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Judith L. Kovacs

Associate Professor Emerita of Religious Studies


  • Bachelor of Arts (BA), The College of Wooster
  • Master of Arts (MA), Columbia University
  • Doctor of Philosophy (PhD), Columbia University


Research Interests

Patristics: patristic exegesis (especially interpretation of Paul and debates between Gnostic and catholic exegetes); Clement of Alexandria; New Testament: the Revelation to John; the Gospel of John; interpretations of the death of Christ.

Current Research Projects

My work as scholar and teacher concerns the interpretation of the Bible. Some of it treats biblical texts in light of writings contemporary to them, aiming to reconstruct their prehistory, historical context, and original message. I also contribute, as author and series editor, to the study of the Bible’s reception history, i.e. how biblical texts have been received and interpreted through the centuries. I am a series editor of the “Blackwell Bible Commentaries” — the first commentary series to view biblical books through the history of their influence on literature, art, music and film, their role in the evolution of religious beliefs and practices, and their impact on social and political developments — and I am co-author of the Blackwell commentary on the Revelation to John. Much of my research is devoted to biblical interpretation in the first few centuries of Christianity (the patristic period), when the Bible was at the heart of all discussions of theology and practice (e.g. a book on 1 Corinthians in the series “The Church’s Bible” and co-editing the series “Writings from the Greco-Roman World: John Chrysostom's Exegetical Works on the New Testament”). My current book project treats early controversies about how to interpret the letters of Saint Paul, in particular the exegesis of early champions of Paul called “gnostics” and the critical response to their readings by the second-century theologian Clement of Alexandria.



  • The Church’s Bible: 1 Corinthians Interpreted by Early Christian Commentators. Grand Rapids, Michigan: Eerdmans Press, 2005.

[Reviewed in Vigiliae Christianae 60,1, 2006 (Johannes Van Oort); Nederlands Dagblad, 01/06/2006;Theological Book Review 18.1, 2006 (Markus Bockmuehl); Vidyajyoti, February 2006 (G. Gispert-Sauch); Bible Today, March/April 2006; Touchstone, June 2006 (Ryan J. McDermott); Churchman, Autumn, 2006 (Gerald Bray); Tijdschrift voor Theologie, 46.2, 2006 (Beate Kowalski); Cistercian Studies Quarterly 41.3, 2006 (Casimir Bernas); Journal of the Study of the New Testament 28.5, 2006 (Paula Gooder); Review of Biblical Literature, September 2006 (Riemer Roukema); Archaeus 10.3, 2006 (in Italian; Ilaria Ramelli); Études Theologiques et Religieuses, 2006.4 (in French; Elian Cuvillier);Corcordia Journal, January 2007 (Jeffrey Kloha); Pro Ecclesia 17.1 2009 (Kathryn Greene-McCreight)]

  • Revelation: The Apocalypse of Jesus Christ. Volume 1 in “The Blackwell Bible Commentaries.” Co-authored with Christopher Rowland. Oxford: Blackwell, 2004.

[Reviewed in: Times Literary Supplement, August 13, 2004 (A. E. Harvey); First Things, October 2004 (Gary Anderson); Review of Biblical Literature, December 2004 (in German; Tobias Nicklas);Colloquium 38.2, 2006 (Derek Tovey); The Christian Century October 3, 2006 (J. Nelson Kraybill); The Bible and Critical Theory 2.1, 2006 (Christina Petterson)]

Current Research Project

  • Contending for the Legacy of Paul: Clement of Alexandria and the Valentinian Gnostics (monograph).


  • “Commentary on the Revelation to John,” to be published in the New Interpreter’s One Volume Commentary on the Bible. (Nashville: Abingdon; 70- page article)
  • “Becoming the Perfect Man: Clement of Alexandria on the Philosophical Life of Women,” to be published inWomen and Gender in Ancient Religions: Interdisciplinary Approaches, Steven Ahearne-Kroll, ed. (Berlin: De Gruyter).
  • “First Corinthians,” forthcoming in the Oxford Handbook of Reception History of the Bible, Jon Roberts et al., eds. (Oxford: OUP).
  • “A Letter ‘Weighty and Powerful’: the Importance of 1 Corinthians in the Early Church,” forthcoming in Studia Patristica (Leuven: Peeters).
  • “Apocalypses and Apocalypticism,” co-authored with Christopher Rowland, forthcoming in Encyclopedia of the Bible and its Reception, Hans-Josef Klauck, ed. (Berlin: De Gruyter).
  • “Origen’s Exegesis of the Revelation to John: Hearing the Voice of the Seven Thunders,” forthcoming inOrigeniana Nona, Georg Heidl and Robert Somos, eds. (Leuven: Peeters).
  • “Clement of Alexandria,” The Expository Times 120 (2009), 261-271.
  • “Clement of Alexandria and Valentinian Exegesis in the Excerpts from Theodotus,” Studia Patristica, Vol. 41. F. Young, M. Edwards, P. Parvis, eds. (Leuven: Peeters, 2006), 187-200.
  • “The Revelation to John: Lessons from the History of the Book’s Reception,” Word and World, 25.3, Summer 2005, 255-263.
  • “Echoes of Valentinian Exegesis in Clement of Alexandria and Origen: The Interpretation of 1 Cor 3.1-3, ” inOrigeniana Octava, Lorenzo Perrone, ed. (Leuven: Peeters, 2004), 317-329.
  • “‘Servant of Christ’ and ‘Steward of the Mysteries of God’: The Purpose of a Pauline Letter according to Origen’sHomilies on 1 Corinthians,” in In Dominico Eloquio / In Lordly Eloquence: Essays on Patristic Exegesis in Honor of Robert L. Wilken, Paul Blowers et al., eds. (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 2002), 147-171.
  • “Divine Pedagogy and the Gnostic Teacher according to Clement of Alexandria,” The Journal of Early Christian Studies 9 (2001), 3-25.
  • Paideia, the Care of the Soul, and Concealment in Clement of Alexandria,” Phasis: Greek and Roman Studies, Vol. 2-3 (2000), 228-231.
  • “Clement of Alexandria and Gregory of Nyssa on the Beatitudes,” in Gregory of Nyssa, Homilies on the Beatitudes (= Supplements to Vigiliae Christianae), Hubertus R. Drobner and Albert Viciano, eds. (Leiden: E. J. Brill, 2000), 311-329.
  • “Concealment and Gnostic Exegesis: Clement of Alexandria’s Interpretation of the Tabernacle,” Studia Patristica, Vol. 31, Elizabeth A. Livingstone, ed. (Leuven: Peeters, 1997), 414-37.
  • “‘Now Shall the Ruler of this World Be Cast Out’: Jesus’ Death as Cosmic Battle in John 12:20-36,” Journal of Biblical Literature 114 (1995), 227-47.
  • “Women in the New Testament,” in What the Bible Really Says, Morton Smith, ed. (Buffalo: Prometheus Press, 1990), 213-227.
  • “The Archons, the Spirit, and the Death of Christ: Do we need the hypothesis of Gnostic opponents to explain I Cor 2:6-16?” in Apocalyptic and the New TestamentJSNT Suppl. 24, Joel Marcus and Marion L. Soards, eds. (Sheffield: Sheffield Press, 1989), 217-36.
  • “Faith and Family in Biblical Perspective,” in Faith and Families, Lindell Sawyer, ed. (Philadelphia: Geneva Press, 1986), 13-39.

Introductory Essays and Dictionary Articles

  • "Clement of Alexandria," article in the New Westminster Dictionary of Church History, Vol. 1, Robert Benedetto, ed. (Louisville, KY: Westminster John Knox, 2008), 156-157.
  • “Introduction to the Apocrypha,” in The Parallel Apocrypha, John R. Kohlenberger III, ed. (New York: OUP, 1997), xiii-xx.
  • “Deeds/Works,” “Faith,” “Glossolalia,” “Grace,” “Justification,” “Lamb,” “Book of Revelation,” “Righteousness,” “Saul of Tarsus (Paul),” “Torah,” “Visions,” and several other short articles in Dictionary of Judaism in the Biblical Period: 450 B.C.E. to 600 C.E., Jacob Neusner, ed., 2 volumes. (New York: Macmillian, 1996).
  • “A Reader’s Guide to the Bible,” extended introduction to Oxford University Press edition of the New Revised Standard Version Bible (New York: OUP, 1990), xxiii-lxxx.


  • Review of Piotr Ashwin-Siejkowski, Clement of Alexandria. A Project of Christian Perfection, forthcoming in The Journal of Ecclesiastical History.
  • Review of Darrall D. Hannah, The Text of 1 Corinthians in the Writings of Origen, in The Journal of Theological Studies 49 (1998), 830-833.
  • Review of Christopher Bryan, A Preface to Mark: Notes on the Gospel in its Literary and Cultural Settings, inClassical Journal 90 (1995), 463-464.

National/International Activity

  • Co-editor (with Christopher Rowland of Oxford University, John Sawyer, emeritus of the University of Lancaster, and David Gunn of Texas Christian University), “The Blackwell Bible Commentaries,” a series of commentaries that focus on the reception history of individual Biblical books, published by Blackwell Press, Oxford, England, 1997 to present. Volumes published in the series: Revelation (2003), John (2003), Judges (2005), Exodus (2006), Ecclesiastes (2007), Esther (2008), Galatians (2008), Psalms (2008), Pastoral Letters (2009)
  • Co-editor of series “Writings from the Greco-Roman World, subseries: John Chrysostom's Exegetical Works on the New Testament,” 2006 to present
  • External Examiner for D. Phil. dissertation of Ms. Natasha O’Hear, Oxford University, May 2008. Dissertation Title: “Contrasting Images of The Apocalypse in late Medieval and Early Modern Art: a Contribution to the Discussion of Visual Exegesis”
  • Member, Steering Committee, Section on “The Bible and Its Impact,” for the Annual Meeting of the Society of Biblical Literature, 2003 to present
  • Organizer and chair of seminar on “The Reception of Saint Paul’s Letter to the Galatians,” a joint session featuring new books in the German commentary series, Novum Testamentum Patristicum and the Blackwell Bible Commentaries, Society of Biblical Literature Annual Meeting, Boston, Nov. 19, 2008
  • Organizer and chair of seminar on “The Interpretation of 1 Corinthians in the Early Church,” for the Fifteenth International Patristics Conference, Oxford, England, August 2007
  • Organizer and chair of a two-day seminar on Clement of Alexandria for the Fourteenth International Patristics Conference, Oxford, England, August 2003
  • Chair of roundtable discussion with scholars from England, Scotland, and the United States who are writing volumes in “The Blackwell Bible Commentaries” series, Annual Meetings of the Society of Biblical Literature: Denver, Coloroado, November 2001; Atlanta, Georgia, November 2003; Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, November 2005; Washington D.C., November 2006; San Diego, California, November 2007
  • Referee of proposal for a book on the Revelation to John, for the series “Lives of Great Religious Books,” Princeton University Press, March 2009
  • Referee of book proposals for Oxford University Press, Oxford, England, 1997, 2001, 2005, 2007
  • Referee of articles submitted to the Journal of Early Christian Studies, 2005, 2007
  • Referee of a book manuscript on Clement of Alexandria for Cambridge University Press, Cambridge, England, 2003