Vice-Chancellor's Fellows - Profile of Fellows
Dr Casey Strine
Faculty of Arts and Humanities, Department of History
My initial training is in Industrial Engineering (BIE Georgia Tech, 1998), during which I was one of five team members awarded the Georgia Engineering Foundation’s prize for best senior design project. I began my graduate studies after just over five years in management consulting and IT project management, completing a Masters of Divinity, specializing in biblical studies and languages, and then a D. Phil. in Theology at the University of Oxford. My doctorate, completed in 2011, has been published with Walter de Gruyter under the title Sworn Enemies: The Divine Oath, the Book of Ezekiel, and the Polemics of Exile.
After completing my D. Phil., I first served as College Lecturer in Old Testament for Oriel College, Oxford and then as research fellow in the Arts & Humanities Research Institute at King’s College London, where I also taught undergraduates, graduates, and PhD students in its Theology & Religious Studies department. I am now Vice-Chancellor’s Fellow and Lecturer in Hebrew Bible at the University of Sheffield.
I study the history, literature, and cultures of the ancient Near East (the area now known as the Middle East) with a specialization in ancient Israel and Judah, the two societies that produced the texts known to most as the Old Testament. My primary approach as a historian is to use the study of migration to reconstruct ancient history and to interpret ancient texts. I am especially interested in how forced migration—people fleeing environmental disasters, war, or persecution in various forms—influences the ways groups construct their history, tell those stories, and respond to the other cultures they meet because of their movements.
I am, at present, investigating how the growing body of knowledge about the causes and impacts of forced displacement can illumine the stories about Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob in the book of Genesis (chs. 12–36). Although these stories say that all three men (and their families) are forced to migrate, almost no research on how, when, where, and for what purpose Genesis was written has focused on this issue.
Beyond my work as a historian, I pursue projects that explore the role of the Bible and other sacred texts in the contemporary world. One set of projects involves working with artists and living forced migrants to create new visual depictions of these ancient stories that simultaneously highlight the present challenges facing asylum seekers and refugees. Another set of work considers ways that the Bible as a whole and the Old Testament in particular remains a resource for theology, philosophy, and ethics. I am particularly interested in questions about eschatology (the ‘end of time’), theological anthropology (what are humans meant for), and ethics.
Current Research Activity
Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, the main characters of Gen 12–36, are refugees. Abraham migrates to Canaan involuntarily, first through the choice of his father and then at the command of God. Once in Canaan, environmental factors (famine, Gen 12) force him to migrate to Egypt. Isaac, born to Abraham in his old age, assimilates into Canaanite culture to the extent that he will not leave it even when an environmental disaster (again famine, Gen 26) strikes. Instead, he drifts around Canaan to survive. Jacob grows up in Canaan, but spends his early adulthood seeking asylum in Mesopotamia to avoid the aggression of his brother Esau. Jacob remains a refugee for 20 years (Gen 31), after which he re-immigrates to Canaan only to find a transformed society, a situation typified by the conciliatory attitude of his brother (Gen 33).
This is an atypical summary of the patriarchal narrative. It nevertheless reflects the concerns of the text and underscores how inextricably Gen 12–36 is linked with the migratory experience, specifically involuntary migration. This observation also applies to the authors and tradents of the text: Genesis is, by and large, the creation of involuntary migrants; in all other cases, refugees and exiles transmitted the material, likely compiling and editing it into its final form.
These observations may seem obvious, but they have not motivated biblical scholars to utilize social scientific studies of migration to interpret the narrative. Rather, the field has remained dominated by historical-critical methods, developed largely in the 19th century. The contributions of such work cannot be discounted, but these methods are offering diminishing returns. The multi-disciplinary field of refugee studies—critical scholarship on the factors causing and the effects resulting from the forced displacement of people—has rapidly expanded since 1980 while yielding considerable new insights into the impact of involuntary migration on communities. Given the vital role of the migratory experience in Gen 12–36, the contributions of refugee studies, and the undisputed utility of social scientific approaches to the biblical text, now is an opportune time to employ the study of involuntary migration to analyze the patriarchal narrative.
I am, therefore, taking a fresh approach to demarcating the sources in Gen 12–36, initially reading the text with an eye towards its concern for involuntary displacement and subsequently using linguistic, literary, archaeological, and theological evidence to hone these insights. My research will consider four themes suggested by both the text and the study of involuntary migration: ethnic purity, justifications for land possession, interaction with foreigners, and generational attitudes towards migration. The coherence or lack thereof in the text with respect to these four themes will provide the basis for determining the sources that make up Gen 12–36. This synchronic reading—using the text’s own themes to stratify it—will underpin a diachronic reconstruction of its growth, which I shall compare with the two dominant approaches to Genesis’ development (the so-called neo-documentary and fragmentary models) in order to evaluate my contribution and to outline areas for future research.
Alongside this historically reconstructive work, I will also explore the contemporary relevance of approaching the Hebrew Bible as an account of involuntary migration. For instance, I am planning a series of co-produced research projects that seek to combine the power of sustained cross-cultural dialogue, the visual arts, and the imagery of sacred texts in order both to raise awareness of the challenges asylum seekers in the UK face and also to foster a dialogue about what it means for UK residents to show these migrants hospitality. This work will draw on the embryonic field of contextual exegesis to highlight otherwise marginalized interpretations while facilitating sustained collaboration between the arts community, academics, and the wider public that is multidisciplinary, creative, civic, and participative.
Books and Monographs:
- Sworn Enemies: The Divine Oath, the Book of Ezekiel, and the Polemics of Exile. Walter de Gruyter, Beihefte zur Zeitschrift für die alttestamentliche Wissenschaft 436, 2013.
- When the Son of Man Didn’t Come: A Critical and Constructive Proposal Regarding the “Delay of the Parousia,” with C. M. Hays, R. Ounsworth, J. Konstantinovsky, and B. Gallaher. Fortress Press, expected late 2014.
- “Ezekiel’s Image Problem: The Mesopotamian Cult Statue Induction Ritual and the Imago Dei Anthropology in the Book of Ezekiel.” Catholic Biblical Quarterly 76:2 (2014): 252-62. (Open access timeframe not available)
- “Yhwh’s Battle Against Chaos in the Book of Ezekiel,” co-authored with C. L. Crouch. Journal of Biblical Literature 132:4 (2013): 883-903. (Openly available from July 2015)
- “The Role of Repentance in the Book of Ezekiel: A Second Chance for the Second Generation.” The Journal of Theological Studies 63:2 (2012): 476-91. (Openly available from Oct 2014)
- “The Ritual Body in Ezekiel 37,” pp. 41-57 J. E. Taylor (ed.), The Body as Cultural Entity in Biblical, Early Christian and Jewish Texts. London: T & T Clark International, 2014.
- “Chaoskampf Against Empire: YHWH’s Battle Against Gog (Ezek 38–39) As Resistance Literature,” pp. 87-108 in A. Lenzi and J. Stökl (eds.), Divination, Politics and Ancient Near Eastern Empires. Atlanta, Ga.: Society of Biblical Literature, 2014. (Openly available from SBL website)
- “Pseudepigraphy and the Book Called Isaiah,” in C. M. Hays and C. Ansberry (eds.), Evangelical Faith and the Challenge of Historical Criticism. SPCK, 2013; Baker Academic, 2013.
Selected Other Publications:
- “Theology of Ezekiel,” invited article in M. D. Coogan et al (eds.), The Oxford Encyclopedia of the Bible and Theology. In press, Oxford University Press.
- Sacrifice, Praise, and Wisdom: A Guide for the Study of Old Testament Texts. University of London (International Programmes). 2012.
Public engagement activities (selected list):
- Subject Expert for ‘Secrets of the Bible’ documentary series (2014)
- Pembroke College Access & Outreach Humanities Summer School (Aug 2014): ‘Genesis, Myth and History’
- North West Centre for Theology and Religious Studies (Mar 2014): “Romance, Lies, Political Intrigue, and War in The Book of Esther”
- Vacation Term for Biblical Studies (July 2012): “Prophetic Intercession in the Old Testament.” Invited lectures series.
- Sherborne Abbey, Church of England (June 2013): “War and the Old Testament: Social and Theological Issues.” Invited lecture.
- Vacation Term for Biblical Studies (July 2009): “Torah and Temple” with Prof. Robert Hayward. Three invited lectures.
- Keynote Address, Prayer Breakfast, 168th Convention of Beta Theta Pi (Aug 2007): “Human Rights or Obligations?”
- Prof Kate Pahl
- Prof Brendan Stone
- Dr Jessica Dubow
- Dr Katie Edwards
- Emilie Taylor (Artist and Art Psychotherapist)
- Dr Aaron Rosen (King's College London)
- Dr Carly Crouch (University of Nottingham)
- Dr Mark Leuchter (Temple University)
- Dr Christopher M. Hays (Fundación Universitaria Seminario Bíblico de Colombia)
- Dr. M. Danny Carroll R. (Denver Seminary)