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Steven J. Friesen

ProfessorPh.D., Harvard University

Professor, Louise Farmer Boyer Chair in Biblical Studies
Steven J. Friesen



Social history of the early Christian churches | Roman imperial cults | Revelation and apocalypticism | indigenous religions | social locations and functions of religion


Steven Friesen is the Louise Farmer Boyer Chair in Biblical Studies.  He holds a Ph.D. from Harvard University, an M.Div. from Fuller Theological Seminary, and a B.A. from Fresno Pacific College.  Prior to arriving at UT-Austin, he taught at the the University of Missouri-Columbia, where he served as Chair of the Department of Religious Studies.  He also held a three-year fellowship in the Cultural Studies Program at the East-West Center in Honolulu.

Friesen's research field is early Christianity, with particular interests in the book of Revelation, poverty in the Roman Empire, and archaeology of religion in the eastern Mediterranean.  His publcations include Imperial Cults and the Apocalypse of John:  Reading Revelation in the Ruins and Twice Neokoros:  Ephesus, Asia, and the Cult of the Flavian Imperial Family.  His current research examines the economic ideas and practices of the apostle Paul and his communities.

Dr. Friesen teaches undergraduate courses on New Testament and Biblical Studies, as well as theory and method in the study of religion.  These include "Introduction to the New Testament," "Revelation and Apocalyptic Literature," and "What is Religion?"


T C 302 • Evolutn/Creatn Debate In Amer

42775 • Fall 2010
Meets TTH 1100am-1230pm MAI 220C

This course has a writing flag.


Starting with the late 17th century inquiries of Nicholas Steno, debate and discussion on the question of evolution raged in biology until the neo-Darwinian synthesis of the 1930’s established evolution by mutation, genetic drift, and natural selection as the consensus paradigm of modern biology and the organizing principle around which the discipline is based. The universal adherence to evolutionary principles in biology stands in stark contrast to popular perceptions, where only about half of the U.S. population accepts the basic tenants of evolution.

The goal of this course is to provide basic scientific and religious literacy in a single course that is team-taught by a physical anthropologist and a specialist in Biblical literature.  We will examine the interplay between scientific and popular thought through the lens of the contemporary debate on evolution and human origins in the U.S. The course takes a broad look at how different religious traditions, including Christianity, Islam, Judaism, Buddhism  and indigenous religions approach the question of origins, and how they interact with one another and with science. Through critical reading, civil discourse, and concise writing students explore the scientific basis of evolution; different definitions of science, religion and mythology; the debate on intelligent design; scientific and mythic cosmologies; the bases of epistemologies; the role of science and religion in morality and ethics; and contemporary politics surrounding science education.



Major Texts and Readings

Adler, M. J. & C. van Doren. 1972. How to Read a Book. New York: Touchstone.

Bagir, Z. A.  2005.  Science and Religion in  a Post-colonial World: Interfaith Perspectives. Adelaide: ATF.

Bowler, P. 2003. Evolution: The history of an idea. Berkeley: Univ. of California Press

Cunningham, M. K. 2007. God and Evolution: A Reader. New York: Routledge,

Dawkins, R. 2006. The God Delusion. New York: Bantam.

Doniger, W. 1999. The Implied Spider: Politics and Theology in Myth. New York: Columbia Univ. Press

Ferngren, G. 2002. Science and Religion: A historical perspective. Baltimore: Johns Hopkins Univ. Press

Iqbal, M. 2007. Science and Islam. New York: Greenwood Press.

Kurtz, P. 2003. Science and Religion: Are They Compatible? New York: Prometheus.

Lincoln, B.1989. Discourse and the Construction of Society: Comparative studies of myth, ritual and classification. New York: Oxford.

Wallace, B. 2003. Buddhism & Science: Breaking new ground. New York: Columbia Univ. Press.

Additional Readings and Resources:

National Academies of Science. 2008. Teaching About Evolution. Washington DC: National Academies of Science.

Sarfati, J. 1999. Refuting Evolution. Brisbane, Australia: Answers in Genesis

Russel B. 1960. Religion and Science. New York: Oxford Univ. Press

Jones, J. E. 2005. Opinion in the case of Kitzmiller et al. v. Dover Area School District.



The course meets twice weekly for 1.5 academic hours each session and has a substantial writing component.

This course seeks to develop three important skills: 1) critical thinking and the ability to analyze written and spoken arguments, 2) the ability to share ideas through discourse rather than heated argument with the aim of reaching greater understanding for all participants rather than coercive persuasion to a particular point of view, 3) the ability to craft a laconic, well-reasoned essay.

In pursuit of these goals the coarse requires students to annotate assigned readings and to keep a written journal with short entries (ca. 150-200 words) of reading notes and discussion questions for each class session, along with a brief summary of the in-class discussion. Journals are graded and account for 40% of the total grade.

Each class discussion is led and moderated by one student with help from the instructors. In preparation to lead a class discussion students must prepare written summaries of the readings, along with a list of major and minor discussion questions. This critical reading assignment accounts for 10% of the student’s grade. 

Drawing on the critical reading assignment and the class discussion, the student is expected to write a well-crafted short essay (ca. 1000-1200 words) on the topic that was discussed. This essay may draw upon points raised during the class discussion but must be more than a mere summary of the discussion. The essay should reflect the student’s position on the topic and also provide evidence and reasoned argument in support of that position. The essay is due one week after the student moderates the class. Critique on the essay is provided by the instructors, a revised version of the essay is submitted and accounts for 25% of the student’s grade.

Students will apply their writing skills to a final exam covering major topics that arise in the course. The final exam will count for the remaining 25% of the students’ grades.


About the Professors:

Denné Reed is Assistant Professor in the Department of Anthropology who studies the influences of ecology and environment on hominin adapations and behavior. Denné conducts field work on human origins in Ethiopia, Tanzania, and Morocco.

Steve Friesen is the Louise Farmer Boyer Chair in Biblical Studies, Department of Religious Studies.  His area of research is Christian origins.  His special interests include apocalyptic literature, and economic inequality in the early Roman Empire.



  • Co-edited with Daniel Showalter.  Urban Religion and Roman Corinth:  Interdisciplinary Approaches.  Cambridge, Mass.:  Harvard Theological Studies; distributed by Harvard Univ. Press, 2005.
  • Imperial Cults and the Apocalypse of John:  Reading Revelation in the Ruins.  NY:  Oxford University Press, 2001. 
  • Editor.  Ancestors in Post-Contact Religion:  Roots, Ruptures, and Modernity's Memory.  Religions of the World series; Center for the Study of World Religions, Harvard Divinity School; distributed by Harvard Univ. Press, 2001.
  • Twice Neokoros:  Ephesus, Asia, and the Cult of the Flavian Imperial Family.  Religions in the Graeco-Roman World 116; Leiden:  Brill, 1993.
  • Editor.  Local Knowledge, Ancient Wisdom:  Challenges in Contemporary Spirituality.  Honolulu:  East-West Center, 1991.


  • “The Economy of Paul’s Gospel:  The Jerusalem Collection as an Alternative to Patronage.”  In Paul Unbound: Other Perspectives on Paul, edited by Mark D. Givens.  Peabody, Mass.:  Hendrickson, 2009.
  • “Injustice or God’s Will?  Early Christian Explanations of Poverty.”  In Wealth and Poverty in Early Church and Society, edited by Susan R. Holman.  Grand Rapids, MI:  Baker Academic Press, 2008.
  • “The Blessings of Hegemony: Poverty, Paul’s Assemblies, and the Class Interests of the Professoriate.”  In The Bible in the Public Square:  Reading the Signs of the Times, edited by Cynthia Briggs Kittredge, Jonathan A. Draper, and Ellen Bradshaw Aitken.  Minneapolis:  Fortress Press, 2008.
  • "Satan’s Throne, Imperial Cults, and the Social Settings of Revelation.”  Invited by Journal for the Study of the New Testament 27, 2007.
  • "Sarcasm in Revelation 2-3:  Churches, Christians, True Jews, and Satanic Synagogues."  In The Reality of Apocalypse:  Rhetoric and Politics in the Book of Revelation, edited by David Barr.  Atlanta:  Scholars Press, 2006.
  • "Injustice or God’s Will?  Explanations of Poverty in Four Proto-Christian Texts."  In The First Century, edited by Richard Horsley.  Vol. 1 of A People's History of Christianity.  Minneapolis:  Fortress Press, 2005.
  • "Prospects for a Demography of the Pauline Mission:  Corinth among the Churches."  In Urban Religion and Roman Corinth:  Interdisciplinary Approaches (see above). 2005.
  • “Myth and Symbolic Resistance in Revelation 13.”  Journal of Biblical Literature 123, 2004.
  • "Poverty in Pauline Studies: Beyond the So-called New Consensus."  Journal for the Study of the New Testament 26, 2004.
  • “Ephesos B:  The Upper City.”  In The Cities of Paul:  Images and Interpretations from the Harvard New Testament and Archaeology Project.  CD-ROM, edited by Helmut Koester.  Minneapolis:  Augsburg Fortress, 2004.
  • “Religion and Politics in Early Christianity.”  In Religions of the Ancient World: A Guide, edited by Sarah Iles Johnston.  Cambridge, Mass.:  Harvard University Press, 2004.
  • “The Hawaiian Lei on a Voyage Through Modernities:  A Study in Post-Contact Religion.”  In Beyond ‘Primitivism’:  Indigenous Religious Traditions and Modernity, edited by Jacob Olupona.  N.Y.:  Routledge, 2004.
  • “The Beast from the Earth:  Revelation 13:11-18 and Social Setting.”  In Readings in the Book of Revelation:  A Resource for Students, edited by David Barr.  Atlanta:  Scholars Press, 2003.
  • "High Priestesses of Asia and Emancipatory Interpretation."  In Walk in the Ways of Wisdom:  Essays in Honor of Elisabeth Schüssler Fiorenza, edited by Shelly Matthews, Cynthia Briggs Kittredge, and Melanie Johnson-DeBaufre.  N.Y.:  Trinity Press International, 2003.
  • “Introduction:  Modern Ancestors.”  In Ancestors in Post-Contact Religion:  Roots, Ruptures, and Modernity's Memory (see above). 2001.
  • “Asiarchs.”  Zeitschrift für Papyrologie und Epigraphik 126, 1999.
  • “Ephesian Women and Men in Public Religious Office in the Roman Period.”  In 100 Jahre Österreichische Forschungen in Ephesos.  Akten des Symposions Wien 1995, edited by Herwig Friesinger and Friedrich Krinzinger.  Vienna:  Austrian Archaeological Institute, 1999.
  • “Highpriests of Asia and Asiarchs:  Farewell to the Identification Theory.”  In Steine und Wege:  Festschrift für Dieter Knibbe zum 65. Geburtstag, edited by Peter Scherrer.  Vienna:  Austrian Archaeological Institute, 1999.
  • “The Origins of Lei Day:  Festivity and the Construction of Ethnicity in the Territory of Hawaii.”  History and Anthropology 10, 1996.
  • “Revelation, Realia, and Religion:  Archaeology in the Interpretation of the Apocalypse.”  Harvard Theological Review 88, 1995.
  • “The Cult of the Roman Emperors in Ephesos:  Temple Wardens, City Titles, and the Interpretation of the Revelation of John.”  In Ephesos, Metropolis of Asia: An Interdisciplinary Approach to Religion and Culture, edited by Helmut Koester.  Valley Forge, Penn.:  Trinity, 1995.
  • “Ephesos A:  City Center and Curetes St.”  In Archaeological Resources for New Testament Studies (ARNTS) 2, Valley Forge, Penn.: Trinity Press.  1995. With assistance of Christine Thomas.
  • “Abaddon,” “Gabriel,” and “Jehovah.”  In Oxford Companion to the Bible.  Oxford:  Oxford University Press, 1993.
  • “Olympia.”  In ARNTS 1, Philadelphia: Fortress, 1987.
  • “Corinth A: Architectural Monuments of the Roman City.” In ARNTS 1, Philadephia: Fortress Press, 1987.  With assistance of Allan Janek, et al.

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