Ben Sheppard

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Ben Sheppard

Area of Focus: Ancient Mediterranean Religions


M.A., Religion, University of Chicago
A.B., Sociology, University of Georgia

Research Interests

  • Christian organization and structures of authority in the 1st and 2nd centuries
  • the Pauline network and its development
  • space and territoriality in Ignatius of Antioch
  • the consequences of mobility in early Christian communities
  • production of culture
  • study of religion as a social practice

Professional Biography

My research focuses on the social history of Christianity from its beginnings through the 3rd century CE, which necessarily entails an interest in Second Temple and early Rabbinic Judaism, as well as the Greco-Roman religious world in the Imperial period. While I am interested in the effects of gender, class, and hierarchy on early Christian communities, I find broader questions of organization, especially in terms of space and movement, to be especially fascinating and productive. My work views texts such as the Pauline and Johannine letters and the Ignatian corpus as significant sources of historical evidence for how Christian communities responded to challenges like mobility, deviance, authority, and identity formation. While my work is historical, it is informed and guided by social-theoretical models, including, but not limited to, a production of culture perspective exemplified by thinkers like Howard Becker and Pierre Bourdieu.