Research seminars and events

We host an exciting and engaging research seminar programme throughout the year. Some of our lectures are given by internationally leading biblical scholars, academics across a range of disciplines, University of Sheffield staff and our own postgraduate students.


Sheffield Centre for Interdisciplinary Biblical Studies

2022-23 Research Seminar Series

Google Meet, Mondays, 2-3:30pm unless otherwise noted. Please register for free on Eventbrite to receive the link for the seminar.

Semester 1

17 October Week 4

Dr Meredith JC Warren (Sheffield),  

Invisibility, Erasure, and a Jewish Tombstone in Roman Britain

Rigorous scholarship relies on evidence. But in the case of Jews in antiquity, absence of evidence has often been taken to be evidence of absence. An abundance of caution has frequently meant the erasure of Jews from antiquity, which inadvertantly lends support to white supremacist fantasies about Roman Britain. Using the test case of a tombstone from Roman Britain, I suggest that a methodology of imagination can be helpful in making sure Jews in antiquity are not invisible.

24 October Week 5

Dr Jill Hicks-Keeton and Dr Cavan Concannon, 

Beyond Scandal, Toward Scripturalization: The Museum and the Bible and the Politics of Interpretation

 Hicks-Keeton and Concannon read the controversial Museum of the Bible (Washington D.C.) as a Bible itself, tracing its provenance through twentieth-century white evangelical institution building and analyzing its production and publication as a wholly benevolent, affectively sticky, politically salient, and aspirationally imperialist scripture.

31 October, ***5:15-6:30pm*** Week 6

Annual Hallowe’en Gothic Bible Lecture

Dr Madeline Potter (York) 

‘Et Homo Factus Est’: Monsters, Mothers, and Diabolical Incarnation in Bram Stoker and Arthur Machen

In Arthur Machen’s novella ‘The Great God Pan’, a Latin inscription reads: ‘Et Diabolus incarnatus est. Et homo factus est.’ As Richard Lockhurst has noted, it is a ‘blasphemous rewriting’ of the Nicene Creed, which proclaims Christ to be the Incarnate God, born of the Virgin Mary. Beyond its language, steeped in blasphemy, how does Machen’s novella reverse theologies of being? Placing the concept of monstrous birth at the centre of Machen’s theology of horror, this lecture explores how the figure of the mother, Mary, and her satanic offspring, Helen Vaughan, seeks to destabilise the ontological distance between human and the divine. In weaving in pagan elements with his theological investigation of demonic ontologies, Machen imagines a chthonic, grounded, theology which uses the monstrous as a way of narrowing the gap between the world of humans and the world of the beyond. This lecture will uncover how Machen’s materialising, Incarnational theology of the demonic is representative of fin-de-siècle depictions of monsters as counter-embodiments of divine truths, casting the grotesque mother as a bridge between the natural and the supernatural, as demonstrated by Bram Stoker’s Dracula, where, I argue, the Count himself emerges as a demonic mother-figure. Both Machen and Stoker’s demonic mothers ultimately side-step the theological problem of analogia entis – the doctrine that although humans share in some of God’s qualities, the difference between creature and creator is ultimately greater than any similarity. Drawing on Kristeva’s account of Biblical dietary prohibitions as means of upholding and enforcing this separation, I argue that both Machen and Stoker render the mother monstrous in attempts to transgress prohibitions in view of imagining the creator and the creature as sharing in the same flesh, ultimately casting the demonic as a tool for embodied divine knowledge.

14 November Week 8

Dr Grace Emmett, Sir Henry Stephenson Research Fellow (Sheffield)

Reimagining Paul: Apostolic Portraits of Masculinity 

Dr Emmett explores the complexity of Paul’s self-presentation with respect to gender. Paul’s disabled (2 Cor 10:10, 12:7b–10, Gal 4:13–15), marked (Phil 3:5, Gal 6:17), enslaved (Gal 1:10, Phil 1:1, Rom 1:1, 1 Cor 9:19, 2 Cor 4:5), and maternal (1 Thess 2:7b–8, 1 Cor 3:1–3, Gal 4:19) body is not commonly found in visual representations of the apostle. What might it mean for conceptions of masculinity to visualise these Pauline themes and remember Paul in ways that resist more prominent depictions of him as convert, preacher, and letter-writer? Dr Emmett will give an overview of the project’s scope so far, including the commissioned visual depictions of Paul corresponding to the themes above, currently staged as a public exhibition in churches and cathedrals across the UK.

5 December Week 11

Dr Eric Vanden Eykel (Ferrum College)

The Magi: Who They Were, How They've Been Remembered, and Why They Still Fascinate

This paper examines the Magi story, its enrichments and expansions in apocryphal writing and early Christian preaching, its artistic expressions, and its modern legacy in writing and music. It will explore the fascination the Magi story elicits in both ancient and modern readers and what the legacy tells us about its storytellers--and ourselves

Semester 2

6 February Week 1

Dr Gregg Gardner (University of British Columbia)

Wealth in Early Judaism and Comparative Early Christian Perspective

How was wealth conceptualized in early Judaism? This paper will explore the concept of wealth in early Judaism, from the Second Temple period through early rabbinic writings, and include comparisons with ideas from the New Testament and early Christian writings. The paper draws on the speaker’s new book, Wealth, Poverty, and Charity in Jewish Antiquity (University of California Press, 2022)

13 February Week 2

Prof Hindy Najman (Oxford), 

Scriptural Vitality in Ancient Judaism: Poesis and Forward Moving Philology

The Hebrew Bible and Ancient Judaism more broadly exemplify a dynamic and emerging tradition of creativity, resilience, imagination ,and new ritual. The lecture focuses on practices of reading, composition and interpretation that are embedded in the history of ancient scriptures. Processes and the growth of tradition are inextricably linked to the performance of text and their ever growing and changing nature in the hands of their readers, tradents and recipients.

27 February Week 4

Dr Karen Bray (Wesleyan College),

Title TBA

13 March Week 6

Dr Naomi Hetherington (Sheffield), 

"What Would Buffy Do?": Saviours, Superheroes and Self-Sacrifice in the Time of Coronavirus

20 March Week 7

Dr Shaily Patel (Virginia Tech),

We Are All Epiphanius: Heresiology and the (Re)writing of Christian Pasts

This talk will centre methodological ethics in the study of early Christianity, specifically how scholarly attempts at defining “magic” and “heresy” as conceptual foils led modern historians to take up the tasks of ancient heresiologists. Despite our assertions to the contrary, many of us still predetermine what lies outside of “orthodoxy” before we consider the range of evidence at our disposal. This scholarly trend shows how definitions that eschew easy essentialism can also do heresiological work in terms of upholding Christian exceptionalism. This talk, therefore, is designed as a tentative invitation to “think with” the SIIBS Seminar and to imagine more fruitful ways of deploying critical concepts in the study of Christian pasts.

24 April Week 9

Dr Cate Bonesho (University of California, Los Angeles),

Carpe Diem: Saturnalia in Rabbinic Literature

The ancient Roman festival of Saturnalia is referred to by the Roman poet Catullus as the “best of days.” However, for many of the ancient Jewish communities, especially the classical rabbis living under Roman rule, the festival instead represented a productive time to demarcate the rabbinic constructions of Self and Other, as well as to authorize certain components of rabbinic Judaism. This paper investigates the rabbinic imaginations of the origins of Saturnalia in the Palestinian and Babylonian Talmud. The rabbis of the Palestinian Talmud primarily understand Saturnalia as characteristic of Roman hatred, while the rabbis of the Babylonian Talmud use Saturnalia and its association with the winter solstice to authorize a particular form of the Jewish holiday of Hanukkah.

8 May Week 11

Dr Isaac Soon (Crandall University, Canada),

The Disabling/Enabling of Paul’s Severed Head: Milk, Ejaculation, and the Nourishment of the Church in the Martyrdom(s) of Paul”

This paper analyses traditions about the decapitation of Paul’s head, focusing on the milky fluid that comes out once it is severed from his body. It explores the significance of this milk considering ancient conceptions of bodily fluids (blood, semen) and reads Paul’s disabling martyrdom as a form of enablement for early Christians.

Events at the University

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