Wilken, Robert L(ouis) 1936-

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WILKEN, Robert L(ouis) 1936-

PERSONAL: Born October 20, 1936, in New Orleans, LA; son of Louis F. (an investment broker) and Mabel (Rayl) Wilken; married Carol Faith Weinhold, June 4, 1960; children: Gregory, Jonathan. Education: Attended Concordia College, Austin, TX, 1953-55; Concordia Seminary, B.A., 1957, B.D., 1960; University of Chicago, M.A., 1961, Ph.D., 1963. Religion: Lutheran.

ADDRESSES: Office—Department of Religious Studies, P.O. Box 400126, Cocke Hall, University of Virginia, Charlottesville, VA 22903. E-mail[email protected].

CAREER: Educator and writer. Lutheran Theological Seminary, Gettysburg, PA, assistant professor of history, 1964-67; Fordham University, New York, NY, assistant professor of history, 1967-71; University of Notre Dame, Notre Dame, IN, associate professor, 1972-80, professor of history of Christianity, 1980-85, director of graduate studies; University of Virginia, Charlottesville, Commonwealth Professor of History of Christianity, 1985—. Visiting professor, St. Mary's Seminary, Baltimore, 1971-72; Hebrew University, Jerusalem, Lady Doris Professor, 1982.

MEMBER: American Historical Association, American Academy of Religion, American Society of Church History.

AWARDS, HONORS: German Academic Exchange Service fellow, 1963-64; National Endowment for the Humanities grant, 1981-82.


Anselm Weber, O.F.M. Missionary to the Navaho, St. Michaels, 1955.

Judaism and the Early Christian Mind: A Study of Cyril of Alexandria's Exegesis and Theology, Yale University Press (New Haven, CT), 1971.

The Myth of Christian Beginnings: History's Impact on Belief, Doubleday (New York, NY), 1971.

(Editor) Aspects of Wisdom in Judaism and Early Christianity, University of Notre Dame Press (Notre Dame, IN), 1975.

(With Wayne A. Meeks) Jews and Christians in Antioch in the First Four Centuries of the Common Era, Scholars Press (Missoula, MT), 1978.

(Editor, with William R. Schoedel) Early Christian Literature and the Classical Intellectual Tradition: In Honorem Robert M. Grant, Editions Beauchesne (Paris, France), 1979.

John Chrysostom and the Jews: Rhetoric and Reality in the Late Fourth Century, University of California Press (Berkeley, CA), 1983.

The Christians As the Romans Saw Them, Yale University Press (New Haven, CT), 1985.

The Land Called Holy: Palestine in Christian History and Thought, Yale University Press (New Haven, CT), 1992.

Remembering the Christian Past, W. B. Eerdmans (Grand Rapids, MI), 1995.

The Spirit of Early Christian Thought: Seeking the Face of God, Yale University Press (New Haven, CT), 2003.

(Translator, with Paul M. Blowers) On the Cosmic Mystery of Jesus Christ: Selected Writings from St. Maximus the Confessor, St. Vladimir's Seminary Press (Crestwood, NY), 2003.

SIDELIGHTS: Robert L. Wilken is a professor of the history of Christianity at the University of Virginia whose publications have dealt with a wide variety of Christian and biblical topics. Wilken has focused primarily on the early church in books dealing with the role of Palestine in the Christian tradition, with church tradition, with early Christianity and the Roman view, and with Judaism and its links to early Christianity and to St. John Chrysostom.

In The Christians as the Romans Saw Them, Wilken "has written a fascinating new account of early Christian thought by sifting through the evidence against it accumulated by those who attacked it," observed Robert McAfee Brown in the New York Times Book Review. Early Christians drew criticism because they refused to sacrifice animals and thereby weakened the local economy. They were viewed by some as a political club, while others saw them as a cult that threatened the existing religions. The Roman Empire feared that Christian beliefs would undermine its authority. Wilken feels that this criticism, although aimed at discrediting the movement, actually sharpened and strengthened Christian thought. "The product of immense research in ancient languages," Wilken's book, Brown concluded, "is readable and exciting, and [its author] emerges as an example of a rare breed in academia, the expert who is willing to write for nonexperts." Christopher Hall, writing in Christianity Today, called the book an "insightful study."

In his 1992 title The Land Called Holy: Palestine in Christian History and Thought, Wilken explores how the land of Palestine became a sacred place for Christians, tracing its history through the three centuries of Roman and Christian Roman rule, and ending with the Muslim conquest. Wilken's "valuable study," as Lester B. Scherer described the book in the Arab Studies Quarterly, looks at both the actual history of Palestine and at Palestine as a symbol of the Holy Land. Scherer further called The Land Called Holy a "fine work of intellectual history." Peter Walker, writing in the Journal of Theological Studies, likewise termed the book an "important work … [that] may well become essential reading." Daniel J. Harrington noted in America, "How the land of the Bible became a holy land to Christians between the fourth and seventh centuries is the subject of this fascinating book." And for John A. McGuckin, reviewing the same work in Theological Studies, Wilken's book is a "highly recommended intellectual and theological survey."

Wilken proposes a return to the roots of Christianity for the postmodern world in his 1995 work Remembering the Christian Past, a book noteworthy for its "erudition and lucid style," according to Robert J. Hauck in Church History. This collection of eight essays argues that the early Christian period is not only relevant to the modern world but is also an essential part of a Christian's belief system. Wilken covers topics from Jewish-Christian relations to pluralism versus monotheism. Hall, writing in Christianity Today, concluded that Wilken's "perspective offers a radical alternative to the exaggerated epistemological and theological individualism prevalent today." In the 2003 title The Spirit of Early Christian Thought: Seeking the Face of God, Wilken surveys early Christian sources, including Augustine, to show how such early Christians felt about their beliefs. L. Kriz, writing in Library Journal, found this a "good general introduction to the writings of Christian antiquity."



America, March 12, 1994, Daniel J. Harrington, review of The Land Called Holy: Palestine in Christian History and Thought, pp. 18-19.

Arab Studies Quarterly, summer, 1996, Lester B. Scherer, review of The Land Called Holy, pp. 96-98.

Christian Century, September 8, 1993, Thomas A. Idinopulos, review of The Land Called Holy, pp. 870-871.

Christianity Today, December 9, 1996, Christopher Hall, review of Remembering the Christian Past, pp. 46-47.

Church History, December, 1997, Robert J. Hauck, review of Remembering the Christian Past, pp. 781-782.

Commonweal, August 13, 1993, Lawrence S. Cunningham, review of The Land Called Holy, p. 29.

Journal of Theological Studies, April, 1994, Peter Walker, review of The Land Called Holy, pp. 302-304.

Library Journal, March 15, 2003, L. Kriz, review of The Spirit of Early Christian Thought: Seeking the Face of God, p. 89.

New York Times Book Review, February 26, 1984, Robert McAfee Brown, review of The Christians As the Romans Saw Them, p. 30.

Theological Studies, March, 1994, John A. McGuckin, review of The Land Called Holy, pp. 145-147.


University of Virginia Web site, http://www.virginia.edu/ (November 3, 2003), "Wilken, Robert L." *

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