Karen L. King Named 2012-13 Luce Fellow

Karen King, Hollis Professor of Divinity at HDS. Photo: Tony Rinaldo

Karen L. King, Hollis Professor of Divinity at Harvard Divinity School, has been named as one of six Henry Luce III Fellows in Theology for 2012-13 by the Association of Theological Schools in the United States and Canada (ATS) and the Henry Luce Foundation. Luce Fellows engage in year-long projects selected on the basis of the strength of their proposals to conduct creative and innovative research in religion and theology.

King's project is to complete a book, titled "Martyrdom and Its Discontents: An Historical Essay on Rethinking Religion and Violence in the Formation of Christianity."

Traditionally, historians have characterized the first three centuries of Christianity as the age of persecution—a time when Christians were overwhelmingly united in the belief that they were fighting a war against Satan in which willing martyrs would gain eternal life. Now, however, discoveries from Egypt provide evidence that paints a more complex and realistic picture. Christians were far from unified in their struggle, at times disagreeing passionately about how to understand and respond to the torture and execution of fellow believers. At stake were fundamental issues about authority, power, and justice; about the nature of God and what it means to be fully human; about the value of sex, suffering, and wealth; and about what truth torture and violence tells.

King will examine the implications of these debates, the varied positions they offer, and the polarizing rhetoric and angry polemics that often characterized them. The goal is to set out a more accurate account of this crucially formative period of Christianity that will allow the discussions of religion and violence in our own complex age to engage this history critically and constructively.

Since 2005-06, six other HDS faculty members have been awarded Luce fellowships: Francis Schüssler Fiorenza (2005-06), Kevin Madigan and Elisabeth Schüssler Fiorenza (2006-07), Amy Hollywood (2007-08), Francis X. Clooney, S.J., (2010-11), and most recently, Mark D. Jordan (2011-12).

The 2012-13 Luce Fellows constitute the 19th class of scholars to be appointed since the inception of the program in 1993.

Karen L. King is the first woman appointed as the Hollis Professor of Divinity, the oldest endowed chair in the United States (1721). She pursues teaching and research specialties in the history of Christianity, and she is the author of several books, including The Secret Revelation of John (Harvard University Press) and The Gospel of Mary of Magdala: Jesus and the First Woman Apostle (Polebridge Press). She has received many research grants and awards for excellence in teaching and research; among them are grants from the Ford Foundation, the National Endowment for the Humanities, Deutsche Akademische Austauschdienst, and the Graves Foundation.