Do Jews believe in original sin? Fairfield University's 2012 Judaic Studies Scholar in Residence Lecture will provide answers


Image: Alan CooperIt is well known that Christian doctrine contains the belief that all humans are born sharing the sinfulness of Adam and Eve's first disobedience of God in the Garden of Eden. But do Jews believe this?

Alan Cooper, Ph.D., the Elaine Ravich Professor of Jewish Studies at The Jewish Theological Seminary, will discuss this concept of original sin when he opens Fairfield University's Bennett Center for Judaic Studies' fall season with the 2012 Judaic Studies Scholar-in-Residence Lecture, on Thursday, October 11, 2012, at 7:30 p.m.

The talk, entitled "Do Jews Believe in Original Sin?" is free and open to the public and it will take place in Fairfield University's Dolan School of Business Dining Room. Dr. Cooper, who is also provost of The Jewish Theological Seminary, will speak about the debate over whether original sin is accepted in Jewish doctrine. It is often questioned whether Jews share the same belief, or whether this is a clear distinction between faiths.

Dr. Cooper says that it's not a question that can simply be answered yes or no. "It's unfair to characterize a uniform Jewish view on just about any topic," he said in an interview with Jewish News Weekly, a newspaper based in Northern California. "As soon as you start talking about different periods [in history], it's almost impossible to answer any question unless you specify what Jews, where and when. Essentially, uniformity of Jewish thought is impossible to find."

Thus, despite popular belief, he contends that some Jewish views concerning human nature were shaped by the notion of original sin. His talk will focus on Jewish texts that respond or even adopt Christian versions of this idea.

Seating is limited for this lecture. For reservations, call the Bennett Center for Judaic Studies at (203) 254-4000, ext. 2066.

In 1997, Dr. Cooper joined the faculty of The Jewish Theological Seminary, located in New York City, as professor of Bible and he has served as chair of the Bible Department and director of publications at JTS. In 1998, he was appointed professor of Bible at the Union Theological Seminary, a nondenominational Christian seminary, becoming the first person to hold professorships at both JTS and Union.

Cooper's works include a list of numerous essays and articles featured in publications such as the Oxford Handbook of Jewish Studies and the Journal of the Ancient Near Eastern Society. For his monograph on traditional interpretation of chapter 12 of the Book of Leviticus, he was awarded a Lilly Endowment Faculty Fellowship.

The two-day Judaic Studies Scholar-in-Residence program includes additional events for students, faculty and staff. It is made possible through the generosity of David and Edith Chaifetz.

The Bennett Center's goal is to provide Fairfield University students and the greater community exposure to and contact with Jewish ideas, culture, and thinking. For more information on other Bennett Center events, visit http://www.fairfield.edu/judaic/

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Media Contact: Meg McCaffrey, (203) 254-4000, ext. 2726, mmccaffrey@fairfield.edu

Posted on September 20, 2012

Vol. 45, No. 51