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Professor Nina Livesey’s Research on Christian Origins

Nina Livesey Research - Livesey with students, Summer 2013

Nina Livesey Current Research

At present, I am working on a book-length manuscript preliminarily titled Paul and the Rhetoric of Crisis, which in part springs from the research done for the dissertation and my first book. With this work, I am applying rhetorical theory and some aspects of sound mapping to better understand the reason or reasons why Paul rejected the Jewish law for his Gentile converts. As mentioned, Paul is often accused of furthering, if not creating, the divide between Judaism and Christianity and I am interested in investigating this much-discussed issue/problem within Pauline studies.

After the completion of my book project, I envision working on the texts of the second century. As has come to light in much of the recent scholarship on early Christianity, it is the second century and not so much the first in which we begin to see various forms of Christianity taking shape. And it is in those later texts that one finds what appears to be a pressing concern to differentiate forms of Christianity from forms of Judaism. There is a growing consensus too that the biblical book of Acts, a work that tells the story of Christian origins, is a second- rather than late first-century composition. Acts is also one of the earliest witnesses to the word “Christian” (Acts 11:26, 26:28). In my article (fall, 2013), “Circumcision as a Means of Testing the Historicity of Acts 16:1–5,” I contribute to this newer understanding of Christian origins by demonstrating the literary dependency of the author of Acts on the Apostle Paul. I argue that Acts 16:1–5 is a strategic rewriting of Paul’s assessment of circumcision. Unlike the authentic Paul, the author of Acts refashions the narrative of Christian beginnings and moves it into newer and different directions. In an earlier article, “Theological Identity Making: Justin’s Use of Circumcision to Create Jews and Christians” (Journal of Early Christian Studies, 2010), I argue that Justin’s treatments of circumcision in his Dialogue with Trypho can be used as test case to demonstrate how this other second-century Christian author constructs two separate theological identities, one that is Christian and the other Jewish.  Justin’s Dialogue is yet another instance of Christian identity formation within the second century. I am increasingly interested in the second century and would like to develop a course that deals with that period.

Nina Livesey is an Associate Professor of Religious Studies and Liberal Studies at the University of Oklahoma, as well as co-editor of Forum. She holds a master’s degree in Theological Studies and a doctorate in Biblical studies. More information about her publications, courses and research can be found on her website.

Mary Wuestewald
Mary Wuestewald specializes in digital and content marketing at OU Outreach. In 2015, she earned a master's degree in Strategic Communication from OU’s College of Journalism and Mass Communication. She currently contributes to Insight magazine, the CLS blog and CLS social media efforts.

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