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VanMaaren John

photo of John VanMaaren

John VanMaaren

Contract and Sessional Faculty
Department of Religious Studies

Area(s) of Interest:


John’s interests lie in conceptualizing Jewish identity in the Second Temple period, as well as in understanding the emergence of a distinct Christian identity, using sociological approaches to ethnicity and group boundaries.

Dissertation Title

"Mark within the Boundaries of Jewishness: Repositioning the Second Gospel".

Co-Supervisors: Anders Runesson and Matthew Thiessen


This project seeks to situate the Gospel of Mark in relation to first-century Judaism. It is structured in two sections. The first section provides the necessary context by examining ancient Judaism with the help of social-scientific approaches to groups and group boundaries. It approaches Judaism as an ancient ethnic group, engaged with other ethnic groups in the struggle over the meaning and location of group boundaries. The second section focuses on the text of Mark and identifies ways the text engages in the struggle over boundaries, especially in relation to the most prominent boundary markers of Judaism. This study will be the first monograph-length treatment of Mark’s relationship to Judaism that addresses the entire narrative and the social realities responsible for the text. It seeks to move away from a simplistic binary inner/outer distinction by focusing on strategies of boundary making rather than a list of indicators of “Jewishness”. The working hypothesis is that the text’s engagement with numerous boundary markers of first century Judaism (e.g. temple, food laws, etc.) functions not to reject them or Judaism itself, but to contest a competing understanding of Judaism and its boundaries, including the place of non-Jews in relation to the Jewish ethnos.


  • Trinity International University, MA in New Testament
  • Trinity International University, BA in Mathematics, Philosophy, and Biblical Studies (3 majors)


University Courses

  • Humour and Religion (RS 2HR3), McMaster University (summer 2017)
  • Beginning Greek II (NT 4031), Trinity International University (Spring 2011)
  • Beginning Greek I (NT 4030), Trinity International University (Fall 2010)

High School Teacher

  • Moses Lake Christian Academy, Moses Lake, WA (2011–2013)

TA experience

  • Humour and Religion (RS 2HR3; 2017)
  • Introduction to Islam (RS 2Q03; 2016)
  • Introduction to the New Testament (RS 2NT3; 2016)
  • Introduction to Hebrew Bible/Old Testament (RS 2HB3; 2015)
  • What on Earth Is Religion? (RS 1B06; 2014–2015)
  • Death and Dying: Western Perspectives (RS 2N03; 2014)
  • Women in the Biblical Tradition (RS 2B03; 2013)



Conference Presentations

  • “The Contribution of Threshold Concepts for Creating a Discipline of Pedagogy in Biblical Studies.” The Pedagogy of Bible Education, Israeli National Conference, Tel Aviv, Israel, 4 December 2018. (accepted)
  • “Transformative Concepts and Troublesome Knowledge: Toward a Consensus of Threshold Concepts in Biblical Studies.” Society of Biblical Literature. Denver, Colorado, 18 November 2018. (accepted)
  • “No Early Parting of the Ways: The Gospel of Mark within the Boundaries of Jewishness.” Institute of Biblical Research. Denver, Colorado, 16 November 2018. (accepted)
  • “Re-conceptualizing the Evaluation of Teaching: Two Contrasting Examples of Policy Uptake.” International Society for the Scholarship of Teaching and Learning. Bergen, Norway, 25 October 2018. (accepted)
  • “The Gentile Mission in Mark’s Gospel and the Boundaries of Jewishness among Early Jesus Followers.” Faculty of Theology Departmental Seminar, University of Oslo. Oslo, Norway, 22 October 2018. (accepted)
  • “The New Testament as Jewish Literature: Mark within the Boundaries of Jewishness.” Tuesdays at Tantur, Tantur Ecumenical Institute for Theological Studies, Jerusalem, 8 May, 2018.
  • “Boundary Making and the Study of Jewish Christianity/Christian Judaism: Contributions from the Social Sciences.” Paper accepted for presentation at the annual meeting of the Society of Biblical Literature. Boston, MA, November 2017.
  • “Students as Partners: Theory, Practice, and Beyond.” International Society for the Scholarship of Teaching and Learning. Calgary, Alberta, 14 October, 2017. (in absentia)
  • “Jubilees and Jewishness in Hasmonean Judea: Linking Text and Context in the Study of Jewish Identity with the Help of Ethnic Studies.” Paper accepted for presentation at the annual meeting of the Canadian Society of Biblical Studies. Toronto, ON, 28 May 2017.
  • “Defining Jewishness in Antiquity: Methodology and Case Study.” McMaster Ancient Judaism Ancient Christianity Seminar. Hamilton, Ontario, 29 March 2017.
  • “Mark’s Judaism: Repositioning the Second Gospel.” Paper presented at Authoritative Texts and Their Reception Graduate Student Seminar. Athens, Greece, 11 October 2016.
  • “Reconstructing Pharisaic Teaching on Oaths and Vows: A New Approach.” Paper presented at the McMaster University Graduate Conference: Religion and Law. Hamilton, ON, 17 October 2015.


Academic service

  • Departmental Relocation Committee (2016)
  • Graduate Student Departmental Representative (2014–2015)