travis williamsI grew up in the small, East Tennessee town of Oliver Springs (just outside of Knoxville). Out of high school, I had aspirations of eventually entering into some type of Christian ministry, but once I was exposed to the academic study of religion, I knew that I wanted to teach. After moving around to various places for my bachelor’s (Chattanooga) and master’s (Dallas) degrees, I chose to undertake Ph.D. studies (New Testament and Early Christian Origins) at the University of Exeter, which is one of the top schools in the UK. My time there was made possible by a full scholarship and generous stipend from the university. When I moved back from England, I began adjunct work with Tusculum in 2010 and was brought on full-time the next year.

In terms of my personal life, I married my high school sweetheart, Amy, during my junior year of college, and this year we will be celebrating 14 years of marriage. Amy and I have two boys, Bryce (age 8) and Trent (age 4), who are both sports fanatics. Over the last few years, I’ve had the opportunity to coach both of them in a variety of sports. We are members at First Presbyterian Church in Johnson City, where I serve as an elder.


My primary area of expertise is New Testament and Early Christian Literature. Within this field, much of my research attention is devoted to the letter of 1 Peter. Over the last few years, I have published a number of peer-reviewed articles and essays on this epistle (see below). Most of my time, however, has been spent on two major monographs. The first is entitled Persecution in 1 Peter: Differentiating and Contextualizing Early Christian Suffering. Supplements to Novum Testamentum 145. Leiden: Brill, 2012. Pp. xxvii + 483. This study is a comprehensive socio-historical investigation into the nature of suffering in 1 Peter and, by extension, early Christianity. Using a wide range of historical evidence (e.g., ancient texts, inscriptions, papyri, etc) as well as methodological perspectives from the social sciences, the book reconstructs the conflict situation of the Anatolian audience and offers important insights regarding the legal culpability of Christians following the Neronian persecution, the roles of local and provincial authorities in the judicial process, and the variegated conflict experiences of different socio-economic groups within the Christian communities.

The second work, which just appeared last year, is entitled Good Works in 1 Peter: Negotiating Social Conflict and Christian Identity in the Greco-Roman World. Wissenschaftliche Untersuchungen zum Neuen Testament 337. Tübingen: Mohr Siebeck, 2014. Pp. xxii + 412. In this monograph, I set out to diagnose the social strategy of good works in 1 Peter by examining how the persistent admonition to “do good” is intended to be an appropriate response to social conflict. Challenging the reigning consensus, the work demonstrates that the exhortation to “do good” envisages a pattern of conduct which stands opposed to popular values. By drawing from postcolonial theory, I show how the good works theme articulates a competing discourse which challenges dominant social structures and the hegemonic ideology which underlies them.

As a culmination of my work in this area, I am currently writing a major exegetical commentary on 1 Peter. In collaboration with Prof. David G. Horrell (University of Exeter), I am co-authoring the 1 Peter volume in the International Critical Commentary (ICC) series. This commentary series has long been one of the most prestigious in the field of Biblical Studies, and it was a huge honor to be invited to contribute. At the moment, I am also working on two articles/essays, which should be published in the near future: “The Reception of Jesus in the Petrine Epistles and Jude,” in The Reception of Jesus in the First Three Centuries (eds. Jens Schröter, Chris Keith, and Helen Bond; London: Bloomsbury T&T Clark, in preparation), and “Reading Xάρις in Its Ancient Social Context: The Language of Reciprocity in 1 Peter 2:19-20,”.

Apart from my work in New Testament studies, I am also involved in concentrated study on the Dead Sea Scrolls. I have written on the pesher commentaries within the scrolls corpus, particularly as they relate to the phenomenon of inspired exegesis, and I am currently exploring the meaning and function of sacrifice within the Qumran community(-ies). This study, which will eventually become a full-length monograph, is designed as a social scientific investigation into the coping strategies employed by the scroll communities when navigating the “spiritualization” of sacrifice. It considers the meaning(s) and function(s) of sacrifice among sectarians who were transitioning from the material rituals of the Jerusalem temple to a newly constructed figured world in which worship was thought to involve a mystical experience with the angels in the celestial sanctuary. But more importantly, it examines their expectations to return to the traditional cult and what this reveals about the social construction of sacrifice.

Recent publications

“The Divinity and Humanity of Caesar in 1Peter 2,13: Early Christian Resistance to the Emperor and His Cult,” Zeitschrift für die Neutestamentliche Wissenschaft 105 (2014): 131-147

“Reading Social Conflict through Greek Grammar: Reconciling the Difficulties of the Fourth-Class Condition in 1 Pet 3,14,” Filología Neotestamentaria 26 (2013): 119-160

“Ancient Prophets and Inspired Exegetes: Interpreting Prophetic Scripture in 1QpHab and 1 Peter,” Pages 221-244 in Bedrängnis und Identität: Studien zu Situation, Kommunikation und Theologie des 1. Petrusbriefes. Edited by David S. du Toit, in collaboration with Torsten Jantsche. Beihefte zur Zeitschrift für die neutestamentliche Wissenschaft 200. Berlin: Walter de Gruyter, 2013

“Benefiting the Community through Good Works? The Economic Feasibility of Civic Benefaction in 1 Peter,” Journal of Greco-Roman Christianity and Judaism 9 (2013): 147-195

with David G. Horrell and Bradley Arnold, “Visuality, Vivid Description, and the Message of 1 Peter: The Significance of the Roaring Lion (1 Peter 5:8),” Journal of Biblical Literature 132 (2013): 697-716

“Suffering from a Critical Oversight: The Persecutions of 1 Peter within Modern Scholarship,” Currents in Biblical Research 10 (2012): 271-288

“Reconsidering the Imperatival Participle in 1 Peter,” Westminster Theological Journal 73 (2011): 59-78

“Bringing Method to the Madness: Examining the Style of the Longer Ending of Mark,” Bulletin for Biblical Research 20 (2010): 397-418


My teaching duties at Tusculum focus primarily on the Jewish and Christian traditions, although I regularly lead courses that fall within the broader sphere of Religious Studies. This semester I will be leading classes in Old Testament, New Testament, and Hebrew & Christians Traditions.

During the Spring semester, I have also been invited to serve as the 2016 Theologian-in-Residence. In this capacity, I will be leading a series of lectures (February 2, 9, 16, 23) which will consider the nature of scripture around the time of Jesus, as revealed in the Dead Sea Scrolls. More specifically, we will explore how this corpus has helped to clarify which books held a place of authority within ancient Judaism and how the scriptural text was transmitted in antiquity – including the manner in which problematic passages were omitted, new insights were added, and stories were rewritten to align with a given ideology.

Fun Facts

One fun fact, which most would probably not know about me, is that I had my high school basketball jersey retired this last year. At a ceremony in January, I was recognized as the all-time leading scorer at Oliver Springs High School (with over 2,200 points).

Faculty Spotlights are to highlight some of the research and publications of Tusculum College faculty and staff. If you would like to have your work featured, or recommend someone for a spotlight, please contact Crystal Johnson (cjohnson@tusculum.edu).