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professor receives honorary award for research from largest institution of academic education in Finland

University of Gloucestershire’s Professor Philip Esler has been honoured by the oldest and largest institution of academic education and research in Finland.

Professor Esler, Portland Chair in New Testament Studies within the University’s School of Education and Humanities, has been awarded an honorary doctorate for his contribution to the study of religion and research, by the University of Helsinki’s Faculty of Theology.

He was among only 30 distinguished individuals from around the world upon whom were conferred honorary doctorates by four faculties at the University of Helsinki, which dates back to 1643, during its Conferment Jubilee celebrations.

His award was made at the Faculty of Theology’s conferment ceremony in the University of Helsinki’s Great Hall, part of the university’s Conferment Jubilee 2023 marking the centenary of the passing of Finland’s Freedom of Religion Act.

The other recipients of an honorary doctorate from the Faculty of Theology this year included the high-profile environmental activist, Greta Thunberg, though she did not attend the ceremony.

Professor Esler (pictured) said: “I was immensely proud to receive an honorary doctorate in theology from the University of Helsinki and share the experience with other recipients at the conferment ceremony – it was a wonderful occasion.

“The University of Helsinki’s Faculty of Theology has rightfully gained a reputation for engaging in the highest quality academic research and teaching in questions involving religion and theology.

“My visit to receive the honorary award was a great opportunity to discuss their latest projects and update them on the work we’re undertaking at University of Gloucestershire.”

In announcing the award, the University of Helsinki said: “Philip Esler, Professor of New Testament Studies at the University of Gloucestershire, is a pioneer in the social-scientific study of the Bible.

“He has opened up a number of new approaches to the study of early Jewish and Christian texts through sociological, anthropological and socio-psychological perspectives.

“He has also explored New Testament theology and the Bible’s relationship to visual arts. Esler has collaborated closely with scholars from the University of Helsinki in joint researcher networks and as a member of support groups for research projects.”

Professor Esler, whose first career was as a solicitor and barrister in Sydney, Australia, specialises in the social scientific interpretation of biblical and extra-biblical texts and ancient legal papyri, and in biblical theology, and the Bible and the visual arts.

His extensive range of published articles and books includes New Testament Theology: Communion and Community, Babatha’s Orchard: An Ancient Jewish Family Tale Retold, Ethiopian Christianity: History, Theology, Practice and 2 Corinthians: A Social Identity Commentary.