Dr. Gary Anderson: The Story of One Catholic Scholar of Biblical Interpretation

Dr. Gary Anderson from his University of Notre Dame profile
Dr. Gary Anderson from his University of Notre Dame profile

Dr. Gary Anderson is Professor of Old Testament/Hebrew Bible at the University of Notre Dame and is quickly becoming one of the world’s leading scholars of Second Temple Judaism, the Dead Sea Scrolls and especially of biblical interpretation among early Jews and early Christians. He is also a Protestant convert to Catholicism. He earned a B.A. from Albion College, an M.Div. from Duke University, and a Ph.D. in Hebrew Bible/Old Testament from Harvard University’s Department of Near Eastern Languages and Civilizations. 

Dr. Anderson was raised Protestant and in fact entered Duke University as a Protestant seminarian. He writes some brief autobiographical insights in his important book The Genesis of Perfection: Adam and Eve in Jewish and Christian Imagination. He tells how important studying church history at Duke University under such giants as Dr. David Steinmetz helped point him in the direction of the Catholic Church. He eventually entered the Roman Catholic Church and became one of the leading Catholic scholars of early biblical interpretation. 

Dr. Anderson’s story is interesting because he was initially trained in Enlightenment-shaped historical biblical criticism. At Harvard he studied ancient biblical languages and historical methodology from such luminaries as Dr. Frank Moore Cross (W.F. Albright’s famous student). It was at Harvard, however, that Dr. Anderson became a student of the great Jewish scholars of biblical interpretation, Dr. Moshe Goshen-Gottstein and Dr. James Kugel, and it is from them especially that he learned the importance of studying the history of the Bible’s reception in Jewish contexts, and thus became a leading scholar in that field.1 

While teaching for about a decade at the University of Virginia, Dr. Anderson immersed himself in the world of early Gen of PerfGreek Christian biblical interpretation through regular readings and discussions with his esteemed colleagues there, Dr. Robert Louis Wilken and Dr. Judith Kovacs. He writes of this experience that it “was almost like a second graduate degree in early Christianity.”2 In addition, for about fifteen years, Dr. Anderson read and studied St. Ephrem in Syriac with two leading Syriac specialists, Dr. Sidney Griffith and Dr. Robin Darling Young.3 Eventually, his reputation grew so much in the field of biblical interpretation, that Harvard University hired him to teach at their prestigious institution. Anyone interested in how early Jews and Christians interpreted the Bible, particularly biblical stories about Adam and Eve, or biblical concepts like Sin and redemption, should start reading Dr. Anderson’s works if you haven’t already. His writings on sin are especially important for understanding the biblical roots of Catholic concepts like indulgences and the importance of almsgiving. 

Select Bibliography of Dr. Anderson’s works: 


Sin: A History. New Haven: Yale University Press, 2009. Available from Amazon: http://www.amazon.com/Sin-History-Gary-Anderson/dp/0300149891/ref=sr_1_2?ie=UTF8&s=books&qid=1263831593&sr=1-2 

The Genesis of Perfection: Adam and Eve in Jewish and Christian Imagination. Louisville: Westminster/John Knox Press, 2001. Available from Amazon: http://www.amazon.com/Genesis-Perfection-%C3%82-Adam-Christian-Imagination/dp/066422699X/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&s=books&qid=1263831523&sr=1-1 


“Mary in the Old Testament.” Pro Ecclesia 16 (2007): 33-55. 

“Redeem Your Sins by the Giving of Alms: Sin, Debt, and the ‘Treasury of Merit’ in Early Judaism and Christianity.” Letter & Spirit 3 (2007): 37-67. 

“Biblical Origins and the Problem of the Fall.” Pro Ecclesia 10 (2001): 1-14. 


“From Israel’s Burden to Israel’s Debt: Towards a Theology of Sin in Biblical and Early Second Temple Sources.” In Reworking the Bible: Apocryphal and Related Texts at Qumran, ed. Esther G. Chazon, Devorah Dimant, and Ruth Clements, 1-30. Leiden: Brill, 2005. 

“The Status of the Torah in the Pre-Sinaitic Period: St. Paul’s Epistle to the Romans.” In Biblical Perspectives: Early Use and Interpretation of the Bible in Light of the Dead Sea Scrolls, ed. Michael E. Stone and Esther G. Chazon, 1-23. Leiden: Brill, 1998. 

“The Cosmic Mountain: Eden and Its Early Interpreters in Syriac Christianity.” In Genesis 1-3 in the History of Exegesis: Intrigue in the Garden, ed. Gregory Allen Robbins, 187-224. Lewiston, New York: Edwin Mellen Press, 1988.

  1. Gary A. Anderson, The Genesis of Perfection: Adam and Eve in Jewish and Christian Imagination (Louisville: Westminster/John Knox Press, 2001), XV. []
  2. Anderson, Genesis of Perfection, xii. []
  3. Anderson, Genesis of Perfection, xii. []

11 thoughts on “Dr. Gary Anderson: The Story of One Catholic Scholar of Biblical Interpretation”

    1. Jeremy,
      Can you share more details related to the conference? Perhaps post a link to the conference so that interested readers can attend. Good to have you reading the blog. I know you are well versed in theology and biblical studies. Feel free to post your thoughts more often!!!

      1. Thanks, Jason.

        The conference is entitled, “Engaging Gary Anderson’s Biblical Theology of Sin and Redemption”

        The dates are March 12-13th and it’s sponsored by the Augustine Institute, in association with Archbishop Chaput and the Archdiocese of Denver.

        This is the speaker list and it looks to be a great event:
        Gary Anderson
        Reinhard Hütter
        Raymond Gawronski, S.J.
        Edward Sri
        John Cavadini
        Matthew Levering
        Tim Gray
        Romanus Cessario, O.P.
        R. Jared Staudt
        Thomas Joseph White, O.P.
        Jeremy Holmes
        Bruce Marshall

        Here’s the link: http://www.augustineinstitute.org/sai/

  1. In the Book of Genesis, God is telling us two stories with the words of one. From the appearance of being the first two humans in creation Adam and Eve share a commonality with all of us. Adam and Eve are representatives for all of us. God has hidden a prophesy about the future in the story. The following is the interpretation of the story about Adam and Eve in the present. I start at Genesis 2:17

    Gen 2 : 17 But as for the tree of the knowledge of good and bad you must not eat from it, for in the day you eat from it you will positively die.”

    Trees don’t grow knowledge so I know God is talking in symbols. Knowledge comes from Books. Books are made from the pulp of trees. So the Tree is a Book. A Tree is a metaphor for a Book. This book has knowledge of good and bad. The Book is the Bible. The Bible contains the knowledge of good and bad. Besides I took this verse right out of the Bible. You can’t eat from a book and gain knowledge, but you can digest a book . As in Readers Digest. You are taking the words in, like food. God says, you will positively die. The Book has poison in it. The poison is the fruit on the tree.

    What is the fruit on the tree that we must not eat? Or, What is the fruit in the New Testament? We know that a Cross is also a Tree and Jesus was nailed to the tree. The fruit from the Bible is Jesus. Clues are Adam and Eve are bare naked. Bare sounds like Bear.

    The Tree bears Jesus

    The Tree of Knowledge is a Book, and the fruit on the tree is Jesus. This is what God is saying.

    Gen 2 : 17 But as for the (Book) of the knowledge of good and bad you must not (take in Jesus) from it, for in the day you eat from it you will positively die.”

    The Jews are right. Jesus is not the Messiah. God says so right here.

  2. The interpretation continues in the following verse from Genesis. Satan says take in Jesus (the fruit) and you positively will not die. The Catholic Church says: believe in Jesus and you positively will not die. Satan and the Church sound similar to me.

    Genesis 3 : 4 At this the serpent (church) said to the woman: “You positively will not die. 5 For God knows that in the very day of your eating (taking Jesus in) from it your eyes are bound to be opened and you are bound to be like God, knowing good and bad.”

    The Serpent says: “Take in Jesus and you positively will not die”. The Church says: Believe in Jesus and you positively will not die. Sounds the same to me. If it sounds the same it is the same. The Serpent is the Church.

    Eve eats the fruit (takes in Jesus from the Bible) and later shares it (the book) with Adam. Every thing comes true just like the serpent said it would. Their eyes became opened and they then knew good from bad. They suddenly realized that being naked is a Sin. When God came looking for them they hid in the bushes. They were ashamed and embarassed of their sin, so they hid from God.

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