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James joined St Mary’s in September 2015 as Professor of Bible, Society and Politics after ten years at the University of Sheffield where he was Professor of Bible, Culture and Politics. His research and teaching interests can be put into two broad categories: Christian origins and Judaism in the 1st century; modern political receptions of the Bible, particularly (but not exclusively) in English political discourse. He has supervised and welcomes PhD students in both areas.
One of the ways he connects his interest in these two periods is through his focus on how people understand and negotiate historical change. His work on contemporary political rhetoric, for instance, looks at how the social, economic and geopolitical upheavals of the 1960s and 1970s led to distinctive ways of constructing what the Bible ‘really means’, both in English cultural and political discourse (e.g., Brexit, foreign policy, Corbyn, May, Benn, Thatcher, Blair, Cameron) and Anglo-American study of the New Testament. Similarly, his work on first-century Palestine looks at how socio-economic changes in Galilee and Judea intersected with traditions associated with Jesus and how these were then interpreted, ignored, rethought, modified, adapted, and so on.
He has published widely in both these areas. His current major project is on uses of the Bible in the English radical tradition from the Peasants’ Revolt to the present.
James is one of the academic directors of the Centre for the Critical Study of Apocalyptic and Millenarian Movements (CenSAMM) for the Panacea Charitable Trust. He has also been editor and on editorial boards for a number of journals and monograph series, such as Journal for the Study of the Historical Jesus, Postscripts, Biblical Reception, Religious Studies and Theology, Biblical Refigurations (OUP), Bible World (Equinox), and Social World of Biblical Antiquity (Sheffield Phoenix Press). He is a member of, or has been actively involved in, Studiorum Novi Testamenti Societas, Society of Biblical Literature, European Association of Biblical Studies, British New Testament Society, and the British Association of Jewish Studies.
Recent books include:
- Cults, Martyrs and Good Samaritans: Religion in Contemporary English Political Discourse (London: Pluto; Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2018)
- Harnessing Chaos: The Bible in English Political Discourse since 1968 (updated edition; London and New York: T&T Clark/Bloombsury, 2016)
- Jesus and the Chaos of History: Redirecting the Life of the Historical Jesus (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2015)
- Jesus in an Age of Neoliberalism: Quests, Scholarship, Ideology (London: Routledge, 2012)
- The New Testament and Jewish Law: A Guide for the Perplexed (London and New York: T&T Clark, 2010)
- Jesus in an Age of Terror: Scholarly Projects for a New American Century (London: Equinox, 2008)
Recent articles include:
- ‘Once Upon a Time in the West…The Fate of Religion, the Bible, and the Italian Western’ in T&T Clark Companion to the Bible and Film (ed. R. Walsh; T&T Clark/Bloomsbury, 2018)
- ‘By What Authority Are You Doing These Things? A Brief History of the Bible in English Political Discourse from Margaret Thatcher to Jeremy Corbyn’, Biblical Theology Bulletin 46 (2016), pp. 144-153
- ‘Borges’ God, Jonathan Meades’ Precursor’ in Borges and the Bible (ed. R. Walsh and J. Twomey; Sheffield Phoenix Press, 2015)
- ‘Jesus, Healings and Mark 2:1-12: Forgiveness, a Release, or Bound Again to the Great Satan?’, Evil in Second Temple Judaism and Early Christianity (ed. C. Keith and L. T. Stuckenbruck; Tübingen: Mohr Siebeck, 2015)
- ‘The Meaning Monty Python’s Jesus’, in Jesus and Brian: Exploring the Historical Jesus and his Times via Monty Python's Life of Brian (ed. J. Taylor; London: T&T Clark/Bloomsbury, 2015)
- (with Jackie Harrison) ‘The Mediation of the Distinction of “Religion” and “Politics” by the UK Press on the Occasion of Pope Benedict XVI’s State Visit to the UK’, Political Theology 14 (2015), pp. 329-45
- (with Jackie Harrison), ‘Atheism, Christianity and the Press: Press coverage of Pope Benedict XVI’s 2010 state visit to the UK’, Implicit Religion18 (2015), pp. 77-105
- ‘A “Very Jewish” Jesus: Perpetuating the Myth of Superiority’, Journal for the Study of the Historical Jesus 13 (2014), pp. 109-129
- ‘Christian Origins, “the Land”, and the Ideological Scholarly Apparatuses’, in Reading the Bible in Israel: Archaeology, Biblical Studies and the Politics of Nation Building (eds. E. Pfoh and K.W. Whitelam; Sheffield: Sheffield Phoenix Press, 2013)
- ‘Halakah and Mark 7.3: “with the hand in the shape of a fist”’, New Testament Studies 58 (2012), pp. 57-68
- ‘Enoch Powell and the Gospel Tradition: A Search for a Homeland’ in Holy Land as Homeland? Models for Constructing the Historic Landscapes of Jesus (ed. K.W. Whitelam; Sheffield: Sheffield Phoenix Press, 2012), pp. 134-150
- ‘Life of Brian or Life of Jesus? Uses of Critical Biblical Scholarship and Non-orthodox Views of Jesus in Monty Python’s Life of Brian’, Relegere: Studies in Religion and Reception (2011), pp. 95-116
- ‘Mark 7.1-23: Revisiting the Question of “All Foods Clean”’, in Torah in the New Testament (eds. M. Tait and P. Oakes; London and New York: T&T Clark, 2009), pp. 8-20
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