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Thiessen Matthew, Associate Professor


Research Interests

My research interests focus on the rise of Christianity particularly as it relates to early Judaism. I focus on questions related to ethnicity and identity construction in order to better understand the way in which ancient religions functioned.

My current research focuses on the way in which the synoptic gospels present Jesus in relation to the Jewish laws of ritual purity. Building on the ground-breaking work of Mary Douglas and Jacob Milgrom, I will demonstrate that Jesus was not opposed to the Jewish ritual purity system. What Jesus opposes is not the system of ritual purity and impurity, but the very existence of ritual impurity, which he consistently removes from those who suffer it. Essential to my treatment of the gospel accounts, is Milgrom’s argument, based on the anthropological work of Mary Douglas, that in Judaism ritual impurity represents the forces of death. Consequently, Jesus’ ministry of removing impurities suggests that his ministry is one of bringing life to those suffering from the power of death. 


  • Duke University, Ph.D. in Religion, 2010
  • Oxford University, M.St. in Jewish Studies, 2004
  • Trinity Western University, M.A. in Biblical Studies, 2003
  • Tyndale College, B.R.S., 2001




  • The Gift in Early Judaism and Christianity
  • The Gospel of Mark
  • Ancient Jewish and Christian Interpretations of Scripture
  • Paul: Apostle to Pagans




Edited Volumes


Journal Articles


  • “The Letter to the Hebrews and the Jewish Law.” Forthcoming in So Great A Salvation: A Dialogue on the Atonement in Hebrews. Edited by Jon C. Laansma, George H. Guthrie, and Cynthia Westfall. Library of New Testament Studies. London: T&T Clark, forthcoming, 2018.
  • “Circumcision,” “Conversion and Proselytism,” “Joseph, Apocryphon of (4Q371–373),” and “Wilderness” for T&T Clark Encyclopedia of Second Temple Judaism. 2 vols. Edited by Loren T. Stuckenbruck and Daniel M. Gurtner. London: T&T Clark, forthcoming, 2017.
  • “Gentiles as Impure Animals in the Writings of Early Christ Followers,” for Perceiving the Other in Ancient Judaism and Early Christianity. Edited with Michal Bar-Asher Siegal and Wolfgang Grünstäudl. WUNT Series 1. Tübingen: Mohr Siebeck, forthcoming, 2017.
  • “Paul’s Interlocutor in Romans: The Problem of Identification” (co-authored with Runar Thorsteinsson and Rafael Rodríguez). Pages 1–38 in The So-Called Jew in Paul’s Letter to the Romans. Minneapolis: Fortress Press, 2016.
  • “Paul’s So-Called Jew and Lawless Lawkeeping.” Pages 59–83 in The So-Called Jew in Paul’s Letter to the Romans. Minneapolis: Fortress Press, 2016.
  • “Barsabbas, Joseph,” and “Barsabbas, Judas.” Pages 553–54 in Volume Three of The Encyclopedia of the Bible and Its Reception. Edited by Hans-Josef Klauck et al. 30 vols. Berlin: Walter de Gruyter, 2011.