Professor Laura S. Nasrallah of the Harvard Divinity School is visiting Virginia Tech Thursday to give a public lecture on the influence of ethics on history titled “Apostle Paul, St. Paul: The Ethics of History.” The event begins at 7 p.m. in 3100 Torgersen Hall.
Nasrallah is speaking as part of the annual Hammond Lectureship in Religious Ethics and Society, which has been given in honor of Guy B. Hammond since 1995. Lecturers are well-known scholars of religion who study and work with the questions of ethics.
“Every time we go through the process of selecting someone to invite, we look for someone who is well known in the field, and also good at posing big questions that can interest a wide audience of scholars and community members,” said professor Brian Britt, the department chair of Religion and Culture.
Nasrallah received both her doctorate in Theology and master's in Divinity from the Harvard Divinity School. She has been honored as one of the six Henry Luce III Fellows in Theology for 2013-2014 by both the Henry Luce Foundation and the Association of Theological Schools in the United States and Canada.
“[What is] unusual about this speaker is she has already reached that level of combining the specific and the general, or the fine-tuned scholarship with the bigger picture, at a fairly early stage of her career,” Britt said. “This kind of skill is something you usually find in a senior scholar.”
Most of Nasrallah’s research is centered around early Christian literature, the New Testament and the archaeology of the Mediterranean world. Her teaching often highlights the ethical issues of gender, status, power and colonialism.
To forward her research, she frequently attends conferences and is constantly reading books. But neither of these are her major source of learning.
“I always learn from my students,” Nasrallah said. “I have learned that most students are very good at interpreting the Bible, and many add knowledge from their own life experiences.”
At the end of the lecture, Nasrallah plans to engage in a dialogue with the audience in hopes that they will raise questions on ethical responsibility in writing and reading about history.
“No matter what a person’s personal background, religious commitments, Paul is a figure who has made an incredible impact on the world we live in,” Britt said. “To understand Paul better is to understand our world and ourselves better.”