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This seminar focuses on texts from the Mediterranean world of late antiquity, particularly as they relate to Christian origins. While it studies the New Testament, it also considers the Dead Sea Scrolls, Nag Hammadi texts, patristic literature, rabbinic material, and Greco-Roman texts.

Professor John Edwards

Professor Emma Wasserman

Christiaan Faul

Meeting Schedule

09/22/2022 Faculty House, Columbia University
7:00 PM
As If By Love Possessed': Spirits and Possession in the Acts of Thomas
Giovani Bazzana,


The Acts of Thomas, one of the five major apocryphal acts, which are usually dated between the end of the second and the beginning of the third century CE, contain narratives of possession and exorcism, as expected in texts belonging to the earliest Christ movement. ActTh in particular, have some specific traits that emerge also in these exorcism narratives. An examination of the nature and activities of spirits in the ActTh have important consequences on our understanding of the ethics and the anthropology presented in the writing through its representation of possession and exorcism.

In this perspective, ActTh follows a strong trajectory within the early Christ movement, stretching from Paul and the Gospel of John to the Shepherd of Hermas in the second century. Like in those precedents, also in the ActTh possession has a positive side and it is useful for these early Christ group to build their identity and develop their ethical teachings.

10/13/2022 Faculty House, Columbia University/hybrid
7:00 PM

Maria Doerfler,

11/03/2022 Faculty House, Columbia University/hybrid
7:00 PM
Torah Laws in the New Testament
Claudia Setzer, Manhattan College


In some ways, the laws of Israel’s Scriptures are so ubiquitous in the New Testament as to be invisible. They are submerged in many narratives, where their presence is assumed, and behind language about covenant, Temple, God’s promises and commandments. Biblical law itself is not the focus for New Testament writers; the laws are carriers of other larger ideas. Considering laws from the Hebrew Bible allows us to touch on numerous current concerns—ritual impurity and healings, new views of the historical Jesus, Paul within Judaism, and Jesus’ relations with the Pharisees. My presentation will be drawn from a larger project, but will touch on some areas where I have expanded or revised my thinking on these matters.

01/26/2023 Faculty House, Columbia University/hybrid
7:00 PM

Ben White,

02/23/2023 Faculty House, Columbia University/hybrid
7:00 PM

Jacqueline Vayntrub,

03/16/2023 Faculty House, Columbia University/hybrid
7:00 PM

Grant MacAskill,

04/20/2023 Faculty House, Columbia University/hybrid
7:00 PM

Jenny Labendz,