Third Annual Academic Symposium

I Saw the Lord  (Isa 6.1): Entangled Jewish and Christian Perspectives on the Encounter with God

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Saint Vladimir’s Orthodox Theological Seminary (SVOTS) will hold its Third Annual Academic Symposium on November 13-15, 2024. 

This year’s symposium, titled “I Saw the Lord (Isa 6.1): Entangled Jewish and Christian Perspectives on the Encounter with God,” gathers leading Orthodox Christian and Jewish scholars from around the world, who will reflect on the manner in which theophanic texts—biblical accounts of Divine Revelation to the patriarchs and prophets—have always been and remain foundational to their respective doctrinal and spiritual traditions. For more details, see the Vision Statement below.

The first part of the symposium will consist of two keynote addresses on Wednesday, November 13, at 6 p.m. (EST), in the Metropolitan Philip Auditorium.

  • His Eminence, Archbishop Alexander Golitzin (Emeritus Professor, Marquette University): 
    • “THEOPHANEIA: Studying Orthodox Theology with an Eye to Judaism?”
  • Rabbi Reuven R. Kimelman (Professor of Classical Judaica, Brandeis University):
    • How Do We Image an Imageless God?

The keynote addresses are open to the public and will be published on the SVOTS YouTube channel after the conclusion of the event.

Please register to attend the keynote addresses (in person or online) by clicking the button below.

Register for Keynotes

The second part of the symposium (Thursday and Friday, November 14-15) will consist of scholarly presentations by the Rev. Dr Silviu N. Bunta (University of Dayton), Dr Emanuel Fiano (Fordham University), the Rev. Dr Dragoș Andrei Giulea, Dr Christopher Barina Kaiser (Western Theological Seminary), Dr Isaac W. Oliver/de Oliveira (Bradley University), Dr Andrei A. Orlov (Marquette University), Dr Adrian C. Pirtea (Austrian Academy of Sciences), Dr Michal Bar-Asher Siegal (Ben-Gurion University of the Negev), Dr Benjamin Sommer (Jewish Theological Seminary), and the Rev. Dr Bogdan G. Bucur (St Vladimir’s Orthodox Theological Seminary), with final remarks offered by the Rev. Dr Michael Azar (University of Scranton). 

For more information on the participants, see Speakers below.

This portion of the Symposium is open by invitation only. Scholars and students interested in participating are asked to email the organizers at symposium@svots.edu.

 

Claims to seeing or hearing the LORD—even “seeing the voice” (Exod 20:18; Rev 1:12)—pervade the Hebrew Bible and the New Testament; and both Jewish and Christian traditions regard such theophanic texts as foundational to their identity and deepest aspirations. 

Among Orthodox Christian academics there is a growing interest in rediscovering the wealth of the Christian theological tradition by paying special attention to continuities with Second Temple Judaism and parallels with Rabbinic Judaism. The theological manifesto of the Theophaneia School argues that, since an “enormous library of pseudepigraphical and apocryphal materials from post-biblical Israel and Christian antiquity ... was continuously copied and presumably valued—though seldom quoted—by Eastern Christians, and especially by their monks,” students of Orthodox theology, liturgy, and spirituality must take into account Second Temple apocalyptic literature, the Qumran Scrolls, and later Rabbinic traditions. Consequently, 

To the world outside the Orthodox Church, especially to the scholarly world, we offer our work … as a labor in common with, first of all, our brothers and sisters in Christianity, who are also seeking out the origins of the Faith once received by the Apostles; and, secondly, with Jewish scholars who are exploring continuities with their own past. To both we acknowledge ourselves profoundly indebted. They have helped us discover ourselves. We hope in our turn to return the favor.

(Alexander Golitzin, The Theophaneia School: Jewish Roots of Eastern Christian Mysticism, xvii–xx)

Thinking of Christianity and Judaism in the first millennium, one navigates perilously between the Scylla of “parallelomania” and the Charybdis of “parallelophobia.” We may perhaps envisage a process similar to that of mitosis: a theological continuum in which, under certain conditions, internal polemics lead to the gradual emergence and self-identification of two distinct religious bodies, each generating distinct but analogous versions of the theological vocabulary and syntax inherited from the common matrix. To put it plainly, the Church and the Synagogue seem to think and pray in analogous ways.          

Our 2024 academic symposium aims at furthering our understanding of how Jewish and Christian traditions approach the topic of the encounter with God. We hope you will accept our invitation to participate in this scholarly gathering and reflect, together with a number of Jewish and Orthodox Christian colleagues, on texts such as “the Lord appeared to him” (Gen 18:1), “Show me your glory” (Exod 33:18), or “I saw the Lord” (Isaiah 6), and in pondering the entangled Jewish and Christian perspectives on the vision of God.

WEDNESDAY, NOV. 13, 6PM

  • Archbishop Alexander Golitzin (Emeritus Professor, Marquette University)
    THEOPHANEIA: Studying Orthodox Theology with an Eye to Judaism?
  • Rabbi Reuven R. Kimelman (Professor of Classical Judaica, Brandeis University)
    How Do We Image an Imageless God?
Discussion, Q&A   // Reception //

 

THURSDAY, NOV. 14

SESSION 1. “Open my eyes, and I will behold wondrous things out of your Torah” (Ps 119.18): Exegesis and the Encounter with God

  • Rev. Dr Silviu Bunta (University of Dayton) (30 mins)
    Scripture in the Flesh: Holy Speech as theopoeia in Early and Eastern Christian Reception of the Psalms
  • Dr Benjamin Sommer (Jewish Theological Seminary) (30 mins)
    Prayer and Ritual, Word and Body: Encountering God in the Psalms
Q&A, 30 mins   // Coffee break //


SESSION 2. “The Glory of Your people Israel” (Luke 2.32): The Encounter with God and Its Polemical and Doctrinal Trace

  • Dr Andrei A. Orlov (Marquette University) (30 mins)
    Raising the Golem: The Imago Dei Anthropologies in the Jewish Pseudepigrapha
  • Dr Christopher B. Kaiser (Western Theological Seminary) (30 mins)
    From Textual Citation Back to Communal Performance: or, How Could New Testament Authors Mix Together So Many Theophanic Motifs in a Single Passage?
  • Dr Isaac Oliver (Bradley University) (30 mins)
    Facial Recognition and the Identity of Jesus: The Return of God’s Glory and the Restoration of Israel in the Gospel of Luke
Q&A, 30 mins  // Lunch break //

 

SESSION 3. “The generation of those who seek your Face” (Ps 24.6): Jewish and Christian Perspectives on Asceticism and the Vision of God

  • Dr Michal Bar-Asher Siegal (Ben-Gurion University of the Negev) (30 mins)
    Asceticism in the Babylonian Talmud: Where Jews and Christian Theology Interact
  • Dr Adrian Pirtea (Austrian Academy of Sciences, Vienna) (30 mins)
    The Vision of God’s Glory in East Syriac Ascetical and Mystical Literature:
    From Babai the Great to John of Dalyatha
  • Rev. Dr Bogdan G. Bucur (St Vladimir’s Orthodox Theological Seminary) (30 mins)
    “This Fire”: Patristic Perspectives on the Encounter with the God of Israel
Q&A, 30 mins  // Festive Dinner //

 

FRIDAY, NOV. 14

SESSION 4. “He saw the glory of God: Jesus standing on the right hand of God” (Acts 7.55): Understanding Christian Dogma with an Eye to Judaism

  • Dr Dragoș Giulea (30 mins)
    What Is Called “Thinking” in Theology? An Investigation through the Concepts of Faith, Theophany, and Community
  • Dr Emanuel Fiano (Fordham University) (30 mins)
    Looking into God: Scopic Elements in the Christian Theological Position
Q&A, 30 mins
 

ROUND TABLE DISCUSSION. Moderator: Rev. Dr Michael Azar (University of Scranton) 

// Lunch //

KEYNOTE SPEAKERS

Archbishop Dr Alexander Golitzin (D.Phil., Oxford University, 1980) is Emeritus Professor of Theology at Marquette University and currently Archbishop of the South and of the Bulgarian Diocese in the Orthodox Church in America. His scholarship is focused on the Eastern Christian ascetical and mystical tradition, with a particular eye toward continuities and parallels with, respectively, inter-testamental and Rabbinic Judaism. Among his are Et introibo ad altare dei: The Mystagogy of Dionysius Areopagita (Thessalonika, 1994), St Symeon the New Theologian on the Mystical Life: The Ethical Discourses (3 vols., St. Vladimir's Seminary Press, 1995-1997), Mystagogy: A Monastic Reading of Dionysius Areopagita (Cistercian Publications, 2013), And a translation of Jacob of Sarug's Homily on the Chariot that Prophet Ezekiel Saw (Gorgias, 2016), and numerous scholarly articles

Rabbi Reuven R. Kimelman (Ph. D. Yale University, 1977) is Professor of Classical Judaica at Brandeis University, specializing in the history of Judaism with a focus on the history and meaning of the Jewish liturgy. He teaches courses and directs doctoral work in Talmud, Midrash, Liturgy, Ethics, and the Jewish Political tradition. His previous book is The Mystical Meaning of ‘Lekhah Dodi’ and ‘Kabbalat Shabbat’ (The Hebrew University Magnes Press). His forthcoming book, The Rhetoric of the Jewish LiturgyA Historical and Literary Commentary on the Daily Prayer Book (Littman Library of Jewish Civilization, 2025) integrates material from biblical literature, Second Temple literature, rabbinic literature, early Christian literature, the Cairo Genizah, classical piyyut, and medieval manuscripts and commentary, along with modern philological, literary, and historical research. It is announced as “the first comprehensive academic study of the Jewish liturgy in over a century."

PRESENTERS*

Rev. Dr Silviu N. Bunta (PhD in Hebrew Bible 2006, Marquette University) specializes in the study of Second Temple Judaism and Christian origins, focusing particularly on mystical trends in pseudepigraphic and apocalyptic literature, as well as in Christian liturgy. He has published The Lord God of Gods. Divinity and Deification in Early Judaism (Gorgias Press, 2021) and Greek Grammar: Biblical and Patristic. Vol 1: Morphology (Cherubim Press, 2021), an English translation of the 3-volume Ieratikon and the Diakonikon of the Simonopetra tradition. Forthcoming are a book on Orthodox Hermeneutics (“The Life of Our Fathers”: An Introduction to the Bible in the Orthodox Church) and, with Archbishop Alexander (Golitzin), an annotated translation of Dionysius the Areopagite’s Hierarchies. His articles have been published by Vigiliae christianae, Journal of Jewish Studies, Journal for the Study of Judaism, Catholic Biblical Quarterly, Henoch, St Vladimir’s Theological Quarterly.  

Dr Benjamin Sommer is Professor of Bible at the Jewish Theological Seminary and Senior Fellow at the Kogod Center for Contemporary Jewish Thought of the Shalom Hartman Institute. His book, Revelation and Authority: Sinai in Jewish Scripture and Tradition (Yale University Press, 2015), received the Goldstein-Goren Prize in Jewish thought from Ben Gurion University. His earlier books, The Bodies of God and the World of Ancient Israel (Cambridge, 2009) and A Prophet Reads Scripture: Allusion in Isaiah 40–66 (Stanford University Press, 1998), received awards from the American Academy of Religion, the Association for Jewish Studies, and the American Academy for Jewish Research.

Dr Andrei A. Orlov is Professor of Judaism and Christianity in Antiquity at Marquette University. He is a specialist in Jewish and Christian apocalypticism and mysticism, Second Temple Judaism, and Old Testament pseudepigrapha. Within the field of early Jewish literature, Orlov is considered among the leading experts in the Jewish pseudepigrapha preserved in Slavonic language, including 2 Enoch and the Apocalypse of Abraham. He is the author of more than twenty books, including The Enoch-Metatron Tradition (Mohr-Siebeck, 2005) and The Glory of the Invisible God: Two Powers in Heaven Traditions and Early Christology (T&T Clark, 2019). 

Dr Christopher Barina Kaiser (PhD in Christian Dogmatics and Divinity, University of Edinburgh, 1974; PhD in Astro-Geophysics, University of Colorado, 1968) is Emeritus Professor of Historical and Systematic Theology at Western Theological Seminary. After decades of teaching and writing on matters of Historical Theology and Theology in Relation to Modern Science and Technology, he is currently working in the areas of New Testament Christology in the context of early Jewish devotional and exegetical practices. Of special relevance to our Symposium are his publications, Seeing the Lord’s Glory: Kyriocentric Visions and the Dilemma of Early Christology (Fortress Press, 2014) and “YHWH Texts in the New Testament and Early Judaism: Disjunctive or Doxological?,” St Vladimir’s Theological Quarterly 64 (2020): 27–70.

Dr Isaac W. Oliver/de Oliveira (PhD in Near Eastern Studies 2012, University of Michigan) is Associate Professor of Religious Studies at Bradley University; he was a fellow at the Frankel Institute for Advanced Judaic Studies in the Fall of 2012 and directeur d'études invité at the Ecole Pratique des Hautes Etudes, Spring 2023. He has authored numerous studies dealing with ancient Judaism, Christianity, and Islam, including, Torah Praxis after 70 CE: Reading Matthew and Luke-Acts as Jewish Texts (Mohr Siebeck, 2013; repr. Wipf & Stock, 2023) and Luke’s Jewish Eschatology: The National Restoration of Israel in Luke-Acts (Oxford University Press, 2021), and is preparing a commentary on the Gospel of Luke for the Oxford Bible Commentary Series. He has also published a number of articles in journals and collective volumes. He is the founder of Talmud for Everyone, a non-profit educational organization that facilitates the study of the Talmud for people of all genders and cultural backgrounds (talmudforeveryone.com). 

Dr Michal Bar-Asher Siegal is Associate Professor in the Goldstein-Goren department for Jewish Thought, and Vice President for Global Engagement at Ben-Gurion University of the Negev, Israel. She works in the areas of Rabbinics and Early Christianity, focusing on Jewish-Christian interactions, monasticism, and Syriac Christianity. She is the author of two monographs—Early Christian Monastic Literature and the Babylonian Talmud (Cambridge, 2013) and Jewish–Christian Dialogues on Scripture in Late Antiquity: Heretic Narratives of the Babylonian Talmud (Cambridge, 2019)—, three co-edited volumes—The Faces of Torah: Studies in the Texts and Contexts of Ancient Judaism in Honor of Steven Fraade (Vandenhoeck & Ruprecht, 2017), Perceiving the Other in Ancient Judaism and Early Christianity (Mohr Siebeck, 2017) and Social History of the Jews in Antiquity: Studies in Dialogue with Albert Baumgarten (Mohr Siebeck, 2021)— and several studies published in Hebrew and English.

Dr Adrian C. Pirtea (PhD 2017, Freie Universität Berlin) is a Postdoctoral Researcher at the Austrian Academy of Sciences in Vienna. A specialist in the intellectual and religious history of the Eastern Mediterranean, Syria, and Mesopotamia, his main area of research is the history of Eastern Christianity (ca. 300-1500 CE), with a particular interest in monasticism in the Eastern Mediterranean. Currently, he is the Principal Investigator of the ERC Starting Grant “Reviving the Ascetic Ideal in the Eastern Mediterranean: Entangled Memories of Early Egyptian Asceticism in Syriac, Arabic and Armenian Christianity (969-1375 CE)”, which runs from October 2023 to September 2028His recent publications include "The Syriac Fathers" in The Oxford Handbook of Deification, ed. by P. Gavrilyuk, A. Hofer, M. Levering (forthcoming 2024).

Rev. Dr Bogdan G. Bucur (PhD in Religious Studies 2007, Marquette University) is Associate Professor of Patristics at St Vladimir’s Orthodox Theological Seminary. He is the author of Angelomorphic Pneumatology: Clement of Alexandria and Other Early Christian Witnesses (Brill, 2009) and Scripture Re-envisioned: Christophanic Exegesis and the Making of a Christian Bible (Brill, 2018), along with several articles in the areas of biblical reception history and Patristics. He serves as a priest in the Antiochian Orthodox Archdiocese of North America.

Rev. Dr Dragoș Andrei Giulea (PhD in Philosophy 2003, Romanian Academy; PhD in Religious Studies 2010, Marquette University) is an independent scholar specializing in Christian origins, patristics, and philosophy. He has published three monographs: Being and Process in Noica's Ontology (Humanitas, 2004), Pre-Nicene Christology in Paschal Contexts (Brill, 2013), and Antioch, Nicaea, and the Synthesis of Constantinople (Brill, 2024) and several studies in the areas of early Christianity and patristics in international journals such as Harvard Theological ReviewZeitschrift für antikes ChristentumVigiliae ChristianaeOrientalia Christiana PeriodicaEphemerides Theologicae Lovanienses, and several others.

Dr Emanuel Fiano (PhD in Early Christianity, Duke University) is Assistant Professor of Syriac Studies at Fordham University, where he is also affiliated with Jewish Studies, Orthodox Christian Studies, and Medieval Studies. A native of Rome, he researches and teaches the intellectual history of late ancient Christianity, with a focus on religious controversies, Christian-Jewish relations, Syriac and Coptic literature, and more recently canonical and legal literature. His recent book, Three Powers in Heaven: The Emergence of Theology and the Parting of the Ways (Yale University Press, 2023), analyzes the relevance of fourth-century Trinitarian controversies for the so-called “parting of ways” between Christianity and Judaism. 

Rev. Dr Michael Azar (PhD in New Testament, Fordham University, 2013, and ThM, St. Vladimir's Orthodox Theological Seminary, 2005) is Associate Professor of Theology/Religious Studies at the University of Scranton. He teaches classes on the Bible, early Christian-Jewish formation, and Christianity in the Middle East. His current research focuses on ancient and modern Christian-Jewish interaction, particularly in light of Orthodox Christian hermeneutics and the historic presence of Orthodox Christianity in the Holy Land. He is the author of Exegeting the Jews: The Early Reception of the Johannine “Jews” (Brill, 2016) as well as several articles related to Eastern Christian-Jewish interaction. He is currently a special advisor to the Orthodox Chair of the Orthodox Christian-Jewish dialogue as well as a member of its planning committee.

* Speaker bios listed in the order of the scheduled talks.