Professor Helen Bond (MTheol PhD)
Professor in Christian Origins, Head of the School of Divinity
Ever since I first encountered historical criticism I have been fascinated by the documents that make up the New Testament, particularly the gospels. How did these documents originate? What kind of groups found them useful? What are the relations between them? And how can we disentangle their complex weave of history, theology and defence?
I’m interested in most aspects of the social, cultural and religious context of Second Temple Judaism and early Christianity, including Josephus, the Herods, and the Roman government of Judaea. Recently I’ve been immersed in historical Jesus studies, and have become intrigued not only by the figure of Jesus himself but also the history of the scholarly Quest devoted to him.
Since July 2011 I have been Director of the Centre for the Study of Christian Origins (CSCO). The Centre aims to promote research into the earliest period of Christianity. Details of upcoming events and the kind of things we are interested in can be found on our blog site:
New Testament (particularly Gospels and Acts)
Jewish and Roman world of the first century
Women in the New Testament
Roman and Jewish Trials of Jesus (Pilate, Caiaphas)
Herods, particularly Herod I and the women of his dynasty
Open to PhD supervision enquiries?
My research has tended to focus on characters within the biblical tradition. My first book was on Pontius Pilate. Although I was interested in the ‘historical Pilate,’ the main focus of my work was the various ways in which the Roman prefect was presented by the four gospels, Josephus and Philo. Differences in the portrayal of the governor can tell us quite a lot about the evangelists’ attitudes towards the Roman government of their day. These early Christian texts also mark the beginning of Pilate’s literary ‘afterlife,’ in which he enjoyed great popularity from the emerging apocryphal literature to mediaeval mystery plays and beyond.
Next I wrote a book on the high priest Caiaphas. There was less direct source material to work with here, but unscrambling the complexities of first century high priestly clans and their claims to legitimacy was fascinating - not to mention countering some commonly held and groundless assumptions about Jesus’ priestly enemies.
More information about research projects by Professor Bond are available on her Edinburgh Research Explorer profile.
Current research interestsMy most recent book was a guide to the historical Jesus (part of Continuum’s Guide for the Perplexed series). It includes a survey of research on Jesus so far, sources for his life (which I don’t think amount to much more than the gospels), and what I’ve presented as a series of ‘snapshots’ of his life, that is, short studies of what seem to me to be the most historically likely events. The next project is a work on Mark’s Passion Narrative, tentatively entitled Characterizing the Passion. It will contain a discussion of both the genre of the passion narrative and also sketches of the characters within it. Its my contention that characterization is much more fundamental to the way the story is put together than is often recognised.
Affiliated research centres
A fitting end? Self-denial and a slave’s death in Mark’s life of Jesus
Introduction to volume 1
Gospel of John
The Reception of Jesus in the First Three Centuries
The Real Pontius Pilate
The First Biography of Jesus
Jesus Tradition in the First Three Centuries
Putting the Bible on TV