A venn diagram with three circles overlapping with one another and together in the middle. A blue circle is "The New Testament"; a yellow circle is "Early Christianity"; a pink circle is "Ancient Judaism"

Research Areas

  1. The New Testament (Paul’s Letters, the Gospel of Mark, Social History)
  2. The New Testament within Judaism
  3. Influence and Reception of Bodies and Disability in ancient Judaism, the Graeco-Roman World, and early Christianity (circumcision, demonology, dwarfism)
  4. Disability and Embodiment (Socio-cultural model of disability, disability in the history of interpretation)

Project Synopses and Trajectories

Paul and Disability

My primary focus for the last seven years has been thinking about, staring at, analyzing, contemplating the body of Paul of Tarsus, the self-proclaimed apostle to the gentiles (Rom 11:13)

My dissertation at the University of Oxford focused on the visual appearance of Paul the apostle, and my thesis at Durham University analyzed Paul as a disabled apostle in the ancient Graeco-Roman world. This latter book has been accepted for publication with Oxford University Press and I am excited to share it with the world. Not only do I uncover three previously unknown disabilities of Paul, but I offer surprising and challening re-interpretations of key Pauline texts.

Circumcision in the Ancient World

A significant portion of my published work deals with ancient Jewish circumcision and its reception in the Graeco-Roman world and early Christian literature.

I have found ancient circumcision to be a fruitful way of interrogating biases inherent in ancient scholarship itself. My work on circumcision in 1 Maccabees, for example, problematizes the notion that the Hasmonean ancestors forcefully and coercively circumcised non-Jews. I instead argue that they are viewed as faithful restorers of Jewish living in the wake of severe restrictions because of Antiochus IV. My research also raises questions about the circumcising happening in the Galatian community, which Paul addresses in his letter to them. Far from being a desirable physical feature in the Graeco-Roman world, I argue that Paul’s audience would have understood circumcision as a barbarian and sub-human practice and that they were being coerced to do so against their will. As Christianity became dominated more and more by a non-Jewish majority, invective toward Jewish practices, not least circumcision became more severe. In my work I demonstrate how early Christian writers like the author of the Epistle of Barnabas demonize (literally) Jewish circumcision by associating it with the devil.

Bodies Beyond the “Normal” in Early Christian Literature

A growing segment of my research focuses on the non-normate (“normal”) ways that early Christian texts portray the bodies of key early Christian figures. This project interrogates the notion that early Christian texts conceive of a static and unchanging “ideal body” for its protagonists.

My first work in this area is a forthcoming article in the Journal of Biblical Literature that argues that “the short one” in Luke 19 is not in fact Zacchaeus (the oft-called “wee little man”), but that an equally valid way of reading the text is to understand Jesus as the person with short-stature. In this piece I push back against longstanding scholarship that has argued the New Testament contains no physical description of its subject and against the inherit ableism that assumes key figures in the Jesus movement (including Jesus himself) were able-bodied. This is the first study of a book-length work analyzing key figures in early Christian literature.

Are you an editor interested in this project? Please get in touch.

Death and Dying in the New Testament

A branch of my research that I’m particularly excited about is a book-length project on death and dying in the New Testament.

Often scholars have focused on two aspects of death in the New Testament, the significance of Jesus’s death (atonement) and what happens after believers died (resurrection of the dead). In this book-length project, I analyze conceptions of death in the New Testament (along with taboo topics like suicide and self-killing) in conversation with wider conceptions of death in the wider Mediterranean world. With this project I hope to shed new light on what this anthology of Christian texts can teach us about death in an age where the lives of 6.5 million people (and counting) have been ended by a global pandemic.

Are you an editor interested in this project? Please get in touch.