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The Woolf Institute Lecture series

The Woolf Institute Lectures, our premier lecture series, are given every term by a distinguished academic, politician, or activist with outstanding achievements in their field.

The Easter 2019 Woolf Institute Lecture will be delivered by   

Professor Anna Sapir Abulafia (University of Oxford) 

Wednesday 22 May 2019 

Title: 'Jacob and Esau and the Interplay of Jewish and Christian Identities in the Middle Ages'

This paper examines the complex relationship between Judaism and Christianity through the biblical narrative of Jacob and Esau. It explores how medieval Jews and Christians internalised the claims made by their respective religious traditions and asks whether the image of fraternal rivalry between Jacob and Esau adequately encapsulates the ambiguous and paradoxical relationship between medieval Christianity and Judaism.

Anna Sapir Abulafia took up the Chair of the Study of the Abrahamic Religions in the Faculty of Theology and Religion at Oxford in April 2015. Previously she taught in Cambridge where she was Senior Tutor (1996 - 2002) and Vice-President (2002 - 2010) of Lucy Cavendish College. The main focus of her research is on interactions between Christians and Jews within the broad context of twelfth and thirteenth-century theological and ecclesiastical developments in medieval Latin Christendom. Her most recent book is Christian-Jewish Relations, 1000-1300. Jews in the Service of Medieval Christendom (2011). Her present project examines the place of Jews and Muslims in Gratian’s Decretum and its glosses.

Previous speakers:


The Right Hon Baroness Hale of Richmond DBE, PC (President of the Supreme Court)

Prof Qudsia Mirza (Birkbeck, University of London)


The Right Hon Lord Williams of Oystermoth (Master of Magdalene College, former Archbishop of Canterbury)

Professor Jane Heal FBA (University of Cambridge)

Professor Robert Tombs (University of Cambridge)