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Bringing History of Religion to Life

Religion professors Fredriksen, Jacobs speak at Hillel House tonight


When she’s not out with her German shepherd or lecturing, Paula Fredriksen, BU’s William Goodwin Aurelio Professor of the Appreciation of Scripture, decodes ancient texts and attempts to unravel religious mysteries.

Tonight Fredriksen, author of several books on religion, among them Augustine and the Jews: A Christian Defense of Jews and Judaism, will deliver a lecture titled How Odd Was God to Choose the Jews: The History of Early Christian ‘Flesh’ at BU’s Hillel House. She’ll be joined by Andrew Jacobs, an associate professor of religious studies at Scripps College, who will discuss Christian views toward Jews.

“Jews teaching Christianity makes Christians nervous,” says Fredriksen, who often mentions her Judaism in her lectures. “Christians have been teaching Judaism since the Middle Ages. It’s interesting that I have to assure my audience it’s okay, and I have nothing but respect for my subject.”

Jacobs says that Fredriksen has been a “benevolent force” in his 10-year career studying religion. Both use religion as a lens through which to study human existence.

Augustine and the Jews chronicles the history of religion between the first and the fourth centuries. A fourth-century Christian theologian, Augustine argued that Jews should be free to practice their faith unbound by Imperial Christianity.

“What’s thrilling about Augustine is that he says things about the Jewishness of Paul that my colleagues would be hesitant to say, and I think that’s cool,” says Fredriksen. “There’s a cultural tendency to polarize the relationship between Judaism and Christianity. I love confusing that polarity and compromising it.”

“Religion creates communities, and divisions, and insights, and blind spots,” Jacobs says. “To study religion is to study the myriad ways people locate themselves in the world.”

The College of Arts & Sciences Department of Religion 14th Annual Lecture will be held at Hillel House, 213 Bay State Rd., fourth floor, tonight Tuesday, February 9, at 5 p.m. A reception follows the talk. Admission is free and open to the public.

Read more about Fredriksen and Augustine and the Jews in Bostonia.

Anna Webster can be reached at annaweb@bu.edu.

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