2012-2013 Lecture Series

Theme: "Perceptions of Asceticism in Christian and Jewish Thought and Practice."

Date: April 25, 2013

Lecturer: Malcolm F. Lowe, University of the Holy Land 
Title: "From Photeini to Photeini: Hermits of the Jordan Valley Wilderness"

Description: In the years before World War I, it was well known that there were Christian hermits dwelling in the wilderness near where the Jordan River enters the Dead Sea. Little is known of their numbers or their lives. One exception is the Hermit Photeini, while she is known only because of a chance encounter with a young monk, an encounter that inspired his later life. His account of that meeting became a classic of Modern Greek asceticism. Two earlier figures lie behind the story. One is the Byzantine hermit, Mary of Egypt, who lived in the same area and who likewise is known only because of a chance encounter with a monk. The other is the original Photeini. Who was she? Probably you all know of her, but do not realize it.

Date: March 21, 2013

Lecturer: Dr. Chrysi Kotsifou, Polonsky Postdoctoral Fellow (The Van Leer Jerusalem Institute)
Title: "The Daily Trials and Tribulations of Ascetics in Late Antique Egypt"

Description: In Late Antique Egypt, monks and nuns often faced various troubles that infringed on their ascetic practices. Hagiographical and papyrological evidence demonstrate that a life of poverty and solitude was difficult to be achieved or maintained. The numerous people who joined the Egyptian monastic establishments inevitably brought into the daily life of these settlements their knowledge and expertise and were prepared, together with their ascetic practices, to continue with their former professions in order to keep their monasteries running. The monks’ hard work combined with donations from pious persons resulted in a surplus of wealth in monasteries, which was used for their daily needs and the workings of their hospitality network. Contact with the outside world was also enhanced by the fact that an immense number of monastic establishments were situated close to each other, to surrounding cities or villages, transport routes, and the Nile. Dr. Kotsifou will explore the strains and demands imposed on ascetics by the social and economic functions adopted by their institutions.

Date: February 28, 2013

Lecturer: Prof. Dr. Raphael Jospe, Ariel University & Hebrew University Jerusalem International School
Title: "Saint or Sinner? Two Jewish Views of Asceticism"

Description: We find in Jewish literature diverse and even opposing views of asceticism, including the question as to whether the Biblical Nazirite (Numbers 6) must offer a sin-offering (hatat) because he is holy or because he’s a sinner. A spectrum of views on asceticism may similarly be found among such medieval thinkers as Bahya ibn Paquda, Judah Ha-Levi, Rambam (Maimonides) and Ramban (Nahmanides).

Prof. Raphael Jospe teaches Jewish philosophy at the Ariel University and at the Hebrew University International School, and taught for years at Bar Ilan University. He is the author of 8 books (3 in Hebrew, 5 in English) and the editor of 10 books, and was the editor of the Jewish philosophy division of the Encyclopaedia Judaica (2nd edition).

Date: January 17, 2013

Lecturer: Prof. Dr. James Charlesworth, Director and Editor, Princeton Dead Sea Scrolls Project; George L. Collard Professor of New Testament Language and Literature, Princeton Theological Seminary
Title: "The Gospel of John and the Archaeology of Jerusalem"

Description: Having been a frequent visitor to Jerusalem for over three decades, Professor Charlesworth has re-examined the claims of scholars of the Gospel of John from before the nineteenth century who considered the Gospel as an accurate description of Jerusalem. This was followed by a 200-year-period of theological meandering claiming that the Gospel of John was ignorant of Jerusalem. Dr. Charlesworth investigates recent excavations in Jerusalem and finds that the Gospel of John is sometimes strikingly accurate. The author knew the importance of stone vessels, describes large pools that have been unearthed, and perceives the importance of mikvaot near the Temple. This presentation examines the most recent evidence for the Gospel of John’s accuracy in its portrayal of ancient Jerusalem and its ascetic habits.

Date: December 20, 2012

Lecturer: Dr. Stephen Pfann, University of the Holy Land
Title:"Asceticism and Celibacy at Qumran"

Description: Recently, Israeli scholars (Broshi and Eshel) defended again the early idea of Qumran as an “Essene Monastery.” The yahad, the members of the Covenanters ruled by the Community Rule, are sometimes called the “monks of Qumran“ who perhaps secured atonement and prepared for eschatological warfare. However, some scholars examined whether the ideal of asceticism and celibacy in fact are manifest in the writings of Qumran, and whether those principles found expression in real life. Are the lifestyles of asceticism and celibacy consistent with the codes proposed in the books of the Bible? Is the yahad existence a manifestation of an accepted development of some aspects of Jewish teaching? Dr. Pfann will discuss these issues in the context of the Fraternity’s current research topic on asceticism in Judaism and Christianity.

Founder and President of the University of the Holy Land/Center for the Study of Early Christianity, Dr. Pfann is a member of the International Team of Editors of the Dead Sea Scrolls since 1992, has published one of the manuscripts of the Book of Daniel from Qumran cave 4, and is responsible for the decipherment of more than fifty manuscripts written in the "cryptic" scripts found exclusively in the caves of Qumran. His publications include The Dead Sea Scrolls on Microfiche: A Comprehensive Facsimile Edition; "The Essene Yearly Renewal Ceremony and the Baptism of Repentance," Proceedings of the Provo Conference on the Dead Sea Scrolls; “Qumran” in Encyclopedia Judaica rev. ed.

Date: November 29, 2012

Lecturer: Dr. Shimon Gibson, W.F. Albright Institute for Archaeological Research; University of the Holy Land 
Title: "The Wilderness Cave of John the Baptist"

Description:The lecture will investigate archaeological evidence for types of Jewish and Christian asceticism in the first century CE. The example of John the Baptist is significant. Considering Gospels material, apocrypha, Josephus, and ancient Byzantine inscriptions, a history of a Jewish hermit emerges, including the history of his cave, clothing, and diet.

Dr. Shimon Gibson was the lead archaeologist who excavated the wilderness cave of John the Baptist discovered at Suba in 1999, situated west of En Kerem the traditional birthplace of John the Baptist. This was followed by the publication of the cave in his book, “The Cave of John the Baptist” (New York: Doubleday, 2004). Recently, Gibson’s team discovered a stone cup with a 10-line incised inscription at Mount Zion dating from the first century CE. Gibson is currently a Senior Associate Fellow at the W.F. Albright Institute of Archaeological Research in Jerusalem, an adjunct Professor of Archaeology at the University of North Carolina at Charlotte, and teaches archaeology in the University of the Holy Land. His most recent book is entitled, “The Final Days of Jesus: Archaeology as Evidence” (HarperOne, 2009), and another book on tourism in nineteenth-century Jerusalem is in press (Maneys; Oxford).

Date: November 1, 2012

Lecturer: Professor Dr. Israel Knohl, Hebrew University Jerusalem 
Title: "Religious Significance of the Nazarite in the Torah"

Description:The Fraternity’s research subject for 2012/13 investigates perceptions of asceticism in Christian and Jewish practice and thought. As this biblical mandate is formative in both religions, different exegetical readings of Scripture continue to shape forms of asceticism. This first lecture in the series probes asceticism from the text source of “the vow of a Nazarite” (Num 6:2).

A friend of the Ecumenical Fraternity, Professor Knohl is the Yehezkel Kaufman Chair of Biblical Studies at the Hebrew University and a Senior Fellow at the Shalom Hartman Institute in Jerusalem. His The Sanctuary of Silence (1992) argues that the Priestly Source dates from a much earlier period than usually assumed, and thus the Holiness Code represents an addition to P, thus reversing the previous standard interpretation. Knohl’s recent works include studies on the Jewish understanding of the messiah before Jesus of Nazareth: The Messiah Before Jesus: The Suffering Servant of the Dead Sea Scrolls (2000); Messiahs and Resurrection in the Gabriel Revelation (2009).