Graduate Theological Union
Judith Bishop (Ph.D. '04), Associate
Devorah Schoenfeld (Ph.D. '07),
This Area of Concentration is available to students affiliated with any of the GTU Member schools.
Historical studies provide a means for developing an understanding of the Christian religion through critical historical investigation into the unity, diversity, and development of the Christian community from its origins to the present. In asking how Christians in other places and eras acted and believed, one acquires analytical skills to evaluate present actions and beliefs. Specific strengths include ancient and eastern Christianity, medieval Jewish-Christian relations, Reformation, Christian missions, and American religious history.
Students acquire a strong general competence, particularly for teaching the history of Christianity or Judaism, and will have particular strength, both for teaching and scholarly research, in a more narrowly defined specialization and in a second field.
The GTU History Area offers its doctoral students two distinct tracks: History of Christianity and Jewish History and Culture.
- The History of Christianity track offers programs of study in the following fields: ancient and eastern Christianity, medieval Jewish-Christian relations, medieval Christianity, the Reformations broadly conceived, spirituality, Christian missions and American religious history especially colonial, church and state, religion in the American West and American Catholicism.
- In the Jewish history and culture track, students can study Hellenistic Jewish and rabbinic literature, medieval Jewish history and thought, and modern Jewish literature and culture. Among the interests of the faculty are literary studies, history of ideas and language, the politics of translation and of cultural exchange. Students may work within the discipline of history as well as literary, religious, or cultural studies.
In both tracks, the department encourages interdisciplinary and comparative research. Students have the opportunity to work closely with professors from both the GTU and UC Berkeley.
Each student, in consultation with the academic advisor, will prepare a plan for establishing language competency. In the History of Christianity track, the student is expected to show proficiency in two modern languages (other than his or her native language). In the Jewish history and culture track, the student is expected to show proficiency in Hebrew from any period relevant to her/his research as well as one modern language (other than English). In addition, each student is expected to show proficiency in any other language(s) necessary for the planned concentration.
As part of their coursework, students must acquire a strong grasp of larger historiographic trends and materials in Christian or Jewish history. In the effort to provide comprehensive training in the principle historical narratives and primary materials in the many periods of Christian or Jewish history, students are required to satisfy the following course distribution requirement:
In the History of Christianity track, six doctoral seminars must cover three out of the four following historical periods in Christian History:
Early Modern Christianity
In the Jewish History and Culture track, six doctoral seminars must cover three out of the four following historical periods in Jewish History:
Late Antiquity (Hellenistic period to early Middle Ages)
Medieval and Early Modern
- In addition to a general competence demonstrated by work in seminars, students are expected to acquire primary competence in one historical period. This is demonstrated by a closed book, three-hour timed examination. As noted above, the bibliography for this exam is drawn up by the student and approved by the comprehensive exam committee and the Area faculty.
- Each student will write a paper (approximately 40 pages in length) that demonstrates specialization in a particular topic. Ideally this paper would be related to the student’s projected dissertation topic.
- Each student will write a paper (approximately 40 pages in length) that demonstrates competence in a second field. Depending on the track the student is following, a possible second field might be: a second period of Christian or Jewish history or a topic that involves periods outside one’s specialization (for example, Christian-Jewish relations, church-state relations, ecumenism, education, missions, spirituality, etc.); the history of another religion (Christianity, Judaism, Buddhism, Islam, etc.); or, another discipline (the sociology of religion, religious anthropology, systematic theology, etc.)
- Each student will devise a teaching portfolio of two sample course syllabi that demonstrates broad competence in their field of study, a review and rationale for the primary and secondary sources utilized, and a clear statement of learning outcomes, teaching goals and means of assessing them.
Each student finally undergoes an oral examination by the comprehensive examination committee. This is a discussion of the closed book examination, the two research papers, and the teaching portfolio. The oral examination follows the written examination as soon as is practical within the semester that the written exam is taken.
After successfully completing the comprehensive examinations the student submits a dissertation proposal to the Area faculty and the Doctoral Council for approval. An oral defense is conducted upon completion of the dissertation.
Core Doctoral Faculty
DEENA ARANOFF • GTU (Medieval Jewish Studies) • Jewish society and culture in the medieval and early modern European context; rabbinic literature; medieval patterns of Jewish thought; continuity and change in Jewish history.
RONALD BURRIS • ABSW (Church History) • Augustine; Cyprian; North African Christianity; the Donatists.
EUGENE LUDWIG, O.F.M. Cap. • DSPT (History and Patristic Theology) • Cyril of Alexandria; Christian images; history of ancient philosophy; history of Christianity; Patristics.
JOHN HILARY MARTIN, O.P. • DSPT Emeritus (History and History of Religions) • Myth and ritual; noetics of symbolism; interreligious dialogue.
JAMES A. NOEL • SFTS (American Religion) • American religion; Black Church studies; African diaspora.
CHRISTOPHER OCKER • SFTS (Late Medieval and Reformation History) • Christianity from late antiquity through the Reformation; Cities, Friars, beguines, Jews, and Judaism; biblical interpretation, schools and scholasticism; humanism and theologians; cultural continuities within conflicts; late Medieval and Early Modern Germany.
NAOMI SEIDMAN • GTU (Jewish Culture) • Translation theory and the Bible in translation; secular Jewish culture; modern Jewish literature.
AUGUSTINE THOMPSON, O.P. • DSPT (Medieval Church History) • Medieval Church History, especially of Italy; Medieval philosophy, theology and lay piety; history of canon law; preaching and the medicant orders.
RANDI WALKER • PSR (American Religious History) • Religion in the American West; United Church of Christ history and theology; Christianity in the Pacific region; women, religion, and nature in the American West; religion and civil rights in the American West.
Consortial Faculty Resources
MICHAEL B. AUNE • PLTS (Liturgical and Historical Studies) • Liturgy and theology; history of early twentieth century Protestant theology; history of Lutheranism in the United States.
GEORGE E. GRIENER, S.J. • JST (Historical and Systematic Theology) • 18th and 19th century Roman Catholic theology; Karl Rahner’s theology; Christian theology of God; inculturation of theology in Asia.
ARTHUR HOLDER • GTU (Christian Spirituality) • Christian spirituality as an academic discipline; history of Christian spirituality; Christian interpretations of the Song of Songs; medieval Christian mysticism; Anglo-Saxon, Celtic, and Benedictine spiritualities.
MARGARET McMANUS • ABSW (U.S. Religious History) • U.S. Women, religion, and reform.