Professor Hugh Pyper Hugh Pyper

Professor of Biblical Interpretation

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Telephone: (0)114 222 0504


My career in biblical studies did not begin until I was 30 when I arrived at the University of Glasgow to study for a BD. Before that, I had taken a degree in Botany at Edinburgh University and, after a spell of research in Agricultural Botany, went into school teaching in London and the Lebanon. I always hope that this story is an inspiration to other maturer students – you can learn Hebrew and Greek and get yourself an academic career even if you start late!

I stayed on at Glasgow to complete a PhD and then moved to the University of Leeds where I taught for twelve happy years, ending up as Head of the School of Theology and Religious Studies there and also as Head of the School of Humanities. I also became Associate Director of the Learning and Teaching Support Network´s Philosophical and Religious Studies Subject Centre, and continue to be actively involved in national and international discussions on teaching and learning in the subject. I moved to Sheffield in September 2004.

My research interests are quite varied to say the least. My doctoral work was on one phrase in the Hebrew bible, when it came down to it: the prophet Nathan´s retort to David `You are the man´ in 2 Sam 12:5. I still find that phrase jumps out at me every time I read the story and it is a symptom of the bible´s ability to grab its readers. I am fascinated by the way in which the biblical texts have managed to survive for so long and still remain top of the best-seller lists. Whatever one´s religious commitment, that makes the Bible a unique and fascinating phenomenon and trying to explore what accounts for that is at the core of my many interests in biblical poetics, in the literary afterlife of the bible and in the impact of the bible on its readers.

Research interests

My current interests include contemporary cultural influence of the Bible; the interaction of biblical and literary studies, and Postcolonial studies.

The way in which the bible has entered into cultures worldwide is another example of its unique power to create new communities of readers and these communities have in turn brought new insights to biblical interpretation. The bible is a tool of both the colonisers and the colonised and still has important effects on contemporary politics. It is also the product of a community which had to survive the imperial ambitions of a succession of conquerors and which had its own ambitions of conquest. I have a hunch that postcolonial theory might help to explain some of the peculiar features of biblical books, and am exploring this in the commentary on Daniel I am working on.

Another interest, which is not as remote as it might appear, is in Kierkegaard and in particular in the place of the bible in his thought. As well as being endlessly fascinating to read, and remarkably funny at times, Kierkegaard´s understanding of the problems of communication is well ahead of his time, and indeed probably of ours too.

Professor Hugh Pyper talking about his research interests: