Thomas Jefferson founded the University of Virginia in 1819 as the first university in the United States with no professors of divinity. Two hundred years later, UVA is home to the largest Religious Studies department in the United States, with nearly forty professors teaching a wide range of reli- gions, both ancient and contemporary, including Christian theology. Is this "despite," "because of," or "accidental to" our founding? This brief presentation will attempt to trace threads from Jeffer- son's writings (including his “Notes on the State of Virginia,” the "Rockfish Gap Report," his private letters to his nephew Peter Carr, and—particularly interesting—his own "apocryphal" Gospel, "The Life and Morals of Jesus of Nazareth") as they are picked up and re-conceived in current curricular conversations within the UVA College and Religious Studies Department.
Prof. Janet Spittler’s research centers around the Christian apocrypha, particularly the apocryphal acts of the apostles. Her first book, Animals in the Apocryphal Acts of the Apostles (Mohr Siebeck, 2008) explored the literary context and significance of the animal-related episodes that are common in the acts, and in subsequent articles she has treated various other aspects of these texts. She is currently a Senior Fellow at the Beyond Canon Center at the University of Regensburg, working on a commentary on the apocryphal Acts of John.