King, Karen L. 1954- (Karen King, Karen Leigh King)
King, Karen L. 1954- (Karen King, Karen Leigh King)
Born February 16, 1954. Education: Attended Western College, Oxford, OH, 1972-73; University of Montana, B.A., 1976; attended the Freie Universität, West Berlin, Germany, 1982-83, and the Berlin koptische-gnostische Arbeitsgruppe, Humbolt Universität, Berlin, Germany, 1983; Brown University, Ph.D., 1984.
Office—Harvard Divinity School, 45 Francis Ave., Andover 503, Cambridge, MA 02138.
Writer, historian, editor, consultant, and educator. Occidental College, Los Angeles, CA, professor of religious studies, 1984-97, chair of religious studies department, 1991-95, chair of women's studies program, 1989-1993; Harvard Divinity School, Cambridge, MA, professor of New Testament studies and the history of ancient Christianity, 1997—, Winn Professor of Ecclesiastical History, 2003—, chair of department of New Testament studies, 1999-2001. Served as consultant to the Ford Foundation on religion and human rights. Frequent lecturer and presenter at academic conferences and proceedings.
American Academy of Religion, Society of Biblical Literature, International Association for Coptic Studies, Westar Institute, Studiorum Novi Testamenti Societas.
Loftsgordon Award for excellence in Teaching, Occidental College, 1989; Student Affairs Award for exceptional service to student life, Occidental College, 1989; Deutsche Akademische Austauschdienst grant, 1982-83, 1986; National Endowment for the Humanities grant, 1986; Graves Award, 1990; Irvine Foundation Grant, 1991, 1992; Sojourner Truth Award, Occidental College Women's Center, 1993; Women's Studies in Religion Fellowship, Harvard Divinity School, 1994-95; George A. and Eliza Gardner Howard Foundation Fellowship, 1994-95; Sterling Award for exceptional achievement, Occidental College, 1995; Ford Foundation grant, 2005.
(Editor) Images of the Feminine in Agnosticism, Fortress Press (Philadelphia, PA), 1988.
Revelation of the Unknowable God: With Text, Translation, and Notes to NHC XI, 3 Allogenes, Polebridge Press (Santa Rosa, CA), 1995.
(Editor) Women and Goddess Traditions: In Antiquity and Today, introduction by Karen Jo Torjesen, Fortress Press (Minneapolis, MN), 1997.
The Gospel of Mary of Magdala: Jesus and the First Woman Apostle, Polebridge Press (Santa Rosa, CA), 2003.
What Is Gnosticism?, Belknap Press of Harvard University Press (Cambridge, MA), 2003.
The Secret Revelation of John, Harvard University Press (Cambridge, MA), 2006.
(With Elaine Pagels) Reading Judas: The Gospel of Judas and the Shaping of Christianity, Viking (New York, NY), 2007.
Contributor to books, including Gnosticism and the Early Christian World, edited by James E. Goehring, Charles W. Hedrick, Jack T. Sanders, and Hans Dieter Betz, Polebridge Press (Sonoma, CA), 1990; The Complete Gospels: Annotated Scholars Version, edited by Robert J. Miller, Polebridge Press (Sonoma, CA), 1992; Searching the Scriptures, Volume 2A: Feminist Commentary, edited by Elisabeth Schüssler Fiorenza, Crossroads Press (New York, NY), 1994; Women Preachers and Prophets through Two Millennia of Christianity, edited by Beverly Mayne Kienzle and Pamela J. Walker, University of California Press (Berkeley, CA), 1998; The Once and Future Jesus, Polebridge Press (Santa Rosa, CA), 2000; Which Mary? The Marys of Early Christian Tradition, edited by F. Stanley Jones, Society of Biblical Literature (Atlanta, GA), 2002; and Was There a Gnostic Religion?, edited by Antti Marganen, Finnish Exegetical Society (Helsinki, Finland), 2005.
Contributor to journals and periodicals, including the Women's Review of Books, Religious Studies Review, Journal of Biblical Literature, Critical Review of Books in Religion, and the Journal of the American Academy of Religion.
Journal of Feminist Studies in Religion, member of editorial board, 2002-05.
Author, editor, and educator Karen L. King is a historian who concentrates on the history of religion, the early development of Christianity, and the nature of Gnosticism. She is professor of New Testament studies and the history of ancient Christianity at the Harvard Divinity School, where she also serves as the Winn Professor of Ecclesiastical History. She is a prolific contributor to scholarly journals and other periodicals, and frequently presents papers and gives lectures at conferences, symposia, and other gatherings worldwide. With an educational background in comparative religion and history, King "pursues teaching and research specialties in the history of Christianity and women's studies," noted a biographer on the Harvard Divinity School Web site.
The Gospel of Mary of Magdala: Jesus and the First Woman Apostle provides a detailed consideration of a controversial Gnostic gospel that contains a radically different version of a well-known biblical figure as well as conflicting interpretations of biblical teachings about the nature of Christ's sacrifice and its role in human salvation. King offers a translation of the Gospel of Mary, plus photographs of the original manuscript and scholarly comparisons to texts from the New Testament. In this version of the life of Jesus and his disciples, Mary Magdalene is not a prostitute, but is instead an important member of Christ's followers. Mary is, in fact, privy to information and teachings that the other disciples do not receive. In the days following Christ's death and resurrection, the disciples are unsure of themselves, withdrawn and afraid. In an attempt to inspire them, Mary shares some of the teachings that Jesus gave to her, but causes resentment and anger among the disciples. Peter is particularly incensed that Jesus would have chosen Mary to receive the teachings over the rest of the disciples. Another controversial element of this gospel depicts Jesus as "bringer of salvation through spiritual knowledge rather than through atonement on the cross," noted William P. Collins in Library Journal. The gospel helps explain how earlier Christian gospels contained a more diverse explanation of Christ's mission on earth before a male-dominated interpretation developed later under Constantine.
King's "assessments of Christian origins and of the major issues therein are lucid and convincing," commented Tennyson Jacob Wellman in Theological Studies. New York Times reviewer Dinitia Smith remarked that The Gospel of Mary of Magdala "is an important step by a renowned scholar in the continuing and painful process of opening up the infinite varieties of Christianity to those who struggle with faith." A Reviewer's Bookwatch critic named the book a "seminal and strongly recommended addition to academic library collections and critically important reading for students" of early Christianity.
In What Is Gnosticism?, King carefully examines the nature and characteristics of Gnosticism, the tenets of a Roman-era religious sect with connections to early Christianity. The Gnostics, geographically centered in the Mediterranean and Middle Eastern regions, were considered early Christian heretics, and though their beliefs had some connection to Christianity, much of their thought was radically different. For example, they did not believe in a perfect God who created humans and the world in his image; instead, they believed that the world was created by a flawed and imperfect spirit known as a demiurge. Religious scholars have long studied Gnosticism for its insights into early Christian religion. Their work was aided tremendously by the discovery of a cache of Gnostic manuscripts at Nag Hammadi, in Upper Egypt, in 1945. These manuscripts contained material that was not codified in Christian religion, and included alternate interpretations of Mary Magdalene's status and role in the life of Christ; new versions of creation myths; and even poetry that referred to a female deity. In her book, King presents the position that "as a distinct religious movement with a single origin and clearly defined characteristics, there is no such thing as gnosticism," commented Michael C. McCarthy in Theological Studies. Instead, the concepts of Gnosticism serve more to define the boundaries of what was considered standard Christianity. "Gnosticism is a blanket term that covers a lot of early Christian movements. There wasn't a distinct religion called Gnosticism. It only existed as a tool of orthodox identity formation," King stated in an interview with Ken Gewertz in the Harvard University Gazette. In fact, much of what was known about Gnosticism prior to the discovery of the Nag Hammadi manuscripts was contained in works by orthodox Christian polemicists, opponents of Gnosticism who conceived of it as a large organized movement in direct opposition to Christianity. The application of the rhetorical concept to the reality of the contemporary time period of Gnosticism has meant that "our reading of a diverse and complex set of ancient materials has been distorted and oversimplified," McCarthy stated. In her book, McCarthy remarked, King's "major contribution lies more in her careful analysis of this distortion than in a detailed discussion of the texts as such or in a theological evaluation."
In reviewing the book, Library Journal critic William P. Collins called it an "outstanding and essential resource" for academics and religious scholars. "This deeply intelligent study certainly encourages us to hear differing voices" on the nature of Gnosticism, McCar- thy noted. "This well-written book is a welcome revisionist discussion of Gnosticism," commented Edgar Krentz in Currents in Theology and Mission.
Reading Judas: The Gospel of Judas and the Shaping of Christianity, written with noted religious scholar Elaine Pagels, contains an in-depth exploration and analysis of the Gospel of Judas, a newly discovered Gnostic gospel first publicized in 2006 by the National Geographic Society. This gospel is written from the perspective of perhaps the most notorious and reviled figure of the Bible, Judas Iscariot, considered the betrayer of Christ. In A.D. 180, the Gospel of Judas was declared heretical by Christian leader Irenaeus. The content of this gospel is markedly different than the traditional story of Judas and the other disciples of Christ. Even Christ himself is seen as fundamentally different from the serene and deeply contemplative individual of scripture. For example, Jesus is portrayed as being capable of sarcasm and even ridicule when his disciples fail to grasp the meaning of his teachings. Elsewhere, the author of the gospel discounts concepts of bodily resurrection and instead stresses the existence and resurrection of the immortal spirit. The author denounces Christian martyrdom and rejects the use of violence to effect God's will. Judas himself is portrayed as a heroic and sacrificing figure, and rather than being a betrayer is depicted as the mechanism whereby God's divine plan for the death and resurrection of Jesus was put in motion. Ultimately, Judas comes to be seen not as one of the greatest villains of all time, but as the first true Christian martyr. Booklist reviewer Ilene Cooper remarked, "This elegantly written book makes clear the relevance of a centuries-old text for a contemporary audience."
BIOGRAPHICAL AND CRITICAL SOURCES:
Biblical Archaeologist, September, 1991, David M. Scholer, review of Images of the Feminine in Agnosticism, p. 174.
Booklist, February 15, 2007, Ilene Cooper, review of Reading Judas: The Gospel of Judas and the Shaping of Christianity, p. 4.
Books in Canada, May 1, 2007, Hugh Graham, review of Reading Judas, p. 19.
Catholic Biblical Quarterly, July, 1991, Adela Yarbro Collins, review of Images of the Feminine in Gnosticism, p. 524; April, 1999, Alice L. Laffey, review of Women and Goddess Traditions: In Antiquity and Today, p. 401; April, 2005, Paul A. Mirecki, review of What Is Gnosticism?, p. 349; October, 2006, Antti Marjanen, review of The Gospel of Mary of Magdala: Jesus and the First Woman Apostle, p. 766.
Choice: Current Reviews for Academic Libraries, June, 2004, D. Ingolfsland, review of The Gospel of Mary of Magdala, p. 1898.
Christian Century, May 16, 2006, Pheme Perkins, "First Apostle: The Search for Mary Magdalene," review of The Gospel of Mary of Magdala, p. 26.
Christian Science Monitor, December 23, 2003, review of What Is Gnosticism?, p. 18.
Chronicle of Higher Education, May 5, 2006, Richard Byrne, "The End of Gnosticism?," review of What Is Gnosticism?
Currents in Theology and Mission, October, 2004, Edgar Krentz, review of What Is Gnosticism?, p. 408.
Journal of Biblical Literature, fall, 1991, review of Images of the Feminine in Gnosticism, p. 561; spring, 1998, Frederik Wisse, review of Revelation of the Unknowable God: With Text, Translation, and Notes to NHC XI, 3 Allogenes, p. 172.
Journal of Ecclesiastical History, July, 1990, Stuart G. Hall, review of Images of the Feminine in Gnosticism, p. 515; April, 2005, Winrich Lohr, review of What Is Gnosticism?, p. 337.
Journal of Religion, July, 2005, Pheme Perkins, review of The Gospel of Mary of Magdala, p. 495; January, 2007, John D. Turner, review of The Secret Revelation of John, p. 101.
Journal of the American Academy of Religion, June, 2004, Jorunn J. Buckley, review of What Is Gnosticism?, p. 547.
Journal of Theological Studies, April, 2005, M.J. Edwards, review of What Is Gnosticism?, p. 198; October, 2006, R. McL. Wilson, review of The Secret Revelation of John, p. 684.
Library Journal, June 15, 2003, John Charles, review of What Is Gnosticism?, p. 78; December, 2003, William P. Collins, review of The Gospel of Mary of Magdala, p. 128; February 15, 2006, Pius Charles Murray, review of The Secret Revelation of John, p. 121; April 1, 2007, John Jaeger, review of Reading Judas, p. 96.
New York Times, October 25, 2003, Dinitia Smith, "Discovering Magdalene the Apostle, Not the Fallen Woman," review of The Gospel of Mary of Magdala, p. B11.
New York Times Book Review, June 24, 2007, Stephen Prothero, "Kiss and Make Up," review of Reading Judas, p. 18.
Publishers Weekly, October 13, 2003, review of The Gospel of Mary of Magdala, p. 76.
Reviewer's Bookwatch, February 2005, John Taylor, review of The Gospel of Mary of Magdala.
Theological Studies, September, 2004, Michael C. McCarthy, review of What Is Gnosticism?, p. 639; September, 2005, Tennyson Jacob Wellman, review of The Gospel of Mary of Magdala, p. 713.
Theology, September-October, 1998, Janet Dyson, review of Women and Goddess Traditions, p. 379; January-February, 2005, Sophie Laws, review of The Gospel of Mary of Magdala, p. 41.
Times Literary Supplement, November 21, 2003, review of What Is Gnosticism?, p. 31; July 6, 2007, Robin Griffith-Jones, review of Reading Judas, p. 36.
Washington Post Book World, April 1, 2007, John Dominic Crossan, review of Reading Judas, p. 11.
Harvard University Gazette,http://www.hno.harvard.edu/gazette/ (July 17, 2003), Ken Gewertz, "Student of Early Christianities," review of What Is Gnosticism?.
Karen K. King Home Page,http://www.hds.harvard.edu/faculty/king.html (November 27, 2007).
Westar Institute Web site,http://www.westarinstitute.org/ (November 27, 2007), biography of Karen L. King.