Thesis Title: Aquinas, Heidegger, and Ontotheology: A Study in Philosophical Theology and Metametaphysics
Supervisors: Philip McCosker, Emmanuel Falque, Richard Colledge and Robyn Horner.
Thesis Abstract: This research readdresses the 'classical' question of Aquinas' concept of God qua being vis-à-vis Heidegger's concept of ontotheology, to wit, whether the former to any extent exemplifies the latter. Despite the question's repeated treatment, this research promises originality in three ways. First, it operates through the humanistic projects of Aquinas' philosophical theology and Heidegger's metametaphysics to privilege the fundamental human faculty that, although interpreted as ratio by Aquinas and Denken by Heidegger, most approximates the one to the other and respects the thought of each even when considered through that of the other. Second, it does so based upon comprehensive knowledge of the major seminal and novel commentaries on the question, found in English and French continental and analytic literature, which variously illuminate and obfuscate its answer. Third, it relates this answer, which is not simple, to consequences for Thomistic philosophical theology and Heideggerian metametaphysics in academic and ecclesiastic domains.
Thesis Title: Virtual Gods and Symbolic Spaces: Zizek's Theology in Context
Supervisors: Stefano Biancu (LUMSA), David Newheiser
Thesis Abstract: Aleksander's work has to do with nostalgia and Catholic notions of romance and reality in Žižek; he is also concerned with interpreting the Catholic tradition in terms of myth. These interests have led him to a re-reading of G.K. Chesterton, Hilaire Belloc, and Evelyn Waugh.
Thesis Title: Experiencing a World Without God: Emmanuel Falque and Primacy of Finitude
Supervisors: Robyn Horner
Thesis title: A Collective Approach to the Ethics of the Catholic Epistles
Supervisors: Stephen Carlson, Benjamin Edsall
Thesis abstract: Recently, some scholars working on the New Testament letters called the Catholic Epistles (James-Jude) have proposed that these letters should be read together as a literary collection. Beyond reading these letters as a literary collection, the concern of this thesis is the actual interpretation of them, and especially their ethics, from a collective standpoint. Two ethical motifs that were prominent in ancient ethical discourse (namely, mimesis and love) will be treated before exploring two ethical motifs that only rise to prominence when these Epistles are read together (namely, restoration of an errant believer and perfection). In addition to highlighting the rich potential that a collective approach offers the reader of the Catholic Epistles, these chapters will demonstrate how such a method mediates between existing methodological concerns, produces new perspectives on existing debates and generates entirely new areas of discussion.
Thesis Title: The Reception of the Second Vatican Council's vision of the lay apostolate amongst local churches in Australia
Supervisors: Ormond Rush, Christiaan Jacobs-Vandegeer
Thesis Abstract: Callum is a PhD candidate in the Faculty of Theology and Philosophy's Institute for Religion and Critical Inquiry at the ACU in Melbourne. He has a particular interest in how the theological and ecclesiological content of conciliar documents from the Second Vatican Council have been received by local churches in Australia. He is also interested in the history of Australian Catholic lay movements (particularly in Victoria and Hobart) during the 1960's, 70's and 80's. His PhD thesis topic is "The Reception of the Second Vatican Council's vision of the lay apostolate amongst local churches in Australia" and is supervised by Reverend Associate Professor Ormond Rush and Dr Christiaan Jacobs-Vandegeer. Callum also has bachelor and masters degrees in theology and religious studies from KU Leuven, Belgium.
Thesis Title: Purity and Holiness in the Gospel of Matthew
Supervisors: Kylie Crabbe, Benjamin Edsall
Thesis abstract: This project explores the dynamics of purity and holiness in the narrative world of Matthew's Gospel in its Second Temple context. The project questions how the two interrelated conceptual pairs, purity/impurity and holiness/profanity, are understood and intersect within the narrative, how the problem of impurity is resolved and what role holiness plays in this resolution, and how these concepts are applied to Jewish and Gentile characters within the Gospel narrative. In so doing, I seek to demonstrate that purity and holiness are of central importance to some of the major themes of Matthew's Gospel: Jesus' baptism, legal teachings, healing miracles, and death.
Thesis Title: The Righteous Monsters in the Book of Revelation
Supervisors: Kylie Crabbe, Robyn Whitaker, Benjamin Edsall
Thesis Abstract: The book of Revelation is known for its unusual imagery, including vivid portrayals of monstrous figures. While it is common practice to interpret the 'evil' characters as monsters due to their monstrous depictions, righteous figures with similar monstrous features do not receive the same treatment. This thesis will focus on the depictions of the messiah in the book of Revelation - namely the 'one like a son of man' (1:9-20; 2:1-3:22; 14:14-20), the slaughtered Lamb (5:6-14; 6:1; 7:9-10, 13-17; 14:1-5, 10; 17:14; 19:7, 9; 21:22-27; 22:1, 3), and the Rider on the white horse (19:11-16, 19, 21). I argue that the author of Revelation is depicting the messiah as a monster to influence the audience towards forms of moral and cultural formation. My thesis is a rhetorical reading centred on the use of ekphrasis to analyse the shape and force of these monstrous depictions within their first-century context.
Along with this, I will be bringing ekphrasis into conversation with monster theory to inform the identification of the monstrous and deepen the analysis of the monstrous messiah. This process will help form expectations for how these ekphrases of the messiah might reflect and communicate the fears, anxieties, and desires of the audiences receiving them and how they might react to them. This hybrid approach will help explore an essential question for this project: "what does it mean for the messiah to be a monster?"
Thesis Title: Beyond the Stark Thesis: Religious Conversion, Commitment, and Conviction among Women in the Ante-Nicene Christian Movement
Supervisors: Dr Stephen Carlson, Dr Dawn LaValle Norman
Thesis Abstract: An overwhelming majority of scholars accept that the earliest Church was made up of a staggeringly large proportion of women. In fact, it is estimated that up to two-thirds of the earliest Christians were women. When attempting to provide a rationale for this gender disparity, most scholars assert that the primary motivation for ancient women to accept Christianity was pragmatic-in essence, the early Church provided sociological advantages to women which classical society did not, and so women were attracted to these advantages. This view is typified by sociologist Rodney Stark, although is by no means exclusive to him. Proponents of this sociological model focus on practices in classical Roman society such as child marriages, proliferation of adultery, infanticide and abortion, and the roles of women, and suggest that Christianity presented a positive alternative, and was a prudent sociological choice.
However, within this model, the potential religious conviction or intellectual agency of ancient women is largely ignored-there is very little consideration of the possibility that perhaps women were attracted to Christianity because they genuinely believed its message. As such, my thesis will explore the role of intellectual agency and conviction in the conversion and experiences of early Christian women. This will be done by providing an overview of the sociological model, and then exploring several examples from the ante-Nicene period, including Lydia, Thecla, and Blandina, to see what can be ascertained about their own agency and conviction, and how this relates to the sociological model.
Thesis Title: A Critical Edition, with English Translation and Comments of Dionysius Bar Ṣalībī's Commentary on the Book of Daniel
Supervisors: Matthew Crawford, Stephen Carlson, Gareth Wearne
Thesis Abstract: Bar Ṣalībī was a prolific twelfth century Syrian Orthodox scholar and Archbishop of Ōmid (modern Diyarbakir). He composed some 31 Books and Treatises, mostly in Syriac. Of these works, his commentary on the Bible has a prominent place. The PhD thesis will concentrate on his 'Commentary on the Book of the Prophet Daniel'. Bar Ṣalībī's Commentary on Daniel maintains a special place among his previous and contemporary Christian and Syriac authors. In addition to his own input, it appears that Bar Ṣalībī made use of extensive patristic and secular sources in composing his Commentary. His methodology is to pair a phrase or a whole verse of the book of Daniel with his commentary. Bar Ṣalībī presents his commentary as separate literal and a spiritual interpretations. His Commentary has survived in at least 16 Syriac manuscripts, of which the earliest was copied only 18 years after his death.
Thesis Title: Physics and Theology in John Philoponus
Supervisors: Michael Champion, Matthew Crawford
Thesis Abstract: Most broadly put, my project explores the interrelationship between physics and theology in Late Antiquity. The 6th century Christian commentator on Aristotle, John Philoponus, offers an apparently conspicuous body of work dealing with both disciplines. For various reasons, however, little work has been done to provide a synthetic account of his body of work. My research seeks to provide such an account by way of an analysis of discipline, method and theory in Philoponus.
Thesis Title: "Bayesian Stemmatology and Its Application to the Text of Ephesians"
Supervisors: Stephen Carlson, Kylie Crabbe, David Litwa, Robert Turnbull (Associate Supervisor, University of Melbourne)
Thesis Abstract: This study investigates the textual tradition of the Epistle to the Ephesians from the fresh perspective of Bayesian phylogenetics. It offers a traditional (human) analysis of variant readings on their own merits in the form of a textual commentary on significant points of variation, and it incorporates this analysis and the observed data from the extant tradition into a computer-assisted approach that reconstructs the most promising family trees relating the surviving data. Other factors significant to textual criticism, such as scribal habits, can be estimated as part of the phylogenetic model, and certain forms of contamination or mixture between sources, once considered fatal to the traditional genealogical method, can be mitigated in this process. In Bayesian phylogenetics, the classical principles of textual criticism so eloquently described by Westcott and Hort and the analytical might of modern computers are joined in a harmonious and mutually reinforcing way, with great promise for future New Testament scholarship.
Thesis Title: Pentecostal Ethics in Light of Stanley Hauerwas's Account of Narrative, Virtue, and the Church
Supervisors: David Kirchhoffer, Darren Sarisky
Thesis Abstract: A critical analysis of the pentecostal movement's history reveals an inconsistent approach to ethics. Furthermore, a study of contemporary church documents indicates that pentecostal ethics retains an incoherent and inconsistent approach to justifying moral positions. Nevertheless, a closer look at pentecostal ethics scholarship illuminates some common themes, including scripture, holiness, narrative, church, and creativity. Stanley Hauerwas's theological ethics is a framework that could hold these themes together. He rejects 'mainstream' approaches to ethics and proposes an alternative that resonates with the pentecostal themes. He argues that a narrative orientated pursuit of virtue in the church community, forms the basis of Christian ethics. This project explores pentecostal ethics in light of Stanley Hauerwas's theological work and argues that a pentecostal approach is revealed in the pentecostal literature and clarified by Hauerwas.
Thesis Title: Cyril of Alexandria's De adoratione as an Exercise in Liturgical Theology
Supervisors: Matthew Crawford, Michael Champion, Jonathan Zecher
Thesis abstract: De adoratione et cultu in spiritu et veritate (ΠΕΡΙ ΤΗΣ ΕΝ ΠΝΕΥΜΑΤΙ ΚΑΙ ΑΛΗΘΕΙΑΙ ΠΡΟΣΚΥΝΗΣΕΩΣ ΚΑΙ ΛΑΤΡΕΙΑΣ) is an untranslated treatise of Cyril of Alexandria, running to over 200,000 words. Written in early fifth century Alexandria, scholars have sometimes classified this work as an anti-Jewish polemic complementing the Alexandrian violence of the time. The treatise, however, is not fundamentally polemical but rather a constructive work which guides the reader in the Christian way of life. Cyril accomplishes this primarily through exegesis of Pentateuchal texts, focussing especially on liturgical/cultic passages which he reads through Christ, who commanded that adoration (προσκύνησις) must be in spirit and in truth. By adding λατρεία (worship, or service) to his title, Cyril anticipates his treatment of the liturgical and practical/moral (ἠθικός) dimensions of the Christian way of life in a unified fashion. Through Christ, then, Israel's cultic practices become a template for the Christian way of life.
Thesis Title: Reimagining the Ethics of Assisted Dying through Compassion
Supervisors: David Kirchhoffer, Michael Champion, Jonathan Zecher
Thesis abstract: Voluntary Assisted Dying (VAD) is being increasingly legalised. The rationale for this is the consequentialist reasoning which states that we ought to do what we can to minimise or eliminate suffering, even if this means ending life. Often this reasoning is cited as being the compassionate course of action. In this thesis I will be examining the concepts of compassion and empathy and how they can be best understood in terms of both present and historical Christianity, as well as present and historical medical practice. The hope is by examining hagiographical texts and early Christian writings such as those of Augustine and Aquinas, a more complex understanding of compassion and empathy can be constructed, which will in turn assist with viewing VAD in a new way.
Thesis Title: Soteriological Participation in the Works on the Gospel of John by Augustine of Hippo and Cyril of Alexandria
Supervisors: Matthew Crawford, Lewis Ayres, and Michael Hanaghan
Thesis Abstract: Both Augustine of Hippo (354-430) and Cyril of Alexandria (d.444) have immensely impacted the Christian tradition. On the one hand, Augustine's controversies with the Donatists and Pelagians developed the doctrines on the Church and grace that are still prominent today in some western Christian traditions. On the other hand, Cyril's debate with Nestorius over Christology led to the doctrines established at the Council of Ephesus (431) while also contributing to the definition adopted at the Council of Chalcedon (451), the third and fourth ecumenical councils respectively. However, for various reasons, a comparison between these contemporary figures has received little attention in previous scholarship. The goal of my thesis is to bring these two theologians into dialogue through each figure's theorisation of soteriological participation, primarily conveyed through their exegetical works on the Gospel of John.
Thesis Title: Theologia Ficiniana: Intellectual Exchange and Spiritual Renewal in Late Quattrocento Florence
Supervisors: Peter Howard, Andrew McKenzie-McHarg
Thesis Abstract: My thesis studies the intersection of religious and intellectual history, tracing the formation of new religious cultures in relation to the internal dynamics of intellectual communities in late Quattrocento Florence. Centred around Florentine philosopher-priest, Marsilio Ficino, my project investigates the impact of Ficinian theology on local theology and religious practice, with a particular interest in Ficino's ideas on the origins of the soul and their connection to spiritual renewal. Examining the Florentine intellectual field from the early 1460s to the late 1490s, my thesis explores the use of language, media, and socio-intellectual networks in the dissemination of these ideas. I contend that Ficinian theology formed the basis of an intellectually driven religious reform movement in Florence during the later decades of the fifteenth century.
Thesis Title: The Reconfiguration of Divine Authority in Fourth-Century Trinitarianism: from Eusebius of Caesarea to Gregory of Nyssa and Didymus the Blind
Supervisors: Lewis Ayres, Matthew Crawford
Thesis Abstract: Τhere is currently a lack of scholarship on the concept and function of divine authority in the trinitarian formulae of the Fourth-Century. My research will address this lacuna by first examining this notion within the Late Antique philosophical debates over determinism and free-will and then by tracing its theological development through figures like Eusebius of Caesarea, Gregory of Nyssa, and Didymus the Blind. I will show that two distinct trajectories emerge after Nicaea (325) to the question of whether the Father eternally has authority over the Son. For Pro-Nicene and Anti-Nicene theologians alike, the correct answer to that question would transform by the end of the century into a litmus test for orthodoxy.