Symposium “Conceptualizing Old Age in Ancient Jewish and Early Christian Contexts”

Op 1 en 2 juni organiseer ik samen met dr. Seth Bledsoe het symposium “Conceptualizing Old Age in Ancient Jewish and Early Christian Contexts” in de Filmzaal van de PThU in Amsterdam. Geïnteresseerden zijn van harte welkom om het symposium bij te wonen. Hieronder volgt de uitnodiging en het programma.


How did the various Jewish and Christian communities in the ancient Mediterranean world respond to the observed and/or imagined psychosomatic changes associated with old age? How was old age (in)formally signified in these respective communities? What social roles and attendant responsibilities, constraints, and privileges, were afforded the elderly? What sort of norms and values were associated with senescent identifications?

We would like to invite all who are interested to attend the symposium “Conceptualizing Old Age in Ancient Jewish and Early Christian Contexts,” hosted by the Protestant Theological University in Amsterdam together with Radboud University, Nijmegen. The event brings together several scholars who examine the various ways that “old age” is conceptualized in literary, social, and political contexts of the ancient Mediterranean, especially among early Jewish and Christian communities.


The Symposium comprises two parts:

  1. On the evening of June 1 (19:00-20:30 CEST) a public Keynote Lecture will be held virtually and open to the public, entitled “The Ageless Self and the Selfless Age,” given by Prof. Mira Balberg (UC San Diego) in consultation with Prof. Haim Weiss (Ben Gurion); the lecture extends their recent groundbreaking study of “old age” in rabbinic literature (When Near Becomes Far, Oxford UP 2021).
  2. During the day of June 2 there will be a Conference on location at the Protestant Theological University in Amsterdam (De Boelelaan 1105, 1081 HV Amsterdam) where several international scholars of early Judaism, Christianity, and Greco-Roman antiquity will give presentations on “old age” as a dynamic and meaningful concept in relation to a variety of issues, such as gender, family, society, and wisdom. Program attached below.


All interested parties are warmly invited to attend the virtual keynote address. We also welcome those who would like to attend the symposium in person. Attendance at both the keynote and conference is free. Refreshments will be provided during the conference.

To attend the virtual keynote address, please register at:

To attend the in-person conference on 2 June, please register by May 25 at:

For questions or inquiries about the Symposium, please contact: Seth Bledsoe ( or Albertina Oegema (

Program of Symposium 

Wednesday, 1 June, 19:00-20:30 (Virtual Session) 

19:00–19:10     Albertina Oegema & Seth A. Bledsoe, Opening  

19:10–20:10     Keynote Lecture: Mira Balberg (University of California San Diego) w/ contributions from Haim Weiss (Ben Gurion University), “The Ageless Self and the Selfless Age” 

20:10–20:30     Discussion 

Thursday, 2 June, 09:15–17:00 (On Location) 

09:00–09:30     Informal Opening & Coffee/Tea 

09:30-09:40      Albertina Oegema & Seth A. Bledsoe, Opening 

09:40–10:50     Session A: Old Age & Masculinity 

09:40-10:15      Peter-Ben Smit (Vrije University/Utrecht University), “Beyond Gender: Polycarpus’s Martyrdom at the Intersection of Old Age and Masculinity” 

10:15-10:50      Larry L. Welborn (Fordham University), “The Anxious Old Man” 

10:50–11:10      Coffee/Tea Break 

11:10–12:20     Session B: Old Age & the Family 

11:10-11:45      Klaas Spronk (Protestant Theological University), “A Happy Ending: Jacob’s Final Years as the Ideal of Old Age in Tanakh” 

11:45-12:20      Seth A. Bledsoe (Radboud University), “Old Age, Gender, and Reciprocity” 

12:20–13:30     Lunch Break 

13:30–14:40     Session C: Old Age & Wisdom 

13:30-14:05      Barry Hartog (Protestant Theological University), “Wisdom Comes With Age? Old Age and Knowledge in Ancient Jewish Literature” 

14:05-14:40      Lieve Teugels (Protestant Theological University), “New Wine in Old Bags? Torah, Wine, Wisdom and Age in Rabbinic Literature” 

14:40–15:00      Coffee/Tea Break  

15:00–16:45     Session D: Social Status of the Elderly 

15:00-15:35      Silvana Dayan Delatte (University of Fribourg), “Making Sense of Diverse Conceptualizations of Old Age in Classical Athens: Norms and Values Associated to Senescence in Literary and Visual Sources” 

15:35-16:10      Christoph Michels (University of Münster), “The Social Implications of Old Age in Imperial Rome” 

16:10–16:45     Albertina Oegema (Protestant Theological University), “The Marginalisation of the Elderly in Early Rabbinic Literature” 

16:45-17:00      Albertina Oegema & Seth Bledsoe, Final Words 

17:00                Reception w/ drinks & light hors d’oeuvres  


The flyer of the symposium can be downloaded here:

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