Religious Studies, ClassicsDirector, Religious Studies Program Ph.D. 2004 (Religion), Princeton University; M.St. 2001 (Syriac Studies), Oxford University; M.A. 1997 (Classics), New York University; B.A. 1994 (Classics), Columbia University.
Office Address: Program in Religious Studies, 726 Broadway, Room 554 Phone: 212-998-8940 Email:
External Affiliations: Society of Biblical Literature; American Academy of Religion.
My research interests include Christian martyrdom in the Sasanian Empire, Jewish-Christian relations in Late Antiquity, the social and intellectual history of the Syriac (Christian Aramaic) tradition, the missionary encounter in the nineteenth century, and the theoretical problems pertaining to the study of religion in pre-modernity.
My dissertation book, Fear of God and the Beginning of Wisdom: The School of Nisibis and Christian Scholastic Culture in Late Antique Mesopotamia (Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press, 2006), is a history of the East-Syrian (i.e. Syriac "Nestorian" Christian) school movement and includes material on the reception of the Neoplatonic version of Aristotelian logic in Mesopotamia in the sixth century CE.
My background is in philology and history of religions in antiquity, but I regularly teach courses on secularism and social theoretical approaches to religion. I often read Latin, Greek, and Syriac sources with students, whereas my undergraduate lecture courses include "Gender in Early Christianity," "Jews and Christians in the Ancient World," and "Martyrdom, Ancient and Modern."
The book I am currently completing addresses the interaction between American Evangelical missionaries and the indigenous Christian community of upper Mesoptamia in the nineteenth century and the secular ethnic nationalism that resulted in this encounter. I am also currently developing a series of translations of the Persian Martyr Acts.
Revival and Awakening: Christian Mission, Orientalism, and the American Evangelical Roots of Assyrian Nationalism (1834-1906) (Working Title) (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, forthcoming 2014).
“St. Augustine,” Cambridge Companion to Autobiography and Self-Writing (forthcoming 2014)
Introduction and Translation of “The Synod of Mar Gewargis of 676,” Conciliorum Oecumenicorum Generaliumque Decreta (CODG).
Sources for the Study of the School of Nisibis (Translated Texts for Historians 50; Liverpool: Liverpool University Press, 2008).
The Ways That Never Parted, Reprint in paperback with a new preface (Minneapolis: Augsburg Fortress Press, 2007).
Fear of God and the Beginning of Wisdom: The School of Nisibis and the Development of Scholastic Culture in Late Antique Mesopotamia (Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press, 2006).
The Ways That Never Parted: Jews and Christians in Late Antiquity and the Early Middle Ages, co-edited with Annette Yoshiko Reed (Texts and Studies in Ancient Judaism; Tübingen: Mohr Siebeck, 2003).
Articles in Peer-Reviewed Journals
“Positing a ‘Cultural Relationship’ between Plato and the Babylonian Talmud: Daniel Boyarin’s Socrates and the Fat Rabbis (2009),” Jewish Quarterly Review 101 (2011): 255-269.
“The Comparative Study of ‘Scholasticism’ in Late Antique Mesopotamia: Rabbis and East Syrians,” Association of Jewish Studies Review 34 (2010): 91-113.
“Martyrdom, Religious Difference, and ‘Fear’ as a Category of Piety in the Sasanian Empire: The Case of the Martyrdoms of Gregory and of Yazdpaneh,” Journal of Late Antiquity 2.2 (Fall 2009): 300-336.
“The Discourse on Priesthood (BL Add 18295 137b-140b): An Anti-Jewish text on the Abrogation of the Israelite Priesthood,” Journal of Semitic Studies 51.1 (2006): 85-115.
“Doctoring the Past in the Present: E. A. Wallis Budge, the Discourse on Magic, and the Colonization of Iraq,” History of Religions 44.3 (2005): 175-215.
“Anti-Judaism and Care of the Poor in Aphrahat’s Demonstration 20,” Journal of Early Christian Studies 10.3 (2002): 305-327.
Articles in Edited Volumes
“Polishing the Mirror: Some Thoughts on Syriac Sources and Early Judaism,” for a Festschrift for Peter Schäfer, ed. Ra‘anan Boustan et al. (Tübingen: Mohr Siebeck, forthcoming 2013).
“Political Theology and Religious Diversity in the Sasanian Empire,” in Between Contact and Contrast: Jews and Christians in Sasanian Mesopotamia, ed. Geoffrey Herman (Piscataway, NJ: Gorgias, forthcoming 2013).
“Christian Society,” in Oxford Handbook of Social Relations in the Roman World, ed. Michael Peachin (New York: Oxford University Press, 2011), 567-86.
“The Ancient Near East in the Late Antique Near East: Syriac Christian Appropriation of the Biblical Past,” in Antiquity in Antiquity: Jewish and Christian Pasts in the Greco-Roman World, ed. Gregg Gardner and Kevin Osterloh (Tübingen: Mohr Siebeck, 2008), 394-415. [This article will be reprinted in a forthcoming edited volume.]
“The Dynamic Reception of Theodore of Mopsuestia in the Sixth Century: Greek, Syriac, and Latin,” in Greek Literature in Late Antiquity: Dynamism, Didacticism, Classicism, ed. Scott Fitzgerald Johnson (Aldershot, Hampshire: Ashgate, 2006), 29-47.
“Bringing the Heavenly Academy Down to Earth: Approaches to the Imagery of Divine Pedagogy in the East-Syrian Tradition,” in Heavenly Realms and Earthly Realities in Late Antique Religions, ed. Ra‘anan Boustan and Annette Yoshiko Reed (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2004), 174-191.
“Beyond the Spatial and Temporal Limes: Questioning the ‘Parting of the Ways’ Outside the Roman Empire” in The Ways That Never Parted, ed. Becker and Reed (see above), 373-92.
Tools/Commentaries on Texts
Annotated Translation of and Introduction to 2 Baruch for The Lost Bible: Ancient Jewish Writings Outside of Scripture, ed. Louis Feldman, James Kugel, and Lawrence Schiffman (Jewish Publication Society, forthcoming 2013).
New edition of the Greek and Syriac fragments of “Bardesanes,” including biographical essay and commentary in Brill’s New Jacoby: Fragments of Greek Historians, ed. Ian Worthington (Leiden: Brill, 2006).