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Theology Professor Plumbs Early Christian and Jewish Texts for New Revelations


Karina Martin Hogan, Ph.D., connects biblical studies to service learning in her undergraduate classes.
Photo by Patrick Verel

It has been said that Christianity and Judaism have much to learn from each other. If that is true, then Karina Martin Hogan, Ph.D., assistant professor of theology at Fordham College at Lincoln Center, is helping to lead the conversation.

An expert on the Hebrew Bible and early Judaism—especially the period from roughly 300 B.C. to 200 A.D.—Hogan also studies early Christianity. She focuses on wisdom and apocalyptic literature. This includes works such as 4 Ezra, the Wisdom of Solomon, the Wisdom of Ben Sira, Baruch and I Enoch. 4 Ezra, a Jewish apocalypse written near the end of the first century A.D., was the subject of her book, Theologies in Conflict in 4 Ezra: Wisdom and Debate and Apocalyptic Solution (Brill, 2008).

“There’s a discussion of issues that you see reflected in the wisdom tradition, particularly in the first half of 4 Ezra,” Hogan said. “I did a reading of the book that emphasized that, pulled out the wisdom themes in the earlier part of the book, and tried to explain how they relate to the more apocalyptic material.

“The apocalyptic content is throughout the book, but it is more emphasized in the second half, so my contribution on 4 Ezra was to say, ‘We need to pay attention to the wisdom elements of this book as well as the apocalyptic elements.’”

Hogan has continued to mine 4 Ezra, publishing “Mother Earth as a Conceptual Metaphor in 4 Ezra” (Catholic Biblical Quarterly, 2011). The paper, which examines the metaphorical concept of Mother Earth as a focus of the mourning of Ezra, is the beginning of what Hogan hopes will be a second volume, tentatively titled Mother of All the Living: Creation as Birth in the Bible and Early Judaism, focusing on metaphors involving the maternity of the earth.

It’s part of a new way of thinking within biblical studies, she said, to talk about how the Bible can be a resource for responsible ecological approaches that get beyond the “fill the earth and subdue it” attitudes.

“The Bible has been used to justify exploitation of the environment, but this new trend attempts to counteract that, to show that the Bible looks at the earth in a much more positive way, and human beings as part of a larger web of creation,” she said.

It’s a natural turn for Hogan, who is also on the faculty of the Women’s Studies program at Lincoln Center as well as the theology department’s Christianity in Antiquity graduate studies program.

In addition to teaching graduate level classes on biblical Hebrew, Aramaic and Second Temple Judaism, Hogan also teaches undergraduate classes on the Torah and the Prophets, as well as Classic Jewish Texts. In the fall, she is looking forward to teaching the Prophets with a service-learning component. When paired with service learning, she said, the class is an extremely powerful tool for teaching students the ethical questions that are raised by the Bible and how someone can make connections between service in the community and the biblical prophetic texts.

“All the prophets have that theme to some extent. It’s all over the place. So I try to pull out those social justice issues, especially the treatment of marginalized groups such as the poor, widows and orphans. This is a recurring theme in prophetic literature. So I have the students work with marginalized groups in our society and try to make analogies,” she said.

“It’s an opportunity to make some connections between the Bible and people’s actual life of faith, and how you put your life of faith into action,” Hogan explained. “It’s something I don’t often feel I achieve in my classes, because there’s so much to talk about in the ancient texts.”

Hogan became interested in the subject of Second Temple Judaism at the University of Chicago, where she studied under John J. Collins, Ph.D., now Holmes Professor of Old Testament at Yale Divinity School. Hogan recently co-edited The “Other” in Second Temple Judaism: Essays in Honor of John J. Collins (Eerdmans, 2011) with Daniel C. Harlow, Matthew Goff and Joel Kaminisky.

“I actually came to graduate school thinking I would study early Christianity, and then shifted over to Second Temple Judaism because John Collins was such an inspiring teacher and a great mentor,” she said. “I really hadn’t done any Hebrew before I got to grad school, but I really enjoyed it, and so I decided I wanted to work in Jewish texts so that I could work more with Hebrew.”

In July, she will take over as the associate chair for the theology department, and in the fall, she will be named to the executive board of the Women’s Studies program. So she will be generating a lot of discussion across both disciplines and faiths.

She is also the faculty mentor for the Jewish Students Organization at Fordham College at Lincoln Center. “It is really important not just to have a place for the Jewish students to come, but more to make non-Jewish students aware of Judaism and its contribution and—in a lot of ways—its commonality to Christian tradition,” she said.

“One of the things I try to do in all my classes is talk about how Jewish and Christian scholars interpret particular texts differently, and also how they sometimes complement each other.”


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