Margaret M. Mitchell

Faculty Shailer Mathews Distinguished Service Professor of New Testament and Early Christian Literature; also in the College

MA, PhD (University of Chicago)

Prof. Mitchell will be on leave for the Winter and Spring quarters of the 2024-2025 academic year.

Margaret M. Mitchell is a literary historian of ancient Christianity. Her research and teaching span a range of topics in New Testament and early Christian writings up through the end of the fourth century. She analyzes how the earliest Christians literally wrote their way into history, developing a literary and religious culture that was deeply embedded in Hellenistic Judaism and the wider Greco-Roman world, while also proclaiming its distinctiveness from each. Special interests include the Pauline letters (both in their inaugural moments and in the history of their effects), the poetics and politics of ancient biblical interpretation, and the intersection of text, image, and artifact in the fashioning of early Christian culture.

Prof. Mitchell is the author, most recently, of a volume of analyses and original translations of twenty-five late fourth-century sermons dealing with thorny passages in Paul’s letters: John Chrysostom on Paul: Praises and Problem Passages (2022). Her earlier studies include Paul and the Rhetoric of Reconciliation: An Exegetical Investigation of the Language and Composition of 1 CorinthiansThe Heavenly Trumpet: John Chrysostom and the Art of Pauline Interpretation; The “Belly-Myther of Endor: Interpretations of 1 Kingdoms 28 in the Early Church (with Rowan A. Greer); Paul, the Corinthians and the Birth of Christian Hermeneutics; and a volume of collected essays, Paul and the Emergence of Christian Textuality: Early Christian Literary Culture in Context. She is also co-editor, with Frances M. Young, of The Cambridge History of Christianity, Volume 1: Origins to Constantine. Recently published essays include “John Chrysostom on Christian Love Magic: A Spellbinding Moment in the History of Interpretation of 1 Cor 7:2–4” in New Testament Studies (2022, open access) and, with Prof. Jodi Magness (UNC Chapel Hill), “Religious Studies and the Imagined Boundaries of the Humanities” in Daedalus (special issue on “The Humanities in American Life: Transforming the Relationship with the Public”) (2022). A quick introduction to Professor Mitchell’s distinctive approach to the Pauline letters and the history of their reception and effects may be found in “The Life, Letters, and Thought of Paul,” in P. Gray, ed., The Cambridge Companion to the New Testament (2021) and “How Was the Reception of Paul Shaped in the Early Church?” in B.W. Longenecker, ed., The New Cambridge Companion to St. Paul (2020). She extends her interest in the history of biblical interpretation to contemporary American culture in such pieces as, “‘It’s Complicated.’ ‘No It’s Not.’ Problems and Solutions in the Museum of the Bible” (J. Hicks-Keeton and C. Concannon, eds., The Museum of the Bible: A Critical Introduction).

Prof. Mitchell is currently working on “The Letters of Paul: A Biography,” for Princeton University Press’s Lives of Great Religious Books series, and, among other projects, is engaged in ongoing study of the newly rediscovered Greek homilies on the Psalms by Origen of Alexandria, as well as Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.’s “Letter of Paul to American Christians.”

Prof. Mitchell’s research has been supported by grants and fellowships from the Luce, Mellon and Guggenheim foundations. She is an elected member of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, l’Association internationale d’études patristiques, and Studiorum Novi Testamenti Societas, of which she served as president in 2021-2022.