Scholar Mary C. Boys to deliver Fairfield University's Lecture in Jewish-Christian Engagement: "The Death of Jesus and the Revival of Jewish-Christian Relations"

Image: Mary BoysStories of Jesus' death lie at the core of Christian identity. They offer an encounter with his experience of the human condition: betrayals by those closest to him, his own fear of death, uncertainty about God's will, the endurance of terrible suffering and an ignominious death.

On Tuesday, April 5 at 7:30 p.m., scholar and author Mary C. Boys, Ph.D., will speak at Fairfield University about how these "tellings" of Jesus' death in her view have also glorified suffering, condoned passivity in the face of violence, and constricted the meaning of salvation by associating it only with Jesus' death-as if his life and ministry had little meaning.

According to Boys, the Skinner and McAlpin Professor of Practical Theology at the Union Theological Seminary in New York City, these "troubling tellings" are the subject of much critique today. "Yet insufficient attention has been paid to an even more troubling telling: misinterpretations of the passion narratives that have rationalized hostility to and violence against Jews as 'Christ killers,' " said Boys, co-author of the book, "Christians and Jews in Dialogue: Learning in the Presence of the Other." "This sacrilegious telling cries out for redemption."

Free and open to the public, the talk - the 5th Annual Lecture in Jewish-Christian Engagement at Fairfield - is entitled, "The Death of Jesus and the Revival of Jewish-Christian Relations." Taking place in the Dolan School of Business Dining Room, the event is presented by the university's Carl and Dorothy Bennett Center for Judaic Studies and the Center for Catholic Studies.

She will elaborate on what she feels Christians have an obligation to do. "In view of the tragic consequences of the sacrilegious telling of Jesus' death, and in light of recent biblical and theological scholarship, Christians have both an ethical responsibility and the theological resources to understand, teach and preach differently," said Boys, who was a faculty member of Boston College for 17 years.

The death-resurrection of Jesus lies at the center of Christian liturgical life, spirituality, creeds and doctrines, Boys noted. It has evoked centuries of reflection, given rise to meaningful rituals, inspired beautiful art and music, been the subject of theological exploration, motivated persons to sacrifice themselves for a cause greater than they, and sustained persons through times of suffering. The stories of Jesus' death symbolize all that is sacred in Christianity, according to Boys.

Her lecture will delve into how this issue amounts to an "ethical responsibility" for our time: "Our need to be jolted by ways in which alleged Jewish responsibility for the crucifixion of Jesus has inspired, sustained and rationalized denigration and persecution of Jews," she said. Boys will also consider theological resources for transforming our understanding of the passion and death of Jesus, including biblical scholarship and reading strategies. The third component of the lecture will look at transforming understanding of the passion and death of a rereading of the Spiritual Exercises of St. Ignatius of Loyola in light of biblical scholarship and reading strategies. "This will be the first occasion on which I've shared this work-in-progress on the Exercises," said Boys. "What better place than a Jesuit university!"

Boys serves as an adjunct faculty member of the Jewish Theological Seminary of America and Teachers College, Columbia University. She served as co-director of the Lilly Endowment-sponsored "Religious Particularism and Pluralism" project that involved Jewish and Catholic educators and academics.

Her other books include "Biblical Interpretation in Religious Education" (1980), "Educating in Faith: Maps and Visions" (1989), "Jewish-Christian Dialogue: One Woman's Experience" (1997), and "Has God Only One Blessing? Judaism as a Source of Christian Self-Understanding" (2000).

Seating is limited. For reservations call (203) 254-4000, ext. 3415.

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Media Contact: Meg McCaffrey, (203) 254-4000, ext. 2726,

Posted on March 17, 2011

Vol. 43, No. 244

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