Gann History Teacher Appeared in Recent CNN Documentary
April 7, 2017
How many high school students can say that their history teacher is one of the world’s leading authorities on an infamous ancient king?
Adam Marshak’s students can. On Sunday, March 26, many of them tuned in to CNN to see him interviewed about King Herod for a documentary series entitled Finding Jesus: Faith, Fact or Forgery? The episode was about the search for Herod’s tomb, and Marshak, who has a doctorate from Yale in Roman History, published a book in 2015 called The Many Faces of Herod the Great.
Marshak’s CNN interviewer focused the questions on Herod the man. Was he crazy? (Marshak doesn’t think so). Did he really murder so many family members? (Yes, three sons, one wife, one mother-in-law and one grandfather-in-law. Think Game of Thrones, but in a warmer climate. ) Marshak also talked about the Judean king as a prolific builder: his most famous projects were the Temple Mount and Caeserea Maritima.
The early church is one of Marshak’s scholarly interests, and for eight years he taught a course at Gann on early Christianity. “The class speaks to the school’s commitment to diversity and engagement with the world,” explains Marshak. “Our students live in a non-Jewish world, and it's important that they engage with and learn about other religions. Learning about Christianity helps the kids have a deeper understanding of their own religious tradition.”
Marshak says that he eschewed the life of a “publish or perish” university professor for many reasons, among them that the academic world can be extremely insular, in contrast to the intellectual community he has found at Gann. “One of the things that makes Gann so unique is its faculty,” he explains. “There are some really gifted scholars, thinkers and scientists and we all learn from each other. In the university world, it’s unlikely I would sit and talk to a mathematician about game theory or have the opportunity to collaborate across disciplines like we so often do at Gann.” Marshak’s other reason for teaching high school is simple: “Professors teach subjects, teachers teach kids. I love teaching.”
Marshak’s courses this term are a 10th grade European history class, a course for 12th graders on the creation of the Nazi state, and a senior elective called Second Temple Judaism, where students are writing original research papers that they will present to each other in a conference-style panel in the spring. Marshak has also recruited several ancient Jewish history scholars, including Harvard Professor of Hebrew Literature and Philosophy Shaye Cohen, to read his students’ final papers and provide feedback.
Explains Marshak, “My goal is to teach these kids to be true scholars. When they leave Gann, they’ll be ready to hit the ground running doing academic research on a college level.”