October 12, 2007

Professor Eric Ziolkowski is Co-Editor of 30-Volume Encyclopedia of the Bible and Its Reception

First volumes will be released in fall of 2008

The Encyclopedia of the Bible and its Reception, co-edited by Eric Ziolkowski, is what premier European publisher Walter de Gruyter is calling “the new indispensable biblical research tool.” Ziolkowski, Dana Professor and head of religious studies, is serving as a main editor for the 30-volume publication focused on exploring the Bible and its historical and contemporary influence on nearly every aspect of culture and society.

Over the next ten years (2008-2018), the series will be released at a rate of three volumes per year and, according to Ziolkowski, because of its uniqueness, it will have the potential to help shape the future of research on the Bible and its reception. The first volume, which will cover most of “A” is scheduled to be released in the fall of 2008.

“Few would deny that the Bible has been the most influential “book” (or, really, a compilation of books) not only in Western history, but in world history as well,” Ziolkowski explains. “No matter how religious or non-religious any member of our society may claim to be, the fact of the matter is, our culture is saturated with ideas, concepts, themes, patterns of thought, even language derived from the Bible. So, in many ways, understanding the Bible itself and also the manifold ways it has been read, interpreted, used, criticized, and so forth, is essential to gaining a full understanding of ourselves and our society.”

According to Ziolkowski, the series will have two specific focuses, the Bible and the Bible’s reception from antiquity to the present, with five main domains, each with its own main editor. The first two each cover the Hebrew Scriptures and the New Testament, for both of which coverage will include historical context involving social structure, surrounding events, religion, culture and economy. The third and fourth domains each cover the Bible’s influence on the traditions of Judaism and Christianity.

Ziolkowski is the main editor of the last domain, known as “reception,” which “encompasses biblical reception and influence in literature, art, music, and film, as well as in Islam and in other religions that do not ascribe exclusive authority to the Bible but in some way draw upon its traditions,” as he explains. “The other day, for example, I secured an author at the Chinese University of Hong Kong to write an article on the reception of the Bible among Confucians. Other extant encyclopedias of the Bible don’t have articles like that.”

The project’s two general editors are Hermann Spieckermann, professor of the Hebrew Bible and currently dean of the Theological Faculty of Gottingen University, and Choon-Leong Seow, Henry Snyder Gehman Professor of Old Testament Language and Literature at Princeton Theological Seminary. In addition to Ziolkowski, the other main editors include Professors Hans-Josef Klauck, Bernard McGinn, and Paul Mendes-Flohr, all of the University of Chicago, though Mendes-Flohr also has an appointment at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem.

Ziolkowski explains that Spieckermann was the person who thought of the idea for the project, although Seow was also instrumental in conceptualizing it.

“The two of them had the vision to realize that nothing like EBR currently exists, combining the most up-to-date research on the biblical texts with equally up-to-date research on its global reception, and the people at De Gruyter’s Press, when approached with the idea, showed savviness and wisdom in recognizing its value and supporting the enterprise,” says Ziolkowski.

Ziolkowski has been involved with the project since its early planning stages in 2003. His responsibilities include coordinating the efforts of six other “area editors” who are each responsible for different contributions to the section.

According to Ziolkowski, the full board, which includes the 29 area editors, meets every November at the national meeting of the American Academy of Religion, scheduled to be held in San Diego this year. The six main editors meet either in the winter or spring of every year in either Berlin or a city in the United States, as they did this year in Chicago.

“A main purpose of these meetings is to discuss and refine the vast list of keywords for each approaching volume, not only confirming which names and words warrant articles, but how much space should be allotted to each area covered in each article,” Ziolkowski explains. “The article on ‘Abraham,’ for example, is subdivided into some 30 subarticles, since he is a figure of significance not only in all the areas covered in the domain of the Hebrew Bible, but as a figure received in the New Testament areas, in post-biblical Jewish and Christian traditions, and in Islam and the various arts as well.”

The editors also have the colossal responsibility of identifying and inviting suitable authors for each article. “This job is very demanding, at times downright frustrating, but in the long run undeniably rewarding,” says Ziolkowski.

He also says that there is a small team of hard-working and highly efficient editorial assistants at De Gruyter’s headquarters in Berlin that manages the business and technical tasks of the entire project. These include upkeep of the computer database, mailing contracts to authors, and overseeing the production process, to name a few.

With this, Ziolkowski says that he is exploring the possibility of recruiting a student assistant to help him with the project as his academic duties and work on other scholarly projects thicken with the duration of the school year.

Ziolkowski is the author of two books, The Sanctification of Don Quixote: From Hidalgo to Priest (1991) and Evil Children in Religion, Literature, and Art (2001). He has also edited A Museum of Faiths: Histories and Legacies of the 1893 World’s Parliament of Religions (2001) and Literature, Religion, and East/West Comparison: Essays in Honor of Anthony C. Yu (2005). He was “Literature” consultant to the Encyclopedia of Religion, 2nd ed., editor-in-chief Lindsay Jones (2005), which Booklist Magazine pronounced “Best Reference Source of 2005.” He has served since 2004 as North American General Editor of Literature and Theology: An International Journal of Religion, Theory, and Culture (published by Oxford University Press), which was rated “A” on scale of A, B, C in the 2007 ranking of journals in religious studies and theology in the European Reference Index for the Humanities (ERIH).

Joining the faculty in 1988, Ziolkowski has served as a mentor for many students in their senior honors theses and independent research projects, 10 of which have been presented at the National Conference of Undergraduate Research.

He has published more than 80 articles, essays, book chapters, encyclopedia entries, and reviews. He has organized sessions and shared his research at many conferences throughout the world. He also evaluates manuscripts and prospectuses for several publishers and for two journals in his field.

Ziolkowski has received many honors in his career, including election as a Life Fellow in the Society for the Arts, Religion, and Culture and selection as a speaker for the Rabbi Moses Margolis Memorial Endowment Lecture at the State University of New York –Binghamton. He is the recipient of several fellowships and earned Lafayette’s Mary Louise Van Artsdalen Prize for Outstanding Scholarly Achievement in 2004-05, Thomas Roy and Lura Forrest Jones Award for Superior Teaching and Excellence of Scholarship in 1997-1998, and Thomas Roy and Lura Forrest Jones Lecture Award in 1991-92

He received a doctorate in religion and literature with distinction and a master’s in divinity from University of Chicago Divinity School and a bachelor of arts with highest distinction in religion from Dartmouth College.

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