University of Minnesota
Classical and Near Eastern Studies

Classical and Near Eastern Studies' home page.

News Archive

  • Philip Sellew Awarded NEH Grant

    National Endowment for the Humanities has awarded Associate Professor Philip Sellew (Classical & Near Eastern Studies). Sellew is the principal investigator for "Resurrecting Early Christian Lives: Digging in Papyri in a Digital Age." Read More
  • CNES welcomes Assistant Professor Hanne Loeland Levinson

    Hanne Loeland Levinson received her PhD. from MF Norwegian School of Theology in Oslo where she also worked as an Associate Professor of Old Testament from 2007-2013. Dr. Loeland Levinson is the author of Silent or Salient Gender? The Interpretation of Gendered God-Language in the Hebrew Bible, Exemplified in Isaiah 42, 46, and 49. (Published by Mohr Siebeck in 2008). Her book won the John Templeton Award for Theological Promise. Dr. Loeland Levinson's field is Hebrew Bible and her special research interests are Women and gender studies, metaphor studies, narrative readings of the Hebrew Bible, and the understanding of death and dying in the Hebrew Bible. Dr. Loeland Levinson is a core faculty in the Religious Studies Program and the Center for Jewish Studies at the University of Minnesota. She is Chair of the Society of Biblical Literature program unit: Metaphor Theory and Hebrew Bible. During her years at the Norwegian School of Theology Dr. Loeland Levinson has been a visiting scholar at Stellenbosch University (South Africa), Luther Theological Seminary (St Paul), Duke University, the Hebrew University (Jerusalem) and at the Swedish Theological Institute (Jerusalem). To find more information visit her webpage.
  • Convergence and Divergence in Pentateuchal Theory: Bridging the Academic Cultures of Israel, North America and Europe

    The conference is co-organized by CNES faculty member Bernard Levinson and includes twenty-five leading scholars, among whom CNES Alum Molly Zahn. The international conference will discuss different approaches to the formation of the Pentateuch, and will be held at the Israel Institute for Advanced Studies in Jerusalem, where Professor Levinson is currently on research leave.

    For more information on the conference:

    Bernard Levinson's Academic Website:

  • Did Jesus have a wife? Papyrus paper claims so

    CNES Professor Philip Sellew Featured on Fox 9:
  • "The Word Made Flesh" Celebrates the 400th Anniversary of the King James Bible at Wilson Library

    The University of Minnesota Libraries are celebrating the 400th anniversary of the publication of the King James Bible with the following exhibit:

    The Word Made Flesh


    When:†Monday, November 28, 2011 - Friday, February 24, 2012;†Monday - Friday, 9:00 a.m. to 4:30 p.m.

    Where:†T.R. Anderson Gallery,†Wilson Library

    Free and open to the public

    This exhibit will feature examples of biblical texts, including medieval manuscripts and facsimiles. Highlights will include two leaves from the 42-line Gutenberg Bible; the original New Testament portion of the King James Bible; other early printings such as the Geneva Bible and the "Breeches" Bible; and related works stemming out of the Reformation such as publications, broadsides, and pamphlets from Martin Luther, Philip Melanchthon, and others.

  • CNES Grads Shine at CAMWS

    From our Director of Graduate Studies, Professor Nita Krevans:
    Just back from Grand Rapids, Michigan, where our graduate students gavea range of wonderful papers. (I also heard presentations from severalformer Minnesota students, including Eric Fanning and Tom Kohn, andfrom Chris Nappa.) For those who were not at the meeting and could notmake the practice session, I've appended a list of the student papersand links to the abstracts below. Congratulations to all thepresenters; I hope you enjoyed giving your papers as much as I enjoyedhearing them in their official, public versions.

    Cicero Reading Polybius: The Role of Polybius in the De Re Publica.Aaron L. Beek (University of Minnesota)

    Death, Friendship, and the Republic: The Dour Settings of Cicero's DeAmicitia. Andrew Willey (University of Minnesota)

    Poetic Failure/Poetic Flight: The Myth of Daedalus in Horace's Odes.Cynthia A. Hornbeck (University of Minnesota)

    Sex, Lies, and Visual Aids: Longus and the Art of Deception. Don M.Burrows (University of Minnesota)

    The Cougar in Maiden's Clothing: Callirhoe as Phaedra. Anna E. Beek(University of Minnesota)

    Reflections on an Encounter: Hermaphroditus and Salmacis in Ovid'sMetamorphoses Book IV. Elizabeth A. Warner (University of Minnesota)

    Purest Springs of Fire: Giants and Callimachean Poetics in Pythian 1and 8. Christine E. Lechelt (University of Minnesota)
  • Text, Authority, and Interpretation in the worlds of Hellenism and early Judaism

    A panel discussion in Classical and Near Eastern Studies

    Friday, April 29th, 2:00-5:00pm, 140 Nolte

    Literate societies, ancient and modern, produce texts of many kinds. Most texts exercise little cultural authority and are read only for brief periods of time, by small groups of individuals, and for limited purposes. But some texts achieve - or are accorded - broad significance and enduring authority. They cease to be merely writings and are transformed into scripture, which is read, studied, and attributed profound meaning of various sorts.

    CNES brings together three influential scholars to discuss the phenomenon in early Judaism and the Hellenistic world during the centuries surrounding the turn of the era. Robert Lamberton (Washington University) studies how texts of Homer's poems were established, used, and interpreted in the Hellenistic and Roman periods. Benjamin Wright (Lehigh University) examines the production, authorization, and reception of the Septuagint, the Greek Translation of the Hebrew Bible. Molly Zahn (University of Kansas) investigates the rewriting or reworking of biblical books as evidenced in the Dead Sea Scrolls. All three processes transpired more or less simultaneously in different parts of the ancient Mediterranean world. Each instantiates a phenomenon of establishing, authorizing, receiving, and interpreting texts that eventually attained the status of scripture.

    Conventional disciplinary boundaries have tended to keep the study of ancient Greek and Hebrew literature separate. But these texts were all generated within the intersecting cultural frameworks of the ancient Mediterranean world, suggesting that new knowledge may be gained by examining them together. We expect that the panelists' areas of inquiry will not only prove mutually illuminating, but yield insights applicable to other literatures and other moments in history.


    Robert Lamberton, Department of Classics, Washington University in St. Louis

    Benjamin G. Wright III, Department of Religion Studies, Lehigh University

    Molly M. Zahn, Department of Religious Studies, University of Kansas


    Andrew Gallia, Department of History, University of Minnesota

    Alex Jassen, Department of Classical and Near Eastern Studies, University of Minnesota

    The three panelists will each make a brief presentation based on their published work, selections of which are posted below. Participants and attendees are encouraged to read some of these selections in preparation for the panel discussion. For each panelist, one article or book chapter is highlighted as most important for apprehending his or her subject of inquiry.

    Robert Lamberton
    Lamberton, Homer in Antiquity.pdf
    Lamberton Homer Encyclopedia entries.pdf

  • 6 other calamities blamed on divine retribution...

    CNES Professor Bernard Levinson weighs in the role of divine retribution in the Holocaust and the biblical flood

    View the CNN's BELIEF article featuring Professor Levinson HERE. (

  • "They took their history in their own hands" - Professor von Dassow on the news

    Antiquities expert and CNES faculty member Eva von Dassow comments on the preservation of Egypt's historical treasures.

    See video of the story and interview with Prof. von Dassow here. (From KSTP ABC 5)
  • Congratulations Prof. Sellew for Winning the Motley Exemplary Teaching Award!

    Philip Sellew, recipient of the Motley Exemplary Teaching Award, gently guides his students on a journey of discovery.

    As a public university, Minnesota's religious studies offerings focus not on indoctrinating any particular belief, but in understanding the historical, cultural, and societal significance of religion.

    Jesus and the Gospels
    So when a first-year student here takes Philip Sellew's Jesus in History class, she might have her own faith or assumptions challenged--but in a good way. "Students in their first year of college are in a searching mode," says Sellew, an associate professor in the Department of Classical and Near Eastern Studies. "It's not my job to tell students what to think, but to get them to start noticing things and thinking about what they believe."

    Coptic and Early Christianity
    He is also the U's Coptic instructor. Coptic was the language of Egypt during early Christian times, and is still used today in Coptic Orthodox ritual, much like how Latin was used in the Roman Catholic mass. It's an important language in the study of early Christianity, because many of the best preserved Gospel codices have been found in Egypt. Bury a book in Minnesota and in a few years you'll have mulch. "But bury a book in the desert of Egypt, and 2,000 years later you'll have a book with some dirt on it," says Sellew.

    His work in Coptic is rewarding, both personally and intellectually. Every time he teaches beginning Coptic he has students from the local Coptic Orthodox community ("They come to class and can sing hymns in Coptic, even though they don't yet speak it."). And Coptic, unlike other Biblical-era languages, still maintains some linguistic mysteries that challenge scholars. "It's rich with possibility," says Sellew. A future publication project of his will be an anthology of Coptic literature and hymns.

    Death and the Ancients-and Us
    It's important to Sellew that his students make personal connections to the world of antiquity and early Christianity. This is perhaps best exemplified in his course Death and the Afterlife. College students are, in Sellew's opinion, fascinated with questions surrounding death and what may come afterward. Through grounding the class in the ancient world--Gilgamesh, Augustine--and layering on films, music, and poetry from today, Sellew's students examine their own beliefs about death and the afterlife. They consider why we care about this most mysterious of life's mysteries, and what the ancients were facing as they created their own death and afterlife myths and practices.

    It's his gentle guidance, his respect for his students' varied beliefs, that has made him such a beloved professor and a recipient of a 2010 Arthur "Red" Motley Exemplary Teaching Award. The nomination letters from his former students were littered with words like influential, concerned, caring, and respectful. "My role is not to convince them of what version or another of the Gospels is correct," he says, as way of example. "Students should have an experience of self-discovery." And whether his students are exploring the 18 versions of the Gospels, learning the language and culture of Coptic Egypt, or exploring two millennia of death rituals, Professor Sellew will, in the words of a former student, "impart the inspiration and empowerment to pursue our own questions, in our own work."