The received story of Christian origins is based on texts, which represent a literate, male, elite agenda and perspective.  Dependence on such sources controls our gaze and distorts the picture we have of the full lived experience and environment of early Jesus followers.

To begin to create a fuller, more balanced understanding, we must turn to the non-literary remains of religious life in the late ancient world.  Through such material culture, we can recover the ways in which people created meaningful space, representations, and even non-literary narratives as the context for living their religious identity.

Thank you for joining us at this year’s Spring Meeting!


A Note on Registration: We regret that registration for these events must be handled separately.
Westar is working to upgrade its webpage functionality and capacity. Would you like to help us? Please consider a donation. Thank you!

How to Register

Scroll down to the Spring Meeting Program section and click on “REGISTER HERE” to be taken to the Zoom registration page for that event. Continue this process for each event that you would like to attend.

Need help?

Westar staff member Bill Lehto is standing by should you need help with registering.  Call 1-651-200-2372 or email [email protected].

Registering for the entire Spring Meeting? Let us help!

If you would like to register for the entire Spring Meeting with one transaction ($60), please call or email Bill and he’ll take care of everything for you (concierge service!)  Call 1-651-200-2372 or email [email protected]

Continuing Education Unit Credits

CEU Credits are available for these sessions.  Email [email protected] for more information.

Two Free Events with Registration!

We’re very excited to offer two free webinar events this year.  The first is a preview of the Christianity Seminar’s much anticipated new book, After Jesus, Before Christianity.

The second is the Garden Zoom. Many associates have written to say that they miss our time socializing together in the Garden Room at the Flamingo Hotel, so this year we’re hosting a time of socializing online called the Garden Zoom.

Simply register for any session and Westar will send you the Zoom access links to both events via email. Please give the staff a few days after receiving your registration to send you the link via email.  See below for many more details! Thank you!

The Christianity Seminar Phase II: A PDF for Registrants

This year, the Christianity Seminar Phase II is dispensing with the ballots, however, all registrants who sign up for a Christianity Seminar Phase II event will receive a link for a downloadable PDF with more information about each of the presentations.  Please give the staff a few days after receiving your registration to send you the link via email.  Thank you!


Contact us at [email protected].




Kick-off event

What’s at Stake for the Christianity Seminar Phase II

Thursday, March 11, 2021
7:30 – 9:00 pm (EDT)
Free event
This event is now past.

What is the Christianity Seminar?  What questions are they exploring and why?  What’s at stake in the questions they’re asking and the conclusions they’re making?

Thank you to everyone who attended  our evening of conversation with the Christianity Seminar’s steering committee, Jason BeDuhn, Lillian Larsen, Nina Livesey, and Hal Taussig, hosted by Celene Lillie, Dean of the Westar Academy.


The Book of Exodus and Passover
with Dr. Tamar Kamionkowski
Wednesday, March 17, 2021
7:30 – 9:00 pm (EDT)

The holiday of Passover is mentioned in the Hebrew Bible more often than other annual biblical holiday, and yet the origins of Passover are quite mysterious. In this webinar we will explore the biblical origins of Passover, how it came to be connected with the Exodus from Egypt and how the early rabbis recontextualized the biblical traditions in creating the Jewish Passover Haggadah.

Dr. Tamar Kamionkowski is Professor of Bible at the Reconstructionist Rabbinical College in Wyncote, Pennsylvania.  She is the author of Gender Reversal and Cosmic Chaos: Studies in the Book of Ezekiel (2003) and Leviticus (Wisdom Commentary Series, 2018); she is the co-editor of Bodies, Embodiment and Theology of the Hebrew Scriptures (2010).



Friday, March 19, 2021
The Christianity Seminar Phase II
Sessions are $10 each. All times are Eastern Standard Time (EDT).

This year, the Christianity Seminar Phase II will be dispensing with the ballots.  Instead, each speaker will be providing a short list of propositions that will be a starting point for discussions, without going through the voting procedure.

Since these talks are detailed art historical presentations, they will not take the form of papers, which would reorient our analysis and thinking from image to text.

Please note: If you register for a Christianity Seminar Phase II event,  you will receive a link to a downloadable PDF with information about the presentations.  Please give the staff a few days after receiving your registration to send you the link via email.  Thank you!


The Therapeutai and Beyond:
Representing Women and Men
at the Altar with Dr. Ally Kateusz

Friday, March 19
11:00 am – 12:30 pm (EDT)

Since 2017 Dr. Ally Kateusz has been publishing a new interpretation of artifacts that appear to portray men and women flanking a mensa in some kind of gender parallel early Christian ritual. Around the year 315 Eusebius of Caesarea claimed that churches he knew were still using the gender divided spaces and ritual of the Therapeutae, a Jewish sect whose gender divided ritual the Jewish philosopher Philo of Alexandria described some time prior to 50 CE, essentially contemporaneous with the rise of the messiah movement associated with Jesus. In this illustrated presentation, Dr. Kateusz will consider the feasibility of Philo’s and Eusebius’s claims.

Westar Scholar Ally Kateusz is a Research Associate at the Wijngaards Institute of Catholic Research in London, where she specializes in the intersection of gender and religion in early Christian art and texts. She has published articles in the Journal of Early Christian Studies, the Journal of Feminist Studies in Religion, and other venues, and is author of Mary and Early Christian Women (Palgrave MacMillan, 2019), as well as co-editor of Rediscovering the Marys: Maria, Mariamne, Miriam (Bloomsbury, 2020). Some of her research on early Christian women was featured in the 2018 documentary, Jesus’s Female Disciples: The New Evidence, and a paper she read In July 2019 at the Pontifical Gregorian University in Rome was reported internationally in over two dozen news sources, from the Daily Mail to the Daily Beast to the National Catholic Reporter.


The Life of Christ in Pictures: Early Biblical Illustrations
Independent of the Canonical Gospels
with Dr. Zsuzsanna Gulácsi

Friday, March 19
2:00 – 3:30 pm (EDT)

For the past 20 years, Professor Gulácsi has been studying the material culture of religious traditions that relied on early and alternative understandings of the teachings of Christ. At the fringes of Roman power these communities operated freely enough to develop local artistic traditions prior to the establishment of the gospel canon, and therefore possessing strong independence from what later became the norms of Christian art.  In this illustrated presentation, Dr. Gulácsi will draw together the scattered and fragmentary evidence for this independent tradition of depicting the life of Christ.

Zsuzsanna Gulácsi is Professor of Art History and Asian Studies at Northern Arizona University, Flagstaff, specializing in the contextualized study of pan-Asiatic religions. A Guggenheim Fellow (2016), National Humanities Center Fellow (2006, 2016), Rieskamp Fellow of the American Council of Learned Societies (2006), and Getty Residential Scholar (2019), she is the author of Mani’s Pictures: The Didactic Images of the Manichaeans from Sasanian Mesopotamia to Uygur Central Asia and Tang-Ming China (Brill, 2015); Medieval Manichaean Book Art: A Codicological Study of Iranian and Turkic Illuminated Book Fragments from 8th – 11th cc. East Central Asia (Brill, 2005); and Manichaean Art in Berlin Collections (Brepols, 2001); and editor of Language, Society, and Religion in the World of the Turks – Festschrift for Larry Clark at Seventy-Five (Brepols, 2018); as well as dozens of articles on Manichaean, Eastern Christian and Zoroastrian art.



Announcing a Friday Night, Free BONUS EVENT!

The Christianity Seminar’s new book
After Jesus, Before Christianity
Scheduled to be released by HarperOne (date TBD)
Foreword by NYT bestselling author Sue Monk Kidd

A Preview of the new book:
After Jesus, Before Christianity

Friday, March 19
7:30 – 9:00 pm (EDT)
Receive a link to this event
when you register for any
Spring Meeting event!

When you register for any one of the Spring Meeting events, you’ll receive a link to the Garden Zoom (see below) and a link to the webinar preview of the Christianity Seminar’s much anticipated new book, After Jesus, Before Christianity.

We are thrilled to announce that a special, free bonus event has been added to our Spring Meeting offerings.

Presented by Drs. Erin K. Vearncombe, Bernard Brandon Scott and Hal Taussig, After Jesus, Before Christianity is the culmination of the Seminar’s work and presents a historical exploration of the first two centuries of the Jesus Movements. The book will also have a foreword by bestselling author Sue Monk Kidd.
In this webinar, Drs. Erin Vearncombe, Bernard Brandon Scott, and Hal Taussig will provide a preview of the Christianity Seminar’s much anticipated new book, “After Jesus, Before Christianity.”

The culmination of the Seminar’s work, this book presents a historical exploration of the first two centuries of the Jesus Movements.

“After Jesus, Before Christianity” is scheduled to be released by HarperOne (date TBD) and will have a foreword by bestselling author Sue Monk Kidd.
From Dr. Vearncombe: Our experiment in this book project is to start with foundations, with open minds. Solid construction starts from the ground up. We are not reconstructing “Christianity.” That word assumes knowledge of a future. Rather, we are asking what can be constructed from the lived experiences of diverse peoples across the ancient Mediterranean. This question, itself an exciting historical accomplishment, anchored our work and took us in some surprising directions.
From Dr. Scott: After 50+ years of studying the New Testament I am more impressed by what I do not know than what I know. One of the primary problems is that we have inherited Christian language and scholarly categories that do not allow us to see, hear, or understand what was happening. Once the debris is cleared away, a whole new world appears. No Christianity but radical experimentation in group living, no baptism but bathing, religious life for these groups is inherently political. The list goes on and on. The questions are endless and exciting.
Dr. Taussig presents a tantalizing list of topics that will redefine the scholarship of the first two hundred years by identifying six major discoveries during that period:
1) Resisting empire
2) Gender bending
3) Chosen families
4) Everyone belongs to Israel
5) Organizational variety, no central governance
6) Persisting oral traditions, not even implicit canon


Saturday, March 20, 2021
The Christianity Seminar Phase II
Sessions are $10 each.  All times are Eastern Daylight Time (EDT).
The Garden Zoom is free with any registration!

Flamingo Hotel path to the Garden Room. This year, Westar Scholars, Associates & Praxis members will be meeting in the Garden Zoom.


More Than Just Mosaics: The Huqoq Synagogue
in Context with Dr. Jodi Magness

Saturday, March 20
11:00 am – 12:30 pm (EDT)

Since 2011, Professor Jodi Magness has been directing excavations in the ancient village of Huqoq in Israel’s Galilee.  The excavations have brought to light the remains of a monumental Late Roman (fifth century) synagogue building paved with stunning and unique mosaics, including biblical scenes and the first non-biblical story ever discovered decorating an ancient synagogue.  In this slide-illustrated lecture, Professor Magness will argue for the need to reassess the traditional typology and chronology of ancient synagogues; and she will also indicate the complexity of Judaism in late antiquity.

Jodi Magness is the Kenan Distinguished Professor for Teaching Excellence in Early Judaism at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. Her books include: Masada: From Jewish Revolt to Modern Myth (Princeton, 2019), a finalist for the 2019 National Jewish Book Award in the category of History; The Archaeology of Qumran and the Dead Sea Scrolls (Eerdmans, 2011), the 2003 Biblical Archaeology Society’s Best Popular Book in Archaeology; and The Archaeology of the Early Islamic Settlement in Palestine (Eisenbrauns, 2003), awarded the 2006 Irene Levi-Sala Book Prize in the category of non-fiction on the archaeology of Israel. She is also the author of The Archaeology of the Holy Land from the Destruction of Solomon’s Temple to the Muslim Conquest (Cambridge, 2012); Stone and Dung, Oil and Spit: Jewish Daily Life in the Time of Jesus (Eerdmans, 2011), and (with G. Davies) The 2003-2007 Excavations in the Late Roman Fort at Yotvata (Eisenbrauns, 2015). In addition, Magness has published dozens of articles, and received numerous awards and fellowships of distinction. Magness has participated on 20 different excavations in Israel and Greece. She is a member of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, a past President of the Archaeological Institute of America, among other important leadership positions in archaeology.


Panel discussion with Drs. Ally Kateusz,
Zsuzsanna Gulácsi & Jodi Magness

Saturday, March 20
2:00 pm – 3:30 pm (EDT)

In this panel discussion, Drs. Kateusz, Gulácsi, and Magness will draw connections between their individual work in late ancient religious art, the methods and questions they bring to the subject, and the potential of artistic remains to provide insights into religious history independent of textual evidence.


The Flamingo Hotel Lobby

The Garden Zoom
A time of socializing with Scholars,
Associates, Praxis and Friends!

Saturday, March 20
4:00 pm – 5:00 pm (EDT)

We invite join us in the Garden Zoom with your drinks and snacks at the ready so that we can “eat, drink and be merry” together!  Many scholars will be in attendance so this is your opportunity ask them anything!

Note: The Garden Zoom is free with registration!

Simply register for any session and Westar will send you the Zoom access link via email.  Please give the staff a few days after receiving your registration to send you the link via email.  Thank you!