Philadelphia Seminar on Christian Origins:
A Brief History

by Robert A. Kraft and Annette Yoshiko Reed

The Philadelphia Seminar on Christian Origins was organized on October 8, 1963, when 16 teachers of biblical and early church studies from the Philadelphia area gathered at the University of Pennsylvania at the invitation of Robert A. Kraft (University of Pennsylvania) and John H. P. Reumann (Lutheran Theological Seminary, Philadelphia).

It was decided that the subject matter should vary from year to year, and should be technical in nature, geared for those with academic, specialized interests in the period of Christian origins. Participating membership in the Seminar is open primarily to persons with significant training in the subject, especially those who teach at a college or seminary level and advanced graduate students, although other interested persons may be invited at the discretion of the members. Regularly scheduled meetings are held bi-monthly throughout the academic year, with occasional additional special meetings when circumstances dictate. Since its inception, the Seminar has received support from the Department of Religious Studies of the University of Pennsylvania, and at various times, from the Humanities Coordinating Committee, the Penn Humanities Forum, and the Center for Ancient Studies at the University. It holds most meetings in Cohen Hall at the University of Pennsylvania, and occasionally at Princeton University. Most recently, special sessions have been held at the sites of the Society of Biblical Literature Annual Meeting.

In earlier days, the Seminar also maintained a mailing list of non-participating members, which has been replaced by an email announcement list for all interested persons (subscribe here) and more recently a Facebook group. The minutes of the meetings formerly were reproduced and mailed to all members at the end of the academic year, but now are posted, as available, on the website. Complete copies of the earlier printed minutes and related materials have been deposited with the libraries of the University of Pennsylvania (volumes 01–19) and the Lutheran Theological Seminary (Philadelphia). Back copies of the printed minutes (volumes 01 through 25) are still available from Bob Kraft (write, at the cost of reproducing, packaging and mailing, and we continue to scan the older materials into electronic form to make everything freely available here on the website. Audio tapes also exist from many of the subsequent sessions, but minutes have not yet been created from those tapes. We need volunteers to create minutes that summarize the taped sessions.

The topics and personnel (co-chairpersons, secretaries) have been as follows:

1 (1963–1964) The Greek Old Testament in the Early Christian World
R. Kraft and J. Reumann (J. T. Townsend, secretary)
2 (1964–1965) Gnosticism
R. Kraft and J. Reumann (J. T. Townsend, secretary)
3 (1965–1966) Gospel Tradition in the Second Century
R. Kraft and S. Benko (P. M. Peterson, secretary)
(Minutes available)
4 (1966–1967) "Orthodoxy" and "Heresy" in Early Christianity
R. Kraft and J. Reumann (E. Magalis, secretary)
(Minutes available)

The result of this study was published as the English edition of W. Bauer, Orthodoxy and Heresy in Earliest Christianity (Philadelphia: Fortress, 1971).
5 (1967–1968) Jewish Christianity (Apart from Paul)
R. F. Evans and D. Hay (R. V. Hotchkiss, secretary)
6 (1968–1969) The Political, Social, & Economic Setting of Early Christianity
S. Benko and J. J. O'Rourke (R. V. Hotchkiss, secretary)

These studies are collected in Benko and O'Rourke, eds., The Catacombs and the Colosseum (Valley Forge: Judson, 1971), also published as Early Church History (London: Oliphants, 1972).
7 (1969–1970) Apocalyptic Thought in Early Christianity
S. Laeuchli and J. T. Townsend
(R. V. Hotchkiss and P. G. Maurer, secretaries)
(Minutes available)
8 (1970–1971) Jewish-Christian Relations
D. Hay and S. Isenberg
(R. V. Hotchkiss and P. G. Maurer, secretaries)
(Minutes available)
9 (1971–1972) Melito of Sardis and his Paschal Homily
R. F. Evans and D. F. Winslow
(R. V. Hotchkiss and P. G. Maurer, secretaries)
10 (1972–1973) Origen's Commentary on the Gospel of John
Howard Kee and Elaine Pagels
(R. V. Hotchkiss and P. G. Maurer, secretaries)
(Minutes available)
11 (1973–1974) Creation: Images Old and New
P. Henry and D. Winslow
(R. V. Hotchkiss and P. G. Maurer, secretaries)
(Minutes available)
12 (1974–1975) Early Christianity in North Africa
S. Laeuchli and D. Efroymson (R. V. Hotchkiss, secretary)
(Minutes available, encoded by Prof. Philip E. Yevics)
13 (1975–1976) Current Approaches to Christian Origins
Robert Kraft and Ross Kraemer (R. V. Hotchkiss, secretary)
(Minutes available)
14 (1976–1977) Magic: The Phenomenon and the Issue in the Graeco-Roman World
David Efroymson and Howard Kee (R. V. Hotchkiss, secretary)
(Minutes available)
15 (1977–1978) Heavenly Ascent in Graeco-Roman Piety
Ross Kraemer and John G. Gager (R. V. Hotchkiss, secretary)
(Minutes available)
16 (1978–1979) Ancient School Activity in Alexandria and Rome
W. Adler and R. Kraft (R. V. Hotchkiss, secretary)
(Minutes available)
17 (1979–1980) Philo of Alexandria in Relation to Ancient "School Tradition"
John Gager and M. Himmelfarb (R. V. Hotchkiss, secretary)
(Minutes available)
18 (1980–1981) Marcel Simon's Verus Israel
D. Efroymson and J. C. White (R. V. Hotchkiss, secretary)
(minutes of vols 18–19 combined)
19 (1981–1982) Verus Israel (Continued)
David Efroymson (R. V. Hotchkiss, secretary)
(minutes of vols 18–19 combined)
20 (1982–1983) The Nag Hammadi Library and Gnosticism
Anne McGuire (W. Adler, asst.; R. V. Hotchkiss, secretary)
21 (1983–1984) Syrian Christianity up to the Fourth Century
William Adler (R. V. Hotchkiss, secretary)
(Minutes available) recently supplied!
22 (1984–1985) Origen Against Kelsos (Celsus)
David Efroymson (Theodore Bergren, assistant)
(Minutes available)
23 (1985–1986) The Mani Codex and Manichaeism
J. Gager & Martha Himmelfarb (J. Pastis, asst.; David Utz, secretary)
24 (1986–1987) Evidence for Diaspora Judaism Outside Egypt
Ross S. Kraemer (Jacqueline Pastis, asst.; David Utz, secretary)
25 (1987–1988) Principalities and Powers: Demons and Angels in the World of Late Antiquity
Martha Himmelfarb (David Frankfurter, program coordinator; David Utz, secretary)
(Minutes available)
26 (1988–1989) Translation and Interpretation in the World of Late Antiquity
Benjamin G. Wright III (David Utz, secretary)
27 (1989–1990) Rethinking Social Description of Jewish and Christian Communities in Late Antiquity
Howard Kee & Ross Kraemer (David Rech, secretary)
(Minutes available) recently supplied!
28 (1990–1991) Christian Transmission of Jewish Pseudepigrapha
Kraft & Benjamin Wright (David Rech, secretary)
(Minutes available) recently supplied!
29 (1991–1992) Aseneth Texts and Traditions
Kraft & Ross Kraemer (David Rech, secretary)
30 (1992–1993) Adversus Judaeos Literature in Context
David Efroymson & Jacqueline Pastis (M. Grossman, secretary)
31 (1993–1994) Origins and Early Development of the Synagogue
Lynn Cohick and Howard Kee (M. Grossman, secretary)

Revised versions of these presentations (with additional articles) are collected in Evolution of the Synagogue: Problems and Progress, edited by Howard Clark Kee and Lynn Cohick (Harrisburg, Pa.: Trinity Press International, 1999).
32 (1994–1995) Ethnicity, Identity, and Alterity in Early Judaism and Early Christianity
Ross Kraemer and David Sandmel (Allen Kerkeslager, secretary)
(Minutes available) recently supplied!
33 (1995–1996) Current Research on the Historical Jesus
David Efroymson and John Reumann
(Brad Kirkegaard and Beth Pollard, secretaries)
34 (1996–1997) The Apocryphal Acts
Jon Marshall and Leigh Gibson
(Brad Kirkegaard and Beth Pollard, secretaries)
35 (1997–1998) Textual Commentary as Social Practice
Jay C. Treat and Megan Williams
(Brad Kirkegaard and Beth Pollard, secretaries)
36 (1998–1999) Religious Identities in Asia Minor in the First through the Fourth Centuries CE
Susan Marks and Beth Ann Pollard
(secretary position available)
37 (1999–2000) Ethnicity, Regionalism and Religious Developments in Late Antique Egypt
Kirsti Copeland and Ra'anan Abusch
(secretary position available)
38 (2000–2001) The Wild Wild West: Religious and Societal Transformations on the North African Frontier
William Gruen and Shira Lander
(secretary position available)
39 (2001–2002) On Location: How Do Martyrdoms Take Place?
Sigrid Peterson
(T. J. Wellman, secretary)
40 (2002–2003) Parabiblical Literature
Robert Kraft and Annette Reed
(T. J. Wellman and Todd C. Krulak, recording secretaries)
41 (2003–2004) "Parabiblical Prosopography (in the footsteps of Lost Apocrypha by M. R. James)"
Robert Kraft
(Harry Tolley and T. J. Wellman, recording secretaries)
42 (2004–2005) "The Impact of Astrological (and Related) Traditions on Early Jewish and Christian Perspective"
Todd C. Krulak and Sarah Schwarz
(Harry Tolley, recording secretary)
43 (2005–2006) Redescribing the Holy Man: Theoretical Frameworks and Specific Applications
T.J. Wellman and Harry Tolley
(Douglas Finkbeiner, recording secretary)
44 (2006–2007) Re-thinking History, Theory, and Texts:
New Theoretical and Methodological Endeavors

Debra Bucher and Sarah Schwarz
(Douglas Finkbeiner, recording secretary)
45 (2007–2008) Tracing the Patterns, (Un/Re-)Weaving the Threads
Annette Yoshiko Reed and Robert Alan Kraft
(Harry Tolley, recording secretary)
46 (2008–2009) Food, Self, and Community: Tradition and Transformation in Jewish and Christian Eating
Moriah Hazani and Virginia Wayland
(Tammie Wanta, recording secretary)
47 (2009–2010) Revealing the Divine: From Greco-Roman Palestine to the Persian Empire
Sevile Mannickarottu, Tammie Wanta, and Virginia Wayland
48 (2010–2011) Beyond Scare Quotes: Rethinking Words and Things in the Study of Ancient “Judaism” and “Christianity”
Phillip Fackler and Phillip Webster
49 (2011–2012) Memory and Forgetting
Christine Luckritz Marquis, Phil Webster, and Todd Berzon
50 (2012–2013) PSCO at Fifty: Christian Origins in Retrospect and Prospect
Annette Yoshiko Reed and Robert Alan Kraft
51 (2013–2014) Rethinking Josephus’ Antiquities
Alex Ramos, Jae Han, and Jacob Feeley
52 (2014–2015) Formative Figures and Paths Not Taken: The Study of Ancient Judaism and Christianity between History and Historiography
Annette Yoshiko Reed, Matthew Chalmers, and Natalie Dohrmann
53 (2015–2016) Beyond “Greco-Roman Context”:
Persian & Other Perspectives on Judaism & Christianity

Jae Han and James Shackelford
54 (2016–2017) Writing the Biblical Past
Jill Stinchcomb and Annette Yoshiko Reed
55 (2017–2018) What Did Ancient Jews Know?
Exploring the Place of Scientific Knowledge in the World of Ancient Judaism

Natalie B. Dohrmann and Matthew Chalmers
56 (2018–2019) Beyond Patristics: North Africa in the First Millennium
Theodora Naqvi, Jillian Stinchcomb, Steve Weitzman, and Julia Wilker
57 (2019–2020) Looking at Home: Domestic Space and Early Christianity
Theodora Naqvi, Jillian Stinchcomb, Steve Weitzman, and Julia Wilker
58 (2020–2021) Popular Piety in Late Antiquity
Reyhan Durmaz, Simcha Gross, and Theodora Naqvi