Professor George Van Kooten

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Subject: Early Christianity in its Graeco-Roman context

Department: Divinity

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Professor George van Kooten first came to Cambridge as a Visiting Fellow at Clare Hall in 2013-14. Following his election to the University’s oldest chair, the Lady Margaret’s Professorship of Divinity, in 2018, he was offered the professorial fellowship. In that year he was also awarded the honour of delivering the Ashby Lecture.

His research profile consists in the study of the earliest Christian writings from the 1st century CE (contained in the so-called “New Testament”, the second part of the Jewish-Christian Bible) in their contemporary Graeco-Roman context. As all these writings have been entirely written in Greek, and a digital database of all Greek texts that have been preserved from Antiquity is now available (the Thesaurus Linguae Graecae), it is one of the major exciting challenges and opportunities of current scholarship to “triangulate” the New Testament between Hellenistic Judaism and “pagan” Greek culture (its religion and its philosophy) in a kind of “Venn-diagrammatic” exercise of commonalities and differences, to see in which Graeco-Roman discourses early Christianity was bound up, which aspirations it shared, and how it communicated its own ideas, which it understood as “gospel”, “good news” (euaggélion). George van Kooten is regarded as one of the leading experts in this mapping of the New Testament in the religious, philosophical, cultural, and historical context of the Graeco-Roman world.

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