), University of Oxford (2012), Princeton University (2015), New York University (2016), Lviv University (2016), and the Austrian Academy of Sciences (2016).
Distinguished scholars were invited from abroad through Topoi to collaborate on the Project, e.g. William Adler (North Carolina State University), Moshe Taube (Hebrew University, Jerusalem), Anna Maria Totomanova (University of Sofia), Ana Stoykova (Bulgarian Academy of Sciences), and Roman Timenchik (Hebrew University, Jerusalem).