Religious Studies Department

Dr. Robert Williamson

Dr. Robert WilliamsonMargaret Berry Hutton Odyssey Associate Professor of Religious Studies

Ph.D., Hebrew Bible, Emory University
 M. St., Jewish Studies, Oxford University
 M. Div., Columbia Theological Seminary
 B.S., Clemson University

Teaching and Research Interests: 

  • Biblical Wisdom Literature
  • Jewish and Christian Apocalypticis
  • Death and Symbolic Immortality in Biblical Tradition
  • Classical Jewish Biblical Interpretation
  • Dead Sea Scrolls
  • Hebrew Language 

Personal Statement 

My scholarly work focuses primarily on the Wisdom literature of the Hebrew Bible and cognate literatures. I am presently working on a volume that examines the construction and break-down of symbolic immortalities in the Wisdom literature, employing social-psychological research known as Terror Management Theory. The work focuses primarily on the book of Qohelet (Ecclesiastes), but also examines Proverbs, Ben Sira, and 4QInstruction. My other areas of scholarly interest include: the history of biblical interpretation, classical Jewish interpretation, and the recovery of theological insights from the “forgotten” books of the canon: Job, Lamentations, and Song of Songs, among others. 

 My teaching is an expression of my passion for the texts of the Jewish and Christian scriptures and the fundamental conviction that both these texts and my students have the potential to act in the world for the common good.  I strive to create a classroom atmosphere in which these three—student, text, and world—can interact, collide, and wrestle with one another in ways that illuminate new possibilities for both interpretation and action. My teaching reflects my belief that the Bible is always more rich and complex than any premature settlement allows—thus, I hope my students will always be surprised by what they find in my classroom. For those who think the Bible has no value, I seek to demonstrate the richness of human experience and the profound grappling with fundamental issues of identity, justice, despair, and hope that fill its pages. For those who think that the Bible provides a simple and transparent guide to life, I aim to illuminate the multiplicity of claims, beliefs, and interests it brings to expression. I hope that no one who enters my class (including myself) will emerge on the other side without having had their view of the Bible challenged, enriched, and transformed. 

Projects and Publications 

Books and Edited Collections:

  • The History of Biblical Interpretation of 1835:  A Reader (with J.H. Hayes and M.S. Rindge; Louisville:  Westminster John Knox Press, forthcoming
  • Writing the Moral Self:  Essays in Honor of Carol Newsom; special issue of Journal for the Study of the Old Testament, coedited with B.W. Breed and C.D. Hankins (forthcoming)
  • Imagination, Ideology, and Inspiration:  Biblical Studies after Walter Brueggemann (coedited with J. Kaplan; Sheffield Phoenix Press, forthcoming).

Articles and Dictionary Entries:

  • “Apocalypticism in Early Judaism,” coauthored with Justin P. Schedtler, in Apocalypses in Context: Apocalyptic Currents throughout the Ages (K. Murphy and J.P. Schedtler; Minneapolis: Fortress), in press
  • “Lamentations,” in Oxford Bibliographies: Biblical Studies (ed. C.R. Matthews; New York: Oxford University Press, antic. 2015), in press. “Taking Root in the Rubble: Trauma and Moral Subjectivity in the Book of Lamentations,” Journal for the Study of the Old Testament 40.1 (2015): 7-23
  • "'In the Way of Righteousness is Life': Symbolic Immortality in Proverbs 10-29," Journal for the Study of the Old Testament 38.1 (2014)
  • "Using Twitter to Teach Reader-Oriented Biblical Interpretation," Teaching Theology and Religion 16.3 (2013): 274-86.
  • “Miqdash (Sanctuary)” in Theologisches Wörterbuch zu den Qumrantexten /The Theological Dictionary of the Qumran Manuscripts [ThWQ] (ed. H–J Fabry and U. Dahmen; Stuttgart: Kohlhammer, 2013), 765-71.
  • “Pesher: A Cognitive Model of the Genre,” Dead Sea Discoveries 17 (2010):  307-31.
  • “Reading Job from the Margins: Dialogical Exegesis and Theological Education,” in SBL Forum (Summer 2008;
  • “Lament and the Arts of Resistance: Public and Hidden Transcripts in Lamentations 5,” in Lamentations in Ancient and Contemporary Contexts (ed. Nancy C. Lee and Carleen Mandolfo; SBL Symposium Series; Leiden/Atlanta: Brill/SBL, 2008), 67-80. 

Curriculum Vitae: