Dr Lautaro Roig Lanzillotta has been appointed Full Professor of New Testament and Early Christianity in the Faculty of Theology and Religious Studies at the University of Groningen, starting 1 September
. Lanzillotta will be responsible for the design and teaching of courses on the New Testament and the Early Christian world, including the world-famous Gnostic Nag Hammadi texts and the fascinating Apocryphal Christian literature – the books that did not make it into the Bible. Thus, in addition to normative Christianity, the new chair will also cover the study of alternative forms of Christianity that developed during the first centuries of the common era.
Because teaching at our Faculty of Theology and Religious Studies is research driven, I also devote a good amount of time to research in order to prepare quality courses for our students,’ Lanzillotta adds. He is currently working on the preparation of two new courses that he will give in the second block.
‘The first of them, “New Historical Methods in the Study of Early Christian Pluralism: Christian Trajectories, Inclusion and Exclusion”, is part of the Master’s track called Religion and Pluralism: Ancient and Modern. Along with the important methodological aspects related to the study of antiquity in general and Early Christianity in particular, in this course, I intend to introduce students to the fascinating world of Early Christian diversity and its most famous and infamous actors: community founders, their competitors and opponents, followers, heretics and other deviant Christians. In addition to reading the original documents, we will also apply modern techniques (social, linguistic, literary approaches) to extract from the texts all they can offer us, both explicit and more veiled messages.
I will teach the second course, “The Text Awakens”, in collaboration with my colleague Stefania Travagnin. It will offer students a glimpse into the birth of a Gospel, namely the Gospel of Thomas. Its analysis and comparison with other canonical and non-canonical gospels will be the point of departure for dealing with central issues in Early Christian history. The study of orality and written transmission of the Jesus tradition, and the question of the historical Jesus and his relationship to the first written accounts, intend to provide students with the elements required to understand the first Christian decades.”
Lautaro Roig Lanzillotta: ‘It’s a great honour and pleasure to be appointed as the new Professor of New Testament and Early Christianity at the prestigious University of Groningen. Of course, you could see the appointment as the culmination of your career as a researcher and professor; for me, it is also a new point of departure, the beginning of an exciting new period, in which I will be able to do what I like the most: digging into the past to understand the plural origins of Christianity.’
Lanzillotta first studied Classics at the Universidad Complutense in Madrid, where he also obtained his first PhD, in Ancient Greek philosophy, in 1997, with a thesis on ‘Envy in Ancient Greek Thought. From the Archaic Period to Hellenism’.
In 1998, he received a scholarship from the Rudolf Agricola Instituut to come to Groningen to study an Early Christian text, The Apocryphal Acts of Andrew. At that time, he did not know that this would form the backbone of his second PhD, this time in Theology, at the Faculty of Theology and Religious Studies, Groningen. In 2004, he defended his thesis, entitled, The Apocryphal Acts of Andrew. A New Approach to the Character, Thought and Meaning of the Primitive Text.
In 2003, Lanzillotta was appointed Assistant Professor in the Faculty of Arts of the University of Córdoba, where he taught from 2004 to 2007. In 2006, he successfully applied for the vacant position of Senior lecturer of New Testament in Groningen. He subsequently joined the Faculty of Theology and Religious Studies during the 2007/2008 academic year.
‘The last eleven years in Groningen have been fantastic,’ Lanzillotta comments. ‘I not only got the opportunity to meet and work with many excellent colleagues, but to grow and develop as a teacher and scholar in a top European institution such as our Faculty of Theology and Religious Studies at the University of Groningen. At present, I am enjoying working with several younger scholars who are investigating different lines in my field of expertise. The Gospel of Thomas, Plutarch of Chaeronea, Ancient Greek Semantics, Patristics, the reception of ancient Gnosticism in both modern literature (Jorge Luis Borges) and film (Hollywood), and Historiography and Biography, are just some of the themes of the PhD projects I am supervising.
I also have the honour of engaging in several important editorial projects, both individually and in collaboration: to begin with, the international journal Gnosis: Journal of Gnostic Studies, which I founded with A.D. DeConick. I am editor in chief of the Nag Hammadi Bibliography Online (Brill), and series editor with Delfim Leão of Brill’s Plutarch Studies series.
‘The focus of my research has always been Religion and Culture. How is religion embedded in its cultural context? What contacts, interaction, mutual influences are there? And why is it important to understand this interaction? In this sense, my field of expertise is on the intersection of the Greco-Roman and Christian worlds. I am interested in the role that Greek philosophy played in the formation of Christianity and, more specifically, how diverse Greek philosophical currents may help us explain early Christian diversity.
In my view, this research is crucial, not only for a better understanding of the rise of Christianity, but especially to grasp the hybridity of the plural origins of our Western culture. Along with the New Testament, the Christian views included in both in the Apocryphal Acts and Nag Hammadi help us to reconstruct the wide spectrum of ideas and beliefs out of which Christian worldviews develop. And by understanding the past in a better way, we can also better understand our present.’
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