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Triple Success for Sea Yun Pius Joung who Receives Gibbs Prize and Two Harvard Scholarships

Sea Yun Pius Joung, a recent graduate in Theology and Religion, has been awarded the Gibbs Prize from the Faculty of Theology and Religion. His mark of 85 for his dissertation on ‘St Cyprian of Carthage’s Ecclesiological Interpretation of the Canticle of Canticles’ was the highest mark awarded in an FHS dissertation in the faculty. Sea Yun’s thesis “involved reading the entire corpus of St Cyprian and translating select passages from the original Latin, then reading the text closely to make an original argument.”

During his time at Oriel, Sea Yun was the JCR International Officer (involved in both the Equalities Subcommittee and JCR Committee), Bible Clerk for the Chapel (working closely with the Rev’d Dr Robert Wainwright), manager of the Oriel Chapel social media page and Editor-In-Chief of The Oxford Scientist for two full terms.

Having graduated and moved to the USA, Sea Yun has since been awarded both the prestigious Harvard Presidential Scholarship (awarded in the name of the President of the University to the top student(s) in each of the Harvard Schools), and the Frank Knox Memorial Fellowship – a travelling fellowship awarding full tuition and a generous living stipend to support his continuing scholarly research.

Sea Yun’s studies at Harvard will focus on the ‘Mediterranean of Late Antiquity’.

He explains:

“I hope to study from 100BCE to 787ACE, especially a vibrant period of Neoplatonism, Christianity, and Second Temple Judaism, all of which I am interested in. My work with Dr Brendan Harris, Professor William Wood, and Professor Hindy Najman among others really raised my interest in this field, and I hope to continue further at Harvard.”

Recently, Sea Yun has been in Pittsburgh writing a paper for the National Institute for Newman Studies and continuing Oriel’s legacy in the USA. When asked about his aims for the future, Sea Yun says:

“I am still discerning my future, and may very well decide to take Holy Orders – at any rate though, I would really like to be able to stay in academia if possible, and will seek to return to Oxford (hopefully Oriel) for a DPhil.”

We wish Sea Yun the best with his career and his time at Harvard.

You can read a more in-depth explanation of Sea Yun’s dissertation topic below in his own words.

The Prize-winning Dissertation

“My dissertation was on the Ecclesiological Interpretation of the Canticle of Canticles by St Cyprian of Carthage. The Canticle of Canticles (Song of Songs) is a book of the Hebrew Bible / Old Testament, which is essentially love poetry with verses alternating between the man and his beloved. The question that concerns both Jews and Christians is that it is Scriptural, yet mentions hardly anything of religious value. Hence, both the Rabbis and the Early Church begin to allegorise the text as being about God’s love for Israel, or about His love for the Church, or even of the individual soul.

My dissertation was about how St Cyprian of Carthage (Bishop of Carthage in North Africa from 248 until his martyrdom in 258) ecclesiological traditions surrounding the Canticle of Canticles to contest the rival “Novatian” and “laxist” communions – rival bishops of Carthage that contested his authority. A Cyprian scholar, Karl Shuve, argues that Cyprian used the Canticle of Canticles to only exclude those of rival communions. I wanted to show that Cyprian’s ecclesiology is a little more nuanced than portrayed by previous scholars. In short, Cyprian used the Song ingeniously to fulfill the crucial task: including lapsi whilst excluding schismatici – he wanted to say to the Novatians that the Christians that had lapsed during the Decian persecution should be readmitted, but that the schismatics should be firmly excluded from the Communion of the Church.

Revisiting Cyprian’s ecclesiology is important for modern day ecumenical dialogue, in which definitions of Church boundaries matter. Cyprian’s legacy in particular has significance because debates in the Reformation by figures such as Cardinal Pole and Archbishop Cranmer rely often on readings of Cyprian and the Church Fathers.

It is this loving relationship between God and His Church that would endure in significance through Augustine, Leo, and Gregory,  to even the modern  ecclesiological, sacramental context, to the Dogmatic Constitution of the Second Vatican Council, Lumen Gentium, which declares that “God gathered together as one all those who in faith look upon Jesus as the author of salvation and the source of unity and peace, and established them as the Church that for each and all it may be the visible sacrament of this saving unity (singulis sacramentum visibile huius salutiferae unitatis).”