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Maria Pascuzzi
Professor promotes greater understanding of biblical texts

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Maria Pascuzzi

"I help students to see that faith is no excuse for ignorance, nor does faith require that one leave his or her rational faculties aside when reading the Bible."

Maria Pascuzzi

Professor Maria Pascuzzi, STD studied English as an undergraduate, but soon discovered that graduate school in biblical studies would allow her to explore a wide array of intellectual curiosities.

"My interest in literature was always coupled with my interest in ancient near eastern cultures and history as well as foreign language," Pascuzzi said. "Biblical studies was a natural fit for me. It is essentially an interdisciplinary field."

According to Pascuzzi, advanced study in her field requires competence in a number of languages, including Greek and Hebrew. Language skills are coupled with knowledge of history, geography and archaeology in the near east as well as sociology, anthropology and politics of ancient societies. The more biblical scholars know about the societies in which the religious texts were created, the more they can understand the texts themselves.

"The people who produced this body of literature and gave us the traditions found within it were formed in and influenced by the ideas and customs of those societies," Pascuzzi said.

"I continue to be impressed by the academic quality and level of commitment to teaching which characterizes the faculty of the College of Arts and Sciences."

Maria Pascuzzi

But why go to all that trouble to understand a book that was written two or more millennia ago? According to Pascuzzi, the Bible is more current than we might think.

"Both the spirit and the law of the Bible have molded Western Civilization, influencing its institutions, culture, art, philosophy and anthropology," Pascuzzi said. "In contemporary debates about marriage, homosexuality, creation, ecology, capital punishment, land rights in Israel and a host of other issues, recourse is still had to the Bible."

For those reasons, she said, "It is really important to know what the Bible actually says."

Pascuzzi's favorite course to teach is Introduction to Biblical Studies. In this course she finds that many students confront the problems of biblical literalism, that is, taking every word as literally true, for the first time. One topic that students consider is the difference between scientific accounts of evolution and the creation stories in Genesis.

"In this course, I help students to see that faith is no excuse for ignorance, nor does faith require that one leave his or her rational faculties aside when reading the Bible," Pascuzzi said.

"What I hope is that through my efforts some people will have grown to appreciate the church's vision and will be ennobled by that vision to work to make the USD community one more open to and tolerant of diversity, more engaged in finding ways to ameliorate the plight of the world's poor and suffering and more committed to the pursuit of excellence ."

Maria Pascuzzi

When she isn't teaching, Pascuzzi devotes herself to biblical research, with particular focus on the letters of Paul. She is especially interested in Paul's rhetorical devices, which persuaded many people to believe in what his contemporaries thought to be an absurd message, that a crucified man, Jesus, was the Messiah.

She is also interested in the role of women in early Christian communities and the interpretation of Paul's letters in view of Roman imperial ideology.

According to Pascuzzi, the Pauline texts "provide a window onto the difficulties accompanying the spread of Christianity and the lively disputes and rivalries going on in the first Christian communities."

Maria Pascuzzi

"In contemporary debates about marriage, homosexuality, creation, ecology, capital punishment, land rights in Israel and a host of other issues, recourse is still had to the Bible."

Maria Pascuzzi

In addition to teaching and research, Pascuzzi has also served the community as director of USD's Frances G. Harpst Center for Catholic Thought and Culture. Through the center's programs, she worked to "direct people's attention to ways the church has contributed to all which ennobles humans to pursue what is right and just."

"What I hope is that through my efforts some people will have grown to appreciate the church's vision and will be ennobled by that vision to work to make the USD community one more open to and tolerant of diversity, more engaged in finding ways to ameliorate the plight of the world's poor and suffering and more committed to the pursuit of excellence," Pascuzzi said.

According to Pascuzzi, the academic environment at USD is one that embodies what the Jesuits call "cura personalis" or "caring for the individual.

"Faculty here don't just teach classes, they challenge and educate individuals and go that extra mile to make sure students are progressing," she said. "I continue to be impressed by the academic quality and level of commitment to teaching which characterizes the faculty of the College of Arts and Sciences."

- Anne Malinoski '11

Quick Facts

  • I was educated in Rome at the Pontifical Biblical Institute and, at the time, was the only woman in my class.
  • My hobbies are gardening, cooking and doing the NY Times crossword puzzle.
  • I am from Brooklyn New York . I consider being raised in a multi-cultural place like Brooklyn a real blessing. You get to meet all kinds—it both toughens you up and makes you more tolerant at the same time.
  • I am a die-hard Yankees fan and love to teach students who are Red Sox fans!
  • I have never wanted to be anything else but a teacher.

Useful Links

www.sandiego.edu/cctc/

www.sandiego.edu/cas/theo/

www.sandiego.edu/cas/academics/faculty/biography.php?ID=293