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Karl Shuve

Associate Professor


  • Bachelor of Arts (BA), McMaster University
  • Master of Arts (MA), McMaster University
  • Doctor of Philosophy (PhD), University of Edinburgh

Research Interests

Early and Medieval Christianity; religious and cross-cultural interaction in Late Antiquity; biblical interpretation; theories of gender, sexuality and the body; ritual purity; monasticism and asceticism; book culture. 

I am a historian of the religions of the ancient and late antique Mediterranean world, who focuses particularly on the development of Christian culture and thought. My work attends, in particular, to questions of identity and authority: How did early Christians understand their place in society—both as individuals and as a collective church—and what tools did they use to construct, legitimate, and disseminate their views? What, moreover, were the various ways that they positioned themselves in relation to Judaism? I am keenly interested in studying the ways that early Christians interacted with their sacred texts and employed them in establishing practices and beliefs. I have recently completed a monograph on the role played by the Song of Songs in shaping attitudes towards the church and the body in early Christianity. This research has led me to a much broader interest in the development of the nuptial metaphor—the identification of the church or the individual Christian as the “bride of Christ”—in Late Antiquity. My present book project focuses on groups and regions from across the Mediterranean world, treating sources in Hebrew, Greek, Latin, Coptic and Syriac as well as iconographic evidence. It is driven by two questions: Why were male religious authorities so reliant on gendered categories to articulate Christian identities? And how did the ascendancy of the “bride of Christ” affect the lived experiences of women in early Christian communities?


  • History of Christianity
  • Religions of Late Antiquity
  • Gender Studies and Religion
  • Biblical Interpretation
  • Monasticism

Selected Publications

The Song of Songs and the Fashioning of Identity in Early Latin Christianity. Oxford Early Christian Studies. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2016.

 “Nuptial Imagery, Christian Devotion and the Marriage Debate in Late Roman Society.” In Religious Competition in Late Antiquity. Ed. by Nathaniel Desrosiers and Lily Vuong. Atlanta: SBL Press, 2016. 167–177.

“The Transformation of the Apocalyptic Heritage in Late Antique Christianity.” In Apocalypses in Context: Apocalyptic Currents Thoughout History. Ed. by Kelly Murphy and Justin Schedtler. Minneapolis: Fortress Press, 2016. 163–183.

“Irenaeus’ Contribution to Early Christian Interpretation of the Song of Songs.” In Irenaeus and His Traditions. Ed. by P. Foster and S. Parvis. Minneapolis: Fortress Press, 2012.

“Entering the Story: Origen’s Dramatic Approach to Scripture in the Homilies on Jeremiah.” Studia Patristica 46 (Leuven: Peeters, 2010): 235-40.

“The Doctrine of the False Pericopes and Other Late Antique Approaches to the Problem of Scripture’s Unity.” In Plots in the Pseudo-Clementine Romance. Ed. by F. Amsler et al. Prahins, Switzerland: Éditions du Zèbre, 2008.  437–45.