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Durham University

Department of Theology and Religion

Profiles

Dr Logan Williams

PhD Student & Teaching Assistant in the Department of Theology and Religion

Contact Dr Logan Williams (email at logan.a.williams@durham.ac.uk)

Current Research: Priestly Clothing and its Reception in Ancient Judaism

My current research project explores how visual culture, aesthetics, memory, and divine epiphany intersect in the reception and interpretation of the clothing of Israel’s high priest in early Judaism (4th century BCE–8th century CE). Part I of the project looks at texts from the Second Temple period and considers how the aesthetics of the high priestly clothing could incite divine-human encounters, and I situate these Jewish texts within Mediterranean religious discourse on divine epiphany and the material practices associated with making gods visible through art and clothing. Part II of the project utilises theoretical frameworks from memory studies to explore the afterlives of the high priestly dress in late antique Judaism. In particular, I explore how Jewish authors living well after the destruction of the temple continue to reflected on the high priest’s clothing (even though it was destroyed along with the second temple), as well as how, in the absence of the temple, Jews constructed new ways of conceiving how the ancient priestly clothing possessed contemporary religious value. This project recalibrates the category of ‘material religion’ by investigating not only objects but also the textualized memories of objects – memories which come to expression in the literature of religious communities. It therefore helps elucidate the deep connections between literature and materiality within theology and religious studies. The book produced from this research is provisionally entitled The Epiphanic Aesthetic of the High Priest: Visuality, Materiality, and Memory in Early Judaism

This research is the subject of a paper I will deliver at the next annual meeting of the Society of Biblical Literature. It is entitled 'Aesthetic Divine Encounter: Ben Sira’s Ekphrasis on Simon ben Onias in Light of Greco-Roman Epiphanic Strategies'. The abstract is available to read here.

Doctoral Thesis

In my doctoral thesis, entitled Love, Self Gift, and the Incarnation: Christology and Ethics in Galatians in the Context of Pauline Theology and Greco-Roman Philosophy, I argued against the notion that Paul's configuration of prosocial behaviour (love) starkly deviated from the Greco-Roman philosophical/ethical tradition. Whereas it is often asserted that Paul's 'selfless' or 'self-sacrificial' love-ethic ('Agape') subverts the essentially 'self-interested' Greco-Roman ethicists ('Eros'), I contended that neither Paul nor these philosophers can be properly interpreted within the modern dichotomy between altruism and egoism. After providing a fresh reading of four key philosophers (Plato, Aristotle, Seneca, and Cicero), I used Galatians as a test case to explore Paul's christology and ethics as idealising not self-sacrifice but rather shared selfhood. On the basis of his incarnational christology, Paul encourages believers not to deny self-interest but rather to avoid setting the self in competition with others; his ideal for loving relationships is that the interests of the community would become essentially shared.

Research Interests

  • Priesthood in Early Judaism
  • Visual Studies
  • Jewish Apocalyptic Literature
  • Letters of Paul
  • Early Christian Ethics

Publications

Edited book

Chapter in book

Journal Article

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