Dr. Annette Schellenberg, Dr. Christopher Ocker and Dr. Annette Weissenrieder have been named as affiliated faculty for the Program in Jewish Studies at the Graduate Theological Union and the University of California, Berkeley. The joint doctoral program is among the premier Jewish studies programs in the world.
The three San Francisco Theological Seminary professors will help expand Jewish studies resources, including serving on committees, advising doctoral candidates and teaching courses. Ocker, for example, is presently co-teaching a course on historical methodology with Professor Deena Aranoff of the GTU Center for Jewish Studies.
“It’s an honor for three people from the same school to be invited as affiliated faculty members in this program,” said Schellenberg, SFTS associate professor of Old Testament.
The tenured SFTS faculty members, who identify as Christian, have special interests in Jewish studies despite pursuing academic research in other areas.
Ocker, SFTS professor of Church History, is primarily interested in the history of religion in late medieval and early modern Europe, particularly Christianity in the German-speaking lands including interactions and conflicts of Jews and Christians. This past summer Ocker taught a course at the School of Jewish Studies in Heidelberg, Germany, entitled “Making Space for Jerusalem in Europe and Beyond.”
“I introduced a group of students from various departments of the university and from the School of Jewish Studies to the Christian concept of Jerusalem in Europe and New Spain just before and just after the discovery of the New World,” Ocker explained.
Ocker also gave a public lecture on “Desperately Seeking Jerusalem, circa 1500” that explored the experience of pilgrimage and the peculiar notion of urban space communicated by the Christian idea of Jerusalem.
Then in September, Ocker joined scholars from Germany, the United States, Spain, Ireland, France and Israel for a conference on the interpretation of the Bible in Hebrew and Latin during the formative period of western intellectual life, 800-1200. Ocker’s paper looked at “Hebrew Idiom, Figurative Reading, and Mystical Meaning between Theodulphe of Orleans and the Victorines.”It studies the early medieval background to one of the most contested aspects of biblical interpretation after the Reformation, namely the nature of biblical language, Hebrew in particular.
Schellenberg has a special interest in the diversity of theological views in the Old Testament. The native of Switzerland hopes that her new role in the joint doctoral program in Jewish studies will help recruit Jewish students to her Old Testament courses at the GTU.
“I would enjoy having Jewish students in my class,” Schellenberg said. “The books of the Hebrew Bible are part of the religious tradition of both Judaism and Christianity. Jewish students bring a different perspective.”
Weissenrieder, SFTS associate professor of New Testament, has focused much of her research on cultural contexts (including Jewish ones) for treatment of disease and art and architecture.
Weissenrieder sees her new role in the GTU-University of California joint doctoral program as an opportunity to further her own insights in ancient medicine, Jewish life, Jewish philosophy and architecture of early synagogues. “It’s a privilege to be a part of a program like this.”
For Germans, the joint doctoral program in Berkeley is an ideal learning environment for Jewish studies because it is somewhat distanced from the atrocities of the Holocaust, according to Weissenrieder. The former professor from University of Heidelberg has already referred at least one German student to the GTU-University of California program.