Institutes mission is to illuminate crucial points of intersection
among the worlds religious traditions in order to promote
a deeper understanding of both their commonality and diversity.
The Institutes special interest is the first hundred years
of the Common Era, in which the seeds of mistrust and intolerance
that have plagued Jewish-Christian relations through the centuries
were planted. The Institutes aims are to bring factual evidence
and critical analysis to the fore, resulting in a better understanding
of New Testament and biblical history; to foster a new spirit of
tolerance and cooperation; to improve the quality of religious scholarship
and practice through a historically based interdisciplinary program
of research, education, and public outreach; to achieve a deeper
understanding of the origins of Christianity, from its roots in
Judaism; and to develop the potential for collaborative scholarship,
bringing together religious leaders, believers, and those who are
simply curious, in a shared enterprise of enlightened learning.
of Advanced Theology was established to foster critical understanding,
based in scholarship, that will make true religious pluralism possible.
Bard College, a private liberal arts college noted for its progressive
traditions and innovation in higher education, has undertaken to
support the Institutes residential and academic development.
is not interested in making general assertions of the necessity
for religious tolerance; well-meaning and useful though such imperatives
are, they do not address the heart of the challenge of religious
diversity. To promote genuine dialogue, people must be enticed by
hope in the possibility of sympathetic acceptance of each others
views and the common threads within them. Such an open dialogue
needs to be supported by serious reading, learning, and thinkingfor
neither the mystery itself nor the evidence is easy.
its inception in 1996, the Institutes work has focused on
how religions influence history, society, one another, and are in
turn influenced by them. Institute scholars refine the newest critical
research methods to pursue a comparative approach to the study of
religion. The Institutes recent scholarship on James, the
brother of Jesus, has sought to develop a common language of comparison
between early Jewish Christianity and Judaism. The faculty and resident
fellows of the Institute are continuing these research comparisons
with Buddhism, Hinduism, and Islam.
Bard Hall, church and schoolhouse for local neighborhood (1852);
and Chapel of the Holy Innocents (1857). Gifts of John Bard, founder
of St. Stephens College. Photo by Tania Barricklo.