2020-2021 Weltin Lecture: Reading Race in Early Christian Texts

Dr. Philippa Townsend, Chancellor's Fellow in New Testament and Christian Origins, Director of Equality, Diversity and Inclusion, School of Divinity, New College, University of Edinburgh


The issue of racial justice has exploded into public discourse over the past year. Dr. Townsend's paper explores the intersection of ancient and modern discourses on race, asking how the study of ethnicity in the ancient world connects to the current context, how early Christian texts construct kinship and ethnic difference, and how interpretation of those texts has shaped contemporary ideas about race and religion.

Dr. Townsend received her AM in Religion at Harvard University and her PhD from Princeton University. She explores early Christianity fully within the broader context of the Greco-Roman world looking to understand the formation of early Christian identity in all its complexity. Her work cuts across traditional disciplinary boundaries to study pagan and Jewish, canonical and non-canonical texts together. Her current book project explores early Christians' ideas about race, ethnicity, and universalism, interpreting them within the context of the discursive association between sacrifice and kinship construction in the Jewish and Greco-Roman world. Her second book project is a reading of the New Testament Book of Revelation from a Jewish diaspora perspective.

E. G. Weltin retired from full time teaching after a long distinguished career as professor of Greek and Roman history and Director of the Program in Religious Studies at Washington University. Upon retirement, a lectureship in early Christian history was established in his honor by gifts from his students. Over the past 25 years, the Weltin lectures have brought distinguished scholars of early Christianity to campus for what has become one of the most anticipated events in the Religious Studies academic year.

To learn more about the impact of the Weltin Lecture visit: A professor’s lasting impact.


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