The Program in Biblical and Early Christian Studies pursues research on Greek, Latin, Syriac, and Coptic Christian traditions up to c.1000 CE.

In keeping with the foundational importance of the texts that came to form the canon of Christian scripture, one of the program’s main areas of focus is the discipline traditionally known as biblical studies. The program aims to put these texts in a wider historical context by examining less mainstream Christian traditions, as well as the reception of biblical texts in the late antique period and beyond.

A further aim of the program is to examine the way in which Christian traditions from the first century onwards interacted with the religious and cultural matrices out of which they emerged, especially the Jewish and Greco-Roman heritages. A related important area of research is exploring the processes associated with, and ramifications of, Christianity’s growing power in the ancient world, and the transformation of the Roman Empire into Byzantium in the East and medieval Christendom in the West.

Our researchers study some of the following topics:

  • the interaction of canonical and non-canonical literature
  • Hellenistic Judaism, including Philonic studies
  • textual criticism and the history of the book
  • Christian attitudes towards medicine
  • experimentation with literary genres such as the dialogue
  • Christian practices of asceticism
  • the development of doctrine during this period
  • Christian responses to the rise of Islam from the seventh century onwards.

Our research also aims to advance conversations with other areas of contemporary theology, hermeneutics, and religious studies.

Our research team

Our global and multidisciplinary team of scholars are experts in the fields of religion, theology, history, and literature.

Meet our team


Study with us

The scholars in the IRCI's Biblical and Early Christian Studies program stand at the forefront of these fields in Australia and work with a rich network of collaborators spread around the globe. 

Research students in the BECS program are encouraged to participate in all of the program’s activities including the fortnightly seminar and reading groups. Our cohort of MPhil and PhD students form a lively and supportive community that is quickly expanding. If you are interested in studying with us, please email Program Director Associate Professor Matthew Crawford or one of our other researchers.

Current projects

Flourishing in Early Christianity

An internationally collaborative, five-year project that integrates historical, literary, and theological inquiry into the multi-faceted reality of human flourishing in ancient Christianity.

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Texts, Traditions, and Early Christian Identities

This project addresses the question: How did the earliest Christian communities employ texts and traditions ascribed to a sacred past to negotiate issues relating to their identity – who they were, why they existed, how they differed from others?

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Modes of Knowing and the Ordering of Knowledge in Early Christianity

This project explores ‘modes of knowing’ constructed by Greek, Latin and Syriac Christians 100-700 CE in relation to contemporary theological, philosophical, medical and rhetorical discourses, social practices (asceticism, pilgrimage, liturgies), imperial and institutional power structures, and the material world of early Christianity (relics, sacred texts).

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The Ancient Today: Living Traditions of Classical Language Education

This project aims to compare, for the first time, ancient language education across world cultures with ‘classical’ literatures. It expects to illumine the purpose and value of classical language education in Chinese, Greek, Latin, and Sanskrit historically and within global education systems today by comparing pedagogic ideals and practices across times and cultures.

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Completed projects

  • Religious Belief and Social Cohesion: Cyril of Alexandria’s Contra Iulianum: ARC Discovery Early Career Researcher Award, 2018-2020, Chief Investigator: Associate Matthew Crawford, in collaboration with Ca’ Foscari University of Venice.

BECS seminar program

The Biblical and Early Christian Studies program hosts a fortnightly research seminar series which showcases outstanding work in the field and nurtures scholarly conversation with participants from Australia and around the world.

View the BECS Seminar Series

Other programs

Medieval and early modern studies

The purpose of this program is to understand and reframe history through dynamic reinterpretations of the medieval and early modern past and to examine the modern world's self-conscious rejections of religious Byzantine and medieval pasts.

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History of Emotions

ACU’s Node of the Australian Research Council Centre of Excellence for the History of Emotions approaches emotions studies from the perspective of religion, philosophy, history, health humanities and literature from antiquity to today.

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Religion and theology

The Religion and Theology program supports constructive work in the study of religion that incorporates a wide range of methodologies. The program includes scholarship in religious studies that draws upon religious thought in order to address issues of widespread concern.

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ACU Institute for Religion and Critical Inquiry

Mailing address

C/- 115 Victoria Pde
Fitzroy, VIC, 3065.