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Professor to receive honorary award from largest academic education in Finland

University of Gloucestershire’s Professor Philip Esler is being honoured by the oldest and largest institution of academic education and research in Finland, as it celebrates a key national anniversary.

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

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

The other recipients of an honorary doctorate from the Faculty of Theology this year include the high-profile environmental activist, Greta Thunberg.

In announcing the award, the University of Helsinki said:Philip Esler, Professor of New Testament Studies at 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.”

The awards will be made at the faculty’s conferment ceremony in the University of Helsinki’s Great Hall on 9 June, part of the university’s Conferment Jubilee 2023 marking the centenary of the passing of Finland’s Freedom of Religion Act.

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.

Professor Esler said: “I’m absolutely thrilled that I’m being awarded an honorary doctorate by the University of Helsinki and I look forward to joining their jubilee celebrations and sharing the experience with other recipients at the conferment ceremony in June.

“The University of Helsinki’s Faculty of Theology engages in the highest quality academic research and teaching in questions involving religion and theology, so it will be a great opportunity to discuss their latest projects and update them on the work we’re undertaking at University of Gloucestershire.