If you are looking for biblical interpretation that opens out onto all of life, then Leon Kass’s work is in a class of its own. This new commentary on Exodus, Founding God’s Nation: Reading Exodus was recently published in January 2021 by Yale University Press, and follows up on Kass’s blockbuster commentary on Genesis entitled The Beginning of Wisdom. We invite you to join us for a 2.5-hour zoom event to respond to this exciting new work, with an introduction by Leon Kass and a lineup of presentations given by biblical scholars and theologians engaging with the book. The event will conclude with a time for Q&A with the speakers and Leon Kass.
Leon R. Kass is Professor Emeritus in the Committee on Social Thought at the University of Chicago and Scholar Emeritus at the American Enterprise Institute (Washington, DC). In this long-awaited follow-up to his 2003 book on Genesis, Leon Kass explores how Exodus raises and then answers the central political questions of what defines a nation and how a nation should govern itself. Considered by some the most important book in the Hebrew Bible, Exodus tells the story of the Jewish people from their enslavement in Egypt, through their liberation under Moses’s leadership, to the covenantal founding at Sinai and the building of the Tabernacle. In Kass’s analysis, these events began the slow process of learning how to stop thinking like slaves and become an independent people. The Israelites ultimately founded their nation on three elements: a shared narrative that instills empathy for the poor and the suffering, the uplifting rule of a moral law, and devotion to a higher common purpose. These elements, Kass argues, remain the essential principles for any freedom-loving nation today.
“A wondrous achievement of humanistic scholarship at its very best, making Exodus’s ancient words live again as a source of political wisdom and spiritual inspiration for our time.”— Rabbi Lord Jonathan Sacks
“Leon Kass maps the Book of Exodus with unmatched intelligence. We have known the book through the interpretations of generations of sages, but here he reads it as though for the first time to see the Jewish nation emerging from slavery and taking its civilizing shape. This is the most exciting book I’ve read in years”—Ruth Wisse, professor emerita of Yiddish Literature, Harvard University
“Kass draws from Exodus’ record of the founding of Judaism timely—even urgent—universal lessons about twenty-first-century preconditions for human flourishing in any community. Compelling modern reflections on ancient wisdom.”— Bryce Christensen, Booklist (starred review)
Rev. Dr. William Olhausen is the Rector of St. Matthias in the parish of Killiney/Ballybrack in South Country Dublin. He serves the diocese of Dublin and the wider Church of Ireland in several capacities and is theological adviser to the Archbishop of Dublin. He has a Ph.D. in biblical hermeneutics (Liverpool) and has published in the area of hermeneutics, Pauline theology, and theology/philosophy of language. His forthcoming book (co-authored with Ron Elsdon) Transformed in Christ: 1 Corinthians (Lexham) is due to be published soon.
Dr. Olhausen will interact with Kass’ hermeneutic for reading Exodus.
Dr. Dru Johnson is Associate Professor of Biblical and Theological Studies at The King’s College in New York City and director of the Center for Hebraic Thought. His recent books include Human Rites: The Power of Rituals, Habits, and Sacraments (Eerdmans), Epistemology and Biblical Theology (Routledge), and the forthcoming book Biblical Philosophy: An Hebraic Approach to the Old and New Testaments (Cambridge University Press).
Dr. Johnson will address the revelation of the divine name (especially in Exodus 3), drawing out insights from Kass’ work.
Dr. Theon Hill is Associate Professor of Communication at Wheaton College. He has published numerous essays exploring the relationship between rhetoric and social change related to race, culture and American politics, and has examined in depth the history of American, and specifically, African American uses of the Exodus as a means of understanding the relationship between the Exodus and the prophetic tradition.
Dr. Hill will engage with the narrative of Israel’s liberation from Egypt (i.e., the Exodus) and Kass’ reading of it from an interpretive lens informed by the Black prophetic tradition.
Dr. Carmen Imes is Associate Professor of Old Testament (Prairie College). She has published a number of essays and books, including Bearing YHWH’s Name at Sinai: A Re-Examination of the Name Command of the Decalogue (Eisenbrauns) and Bearing God’s Name: Why Sinai Still Matters (IVP). Carmen is currently writing a commentary on Exodus for Baker Academic.
Dr. Imes will respond to and engage with the Kass’ reading of the Decalogue (the Ten Commandments).
Rev. Dr. Craig Bartholomew is director of the Kirby Laing Centre for Public Theology in Cambridge, UK. He has written and edited numerous books, including), Introducing Biblical Hermeneutics (Baker), Beyond the Modern Age (with Bob Goudzwaard; IVP), The Drama of Scripture (with Michael Goheen; Baker), The Doctrine of Creation (with Bruce Ashford; IVP), and a commentary on Ecclesiastes (Baker). Craig’s current project is a multi-volume project entitled "Old Testament Origins and the Question of God” (SPCK; Baker).
Dr. Bartholomew will interact and engage with Kass on the significance of the tabernacle in Exodus.
Dr. Christopher Wright is international ministries director of the Langham Partnership. He has written numerous books including commentaries on Deuteronomy, Jeremiah, Lamentations, and Ezekiel, The Mission of God (IVP), Old Testament Ethics for the People of God (IVP) and Knowing Jesus Through the Old Testament (IVP). His commentary on Exodus was just released by Zondervan Academic.
Dr. Wright will engage with the way that Kass draws out the public and contemporary dimensions of Exodus’ instruction.