The Philippine Christian University granted Dr. James H. Charlesworth, American professor, biblical scholar, and ancient writings archaeologist, a Doctor of Humane Letters (DHL) degree on July 20, 2009. It was really a very busy week for Professor Charlesworth, as his Manila visit was in connection with the invitation of the Catholic Biblical Association of the Philippines (CBAP) to give a lecture-series on biblical studies.
Laying the groundwork of his trip while Dr. Charlesworth was in Israel working on the Dead Sea Scrolls, his contemporary at Duke, Dr. Daniel C. Arichea, Jr., Bishop-in-Residence, Duke Divinity School, Durham, NC, USA and Coordinator of the PCU Graduate School of Religion and Philosophy, arranged the trip roadmap in coordination with CBAP and gave the reason for the honorary degree by PCU:
“On the 18th, you will go with us to Manila and again be housed at Philippine Bible Society. Then the next day (Sunday, the 19th), you will be preaching at Central United Methodist Church. The next day, Monday, the 20th, we will take you to La Salle University for your lecture there. And then in the afternoon, you will have some time with Philippine Christian University, where you are expected to give a public address on the occasion of the granting of an honorary doctorate by PCU. It is most appropriate for PCU to bestow on you the honorary degree, considering that PCU is a joint project of the United Methodist Church and the United Church of Christ in the Philippines (formed in 1948, and one of the denominations joining was the Presbyterian Church in the USA). I should say the honor is well-deserved, considering your significant contribution to biblical scholarship. And, of course, it is an honor on our part to welcome you as an alumnus of PCU. (I got my AB from PCU in 1958).”
The PCU Management Committee, the Administration, the Graduate School Faculty, and Students awarded a Certificate of Appreciation to Dr. Charlesworth for sharing to the PCU Community the high level discoveries and new perception that have emerged focusing on the Dead Sea Scrolls and the Qumran Scrolls scholarship; for giving insight into the unfortunate myths that have been dispelled as a result of the explosion of interest in scrolls scholarship; for inspiring interest in biblical scientific research in search of ways to improve, understand, translate, and explain the Hebrew Bible; and for his most informative public lecture on the theme: “Jesus and the Dead Sea Scrolls” in response to the occasion of the conferment of Doctor of Humane Letters honorary degree.
In the evening of July 20th, a Reception Dinner in his honor concluded the event at the Century Park Hotel, Manila.
Dr. Charlesworth is Princeton Theological Seminary’s George L. Collord Professor of New Testament Language and Literature. He is also director and editor of the Seminary’s Dead Sea Scrolls Project. He holds an A.B. from Ohio Wesleyan University, a B.D. from Duke Divinity School, a Ph.D. from Duke University Graduate School, and an E.T. (Eleve Titulaire) from the Ecole Biblique de Jerusalem, Israel.
In a resolution approved by the Management Committee of the Philippine Christian University, it recalled Irish author C. S. Lewis’ personal comment on the problem of “Christian doubt and mere Christianity”: “Now that I am a Christian I do not have moods in which the whole thing looks very improbable; but when I was an atheist, I had moods in which Christianity looked terribly probable.”, Dr. Charlesworth has made a name for himself in insightful biblical and archaeological studies, a source of knowledge that could very well stem the tide of doubt to spill over into the other elements of the human experience and lead to the proper identification of the primary form of doubt to usher in the major step in the healing process.
In one of the preamble clauses of the resolution, PCU realized its built-in self-interest to enhance its graduate program in religious studies by building up its resources and prospecting future association with graduate programs that Dr. Charlesworth represents. This would certainly add prestige to Philippine Christian University, as well as open up new relationship with Princeton Theological Seminary, which could be made possible through the following operative statement:
“Recommend the establishment of a form of articulation between PCU and Princeton Theological Seminary that aims to develop faculty and/or student exchange program, theological library material acquisition program, and framework for international symposium or colloquium on important aspects of religious studies.”
The PCU resolution stated further:
“whereas, Recognizing the reason many people are so excited about the ancient documents and, particularly, the Dead Sea Scrolls, that will purportedly unveil the alleged secrets or understanding of human life and destiny, such great intellectual interest could certainly be fed by the prospect of discoveries Dr. Charlesworth could share as a renowned international preacher and lecturer,”
Dr. Charlesworth himself said: “Now we have an explosion of interest in scrolls scholarship and we have dispelled a lot of unfortunate myths that either Christians or Jews were sitting on the scrolls because they were embarrassed by what they contain about their religions.”
His pathfinding scientific studies in connection with New Testament scholarship and multiple volume translation of all the Dead Sea Scrolls from Hebrew, Greek and Aramaic into English; his high level discoveries and new perceptions that have emerged focusing on the Dead Sea Scrolls and the Qumran Scrolls; his being a member of a team of world-class scholars announcing a ‘paradigm shift’ in the study of Early Judaism; and his notable contribution to the study of the Hebrew Bible spanning more than 50 years of research---these scientific activities have made him a prolific writer and editor of more than 40 books and 200 articles, including editing of the first comprehensive English Edition of the Pseudepigraphia, on the New Testament, Dead Sea Scrolls, and other Jewish literature. Some of his recent books include: The Good and the Evil Serpent: How A Universal Symbol Became Christianized (2009), The Pseudepigraphia and Christian Origins: Essays from Studiorum Novi Testamenti Societas (2008), Resurrection: The Origin and Future of A Biblical Doctrine (2008), The Historical Jesus?: Necessity and Limits of An Inquiry (2008), The Historical Jesus: An Essential Guide (2008), The Sage from Galilee: Rediscovering Jesus Genius (2007), Jesus and Archaeology (2006), Jesus Within Judaism (Doubleday), Jesus’ Jewishness (Crossroad), What Has Archaeology to Do with Faith (Trinity), The Messaiah (Fortress), Jesus and the Dead Sea Scrolls (Doubleday), and Qumran Questions (Sheffield). He has been involved in the discovery of more than 4,000 biblical and religious manuscripts and has worked on photographing and translating the Qumran Scrolls. Professor Charlesworth specializes in the Apocrypha and Pseudepigraphia of the Old and New Testaments, the Dead Sea Scrolls, Josephus, Jesus research, and the Gospel of John. He is editor of BIBAL’s Dead Sea Scrolls & Christian Origins Library and the editor of the Dead Sea Scrolls Project at Princeton Theological Seminary.
Awards and honors have come naturally to Dr. Charlesworth as a result of his scientific studies on biblical scholarship. He was a recipient of the Frank Moore Cross Publication Award (1997), the William R. Eerdmans Honors for Publication of the Qumran Studies: New Approaches, New Questions Award for Recognition of Biblical Scholarship by the Biblical Archaeology Society (1984) and the Alexander von Humboldt Fellowship Award (1998), all of which have been registered under the American School of Oriental Research (ASOR).
His extensive interest in biblical scholarship has brought him to various conferences where he expounded “the search for ways to improve, understand, translate, and explain the Hebrew and Aramaic documents collected into the canon of the Hebrew Bible.” He serves as director of the Annual Symposium on the Bible at the Florida Southern College. He was the 1998-1999 Annual Professor at the Albright Institute in Jerusalem, Israel.
In another operative clause of the Management Committee’s Resolution, it had expressly resolved that PCU:
“Emphasize on the need to treat archaeological finds objectively, allowing the weight of a myriad of discoveries to abundantly demonstrate the Bible to be the Word of God, preservation of this objectivity can be achieved through:
- recognition of Dr. Charlesworth’s scientific studies,
- library acquisition of his translations of the Dead Sea Scrolls and Qumran Scrolls, acquisition of documents and/or books regarding his high level of discoveries and new perceptions over fifty (50) years of research,”
These notable contributions in the scientific study of the Bible are intellectual and sterling qualities that are uncommon to find, studies containing a wealth of knowledge and expertise in Biblical scholarship spanning more than 50 years. All of these have earned Dr. Charlesworth to become an international preacher and lecturer, an achievement recognized by no less than the Catholic Biblical Association of the Philippines (CBAP). The CBAP invitation to Dr. Charlesworth as a guest lecturer on July 17-22 in an organized biblical forum has provided the rare opportunity for the Philippine Christian University to grant the honorary degree. Considering that PCU is a joint project of the United Methodist Church and the United Church of Christ in the Philippines, these two major Protestant churches recognized the honorary degree to be well deserved because of Dr. Charlesworth’s significant contribution to biblical scholarship.