Laura Nasrallah: the Ferguson Lecturer at the 2022 CSC

November 1, 2021

Laura Nasrallah

We are pleased to announce that Laura Nasrallah, Yale University, will deliver the Everett Ferguson Endowed Lecture at the 2022 CSC.

The Annual Ferguson Lecture has a rich tradition of featuring world class Patristics Scholars, true to the standard set by the one for whom the lecture is named. Fitting this grand tradition, Laura Nasrallah’s research and teaching bring together New Testament and early Christian literature with the archaeological remains of the Mediterranean world, often engaging issues of colonialism, gender, race, status, and power.

Her Archaeology and the Letters of Paul (Oxford University Press, 2019) focuses on reconstructing the social, economic, and religious contexts of those to whom Paul wrote, focusing on case studies in specific cities and regions. It argues for a clear and different methodology in the use of archaeology in biblical studies, and its chapters attend to the themes of slavery, travel and hospitality, grief, poverty and abundance.

Her first book, An Ecstasy of Folly: Prophecy and Authority in Early Christianity, focuses on 1 Corinthians and on materials from the second- and third-century controversies over prophecy and the nature of the soul.

Deferred from 2020, our wait will be worth the experience of her presentation. Her title and abstract are so compelling I copy them here in their entirety.

“Speaking of Tongues”

1 Corinthians 13:1’s “if I speak in the tongues of humans and of angels but have not love. . .” is familiar to many from its use at weddings. Historically, these references to glossolalia in 1 Corinthians should be understood in light of contemporaneous practices in Roman Corinth: linguistic experimentation in rhetoric and poetry, on the one hand, and, on the other, ritual practices which used alternative forms of language, including voces magicae (streams of letters in Greek that we can’t make sense of) and charaktēres (symbols which look like letters, but have no known meaning). Taking up this year’s theme of partnerships in justice and creation—including place of humans within broad ontologies of spirits, daimones, and God(s)—we will find in this historical evidence experiments in sound that provide the grounds for ethical and theological reflection. In these ancient data, we see human bodies—breath (pneuma), tongue, larynx, teeth—caught within colonial injustices and both served and buffeted by divinities and daimones

Special thanks to the Patristics Section Committee who consistently uphold the high standards of the annual event: Trevor Thompson, Tera Harmon, Jeff Childers and James E. Walters.