Queen's University

Dr. Richard Ascough

Professor, Department of Classics, School of Religion


I am a Professor in the School of Religion and cross-appointed to the Department of Classics.

My research focuses on the history of early Christianity and Greco-Roman religious culture with particular attention to various types of associations. I have published ten books and more than forty articles and book chapters, thirty-one contributions to reference tools such as encyclopaedias and dictionaries, and over two hundred book reviews and book notes.

I am currently researching the dynamics of religious interaction and community development in small religious associations in the Greco-Roman world. My project is part of a larger movement that is exploring modern theories of Christian origins. With John Kloppenborg (uToronto) and Philip Harland (uYork), I published a Sourcebook and accompanying webpage for understanding the many small, unofficial associations in Greco-Roman antiquity. The sourcebook includes English translations of 332 inscriptions and papyri documents, along with descriptions of association buildings, translations from literary documents, and an extensive annotated bibliography.

I regularly teach courses on religion in Greek and Roman antiquity, with particular emphasis on the first two centuries of the development of what will come to be called “Christianity.” Not wanting to remain solely in antiquity, I have also taught coureses on religion and film and religion and business ethics. I have published seven articles on teaching and learning and regularly offer workshops and consultations through the Wabash Centre for Teaching and Learning in Theology and Religion.

I have been recognized for my creative and innovative approach to teaching through a number of teaching awards at Queen’s and beyond: Queen’s Alumni Award for Excellence in Teaching (2002); Queen’s Chancellor A. Charles Baillie Teaching Award (2009); Queen’s AMS Frank Knox Award for Excellence in Teaching (Fall 2016); and the Ontario Undergraduate Student Alliance Award for Excellence in Teaching (2017). Most recently I was selected to receive the D2L Innovation Award in Teaching and Learning (2017), an international award recognizing “innovative approaches that promote student-centred teaching and learning.”

Most Recent Project

1 & 2 Thessalonians: An Introduction and Study Guide. Encountering the Christ Group at Thessalonike

1 Thessalonians provides a fascinating glimpse 1 & 2 Thessaloniansinto the origins and social life of the Christ group in the ancient Roman city of Thessalonike, while 2 Thessalonians reveals how the community developed at a somewhat later time. This guide narrates the story of the founding of the group by considering the social and cultural contexts, the literary form, the rhetorical strategies, the theologies, and the reception of the two canonical letters.

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Other Projects

  • What are They Now Saying About Christ Groups and Associations?

    Cover of Currents in Biblical ResearchOver the past decade and a half a considerable number of scholarly books and articles have addressed directly the relationship between associations and early Christ groups. Some, albeit not all, of the Pauline communities have been subjected to thorough investigation, while preliminary studies have been undertaken with the Gospels, Acts, and other early Christian writings. The majority of scholarly works leave little doubt regarding the relevance of the associations for understanding the organizational and ideological predilections of the early Christ groups. In their structure and organization Christ groups look and sound like associations. Thus, it no longer makes sense to construe the investigation, as has so often been the case in past scholarship, as focusing on three separate and distinct categories such as “synagogues, churches, and associations.” A review of the data available and the trends in recent scholarship is suggestive for new and fruitful avenues of exploration that dismantle such falsely constructed categorical boundaries.

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  • Paul, Synagogues, and Associations: Reframing the Question of Models for Pauline Christ Groups

    Journal of the Jesus Movement in its Jewish SettingIn the continuing and growing discourse on how best to understand the social organization of Pauline Christ groups some approaches continue to advocate for a separation of categories such as “synagogue” and “association” while attempting to place the Pauline groups into one or the other of these. This article argues that the question should not be whether Christ groups are “synagogues” or “associations” as if these two categories are separate and distinct. In fact, the overlap among Judean groups, Christ groups, and associations breaks down such falsely rigid dichotomies

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  • Greco-Roman Associations: Texts, Translations, and Commentary, vol. 1, Attica, Central Greece, Macedonia, Thrace

    Private associations organized around a cult, profession, ethnic identity, neighbourhood or family were common throughout the Greco-Roman antiquity, offering opportunities for sociability, cultic activities, mutual support and a context in which to display and recognize virtuous achievement. This volume, written with John S. Kloppenborg, collects a representative selection of inscriptions from associations in Attica, Central Greece, Macedonia, Thrace, published with English translations, brief explanatory notes, commentaries and full indices.

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