Dr. Peter A. Pettit
My main teaching interest is in students’ growth as curious and capable thinkers. We nourish that growth collaboratively by looking at places where people hold different views of things that are most important to them. Most often, it’s about Jews and Christians and their self-understandings as people of God. Since both communities look back to Israel of the Bible as their point of origin, their different readings of the Bible are a favorite topic. So is the way that they often start to tell about themselves by showing how they are not the other. That has happened throughout the past 2,000 years; it still happens today. And today, both communities are trying to understand themselves in a society with many religious groups and beliefs. Sometimes that emphasizes their differences; sometimes it makes them feel closer to one another. How Jews and Christians work out these various issues in their religious expressions—texts, practices, worship, community, life events, et cetera—is what we study and think about. And that’s what helps nourish curious and capable thinkers.
My research and scholarship lie in areas that support my teaching interests. Jewish and Christian biblical interpretation from the ancient world down to today is at the core of my work. That has led me into the history and theology of the Jewish-Christian relationship, including the Shoah/Holocaust. My scholarship led me to live in Israel and return there frequently, and my decades-long involvement with the Jewish community has continued to make it a focus of interest, particularly in the ways that Christians engage with Israel as people, land and state. Because of my religious affiliation and training as a pastor, I also am involved with the specific study of Lutheran theology, most often on topics of biblical interpretation, religious pluralism and Martin Luther’s anti-Jewish writings.