Todd S. Berzon

Assistant Professor of Religion

Teaching this semester

REL 2216. The New Testament in Its World

Situates the Christian New Testament in its Hellenistic cultural context. While the New Testament forms the core of the course, attention is paid to parallels and differences in relation to other Hellenistic religious texts: Jewish, (other) Christian, and pagan. Religious leadership, rituals, secrecy, philosophy of history, and salvation are some of the main themes.

REL 2230. Human Sacrifice

Uses the practice of human sacrifice to investigate the relationship between religion and violence. As an act of choreographed devotion, sacrifice implicates notions of debt, transformation, exchange, purification, sacredness, death, and rebirth. It is a ritual designed to destroy for an effect, for an explicit if often intangible gain. On the one hand, human sacrifice involves all of these same issues and yet, on the other, it magnifies them by thrusting issues of agency, autonomy, and choice into the mixture. Must a sacrificial victim go peaceably? Otherwise, would the act simply be murder? Investigates the logic of human sacrifice. How have religions across history conceptualized and rationalized the role and status of the human victim? Considers a diverse range of examples from the Hebrew Bible, Greek tragedies, the New Testament, science fiction, epics, missionary journals and travelogues, horror films, and war diaries.

Todd Berzon is a specialist in the religions of late antiquity, early Christianity, and theory and method in the study of religion. He is especially interested in how ancient religious communities that viewed themselves as distinct (orthodox/heterodox, Jewish/Christian, etc.) articulated and negotiated perceived differences. His teaching focuses on religion in the ancient world, and includes courses on the Hebrew Bible, the New Testament, Human Sacrifice, and Gender and Sexuality in Early Christianity. His current research project, entitled Holy Tongues: The Materiality of Language in the Religious World of Late Antiquity, investigates how Jews and Christians treated language as a marker of both piety and impiety.

Education

  • Ph.D., Columbia University
  • M.Phil , Columbia University
  • M.A., Columbia University
  • B.A., Columbia University

Books

Classifying Christians: Ethnography, Heresiology, and the Limits of Knowledge in Late AntiquityClassifying Christians: Ethnography, Heresiology, and the Limits of Knowledge in Late Antiquity. Berkeley and Los Angeles: University of California Press, 20016

Articles and Essays

“Heresiology as Ethnography: Theorising Christian Difference,” in Religious Competition in the Third Century C.E.: Jews, Christians, and the Greco-Roman Worlds, ed. Nathaniel P. DesRosiers, Jordan D. Rosenblum, and Lily C. Vuong. Vandenhoeck and Ruprecht, 2014, 180–92.

“The Double Bind of Christianity’s Judaism: Language, Law, and the Incoherence of Late Antique Discourse.” Journal of Early Christian Studies 23.3 (2015): 445–80.

“Known Knowns and Known Unknowns: Epiphanius of Salamis and the Limits of Heresiology.” Harvard Theological Review 109.1 (2016): 75–101.

“‘O, Foolish Galatians’: Imagining Pauline Community in Late Antiquity.” Church History: Studies in Christianity and Culture, forthcoming

Reviews and Review Essays

Lance Jenott and Sarit Kattan Gribetz, eds., Jewish and Christian Cosmogony in Late Antiquity. Tübingen: Mohr Siebeck, 2013. Bryn Mawr Classical Review. 10.12.14.

Kyle Harper, From Shame to Sin: The Christian Transformation of Sexual Morality in Late Antiquity. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 2012. The Classical Journal 2.6.2014.

Dominic J. Unger, ed., trans., comm., St. Irenaeus of Lyons: Against the heresies, Book 2. Ancient Christian Writers 65. Mahwah, NJ: Newman Press, 2012. Bryn Mawr Classical Review 12.12.12. 

“The Problem with Identity in Late Antiquity.” Review of Aaron P. Johnson, Religion and Identity in Porphyry of Tyre: The Limits of Hellenism in Late Antiquity. New York: Cambridge University Press, 2013. Marginalia Review of Books:

“Why Isn’t the Rhetorical Real? The Case of Epiphanius of Cyprus.” Review of Young Richard Kim’s, Epiphanius of Cyprus: Imagining an Orthodox World. Ann Arbor: University of Michigan Press, 2015. Marginalia Review of Books: