Laura Nasrallah's research and teaching bring together New Testament and early Christian literature with the archaeological remains of the Mediterranean world, and often engage issues of colonialism, gender, status, and Power.
In Christian Responses to Roman Art and Architecture: The Second-Century Church Amid the Spaces of Empire (Cambridge University Press, 2010) Nasrallah argues that early Christian literature addressed to Greeks and Romans is best understood when read in tandem with the archaeological remains of the Roman world. Early Christians discussed justice, piety, and God's image in the midst of sculptures and monumental architecture asserting the value and marketability of Greek culture, as well as the justice, piety, and even divinity of the Roman imperial family and other elites. The Acts of the Apostles and the writings of Justin, Athenagoras, Tatian, and Clement are the foundational texts for this study.
She is also co-editor, with Elisabeth Schüssler Fiorenza, of Prejudice and Christian Beginnings: Investigating Race, Gender, and Ethnicity in Early Christian Studies (Fortress Press, 2009) and, with Charalambos Bakirtzis and Steven J. Friesen, of From Roman to Early Christian Thessalonikē: Studies in Religion and Archaeology (Harvard University Press, 2010).
In 2014, she conducted the online course module Early Christianity: The Letters of Paul, offered through HarvardX/edX. Materials from that course can be found at lettersofpaul.org.
Among her current projects are a book on archaeology and the letters of Paul and a commentary on 1 Corinthians for the Hermeneia series. She is co-organizing an upcoming conference on religion and archaeology in early Christian Cyprus. The Office of the Provost funded a project on uses of the New Testament in U.S. popular culture and politics.
Professor Nasrallah will give a research seminar on the following topic: "Authoritative Texts and Public Display in the Spaces of the Roman Empire"
This seminar will explore several case studies in the public display of authoritative texts in the Roman Empire. Together we’ll ask: How should we think about the “publication” and display of archives or authoritative texts in civic spaces? How might this publication influence and even inspire early Christian writings of the second century CE?
We will engage in detective work using several case studies. We’ll virtually travel to an archive wall inscribed at Aphrodisias; to a puzzling philosophical inscription at Oinoanda; to an imperial rescript inscribed in Phrygia; and to the writings of the second-century Christian writer Justin, who claims to address the imperial family in his Apology and appears to append an imperial rescript to his text.
Roughly contemporaneous with the production of a philosophical-political treatise like Justin’s was a burgeoning of the collection, circulation, and sometimes invention of letters that often claimed to directly address someone other than the actual recipients. Scholarship has addressed these in terms of epistolary novels, on the one hand, and pseudo-documentary evidence, on the other. How does this literary phenomenon provide an additional context for the epigraphic and literary case studies we observe?
These case studies will let us explore issues of space, power, and religion, and to see how these are intertwined in antiquity. It will also allow participants to practice skills in bringing together an analysis of civic space, epigraphic materials, and literary texts from antiquity.