Tel: 020 8240 1029
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; politics and religion in English political discourse. He has supervised and welcomes PhD students in both areas.
One of the ways James 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 and religion ‘really means’, both in English cultural and political discourse 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.
His most recent research has been a major project on the most famous priest of the so-called Peasants’ Revolt—John Ball—and how he has been interpreted from the fourteenth century to the present. In addition to his book on the subject (see publications), James runs a website dedicated to the reception of John Ball (https://johnball1381.org/) which reflects his interest in making scholarship publicly available.
His current research project focuses on understandings of religion, socialism, and communism in the twentieth century.
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, where he co-edits (with Alastair Lockhart) the open access Critical Dictionary of Apocalyptic and Millenarian Movements. 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. 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 William Morris Society.
Recent books include:
- Spectres of John Ball: The "Peasants' Revolt" in English Political History, 1381-2020 (Sheffield: Equinox, 2022)
- 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/Bloomsbury, 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 and essays include:
- ‘The End of Apocalypticism: From Burton Mack’s Jesus to North American Liberalism,’ Journal for the Study of the Historical Jesus (2021), pp. 1-20
- ‘Jesus and John Ball: Millenarian Prophets,’ in ‘To Recover What Has Been Lost’: Essays on Eschatology, Intertextuality, and Reception History in Honor of Dale C. Allison Jr (ed. Tucker S. Ferda, Daniel Frayer-Griggs, and Nathan C. Johnson; Leiden: Brill, 2021), pp. 51-76.
- ‘Matthew and the Torah: Jesus as Legal Interpreter’, in Matthew within Judaism: Israel and the Nations in the First Gospel (eds. Anders Runesson and Daniel Gurtner; SBL, Early Christian Literature Series, 2020), pp. 29-52
- ‘Contemporary Politics in Ancient Texts: Some Ways to Read Scholarship on Christian Origins as Ideological History’, in Reading the Political in Jewish and Christian Texts (ed. Julia A. Snyder and Korinna Zamfir with Spencer Healey; Peeters: Leuven, 2020), 277-93
- ‘John Ball and the Bible of Violence in the 1381 English Uprising’, in Bible on Violence: A Thick Description (ed. Helen Paynter and Michael Spalione; Sheffield: Sheffield Phoenix Press, 2020), pp. 17-41
- ‘The First World War, the Russian Revolution, and the Fate of Social-Scientific Approaches to the New Testament and Christian Origins,’ in The First World War and the Mobilization of Biblical Scholarship (ed. Andrew Mein, Nathan MacDonald, Matthew A. Collins; T&T Clark: London, 2019)
- ‘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)
- ‘Class Conflict in Galilee and the Gospel Tradition: A Materialist Suggestion,’ Annali di Storia dell'Esegesi 36 (2019)
- ‘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. Joan 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
- ‘Halakah and Mark 7.3: “with the hand in the shape of a fist”’, New Testament Studies 58 (2012), pp. 57-68