This spring's conferment festivities culminate with the Faculty of Theology

A total of 90 doctoral degrees in theology or philosophy will be conferred to graduands at this year’s ceremony. In addition, the ceremony will involve the conferment of seven honorary doctorates and four jubilee doctorates to holders of doctoral degrees that were conferred 50 years ago.

The conferment ceremony of the Faculty of Theology is continuing the tradition that started at the Royal Academy of Turku in 1648, when the first Finnish doctorate in theology was conferred. Before then, Finns had had to go abroad to be conferred a doctorate in theology.

 “This year is special for our Faculty in two ways. Our country is celebrating the centenary of its independence, which is being recognised in many ways at the University. In addition, the tradition of the Reformation, which began 500 years ago this year, is highly important for the University of Helsinki’s Faculty of Theology – and for all of Finnish society and scholarship,” says Aila Lauha, conferrer and professor of church history.

Recognition for honorary doctors and the Faculty

One of the recipients of an honorary doctorate in the Faculty of Theology’s conferment ceremony is Professor Christoph Levin, who studies the origins of Old Testament texts. He served as professor of the Old Testament at the University of Munich between 1998 and 2016, and is a corresponding member of the Göttingen Academy of Sciences and Humanities. He is also an external member of the Finnish Academy of Science and Letters.

Levin has published several significant studies on the Pentateuch and the Prophetic Books, and has expanded his field of research to the religious history of ancient Israel and Judea as well as the theology and hermeneutics of the Old Testament.

Professor Levin is deeply honoured by the recognition from the Faculty.

 “It is a great honour for me, and strengthens the friendships I have made with my researcher colleagues in Helsinki over the decades. I have been involved in much academic cooperation, particularly with Anneli Aejmelaeus, Martti Nissinen and Juha Pakkala. I am proud and happy that my efforts in the field of biblical studies are being acknowledged with such an honour by the Faculty of Theology.”

Professor Levin believes that the research in his field at the University of Helsinki is of a high academic standard.

 “The Faculty of Theology may currently be the most significant unit of biblical research in the world. The Faculty’s excellent and esteemed tradition of research in Middle Eastern literature, the Septuagint and Qumran studies as well as in the study of biblical archaeology is fully apparent in the work of the Academy of Finland Centre of Excellence Changes in Sacred Texts and Traditions.”

From traditions to today

Professor Levin’s own research reveals the complex origins of the Old Testament.

 “It’s still interesting to me to study biblical texts and see how their authors discuss sacred texts on one hand, and the religious thinking and challenges on the other.”

In biblical studies, Levin is fascinated by the complexity of the texts.

 “The early Jewish religious tradition present in the biblical texts is not uniform in nature, but shaped over centuries. The texts were interpreted and amended again and again so that they could be applied to the real life circumstances and religious experiences which changed over time. This is one of the reasons why the Bible continues to be a living text today.”

Promotio Doctoralis − ordinis theologorum Universitatis Helsingiensis MMXVII

The conferment ceremony of the Faculty of Theology was held in the University’s Great Hall (University of Helsinki Main Building, Unioninkatu 34) on Friday 9 June at 12.00.

Including the graduands, the number of participants was close to 500.

The master of ceremonies was Docent Outi Lehtipuu, and the head marshal, Docent Heikki Pesonen.

The conferment speech by Prof. Aila Lauha is readable here (pdf)

Conferment history

The tradition of holding conferment ceremonies was initiated in the Middle Ages when the old European universities wished to add formality and grandeur to the conferment of academic titles. Some of the symbols used in the conferment are from even earlier, from Antiquity.

The first conferment ceremony in Finland was held at the Royal Academy of Turku in 1643 based on a model adopted from Uppsala University in Sweden. During the 19th century, when Finland was under Russian rule, distinctly Finnish features were added to the ceremony. The tradition has continued unbroken in Finnish universities to this very day.

When the University had moved from Turku to Helsinki, the ceremony assumed an increasingly impressive profile and the festivities could continue for three or even four days. The conferment is the grandest and most historic celebration of academic work.

More information:

Conferment Secretary Maarit Elo-Valente, tel. +358 2941 22123,