Migration and the Bible

We are exploring how involuntary migration - people fleeing environmental disasters, war, or persecution in various forms - influences the ways that biblical texts recount history, motivated its authors to shape its stories, and led ancient communities to respond to the other cultures encountered in their movements.

Close up image of an antique globe showing North America

Research aims

While there are many things we don't know about the ancient world, one that we do know is that there was a great deal of involuntary migration. Between environmental forces like famine that caused people to migrate and imperial powers capturing and deporting many people in an effort to gain power, involuntary migration was a common experience. The traditional stories of ancient Israel preserved in the Hebrew Bible (aka the Old Testament) highlight migration, for example the narrative about Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, and Jospeh in Genesis. The New Testament deals with the theme too, present Jesus as an involuntary migrant and making it a metaphor for the Christian life.

One aim of this research strand is to use what we know about the experience of involuntary migration to aid the interpretation of these texts and the reconstruction of the historical events that gave rise to them.

A second aim is to explore how the Bible informs contemporary issues relating to migration. In a world where migration is increasingly prominent and puts people from different religious perspectives into contact with one another, future work will need to explore how the fresh understanding of the biblical texts can inform policy debates, interreligious dialogue, and general views about how to respond to migration and migrants themselves.

Previous events

For related events, see the Migration Research @ Sheffield network.

Project leads

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