• Founded
  • Seminar Number

This seminar focuses on texts from the Mediterranean world of late antiquity, particularly as they relate to Christian origins. While it studies the New Testament, it also considers the Dead Sea Scrolls, Nag Hammadi texts, patristic literature, rabbinic material, and Greco-Roman texts.

Professor John Edwards

Professor Emma Wasserman

Jermaine Ross-Allam

Meeting dates and locations are subject to change. Please confirm details with the seminar rapporteur.

Meeting Schedule

09/19/2019 Faculty House, Columbia University
7:00 PM
Hegemonic Masculinity: A Useful Category for New Testament Analysis?
Colleen Conway, Seton Hall University


As the use of critical masculinity studies for New Testament interpretation has proliferated, so have debates regarding the concept of hegemonic masculinity and its applicability to New Testament writings. Biblical scholars are not alone in raising questions about Raewyn Connell’s theory of hegemonic masculinities. Various objections, questions and refinements to the theory can be found across the humanities. Nevertheless, the concept remains at the center of critical studies of masculinities because no other theory has offered so clear an account of power relations between patterns of masculinity. Given both the ongoing significance of this social theory of hegemonic masculinity and its weaknesses, this paper explores the potential of an alternative framework offered by historian Ben Griffin. Griffin’s proposed four-fold operation for the historical study of power and masculinity will be tested for its usefulness for biblical analysis with the usual suspects as subjects – Paul, Jesus and other male heroes from Acts.

11/07/2019 Faculty House, Columbia University
7:00 PM
Metonymy and Revelation 22:2—A Visual Exegetical Exploration
Amy Meverden, Manhattan College


The acanthus plant is one of the most important iconographic symbols of power in Roman imperial times, especially during Augustus’ reign. In addition to functioning as a metonym for Apollo and a symbol of healing and eternal life, acanthus holds special significance for the Augustan imperial program: it signifies the healing of the wounds of the nation in the wake of divisive warfare.

On the Caryatid Relief, early first-century C.E., acanthus vines emerge from behind the body of a personified female captive flanked by two caryatids, who come to be interpreted in the Augustan era as female personifications of conquered nations: imagery that when combined implies both the vegetal abundance ushered forth by Pax Augusta and the healing of the nation by the Roman Empire after the devastation of warfare. The “healing” acanthus grows behind—but gives the impression of growing directly out of—the body of the female captive and extends to the two caryatids on either side. The three captive women/personified nations represent the spoils of Rome’s victories and the conquered bodies out of whom the security of Rome’s dominion is ensured. The eternity of Rome physically grows out of the bodies of the conquered nations, fertilizing Rome’s prosperity and securing its future victory in warfare. The imagery suggests that the peace following warfare restores the nations, thus serving as a justification of Roman victory as healing for those whom they conquer.

The following paper reads Revelation 22:2, specifically the final portion of the verse, “and the leaves of the tree are for the healing of the nations,” with the Caryatid Relief, asking what insights can be gained by connecting the iconography of the caryatids, central personified conquered nation, and acanthus to the healing leaves and nations depicted in Revelation’s description of the Tree of Life.

01/30/2020 Faculty House, Columbia University
7:00 PM

Paul Dilley, University of Iowa

02/13/2020 Faculty House, Columbia University
7:00 PM

Matthew Larsen, Princeton University

04/02/2020 Faculty House, Columbia University
7:00 PM

Davina Lopez, Eckerd College

04/16/2020 Faculty House, Columbia University
7:00 PM

Lynne Bahr, Fordham University