Graduate Theological Union

Reading of the Sacred Texts

“What Makes a Text Sacred?,” John Pairman Brown’s presentation for the Friends of GTU’s Flora Lamson Hewlett Library in 1993, gave rise to a series of explorations of sacred texts. Each year since then, the Friends have invited a speaker with a particular connection to a “sacred text,” written or oral, traditional or new, within a canon of scriptures or drawn from outside a religious tradition. The presentations, held early each February, provide fresh insights into the words that shape our sense of the sacred. They are open to the general public as well as to the GTU community.

Where not linked to a video, audio or document file, selected recordings and documents can be accessed through the GTU Archives in the Hewlett Library.

Robert John NelsonTed Peters March 3, 2014
Two Books: The Universe and the Bible
Ted Peters and Robert John Russell
Robert John Russell, Director of the Center for Theology and the Natural Sciences, and Ted Peters, Emeritus Professor of Systematic Theology and Ethics at Pacific Lutheran Theological Seminary, delivered the 22nd Annual Reading of the Sacred Text. he lecture asks the question: How can we respond to the challenges of reductionism and atheism and bring the two books back together into a “Theology of Nature” that uses the method of “Creative Mutual Interaction” (CMI) between natural science and Christian theology?
Arthur HolderMarch 13, 2013
Religious Experience as Sacred Text
Arthur Holder
GTU Dean, Vice President for Academic Affairs, and the John Dillenberger Professor of Christian Spirituality. A past president of the Society for the Study of Christian Spirituality, he is the editor of The Blackwell Companion to Christian Spirituality (Wiley-Blackwell, 2005) and Christian Spirituality: The Classics (Routledge, 2010) and translator of The Venerable Bede: On the Song of Songs and Selected Writings (Paulist Press, 2011).  Above link is to video.
 

John MeierMarch 16, 2011
Surprised by Law and Love:  Second Thoughts on A Marginal Jew with a Glance Forward
John P. Meier
William K. Warren Professor of Theology, University of Notre Dame, and author of the series A Marginal Jew: Rethinking the Historical Jesus. Above link is to video. Select transcript to view as text.

Robert AlterFebruary 10, 2010
Translating the Hebrew Bible: The Challenges and the Pleasures
Robert Alter
Professor of Hebrew and Comparative Literature, University of California at Berkeley.
 

Nargis ViraniFebruary 11, 2009
Respond to the Call from Heaven: Pilgrim’s Progress through Rumi’s Poetry
Nargis Virani
Professor of Arabic and Islamic Studies at the New School in New York City

 

Kip CrannaFebruary 13, 2008
Sacred Texts in the World of Opera
Clifford (Kip) Cranna
Musical Administrator of the San Francisco Opera
[Video of lecture available at Graduate Theological Union Archives]
 

Luis ValdezFebruary 14, 2007
El Pachuco and la Virgen de Guadalupe
Luis Valdez
Playwright, writer, film director and founder and artistic director of El Teatro Campsesino
[Video of lecture available at Graduate Theological Union Archives]
 

Mia MochizukiFebruary 8, 2006
Scripture for the Eyes: The Dutch Text Painting
Mia Mochizuki
Assistant Professor, Thomas E. Bertelsen, Jr. Chair of Art History and Religion
Jesuit School of Theology at Berkeley and Graduate Theological Union

Photos from the event

Choan-Seng SongFebruary 16, 2005
In the Beginning Were Stories, Not Texts
Choan-Seng Song
Professor of Theology and Asian Cultures
Pacific School of Religion

The Honorable John T. NoonanFebruary 11, 2004
Interpreting the Constitution: Spirit or Structure
The Honorable John T. Noonan
United States Circuit Judge
Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals
 

Rabbi Lawrence KushnerFebruary 12, 2003
"What Really Happened on Mount Sinai"
Rabbi Lawrence Kushner
2002-03 scholar-in-residence at the Congregation Emanu-El of San Francisco

Rabbi Lawrence Kushner, widely regarded as one of the most creative religious writers in America, presented the 2003 Reading of the Sacred Texts. Through his lectures, articles and 11 sophisticated, accessible books on Jewish spirituality and mysticism, Rabbi Kushner has helped shape the present agenda for personal and institutional spiritual renewal. His most recent book is Jewish Spirituality: A Brief Introduction for Christians, and he is now serving scholar-in-residence at the Congregation Emanu-El of San Francisco. Rabbi Kushner has said "Your degree of religious tolerance is a barometer of your spiritual development."

February 12, 2002
A Sacred New Testament—But What About the Women?
Luise Schottroff

Considered to be Europe's leading feminist New Testament scholar, Dr. Schottroff is the author of the ground-breaking Lydia's Impatient Sisters: A Feminist Social History of Early Christianity. Her careful documentation of the first generation of Christian women provides testimony to the courage and spirit-filled possibilities of the early church, and offers an illuminating methodology for how we might understand the Bible as a source of life-giving power for the everyday lives of women.

Snjezana Veljacic-AkpinarFebruary 1, 2001
The Noble Qur'an
Snjezana Veljacic-Akpinar
Director of the Institute for World Religions, president of the Dharma Realm Buddhist University
Ukiah, California
 

February 1, 2000
“Speeches for the Removal of Grief” from Haa Tuwunáagu Yis, for Healing Our Spirit: Tlingit Oratory
Nora Marks Dauenhauer
Native American poet
Richard Dauenhauer
Former Poet Laureate of Alaska
 

February 1, 1999
An Almost Sacred Text: Abraham Lincoln’s Second Inaugural Address
Jerald C. Brauer
Professor Emeritus of the History of Christianity
University of Chicago Divinity School
 

February 1, 1998
Transformative Reading: Augustine's Memoirs
Margaret R. Miles
Academic Dean
Graduate Theological Union
 

Huston SmithFebruary 1, 1997
Sacred Texts: Their Place in the Modern World
Huston Smith
Visiting Professor of Religious Studies
University of California, Berkeley
 

Ron NakasoneFebruary 1, 1996
Seeing Sacred Texts: A Lecture/Demonstration on Chinese and Japanese Calligraphy
Ron Nakasone
Professor of Buddhist Studies
Pacific School of Religion
 

February 1, 1995
The Sayings of Jesus—Two Views, Scholar and Poet
Robert W. Funk
Westar Institute, co–chair of the Jesus Seminar [health reasons prevented Dr. Funk from participating] and L. William Countryman Professor of New Testament, Church Divinity School of the Pacific
 

February 1, 1994
Readings in the Round: Women’s Experiences with the Divine” (from the selected works of three Christian mystics: Julian of Norwich, Dorothy Day, and Hildegard of Bingen)
Barbara Oliver
actress with the Berkeley Repertory Theatre and co-founder of Aurora Theatre Company
 

February 25, 1993
What Makes a Text Sacred?
John Pairman Brown
GTU Visiting Scholar