News Bureau | University of Illinois

University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign logo


2000 | 2001 | 2002 | 2003 | 2004 | 2005 | 2006 | 2007 | 2008
Email to a friend envelope icon for send to a friend

Harvard divinity scholar to give 2008 Thulin Lecture


Andrea Lynn, Humanities Editor

CHAMPAIGN, Ill. — Elisabeth Schüssler Fiorenza, a pioneer in biblical interpretation and feminist theology, will deliver the 2008 Marjorie Hall Thulin Lecture in Religion at the University of Illinois.

Fiorenza, the Krister Stendahl Professor of Divinity at the Harvard Divinity School, will speak at 8 p.m. April 10 (Thursday) in the Knight Auditorium of the Spurlock Museum, 600 S. Gregory St., Urbana. Her talk is titled “Scripture and the Rhetoric of Empire.”

The Program for the Study of Religion at the U. of I. is sponsor of the event, which is free and open to the public.

Fiorenza’s teaching and research focus on questions of biblical and theological epistemology, hermeneutics, rhetoric and the politics of interpretation, as well as on issues of theological education, radical equality and democracy.

She is the author of many books, including “In Memory of Her,” which soon after publication became a standard of feminist theology and has been translated into 12 languages, and of “The Power of the Word: Scripture and the Rhetoric of Empire,” her latest work, published in September 2007.

Fiorenza is a co-founder and co-editor of the Journal of Feminist Studies in Religion and has been a founding co-editor of the feminist issues of Concilium.

She was elected the first female president of the Society of Biblical Literature and has served on the editorial boards of major biblical journals and societies. In 2001, she was elected to the American Academy of Arts and Sciences.

In her presentation at the U. of I., Fiorenza will explore how the power of empire has shaped and affected Christian Scriptures and “how it continues to shape our cultural and religious ethos.”

“Because Christian Scriptures and interpretations were formulated in the context of Roman imperial power, they lend themselves to being used in the service of empire, colonialist expansion and heterosexist discrimination,” Fiorenza said. “Therefore, they are determined by this rhetorical political imperial context.”

Fiorenza said that through the process of reading Scripture, therefore, “we internalize the ethos of empire: violence, exclusion and submission to God, the almighty King and Christ the Lord, if we do not critically become conscious of the language of empire inscribed in it.”

Fiorenza calls on readers to avoid such internalizations by adopting “an understanding of Scripture that will allow us to deal critically with the biblical ethos of empire, rather than repeating and perpetuating it.”
Marjorie Hall Thulin, for whom the annual lecture is named, graduated from the U. of I. in 1931, and had a successful career in advertising.

Mrs. Thulin, who plans to attend this year’s lecture, is a published poet, the author of children’s literature and the editor of a book about the history of Glencoe, Ill.

Mrs. Thulin’s desire for university students to understand how religion changes and functions in a complex society – especially Christianity in the U.S. – led her to endow a fund that established the Marjorie Hall Thulin Scholar of Religion and Contemporary Culture.

Through this endowment, an internationally known scholar of religion and contemporary culture is chosen annually to visit the U. of I. campus for several days.

For more information about the lecture, contact Robert McKim, the director of the Program for the Study of Religion, at 217-244-5832 or