Staff profiles

Photo of Professor Francesca Stavrakopoulou

Professor Francesca Stavrakopoulou

Professor of Hebrew Bible and Ancient Religion


01392 724290

Twitter: @ProfFrancesca

I'm Professor of Hebrew Bible and Ancient Religion in the Theology and Religion department. I served as Head of the Department from 2013 to 2016.

I studied Theology at the University of Oxford, where I also completed my doctorate. I spent a further three years teaching and researching in Oxford, first as a Junior Research Fellow and then as the Career Development Fellow in the Faculty of Theology, before joining Exeter's Department of Theology and Religion in 2005. I was appointed to a personal chair in 2011. Alongside my research and teaching, I also undertake various media activities, including writing and presenting the BBC TV documentary series Bible's Buried Secrets, which has recently been re-aired on Netflix US. 

My research is primarily focused on ancient Israelite and Judahite religions, and portrayals of the religious past in the Hebrew Bible. More specifically, I'm interested in biblical traditions and religious practices most at odds with Western cultural preferences. My first book explored the misrepresentation of the religious past in the Hebrew Bible: King Manasseh and Child Sacrifice: Biblical Distortions of Historical Realities (de Gruyter, 2004). In Land of Our Fathers: The Roles of Ancestor Veneration in Biblical Land Claims (T&T Clark, 2010), I furthered my somewhat morbid interests by examining the relationship between the veneration of the dead and territorial claims in the Hebrew Bible. 

In my most recent monograph, I explore the social and religious impacts of the human corpse upon the living, called The Social Life of the Corpse - Within and Without the Bible (forthcoming). My interest in the materiality of bodies has led to my current project - a new book about ancient constructs of God's body. God: An Anatomy will be published by Picador in the UK and Knopf in the US.   

I've also edited a volume on ancient Israelite and Judahite religions (with John Barton, University of Oxford) called Religious Diversity in Ancient Israel and Judah (T&T Clark, 2010) and another on environmental readings of biblical texts, called Ecological Hermeneutics (with Exeter colleagues David Horrell, Cherryl Hunt and Chris Southgate; T&T Clark, 2010). I am pleased to be working with Bloomsbury as editor of the new Hebrew Bible in Social Perspective series; I also work closely with Oxford University Press as co-editor of a series of books focusing on biblical characters, called Biblical Refigurations.

Alongside my expertise in ancient Israelite and Judahite religions, my research interests include social and religious responses to the dead; materiality and religion; ancient constructs of the body; kingship in ancient southwest Asia; history and ideology in the Hebrew Bible; methods of historical reconstruction; constructs of ‘popular’ and ‘official’ religion; and ‘secular’ approaches to teaching and learning in biblical studies. I supervise a number of doctoral students working on a wide range of topics pertaining to the Hebrew Bible/early Judaisms and the religions of ancient southwest Asia. 

I teach a range of undergraduate and postgraduate modules, focusing on the Hebrew BIble, ancient religion, the role and place of the BIble in the modern West, and religious constructs of the body in ancient and contemporary societies.  

Research supervision

I supervise a number of doctoral students. I am happy to consider working with candidates with interests in the following areas: any aspect of ancient Israelite and/or Judahite religions, including their mythologies and rituals; the history and literature of the Hebrew BIble; reconstructions of the past in biblical studies; divine and human gender and sexuality in ancient southwest Asia; materiality and material-critical approaches to the study of ancient religions; anthropology of ancient religions; anthropology of the societies giving rise to the Hebrew BIble and/or early Judaisms; cultures of the body in ancient southwest Asian societies. 

Candidates interested in working with me are very welcome to send me a 500 word outline of their proposed research and a copy of their CV.  



Research students

Daniel O. McClellan, 'Divine Agency in the Ideologies of the Hebrew Bible: Cognitive Perspectives'

Rebekah Welton, ‘A Study of Meat and Wine in the Hebrew Bible in Relation to the Law of the Rebellious Son (Deut. 21:18-21)’ (AHRC funded) 

Bethany Wagstaff, ‘An Anthropology of Clothing in the Hebrew Bible’ (AHRC funded)

Alan Hooker, ‘You Shall Know Yahweh: God’s Penis and Divine Sexuality in the Hebrew Bible’ (AHRC funded)

Elisabeth Cook, ‘The Foreign Women of Ezra 9-10: Identity and Exclusion in the Hebrew Bible’ 

David Beadle, ‘Royal Ritual Heavenly Ascent and Netherworldy Descent in the Hebrew Bible and Ancient Judah’ (AHRC funded)

Jonathan Morgan, ‘Land, Sin and Sacrifice in Leviticus: Towards an Environmental Ethic’ (AHRC funded; awarded 2010)

Stuart Macwilliam, ‘Queer Theory and the Prophetic Marriage Metaphor in the Hebrew Bible’ (awarded 2007)

External impact and engagement

Alongside my media work, I also undertake a number of public speaking events. In the UK, these have included contributions to the London Thinks series, run by the Conway Hall Ethical Society, lectures at Jewish synagogue communities, Christian cross-denominational societies, and atheist organisations. As a patron of Humanists UK, I have lectured on the roles of the BIble, religion, and atheism in ancient and contemporary societies at a number of Humanist conventions and conferences.  

Contribution to discipline

Grants awarded

  • £45,572, Leverhulme Trust Research Fellowship, 2016-17
  • £45,560, AHRC Early Career Fellowship, 2011.
  • £7,110, British Academy, 2007-2009.
  • "Uses of the Bible in Environmental Ethics", with David Horrell. £196,333 + c. £45,000 PhD studentship, AHRC, 2006-2009.

Editorial positions

  • Biblical Refigurations series, OUP
  • Biblical Interpretation journal, Brill (2010-13)
  • Library of Hebrew Bible/OT Studies series, Bloomsbury
  • Hebrew Bible in Social Perspective series, Bloomsbury
  • Special issue of Hebrew BIble and Ancient Israel journal (co-edited with Martti Nissinen)

Academic society positions

  • Secretary of the Society for Old Testament Study, 2010-12


  • Three-part BBC documentary series about the Bible and archaeology, called Bible's Buried Secrets, broadcast in the UK on BBC 2 in March 2011
  • 'Talking head' contributions to various television documentaries. Regular appearances on BBC1's debate shows The Big Questions and Sunday Morning Live
  • Discussion of biblical scholarship on several radio programmes

Informing international policy

  • Publication on corpse abuse cited at the Supreme Court of the United States in a case about the picketing of the funerals of US soldiers by members of the fundamentalist Westboro Baptist Church


  • Student Guild award for Research-inspired Teaching 2013


Television series

Bible's Buried Secrets (BBC2, 2011). Presenter of this prime-time, three-part documentary series.


Television debate programmes

Searching for Exile - The Debate (BBC4, 2013)

The Big Questions (BBC1). Regular appearances on this Sunday morning programme. 

Sunday Morning Live (BBC1). Regular appearances on this Sunday morning programme. 

BBC Points of View (BBC1, 2011).


Television 'talking head' contributions

The Weekly with Charlie Pickering, studio interview on an Australian prime-time TV news/chat show (ABC, 2016)

The Real Star of Bethlehem: Sky at Night Christmas Special (BBC4, 2015)

Secrets of the Bible (ZDF, Germany/IMG worldwide, 2014).

Bible Secrets Revealed (History Channel, US, 2013).  

The Bible: A History (Channel 4, 2010).


Online television

‘God’: a short film for the BBC’s Story of Now interactive documentary series (2015)

‘Are we wired to believe in a higher power?’: Two short films for the BBC iWonder Guide (

‘The Real Garden of Eden’: interactive web material and film for the BBC iWonder Guide 



Unbelieveable: Is Christainity Sexist? (Premier Christian Radio, 2018).  

Living with the Gods: Contributor to two episodes of this major documentary series co-produced by the BBC and the British Museum, presented by Neil MacGregor (BBC Radio 4, 2017)

The Hollow Earth – A Travel Guide: Contributor to this documentary presented by Robin Ince (BBC Radio 4, 2015)

The Infinite Monkey Cage: Christmas Special (BBC Radio 4, 2014 and 2017)

Beyond Belief: Panellist on this discussion programme, debating the impact of archaeology on religion and faith (BBC Radio 4, 2014).

BBC Radio 5 Live Breakfast Show: Hosting a debate with teenagers from a selection of faith schools in Manchester, and reporting back to the show live throughout the morning (2013)

Museum of Curiosity (BBC Radio 4, 2011). 

Woman’s Hour (BBC Radio 4. 2011). 

Nightwaves (BBC Radio 3, 2011): Panel discussion of TV series Bible’s Buried Secrets.


Podcast interviews

‘The truth about Easter’: an interview on Dan Snow’s History Hits podcast (

‘The historical reliability of the Bible’: an interview on Dan Snow’s History Hits podcast (

National Life Stories (in partnership with the British Library): 8 hours of interviews about my life, research, and career, recorded as an archive of podcasts (

‘The Day the Earth Stood Still’: live podcast for The Cosmic Shed, debating the relationships between science fiction and religion (

The Godless Spellchecker Podcast: podcast interview (