Anthony Grafton presented at the Seminar in Cultural History on Wednesday, September 7, at 6 pm. His talk was entitled “How Jesus Celebrated Passover: Some Early Modern Readings of the Last Supper.”

The Last Supper has always mattered deeply to Christian theologians, artists, and commentators on the Gospels. In the sixteenth century, this interest took a new turn. Catholic and Protestant scholars began to wonder what the Last Supper would have looked like, and what Jewish rituals Jesus and his disciples might have carried out on the evening of the Last Supper. In this paper, we will see how antiquaries and church historians, theologians and chronologers competed and collaborated to imagine Jesus as a Jew. In this case as in many others, the effort to understand a few lines of the Scriptures in a new way had massive intellectual consequences.

Anthony Grafton studied history and history of science at the University of Chicago and University College London. In 1974-75 he taught history at Cornell University; since 1975 he has taught at Princeton University, where he is currently Henry Putnam University Professor of History and the Humanities. At Princeton he founded the Freshman Seminar Program, which he directed for ten years. Since then he has served as Director of the Program in European Cultural Studies, the Shelby Cullom Davis Center for Historical Research and the Council of the Humanities.

His books include Joseph Scaliger: A Study in the History of Classical Scholarship (Oxford, 1983-93); Defenders of the Text (Harvard, 1991); The Footnote: A Curious History (Harvard, 1997); What Was History? The Art of History in Early Modern Europe (Cambridge, 2007); with Megan Williams) Christianity and the Transformation of the Book (Harvard, 2006); with Brian Curran, Pamela Long and Benjamion Weiss, Obelisk (MIT, 2008), Worlds Made by Words (Harvard, 2008) and (with Joanna Weinberg) “I Have Always Loved the Holy Tongue.” Isaac Casaubon, the Jews, and A Forgotten Chapter in Renaissance Scholarship (Harvard, 2011). He has also contributed articles and reviews to American Scholar, the Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung, the London Review of Books, The Nation, The New Republic, the New York Review of Books, The New Yorker, and the Times Literary Supplement. He is currently finishing a book on Renaissance proof correctors and studying histories of Christianity in sixteenth- and seventeenth-century Europe.

Grafton is currently President of the American Historical Association. He is also a member of the American Philosophical Society and the American Academy of Arts and Sciences and a corresponding fellow of the Berlin-Brandenburgische Akademie der Wissenschaften and the British Academy. He has received fellowships from the American Council of Learned Societies, the Guggenheim Foundation, the National Endowment for the Humanities, the National Science Foundation, and the Wissenschaftskolleg zu Berlin, has been a visiting professor at the Collège de France, Columbia University, the Ecole des Hautes Etudes en Sciences Sociales, the Warburg Haus in Hamburg, and the University of Munich, has been a Resident at the American Academy in Rome and has held visiting memberships at Pembroke College, Oxford; Christ’s College, Cambridge; Trinity College, Cambridge; and Merton College Oxford. In 2002 he received the Balzan Prize for History of the Humanities, and in 2003 the Mellon Foundation Award for Distinguished Achievement in the Humanities.