Isla Carroll and Percy E. Turner Professor of New Testament and Early Christianity
Chair of the Department of Religion at Rice University
Since the making of history lies at the intersection of memory and experience, culture and cognition, society and the individual, I approach ancient religions texts as products of a person's brain and body, as well as a person's community. I am at the forefront of this unique historical perspective, one that I call Cognitive Historicism.
My research and teaching is devoted to engaging the silenced voices of religious people and communities that were left behind or discarded when Christianity emerged in the first four centuries as a new religion. I wish to bring the old stories back to life, with the hope that we will remember, respect and even learn from them. Why? Because our past reflects us, not only where we have been, but who we are and who we will become.
I also work to understand how these lost voices have migrated into modernity and impacted American culture and religion. I study how the rise of new religious movements, the New Age, and the spiritual-but-not-religious perspective are linked to the migration of Gnostic spirituality into American life. I wish to give voice to the resonances and echoes of their unique forms of spirituality and religious experiences, which have much to teach us about ourselves, our history, and our society today.
Whether in antiquity or modern America, I study those who suffer oppression and intolerance, who are marginalized, forbidden and forgotten. I explore everything from women's issues in biblical and apocryphal texts to shamanic practices in Nag Hammadi literature to new religious movements with Gnostic clout. To reach a broader public, I write regularly on my blog, The Forbidden Gospels.