ECR Interview: Dr. Julia Lindenlaub


University of Edinburgh

Areas of Interest/Research:

Early Christian Literature (Gospels, Apocrypha, Nag Hammadi); Authors, Texts, and Readers in Early Christianity

What is it about your field that you love researching?

What really captivates me about researching early Christianity is exploring its unique blend of history, language, and literature and how these interwoven dimensions inform our understanding of the human experience in antiquity. I fell in love with the writings of J. R. R. Tolkien at a very early age, and his extraordinary secondary world—wherein detailed histories are shaped by philology and brought to life through beautiful prose—inspired the passions I now see reflected in my academic field through the linguistic creativity and historical imagination of early Christian literature. 

What is one “big idea” in your scholarship?

My work focuses on how compositional techniques in early Christian literature reveal formative assumptions about the reading and writing of texts in antiquity. Literary features, such as authorial fiction or source citation, provide a fascinating window into why diverse groups of early Christians prioritised the production and preservation of the written word. My thesis research applies this concept in the Gospel of John by positing that the Beloved Disciple’s interpretation and authorship of ‘scriptural’ text is the principal impetus for the gospel’s emphasis on its written medium.  

What is your current research about?

I am currently pursuing my interest in texts featuring literary characteristics that appear motivated or shaped by aspects of early Christian reading cultures. I aim to explore how representations of authors, texts, and readers in early Christian literature were distinct from yet related to religious and literary counterparts in the wider socio-cultural milieu. Additionally, I am working alongside my colleague, Elizabeth Corsar, on expanding study of second- and third-century receptions of the Gospel of John. We are both eager to direct greater attention to the Gospel of John’s ‘watershed’ impact on literature in its wake!

Who is one of your academic heroes and why do you admire them?

Dr Sean Adams is a fantastic example of excellent scholarship as well as remarkable kindness and support to PhD students and early career scholars. He is always glad to talk ideas about research or to give advice for navigating the academy, and he’s a friendly and welcoming presence at conferences. It’s equally a pleasure to hear him present on his work and to have a chat in the pub! 

What books have been formative for you in your study? Why were they so important? How did they shape you?

I have been working primarily on the Gospel of John since my undergraduate studies and was led to the gospel’s prominent use of the Jewish scriptures through the work of Catrin Williams. Her attention to detail in Johannine citations and to the gospel author’s use of Isaiah in particular were immensely helpful for my Master’s dissertation as well as my PhD thesis. My history with the Gospel of John was further shaped by Larry Hurtado’s work on early Christians as ‘bookish’ in the religious context of Mediterranean antiquity. This research was foundational for my interest in the development of ‘book culture’ in early Christianity, and it grounds my thesis’ spotlight on the Gospel of John’s significance in this respect. 

Do you have any publications we can showcase?

My research on the self-conscious emphases placed on authorship and textuality in the Gospel of John led me to compare these features with counterparts in Christian apocrypha and Nag Hammadi: Epistula Apostolorum and Apocryphon of James (NHC I,2). The results of this comparison were recently published in the Journal for the Study of the New Testament:

Where can we follow you online?

You can find me on Twitter @JuliaLindenlaub!

If we ran into you at SBL/AAR and you didn’t want to talk about your field what would you want to talk about?

My other great love is music! I’m a classically trained pianist and have always enjoyed music history and theory as well. My favourite piano repertoire includes Bach, Chopin, and Rachmaninoff, but I’m also a great fan of orchestral works (not least piano concertos) and opera. I make a point of having music playing throughout my day, and my go-to genres are by no means limited to a background in classical works. I am just as keen to talk electronic trance DJs or symphonic metal sopranos!

Other than your thesis, what research/writing project are you working on right now that you’re excited about?

Epistula Apostolorum has really captured my attention—while its striking parallels with the Gospel of John first drew me to it, I continue to find further aspects of the text that keep me coming back! I intend to continue this research and hope to be part of bringing it to the attention of fellow early Christianity scholars. It is an intriguing early example of books about Jesus, and I believe it holds yet-untapped import for research on gospel literature in New Testament and Christian apocrypha. My most imminent work on the horizon is consequently focused on this text.

>> Thank you so much Dr. Lindenlaub for taking the time to share a bit about yourself and your work.

Are you a PhD student or Early Career Researcher working in Religion or Biblical Studies? If so, we’d like to hear from you. This website is dedicated solely to interviewing PhD students and ECRs on who they are, what they love about their work, and what has inspired them. If you’d like to be interviewed, head over to the Contact page and fill out the form. There’s no catch. Don’t be shy. Self-promotion is a virtue.

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