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Inaugural Lecture: ‘The Bad Bible in the Twenty-First Century’


We're pleased to announce that this lecture was recorded. Watch the full recording on our YouTube channel now!

Professor Matthew Novenson (Professor of Biblical Criticism and Biblical Antiquities) will deliver his Inaugural Lecture 'The Bad Bible in the Twenty-First Century' in the Playfair Library, Old College on Wednesday 14 February at 5:15pm. The lecture will be followed by a reception.

This lecture is open to the public. Please note that this lecture will be recorded.

Venue information

The Lecture and Reception venues and toilets are fully accessible. Please note that accessible routes within the venue require a pass for access. If you or any of your fellow attendees have accessibility requirements that necessitate the use of these specific routes, we kindly ask you to indicate this when registering. Our Events Officer, Pippa Innes, will be in touch to make arrangements in advance. If you have any questions about access please contact Pippa Tel: 0131 6508992; email:

Please note there is no vehicular access permitted into Old College Quadrangle. We encourage anyone arriving or departing by taxi or car to arrange their drop-off at West College Street at the Talbot Rice Gallery end of the quad. The main road is not always suitable for taxis' or other vehicles to stop to a-light passengers.

The Quad is a no smoking area. Smoking is only permitted on South College Street at the entrance to Old College or West College Street (Talbot Rice entry).


Although the Bible is known in popular imagination as “the good book,” in much contemporary criticism it has become a, if not the, bad book. Recent research has demonstrated how the nineteenth-century rise of historical criticism of the Bible actually pre-empted a more radical moral criticism of the Bible that had been latent in eighteenth-century deism and elsewhere. Meanwhile, other recent research has enthusiastically taken up the task of radical moral criticism of the Bible, even to the point of denouncing earlier feminist and liberationist readings as self-serving apologetics. Building on this recent discussion, I consider what roles historical criticism, moral criticism, and reparative reading might yet have to play in twenty-first century biblical studies.

Professor Matthew Novenson

Matthew V. Novenson is Professor of Biblical Criticism and Biblical Antiquities at the University of Edinburgh, where he is also director of the Centre for the Study of Christian Origins. He has been visiting professor at Dartmouth College and Duke University and visiting research fellow at the University of Cambridge and University of Durham. He is the author of Christ among the Messiahs (Oxford University Press, 2012), The Grammar of Messianism (Oxford University Press, 2017), and Paul, Then and Now (Eerdmans, 2022), and editor of Monotheism and Christology in Greco-Roman Antiquity (Brill, 2020) and The Oxford Handbook of Pauline Studies (Oxford University Press, 2022).

Professor Matthew Novenson's Staff Profile