David J. Halperin
Professor Emeritus of Religious Studies, University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill
David J. Halperin, professor emeritus of Religious Studies at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, was a teen UFOlogist of the 1960s. He grew up to be a scholar of religion, with a special interest in religious traditions of heavenly ascent and otherworldly journeys. He received his PhD in 1977 from the University of California at Berkeley, with a dissertation on the ancient Jewish “merkavah mysticism” rooted in the visions of Ezekiel. From 1976 to his retirement in 2000, he taught history of Judaism in the UNC Department of Religious Studies. He is the author of five books on Jewish mysticism and messianism, the coming-of-age novel Journal of a UFO Investigator (Viking Press, 2011) and most recently Intimate Alien: The Hidden Story of the UFO (Stanford University Press, 2020).
His current projects are a novel about Israel during the Yom Kippur War of 1973, and a translation (from Hebrew) of an 18th-century book of heretical Kabbalah — a charter for the world religion of the future, rooted in Kabbalistic Judaism but unlike any religion ever known. He lives in Durham, North Carolina and he blogs on UFOs, religion and related topics at davidhalperin.net.
The Academy and the Impossible – A Tale of Two Bibles
Reflections on teaching, in the context of a secular university, the religious encounter with what oughtn’t to exist and can’t possibly have happened. Examples: Jesus walking on water, the sun that fell to earth at Fatima in 1917, and the contemporary cousins of that sun, which we call UFOs. Do we accept such things? Debunk them? Or — as is the norm in academia — simply evade them? An evangelical student’s story of his two Bibles suggests a more satisfying approach.