Philosophy, religion departments to hold biblical studies conference

In an effort to link the academic work of Maine scholars with community interest in the Bible, the Department of Philosophy and Religion at Bates will host a three-day conference of biblical studies on Friday, Nov. 1, through Sunday, Nov. 3.

The public is invited to attend free of charge.

The symposium will explore the Bible from literary, historical and religious perspectives. Conference organizers Robert Allison and Michael Caspi, both professors of religion, approached colleagues at many of Maine’s institutions of higher education where religion and literature are taught.

“We do have a problem nationwide where biblical scholars tend to discuss their findings with each other, but the public at large remains absent. We haven’t had a chance to explain what we’re doing.” Allison said.

By sharing their work with the public, the assembled Maine academics hope to demonstrate, according to Allison, “a sense of our obligation as scholars to the community around us to share some of our work, and to give the public a chance to question us.”

The conference will commence on Nov. 1 at 3:30 p.m., in the Benjamin E. Mays Center, with greeting remarks from President Donald W. Harward and Martha Crunkleton, dean of the faculty. The keynote address follows at 4 p.m., delivered by Susan Ackerman, associate professor of religion at Dartmouth, who will speak on Wine, Women and Song: Female Musicianship and the Vineyard Festivals of Ancient Israel.

A specialist in ancient near-Eastern history and religion, with particular focus on the relationships between the Israelite religion and religions of Israel’s neighbors, Ackerman is the author of Under Every Green Tree: Popular Religion in Sixth-Century Judah (1992) and the forthcoming Warrior, Dancer, Seductress and Queen: Women in Judges and in Biblical Israel. She received her Ph.D from Harvard.

Following Ackerman’s lecture, Caspi will discuss The Narrative of Genesis 22 in Three Editions, in the Benjamin E. Mays Center at 5:15 p.m.

Sessions for the second and third days of the conference, Nov. 2 and 3, will be held in the Edmund S. Muskie Archives.

The Nov. 2 schedule of presentations, beginning at 9 a.m., includes:

  • 9:15 a.m. – Frank K. Carner, professor of English at the University of Southern Maine, on Justice, Poetic Justice and the Resolution of Biblical Plots.
  • 10:15 a.m. – Thomas R.W. Longstaff, Crawford Family Professor of Religious Studies at Colby, on Sepphoris: The Ornament of the Galilee.
  • 11:15 a.m. – Ann Johnston, professor of theological and religious studies at Bangor Theological Seminary, on The Isaiah Apocalypse: Vision of the Triumph of God.
  • 2 p.m. – William Sayres, professor of literature at the University of Southern Maine, on Providence and Gratitude in ‘Persuasion’.
  • 3 p.m. – Robert Allison, associate professor of religion at Bates and chair of Classical and Medieval Studies, on Images of light and Imagery of Ingestion: The Mysticism of the Gospel of Thomas.
  • 4 p.m. – Burke O. Long, professor of religion at Bowdoin, on Scenery of Eternity: W.F. Albright and Ideas of ‘Holy Land’.
  • 7 p.m. – A screening of Cecil B. DeMille’s film classic Samson and Delilah will be held in Room 204 of Carnegie Science Hall, followed by commentary and discussion led by Irena Makarushka, associate professor of religion and department chair at Bowdoin.

The conference’s closing sessions, beginning at 9 a.m. on Nov. 3 include:

  • 9:15 a.m. – John R. Wilson, professor of literature at the University of Maine, Orono, on Change the ‘The’ to ‘A’.
  • 10.15 a.m. – Becky Kasper, professor of American religious history at St. Joseph’s College, on Old Testament History and the Problems of Biblical Theology.

To encourage dialogue, each scholarly presentation will be followed by questions from the audience. Conference programs have been distributed to local churches, synagogues and high schools.

Bates intends to host two additional symposia of Maine-area scholars in 1997, including Maine Remembers the Holocaust, in the spring, and God With the People, God and the People: An Interfaith Symposium, in the fall.

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