Dr. Karen L. King, Winn Professor of Ecclesiastical History at Harvard University in the Divinity School, spoke with students on Wednesday, February 27 as the Class of 1952 Endowment for Religious Understanding Speaker. The title of Dr. King’s talk was “What Else Didn’t We Know? Ancient Gospels from the Egyptian Desert,” and it explored how we approach historical texts, in our research and in our interpretation.
In talking with students, Dr. King explained, “History does not just exist; it is interpreted, and often injected with our own preconceived ideas. History is much more complicated than the stories can tell. If we reject this kind of complexity, we lose the ability to know a fuller version of history that we can think about, research and consider going forward.”
Dr. King’s research interests within the history of Christianity include women’s studies, orthodoxy and heresy, and the Nag Hammadi texts. She has written books on the Gospel of Mary and the Gospel of Judas (with Elaine Pagels), which are texts within the Gnostic canon. Her current interests focus on the diversity of early Christianity; women and gender in early Christian life; and how violence, martyrdom and suffering shaped Christian theology and practice.
A former student of Dr. King, Chaplain Suzanne DeBuhr describes her as “a brilliant scholar and educator who takes an inquisitive approach, encouraging us to read both what is written but also to look for what is not being expressed in a particular text.” Dr. King met with students in Straus Library during third and fourth period, following her talk.