Dr Philippa Townsend

Chancellor's Fellow: New Testament and Christian Origins


I joined the University of Edinburgh as a Chancellor’s Fellow in New Testament and Christian Origins in September 2014. I grew up in the UK and studied Classics at King’s College, Cambridge (BA) and University College London (MA) before leaving for the US to do postgraduate work in Religion at Harvard University (AM) and Princeton University (PhD). I have also studied in Jerusalem, both at the Hebrew University on a postdoctoral fellowship, and at the Albright Institute for Archaeological Research on a fellowship from the National Endowment for the Humanities. Before coming to Edinburgh, I taught at Ursinus College, a liberal arts college in Pennsylvania.   

Undergraduate teaching

I am the course manager for Women and Religion in the New Testament World and Jesus in Film. I have also contributed as a lecturer to Early Jewish Texts, The Gospels, and The History of Christianity as a World Religion.

Postgraduate teaching

I welcome inquiries from students who would like to pursue postgraduate studies in areas relating to my research.

Research summary

My research interests include the following: Early Christian identity formation Race and ethnicity in the Greco-Roman world Sacrifice in the Greco-Roman world and early Christianity Non-canonical ('Gnostic') Christian texts and the construction of orthodoxy and heresy Greek philosophical traditions (especially Neoplatonism) and their relationship to early Christianity I originally became fascinated by the origins and development of Christianity as a student of Classics, so my research attempts to explore early Christianity fully within the broader context of the Greco-Roman world. As a historian trying to understand the formation of early Christian identity in all its complexity, I am interested in cutting across traditional disciplinary boundaries to study pagan and Jewish, canonical and non-canonical texts together, and my past research has included work on Manichaean and ‘Gnostic’ texts (including the notorious Gospel of Judas), as well as the philosophical works of the Neoplatonist philosophers Porphyry and Iamblichus.

Affiliated research centres

Centre for the Study of Christian Origins

Current research interests

Current research activities My current research focuses on two projects. The first is a wide-ranging examination of Christian texts on sacrifice from the first to the third century, interpreting them within the context of the discursive association between sacrifice and kinship construction in the Jewish and Greco-Roman world. The second project, still in its early stages, is a reading of the New Testament Book of Revelation from a Jewish diaspora perspective.

Research activities

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View all 5 publications on Research Explorer