Karen L. King

Karen L. King

Hollis Professor of Divinity

Karen L. KingKaren L. King is Hollis Professor of Divinity, Harvard University’s oldest endowed professorship (1721), and is the first woman to hold this chair.  Trained in comparative religions and historical studies, she pursues teaching and research specialties in the history of Christianity.  Her particular theoretical interests are in discourses of normativity (orthodoxy and heresy), gender studies, and religion and violence. 

Born in rural Montana, she took her B.A. with honors in Religious Studies at the University of Montana, Missoula.  She completed her Ph.D. in History of Religions: Early Christianity at Brown University.  She also studied in Berlin at the Free University (West) and with the Koptisch-Gnostische Arbeitskreis (Coptic-Gnostic Working Group) at Humboldt University (East) from 1982-83.  After completing her doctorate in 1984, she taught at Occidental College in Los Angeles, before moving in 1997 to Harvard University in the Divinity School. 

Her publications include:  Revelation of the Unknowable God; What is Gnosticism?; The Secret Revelation of John; The Gospel of Mary of Magdala: Jesus and the First Woman Apostle; “Christianity and Torture” in The Oxford Handbook of Religion and Violence; and “The Place of the Gospel of Philip in the Context of Early Christian Claims about Jesus’ Marital Status” in New Testament Studies 59.   She is currently working on two  projects:  Martyrdom and its Discontents: An Historical Essay on Religion and Violence in the Formation of Christianity, and a critical edition of a papyrus fragment in which Jesus speaks of “my wife.”

She is the recipient of awards for excellence in teaching and research, and has received grants and fellowships from the Henry Luce Foundation, Ford Foundation, National Endowment for the Humanities, Deutsche Akademische Austauschdienst (DAAD), the Howard Foundation, the Graves Foundation, the Irvine Foundation, and Harvard University. She is the 2013 recipient of the Horace Mann Medal from the Graduate School of Brown University, and in 2011 received an honorary doctorate (Theologiae Doctrix Honoris Causis) from the University of Helsinki, Finland.

Full CV