Former Faculty Feature: Dr. James VanderKam

Part of the Dead Sea Scrolls, on which James VanderKam is a leading expert

In Fall 1976, James VanderKam joined NC State as an assistant professor of religious studies after completing the Ph.D. at Harvard. He was promoted to associate professor in 1981 and professor in 1986. He resigned in 1991 to take up an appointment as professor of theology at the University of Notre Dame, where he was named John A. O’Brien Professor of Hebrew Scriptures in 1998.

James VanderKam in 2017.

During his fifteen years at NC State, VanderKam taught many sections of core courses in religious studies, including Introduction to Religion (which has since been re-named Religious Traditions of the World), Introduction to the Old Testament and Introduction to the New Testament. He introduced a course on Intertestamental Literature (which still exists) and a series of courses on Biblical Hebrew (which, unfortunately, had to be discontinued in 2006 because of insufficient demand). He received an Outstanding Teacher Award in 1991.

A specialist in the history and literature of early Judaism and the Hebrew scriptures, VanderKam published numerous scholarly works while at NC State, including three books: Textual and Historical Studies in the Book of Jubilees (Scholars Press, 1977), Enoch and the Growth of an Apocalyptic Tradition (The Catholic Biblical Association, 1984) and The Book of Jubilees (2 volumes, Peeters, 1989). He received an NC State Alumni Association Research Award in 1990 and the College of Humanities and Social Sciences Distinguished Research and Literary Publication Award in 1991.

VanderKam’s many memories of NC State include “a steep learning curve to teach Introduction to Religion,” “some amazing students,” including a few with whom he has continued to have contact over the years, and “excellent colleagues in both philosophy and religion.”

At Notre Dame, VanderKam supervised 25 doctoral dissertations and received the Burns Award for Graduate Teaching in 2012. His research focused on the Dead Sea Scrolls and related literature. He was a member of the editorial committee that prepared the scrolls for publication and continued to publish prolifically. His many books from this period include The Dead Sea Scrolls Today (Eerdmans, 1994, second edition, 2010), Encyclopedia of the Dead Sea Scrolls (2 volumes, co-edited with Lawrence Schiffman, Oxford University Press, 2000), 1 Enoch 2: A Commentary on the Book of 1 Enoch, Chapters 37-82 (co-authored with George Nickelsburg, Fortress Press, 2011) and Jubilees: A Commentary in Two Volumes (Fortress Press, forthcoming 2018).

Although he retired in 2016, Vanderkam continues with research and a little teaching. He and his wife Mary have three children and seven grandchildren, who helped them celebrate their 50th wedding anniversary in August 2017.


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