Synopsis of Primary


Gospel and Epistles of John

Historical Criticism, Literary Criticism, Interpretation

A significant segment of my research challenges the ways that scholars have understood the Gospel and Epistles of John.

For over fifty years, scholars have claimed that the biblical books of John, 1 John, 2 John, and 3 John originated in an ancient, sectarian Christian movement: the so-called “Johannine community.” We have no external evidence for this movement; we have only the above four texts, which scholars claim reveal the history of this community. In a recent article, however, I have argued that no such community existed. Instead, the four Johannine texts are probably a chain of ancient literary fakes/forgeries, penned by authors of different extractions, and not reliable sources for historical reconstruction (“Did the Johannine Community Exist?” JSNT; see link below). I am now developing a book that takes this thesis forward, arguing for a dramatic redescription of early Christianity and a sea change in scholarly discussions of these ancient texts.

The Biblical in Late Antiquity

Cultural History, Biblical Reception, Liturgical Studies

Another segment of my work enhances what we know about the late ancient world by looking more closely at its reception of biblical texts, figures, and images.

My first book, tentatively entitled Inventing Stephen: The Cult of the Protomartyr in Late Ancient Jerusalem, sits squarely within this area of my research. As the Mediterranean was Christianized in the fourth and fifth centuries, cities seeking to bolster their prestige drew on the fame of local martyrs to claim importance for themselves as spaces. Rome famously articulated its identity around Peter and Paul, while Constantinople claimed the legacy and relics of Andrew. In Inventing Stephen, I demonstrate that church officials in Jerusalem worked for several decades to position Stephen in a similar role—that is, as a symbol of the city’s prestige and identity. Canvassing the diverse expressions of Stephen’s local cult, my book illuminates Jerusalem as a cultural site, revealing how the church understood its biblical past, how it articulated this self-understanding through and around the biblical martyr it selected as its own special patron, and how it reproduced this knowledge in a range of texts, monuments, and ritual practices.