Internationally respected New Testament scholar Professor Amy-Jill Levine, author of “The Misunderstood Jew: The Church and the Scandal of the Jewish Jesus,” will be the lead speaker for a free interfaith lecture series Oct. 13 through Nov. 5, co-sponsored by Martin Methodist College and Fayetteville’s First Presbyterian Church.
The series’ theme, “The Role of the Messiah in World Religions,” poses a question that is central to Christianity and addressed in other faiths. With this theme, leaders at Martin Methodist College in Pulaski and Fayetteville’s First Presbyterian Church hope that the Interfaith Lecture Series will stir a deeper understanding of faith.
“This is beyond Interfaith 101,” said the Rev. Todd Jenkins, pastor of First Presbyterian Church, where the lectures will be held. “This is to get people talking across faiths about some deeper principles – not only to understand their own faith better, but to get a glimpse of how other faiths have understood something in a different way.”
“This is part of what we do as Presbyterians and certainly what Martin Methodist College strives to do for their students: To encourage the study, discussion and deeper investigation of principles of faith,” Jenkins said. “Including the inter-faith aspect in this series also gives us the opportunity to learn more about the beliefs of our non-Christian neighbors.”
Levine, who is University Professor of New Testament and Jewish Studies at Vanderbilt University, holds the E. Rhodes and Leona B. Carpenter chair of New Testament Studies. Levine will describe the perceptions of the Messiah circulating in first-century Jerusalem and how those perceptions were debated in some of the texts that became part of the Christian New Testament.
Levine will lecture on Sunday, Oct. 13, 2013, at 10 a.m., in the multi-purpose auditorium of First Presbyterian Church, which is at the corner of East College Street / U.S. 64 and Mulberry Avenue just two blocks east of the Square in Fayetteville, Tenn.
Levine will speak from 10 to 10:30 a.m., with a short time for questions afterwards. She will also continue the discussion in the church’s library in an informal round-table discussion from 11 to 11:40 a.m., which is also when the church’s second worship service will be conducted in the sanctuary. The church’s early service is from 8:45 to 9:30 a.m.
Levine, who is Jewish, is also a co-editor of the “Jewish Annotated New Testament,” published by Oxford University Press. She is affiliated with the Centre for the Study of Jewish-Christian Relations at Cambridge University.
The lecture series continues for the next four Tuesdays from 6:30 to 7:30 p.m., Oct. 15 through Nov. 5. All of these lectures will be held in the multi-purpose auditorium at First Presbyterian Church.
On Oct. 15, Martin Methodist Professors Domenic Nigrelli and Pat Whittemore will team for a presentation on the perceptions of the Messiah and the nature of Christ in the early centuries of the Christian Church. Nigrelli, an ordained elder of the United Methodist Church, is acting director of the Martin Methodist Center for Church Leadership and assistant professor of religion. Whittemore, also an ordained elder in the Methodist Church, is the college’s coordinator of Church Vocations Program, chair of the Humanities Division and a professor of religion.
On Oct. 22, Rabbi Elizabeth Bahar of Temple B’nai Sholom in Huntsville, Ala., will lecture on the perceptions of the Messiah in modern Judaism.
Bahar joined the Temple in 2009 as only the second woman to serve as a full-time rabbi in North Alabama. As a pre-med graduate of Brandeis University, she recognized her rabbinic vocation through her volunteer work with Hillel, the campus organization for young Jews. Her bachelor’s degree is in philosophy with minors in Judaic and women’s studies. Her master’s is from Hebrew Union College.
On Oct. 29, the Rev. Dr. Basye Holland-Shuey of Huntsville, an ordained Episcopal priest and interfaith scholar, will lecture on perceptions of a Messiah figure in other world religions. She will couch her discussion in a look at how interfaith study can become part of the believer’s spiritual discipline and a way to deepen one’s own faith. Holland-Shuey’s doctoral work at the University of the South was on the topic of interfaith study as a spiritual practice.
On Nov. 5, the imam of the Islamic Center of Murfreesboro, Sheik Dr. Ossama Bahloul, will close the lecture series with a discussion of how Jesus and Mary are portrayed in the Qur’an and what role they play in the faith of most Muslims.
Bahloul holds a bachelor’s degree in Islamic Studies from Al-Azhar University in Cairo, the world’s oldest continually operated university, and is certified in authentic recitation of the Qur’an. His master’s degree focused on building interfaith relations among secularists, atheists, Christians, Jews and Muslims. His doctorate is in comparative religions. He has served as imam for mosques in Texas and Germany.
In the last few years Bahloul has earned national respect as the calm, reasonable voice responding to the vitriolic campaign to prevent his congregation from building a new mosque in the Murfreesboro area.