University of Northern Iowa

Department of Philosophy and Religion
154 Baker Hall
Cedar Falls, IA 50614
Phone: 319-273-6990
Fax: 319-273-7095


Photo courtesy of the Courier

Welcome to my Homepage

Please visit the links below for information about my background and courses.

Humanities I | Religions of the World | New Testament | Old Testament |

Judaism and Islam|Dead Sea Scrolls

Professional Background/c.v./résumé

This summer I will be moving to the Department of History where I will teach classes on ancient history,

ancient religion, and the history of the Middle East.

•The Psalms of Solomon and other publications•

Queen Salome Alexandra (Book proposal for my forthcoming biography) •



I was raised in the Detroit area in the suburb of Sterling Heights, Michigan. My family, including two brothers, still resides in the northern Detroit area and I frequently visit the region. Like many students, I worked my way through school in a variety of jobs. Being from an industrial area, the majority of my work experience occurred in factories related to the automotive industry making such items as brake parts and dashboard panels. Operating the large machines required to manufacture car parts was a difficult, demanding, and scary job. I also worked as a metal grinder, as a machine operator in a spaghetti factory (a position that was unbearable in the summer due to the heat of the giant ovens), a plastic factory, and in a restaurant (midnight shift). After completing my undergraduate studies at Oakland University, I spent four years as a soldier in the U. S. Army during the Cold War. During this time, I was privileged to serve as a member of the Berlin Brigade, in the former West Berlin located in side the Berlin Wall (Andrews Barracks). One of my jobs in the military was to serve as a courier transporting documents across the Iron Curtain. While stationed in West Berlin, I frequently visited the archeological museums of East Berlin and traveled widely through Europe and the Middle East.

After leaving Germany, I moved to Israel, and lived on Kibbutz Kfar Hanassi for six months, where I worked as an avocado picker, chicken handler, and as a grinder in the aluminum foundry. I then spent over two years both traveling and serving as staff member on the following archeological excavations in Israel: Tel Haror (3 seasons; Philistine and Middle Bronze Age periods); Eilat (Prehistoric religious sites); Banias (Roman, Islamic, Crusader periods); Gamla (2 seasons; Roman, Bronze Age periods); Hayonim Terrace (Prehistoric period); Meroth (Byzantine, Roman periods). I have also excavated at London's Guild Hall with the Museum of London's Department of Urban Archaeology. My journeys took me to over seventeen countries where I visited many sites related to the Bible, humanities, and world religions. My travel and archaeological work proved quite informative and exciting, given such unusual experiences as attacks by wild boars, the discovery of a bomb at an excavation site, finding a Canaanite Temple, terroristic threats, illness, storms at sea, and the extremes of desert heat. I was also fortunate to spend time with Bedouin, Druze, and Kurds, whose lifestyles remain in many respects similar to the ancient cultures of my present research. After many years of travel and archaeological fieldwork in Israel and England, I have come to realize that historical, textual, and archaeological studies cannot be separated. In my courses I like to share some of my experiences with students, through photographs and artifacts, in order to help them learn about the past and present.

Following my travels, I earned a Master of Divinity degree at the University of Chicago, focusing upon ancient languages, history, classics and the Dead Sea Scrolls. I then studied at Temple University in Philadelphia, where I received an M.A. and Ph.D., concentrating in Biblical Literature and world religions.

Burial site of Antiochus I of Commagene
Nemrut Dag, Eastern Turkey

Ready to capture Troy

(at ancient Troy in Turkey)

I have been a member of the Department of Philosophy and World Religions at the University of Northern Iowa since August, 1999, where I teach courses in biblical studies, world religions, and humanities. I became interested in religion, ancient history, and archaeology while living and traveling overseas. My areas of interest include the Hebrew Bible (Old Testament); the New Testament; Jewish and Christian non-canonical literature; the Dead Sea Scrolls; Archaeology, Women in Antiquity, and World Religions. My recent publications examine the connection between religion and violence by focusing upon the development of the violent messiah in the Dead Sea Scrolls. My other works include articles on Herod the Great, the Psalms of Solomon, women in the Dead Sea Scrolls, the archeology of early synagogues, and the history of biblical archeology. I have recently written a book on the Psalms of Solomon, and translated them for the New English Translation of the Septuagint. I am currently writing the first biography of Queen Salome Alexandra of Jerusalem. In my free time I like to remain active and spend as much time outdoors as possible. I especially like hiking and have completed numerous long-distance running and bicycling events. I was an original participant in Bikecentennial '76 and rode over 600 miles through the Rocky Mountains, including Yellowstone and the Grand Tetons.

Dead Sea Scroll Caves at Qumran

Photographs by Kenneth Atkinson

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