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Reli Club, Introductory Meeting. JOIN US!

Curious about Religious Studies at UNC? Love pizza?

Join us on for an introduction to Religious Studies at UNC (and yummy pizza, of course). Please email Adam Tatum ( for more information.

Where: Carolina Hall, room 104

When: Thursday, September 29th @ 6:30pm

Posted in News & Events on September 22, 2022  
Congrats: Reli Dept. Faculty and Grad Students Published in New Volume

Three members of UNC’s RELI department have contributed chapters to this important new volume on Indigenous religious traditions. Congratulations to advanced graduate students Sierra Lawson (““How might we talk about Indigeneity and Catholicism in the Andes?”), Zara Surratt (“How do Indigenous religions approach disability?” and “Did Indigenous children lose their religion in US residential boarding schools?”) and to professor Brandon Bayne (“Did colonial missions destroy Indigenous Religions?”). For more information:

Posted in News & Events on September 21, 2022  
Religion & the Arts: a Reli Research Roundtable Discussion

As part of our Mclester Seminar Series, Religious Studies faculty and students will be discussing Religion & the Arts in a roundtable format on Wednesday, September 28th at 3:30pm. Please join us at the Anne Queen Lounge, Campus Y. See poster for details!

Posted in Events, News & Events on September 14, 2022  
Emerging Scholars Lecture: “Breathing Out Violence”

November 14 @ 5:30 pm – 6:30 pm

Emerging Scholars Lecture with Emily Branton, department of religious studies.

Remote event via Zoom. Registration will be required, please check back in early November for registration link.

Monday, November 14, 2022, 5:30pm, remote event: Zoom

“Breathing out violence:” Fake News and other dangerous speech in Ancient Israel

In the era of social media, we are acutely aware of how dangerous a tweet, a sound bite, or a pernicious piece of medical misinformation can be. This might feel like uncharted territory, but Ancient Israelites in the biblical period also lived in a world of dangerous and even deadly speech. Join us to explore descriptions of, and responses to, dangerous speech in the Hebrew Bible and other ancient Near Eastern literature.

Emily Branton earned a BA in Religion from Smith College, and an MA in Religion from the Divinity School at the University of Chicago. She is currently a doctoral candidate in the department of religious studies at UNC-Chapel Hill, and the 2022-23 Carolina Center for Jewish Studies Dissertation Completion Fellow. She writes and teaches about the Hebrew Bible, Ancient Near Eastern literature, pedagogy, and translation.





Posted in Graduate Student News, News & Events on August 2, 2022  
Excavations led by Prof. Jodi Magness reveal first known depictions of two biblical heroines, episode in ancient Jewish art

This 10th season of excavations in the ancient Galilean synagogue at Huqoq uncovers intricate mosaic floor panels dating back nearly 1,600 years.

UNC-Chapel Hill participants on the Huqoq dig (including grad students and alumni). Bottom row from left to right (seated): David Richman; Christine Stamey; Aislynn Grantz; Madison Brinkley; Suzy Lagunas. Top row from left to right (standing): Emily Branton; Jodi Magness; Jocelyn Burney; Matthew Grey; Grace Curry; Jada Enoch (top right). (Photo by Jim Haberman.)

A team of specialists and students led by University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill professor Jodi Magness recently returned to Israel’s Lower Galilee to continue unearthing nearly 1,600-year-old mosaics in an ancient Jewish synagogue at Huqoq. Discoveries made this year include the first known depiction of the biblical heroines Deborah and Jael as described in the book of Judges.

The Huqoq Excavation Project is now in its 10th season after recent seasons were paused due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Project director Magness, the Kenan Distinguished Professor of religious studies in Carolina’s College of Arts and Sciences, and assistant director Dennis Mizzi of the University of Malta focused this season on the southwest part of the synagogue, which was built in the late fourth-early fifth century C.E.

This season, the project team unearthed a part of the synagogue’s floor decorated with a large mosaic panel that is divided into three horizontal strips (called registers), which depicts an episode from the book of Judges chapter 4: The victory of the Israelite forces led by the prophetess and judge Deborah and the military commander Barak over the Canaanite army led by the general Sisera. The Bible relates that after the battle, Sisera took refuge in the tent of a Kenite woman named Jael (Yael), who killed him by driving a tent stake through his temple as he slept. The uppermost register of the newly-discovered Huqoq mosaic shows Deborah under a palm tree, gazing at Barak, who is equipped with a shield. Only a small part of the middle register is preserved, which appears to show Sisera seated. The lowest register depicts Sisera lying deceased on the ground, bleeding from the head as Jael hammers a tent stake through his temple.

Left: The Israelite commander Barak depicted in the Huqoq synagogue mosaic. Right: Fox eating grapes depicted in Huqoq synagogue mosaic. (Photos by Jim Haberman)

“This is the first depiction of this episode and the first time we’ve seen a depiction of the biblical heroines Deborah and Jael in ancient Jewish art,” Magness said. “Looking at the book of Joshua chapter 19, we can see how the story might have had special resonance for the Jewish community at Huqoq, as it is described as taking place in the same geographical region – the territory of the tribes of Naphtali and Zebulon.”

Also among the newly discovered mosaics is a fragmentary Hebrew dedicatory inscription inside a wreath, flanked by panels measuring 6 feet tall and 2 feet wide, which show two vases that hold sprouting vines. The vines form medallions that frame four animals eating clusters of grapes: a hare, a fox, a leopard and a wild boar.

Click HERE to continue reading the full story!

Posted in News & Events on July 12, 2022  
Dr. Eden Consenstein Joins the Department as Assistant Professor

The Department of Religious Studies is delighted to welcome Dr. Eden Consenstein to the faculty as Assistant Professor and Mary Noel and William M. Lamont Fellow in Religion and Media. Dr. Consenstein holds a Ph.D. in Religious Studies from Princeton University and is an expert in religion, media, and capitalism in the twentieth-century United States. She is currently working on two book projects. The first, Religion at Time Inc.: From the Beginning of Time to the End of Life, examines the Presbyterian media mogul Henry Luce’s tenure as editor-in-chief of Time and Life magazines and chairman of Time Incorporated. Her second project, Pyramids of Plenty: Christianity and Multi-level Marketing, will trace the historical entanglement of Christianity, new media, and the multi-level marketing industry. This coming Fall semester, Dr. Consenstein will be teaching RELI 135, “Technology, the Self and Ethical Problems.”

Please join us in welcoming Eden to the department!

Posted in Faculty News, News & Events on July 3, 2022  
New Book by Travis W. Proctor (PhD 2017)

Travis W. Proctor, a 2017 PhD graduate of our department, has recently published his first book, Demonic Bodies and the Dark Ecologies of Early Christian Culture:

Drawing insights from gender studies and the environmental humanities, Demonic Bodies analyzes how ancient Christians constructed the Christian body through its relations to demonic adversaries. Case studies on New Testament texts, early Christian church fathers, and “Gnostic” writings trace how early followers of Jesus construed the demonic body in diverse and sometimes contradictory ways, as both embodied and bodiless, “fattened” and ethereal, heavenly and earthbound. Across this diversity of portrayals, however, demons consistently functioned as personifications of “deviant” bodily practices such as “magical” rituals, immoral sexual acts, gluttony, and “pagan” religious practices. This demonization served an exclusionary function where by Christian writers marginalized fringe Christian groups by linking their ritual activities to demonic modes of (dis)embodiment. Demonic Bodies demonstrates, therefore, that the formation of early Christian cultures was part of the shaping of broader Christian “ecosystems,” which in turn informed Christian experiences of their own embodiment and community.

About the Author:

Travis W. Proctor is Assistant Professor of Religion at Wittenberg University. He received his M.A. and Ph.D. in Ancient Mediterranean Religions from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. His research has appeared in the Journal of Early Christian Studies, Harvard Theological Review, Studies in Late Antiquity, and Journal of Ecclesiastical History, as well as public venues including Religion Dispatches, The Bart Ehrman Blog, and the “Tell Me Something I Don’t Know” podcast.

Posted in Alumni News, News & Events on May 18, 2022  
Old religions, new rituals

The pandemic has changed ways that some Jews and Christians practice their faith, says a Carolina religious studies expert.

(By Scott Jared, The Well, Monday, January 10th, 2022. LINK TO ARTICLE HERE)

For some worshippers, a starry night sky has replaced the ceiling of a synagogue or church building.

Congregating outside is just one way that the pandemic has forced many Jews and Christians to alter how they commune and practice their religion. Some changes will remain, says Evyatar Marienberg, associate professor in the religious studies department in the College of Arts & Sciences and director of the minor program in Christianity and culture. His research interests include contemporary Catholicism, the social history of Jews and Christianity in Medieval Europe and rabbinics.

You’ve thought about how world events affect religious practices. What is different or the same about the pandemic’s effects?

When 9/11 happened, for instance, people talked about going more often to churches. I remember telling myself, This will pass. People need some comfort that religions can sometimes provide, but it is temporary. It will pass and nothing will change significantly with regard to religious practices. I believe that was the reality. The pandemic is different because it’s so long. Two years have gone by.

Take, for example, the issue of actively being in a place of worship. Before COVID-19, it was unthinkable for many people and religious groups to have their services in any way other than going to and being in their place of worship. That’s not the case anymore. Suddenly, things that were obvious became not obvious at all.

The impact is not the same for all. For some groups, this didn’t pose big theological, doctrinal or legal problems. Their service’s center was words, sermons, homilies or watching someone doing something. To do it online was not a tectonic shift.

For others, it was big. For Catholics, for whom the central part of worship is physical — the Eucharist, taking consecrated bread, drinking consecrated wine — this situation created a problem. Not going to service without a good reason is a sin, but not a severe one. But the clergy told them not to go. They had to make it work by proceeding online or by drive-in or being distanced. They created new prayers, new rituals and continued with this for an extended period. Even though now people do go back, it’s clear to all that nontraditional ways of attending services have been legitimized.

Were some practices, such as using one cup for communion, problematic?

Yes. The most extreme example I know of happened in Greece, in the Orthodox Church. There was at the pandemic’s beginning serious denial of COVID-19 and its risks. One Greek bishop who insisted on people using the same spoon for taking bread and wine died from COVID.

To read the remainder of this article, please click here!

Evyatar Marienberg

Evyatar Marienberg

Posted in News & Events on January 10, 2022  
In Memoriam: Bill Peck (1928-2021)

William Jay Peck taught in the Department of Religious Studies from 1970 until his retirement in 1994.

The child of missionaries in rural Guatemala, Bill was homeschooled until age 13. The Guatemala highlands, and the language and culture of Mam Maya people, remained a lifelong research and humanitarian interest.

Bill received his BA from Yale University. After completing a theology degree from Princeton University in 1954 he was ordained in the Presbyterian Church and worked as a pastor for three years in the coal districts around Weatherly PA. This experience led his to PhD studies at Harvard University, which he completed in 1962.

At UNC, Bill quickly became a figure of profound importance both in Religious Studies and in the larger university community. He was a teacher of influence and renown, to this day he is remembered for his powerful lectures during the Vietnam War era. He was a quiet but influential voice in the emerging Chapel Hill antiwar underground, providing a philosophically rigorous and theologically inflected language around which the cautious but searching students of those years could coalesce. He is lovingly remembered by generations of former students for the principled social ethics he developed in his lectures during that time.

Bill’s lectures were informed by his philosophical interests, principally the work of Dietrich Bonhoeffer, to which he devoted a lifetime of research. He was committed to the study of the Reformation, especially the work of Luther and Calvin. In modern philosophy, he studied and taught Kant, Hegel, Kierkegaard, Schleiermacher, Tillich, and Barth. He often focused this study through the lens of the psychology of religion. In the Department of Religious Studies, the concentrations of Religion and Culture and Religion in the Americas owe much to Bill’s unyielding philosophical curiosity.

In his later career, Bill took an interest in anthropological approaches to religion, and shamanism became a central concern of his. His courses on shamanism became a point of extraordinary contact with the generation of undergraduates who were adrift in the misanthropic political and economic milieu of the 1980s and 1990s. For twenty summers, Bill led groups of these students to the Guatemalan highlands, introducing many of them to the wonders of Mam Maya culture.

When Bill retired, his friends and colleagues established a fund in his name to support excellence among graduate student teachers. This was of utmost importance to Bill, such that long after his retirement, he passionately engaged graduate students on questions of teaching at every opportunity. The fund named for him continues to inspire graduate student teaching in the Department of Religious Studies.

Posted in News & Events on December 19, 2021  
Bart Ehrman Webinar

In this webinar, Professor Bart Ehrman discussed his new project on the book of Revelation and expectations of Armageddon. Professor Ehrman talked about historical misrepresentations of the Book of Revelation, especially by evangelical Christian communities in the United States over the last one hundred years. His talk focused on evangelical accounts of the impending end of the world, Armageddon, and the wrath of a vengeful God. He asked, how do New Testament themes of tolerance and forgiveness fare in these accounts?

Professor Ehrman publishes extensively in the fields of New Testament and Early Christianity. He was written or edited thirty-three books, six of them New York Times best sellers, numerous scholarly articles, and dozens of book reviews.
Professor Ehrman’s webinar helped to raise funds for graduate students in the UNC – Chapel Hill Department of Religious Studies. 100% of all donations benefit the William Peck Fund for Graduate Student Excellence, devoted to supporting and recognizing teaching among graduate students.
Posted in Events, Faculty News, News & Events on September 12, 2021  
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