The Griset Chair in Bible and Christian Tradition was the first endowed chair at Chapman University, established in 1984 in the name of Belle Griset, whose son Francis Griset served as a Chapman Trustee for many years. This Chair was held formerly by our esteemed colleague Prof. Marvin Meyer until his untimely passing in 2012. Now as a visiting position, this Chair allows Chapman students the unique opportunity to take courses with leading biblical scholars from around the world.

This spring, Professor Karen Jo Torjenson will join Wilkinson College as the latest holder of the Griset Chair.

Professor Torjesen is a leading authority on women in early Christianity, with her groundbreaking work When Women Were Priests:  Women’s Leadership in the Early Church and the Scandal of their Subordination in the Rise of Christianity (1993) published in at least fifteen editions and translated into Spanish and German.  Professor Torjesen’s research and publications focus on gender and sexuality in early Christianity, authority and institutionalization in the early churches, hermeneutics and rhetoric in late antiquity, and comparative study of Greek and Latin patristic traditions. Now professor emeritus, she founded MA and PhD programs in Women’s Studies in Religion as well as an MA in Applied Women’s Studies at Claremont Graduate University and taught courses in the area gender, religion, and transnational feminism. She has received numerous grants and awards throughout her career, including a Fulbright Fellow Award for a project “Cultural Roots of HIV Stigma: Gender and Religion,” which she carried out as a visiting faculty member at Kenyatt University in Nairobi in 2014.

Teaching REL 324: Interpretation of the New Testament only offered this spring, Professor Torjenson will challenge students with the following questions: What stories were collected into the New Testament? Who told these stories? In what contexts? How were these stories read in later contexts and across different cultures? The course will use contemporary issues to explore the topics debated in the New Testament stories:

  • beliefs about gender and the role of women
  • the nature of slavery and logic of oppression
  • disease, stigma and ostracism
  • marriage, singleness and same sex relations
  • power, violence and colonialism

A dialogue between the ancient writers and modern readers will also lead to an exploration of the kinds of work scriptures do in communities; why some stories were included and others excluded, how authority was created and defended, and how different communities gathered around different stories.

Welcome, Professor Torjenson!