Photo of Professor David Horrell

Professor David Horrell

MA PhD (Cantab)

Professor of New Testament Studies. Director, Centre for Biblical Studies


01392 724288

I came to the Department in 1995 to teach New Testament studies, after completing my PhD at Cambridge on a social-scientific approach to Paul's Corinthian letters and the letter known as 1 Clement. Since then, I have continued to employ a range of social-scientific approaches in my work, which has explored aspects of the making of early Christian identity in its socio-historical context, and also contemporary interpretation of the New Testament in ethical and ecological discussion. I was promoted to full Professor in 2007.

My main research interests are:

  • 1 Peter and the making of Christian identity
  • the uses of the Bible in environmental ethics
  • the intersections of religion and race in New Testament texts and their modern interpretation


I teach modules on a wide range of New Testament topics, including Paul and contemporary Pauline studies, New Testament ethics, 1 Peter, New Testament Greek, and the Bible and environmental ethics, and supervise a number of research students working on topics including 1 Peter and Pauline theology. 

Research interests

My main research interests currently focus on three main areas,1 Peter and early Christian identity, ecological interpretation, and the intersections of religion and race:

1. The First Letter of Peter. My interest in 1 Peter goes back to the writing of the Epworth commentary on 1-2 Peter and Jude, published in 1998. More recently, I have published a number of essays on 1 Peter, particularly developing a social-scientific or postcolonial perspective on the development of Christian identity in the letter, and a short introductory Guide to the letter (T&T Clark 2008). A number of these essays have recently been revised and published in book-form as Becoming Christian: Essays on 1 Peter and the Making of Christian Identity (Bloomsbury T&T Clark, 2013). I am in the early stages of preparing the International Critical Commentary on 1 Peter, in collaboration with Travis B. Williams.

2. Ecological interpretation and Pauline ethics. In 2005 I published a major work on Pauline ethics, Solidarity and Difference (T&T Clark). Then, from 2006-2009, I directed a project on uses of the Bible in environmental ethics, funded by the Arts and Humanities Research Council (AHRC) of the UK. Among the publications from the project are three books, published in 2010: The Bible and the Environment (Equinox/Acumen); Greening Paul, co-authored with Cherryl Hunt and Chrstopher Southgate (Baylor University Press) and a co-edited volume entitled Ecological Hermeneutics: Biblical, HIstorical, and Theological Perspectives (T&T Clark). During 2011-2013 I worked on a project funded by the St Luke's College Foundation to develop resources for secondary school teachers and A-level students on the Bible and environmental ethics (see

3. The intersections of religion and race. As theme leader for the "identities and beliefs" section of the University's new Humanities, Arts and Social Sciences Research Strategy, I have begun to develop an interest in the intersections of religion and race. My particular interest is in two aspects of this topic: (1) the ways in which terms from the arena of ethnic/racial identity are deployed in ancient constructions of early Christian identity; (2) the ways in which such terms and texts are interpreted in various phases of modern biblical scholarship.This is a developing project, though I have already explored some aspects of it in two essays on 1 Peter: one on "race", "nation", "people" in 1 Peter 2.9, and one on the interpretations of 1 Pet 2.4-10 in German biblical scholarship from 1855-1978.

Research collaborations

Within the University, I am theme leader for the "Identities and Beliefs" strand of the Humanities and Social Sciences (HASS) research strategy, launched in 2012.

With Dr Anna Davis, I have been working on educational resources based on my work on the Bible and environmental ethics, for REOnline, hosted by Culham St Gabriel’s educational trust, and for a number of sixth-form conferences, run by Academy Conferences. This work was supported by the Saint Luke’s College Foundation.

I am also on the steering group for the SBL Ecological Hermeneutics Seminar.

Research supervision

I am currently supervising students working on 1 Peter and on various topics in Pauline studies. Recent PhDs have included studies of Paul's aims in the Letter to the Philippians (Bradley Arnold), Suffering and Persecution in 1 Peter (Travis Williams), the use of the OT in 1 Peter (Susan Woan), of Herod Antipas's involvement in the death of Jesus (Douglas Dalrymple), and of worship as a means of resistance and conformity in the imperial cult and the Book of Revelation (John White). Previous research students have worked on concern for the poor in early Christianity, an ethnography of the Gospel of Matthew, and the depiction of miracles and dunameis in Acts and Paul's letters.

I am particularly interested in supervising students whose research falls into my current areas of research interest, as detailed in that section of my profile. Students interested in the possibility of doctoral studies are always welcome to contact me to discuss possible topics, etc.

Research students

I am currently first supervisor for a number of students working on 1 Peter, aspects of Pauline studies, and other areas of biblical and early Christian studies. I have also been involved with other PhD projects, including some connected with the "Bible and environmental ethics" project. Current students are:

David Shaw (Mission and Identity in 1 Peter)

Wei-Hsien Wan (Time and Space in the Imperial Cults and 1 Peter)

John Henry (Narrative, Community and Ethics in 1 Corinthians)

David Richards (The Use of the Bible in the Book of Mormon)

Daniel Nessim (Community and Code in The Didache)

External impact and engagement

Work with schools

  • I have delivered two teacher training conferences (Exeter and London) on the way biblical texts shape Christian approaches to the environment
  • In 2012-2013, I gave presentations to sixth-form students at four Academy Conferences on the uses of the Bible in environmental ethics
  • As part of the 'Beyond Stewardship?' project, I have developed web-based curriculum resources for use with Key Stage 4 and 5 pupils in schools (see

Work with charities

  • David has presented and discussed findings from the 'Uses of the Bible in Environmental Ethics' research project at a public conference organised by Eco-Congregation Ireland.

Contribution to discipline

Grants awarded

  • "Uses of the Bible in Environmental Ethics", with Francesca Stavrakopoulou. £196,333 + c. £45,000 PhD studentship, AHRC, 2006-2009.
  • "Texts of Land, Sea and Hope", with Mike Higton and Christopher Southgate. £67,656, SWMTC, 2006-2009.
  • "Beyond Stewardship? Biblical Texts and Environmental Ethics. A Pilot Study Resourcing Teachers in the South West Region". £27,768 + £2,135 for additional two-month extension to the project, St Luke’s College Foundation, 2011-2012.

Visiting fellowships

  • Alexander von Humboldt Fellowship Resumption, Germany, July-Aug 2010
  • Catholic University of Leuven, July-Aug 2012

Conferences/symposia organised

  • "After the First Urban Christians", with Todd Still (Baylor). 2008, funded by Baylor University, USA.
  • Member of the steering committee of the SBL Pauline Epistles section, 2006-12
  • Co-chair of the SNTS NT Ethics seminar, 2010-12
  • Member of the steering committee of the SBL Ecological Hermeneutics group

Editorial positions

  • New Testament Studies Journal for the Study of the New Testament (editorial board 1998-2013; Editor 2002-2007)
  • Theology (editorial board)
  • Colloquium (editorial board)

Advisory positions

  • Member of a working group which comprises part of the follow-on phase of the UK National Ecosystem Assessment



For one discussion piece related to my work on the Bible and the Environment, see


I teach a range of modules in the area of New Testament Studies, including modules in New Testament Greek. I aim to introduce students to key areas of knowledge and to a range of sometimes innovative approaches in the field of scholarship, to help them develop their own critical skills, not least so that they can develop their own perspective on the material in an informed and judicious way.

Modules taught