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David Brakke

David Brakke

David Brakke

Professor of History



230 Dulles Hall
230 Annie and John Glenn Avenue
Columbus, OH, 43210

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Areas of Expertise

  • History of Christianity
  • Early Christianity
  • Coptic and Syriac literature

David Brakke is the Joe R. Engle Chair in the History of Christianity and Professor of History.  He received the B.A. in English from the University of Virginia (1983), M.Div. from Harvard University (1986), and Ph.D. in religious studies from Yale University (1992).   Before coming to OSU in 2012, he taught for nineteen years in the Department of Religious Studies at Indiana University, where he was department chair from 2006 to 2011.

Professor Brakke studies and teaches the history and literature of ancient Christianity from its origins through the fifth century, with special interests in asceticism, monasticism, "Gnosticism," biblical interpretation, and Egyptian Christianity.  Athanasius and the Politics of Asceticism (Oxford UP 1995; Johns Hopkins UP 1998) examines the social and political dimensions of a bishop's ascetic teachings, and Demons and the Making of the Monk: Spiritual Combat in Early Christianity (Harvard UP 2006) explores the role of evil forces in the formation of the monk as a virtuous self and as a social role. The Gnostics: Myth, Ritual, and Diversity in Early Christianity (Harvard UP 2010) argues for a social and cultural approach to the definition of "Gnosticism" and to the question of "orthodoxy" and "heresy" in the era before Constantine.  It was named a Choice Outstanding Academic Title for 2011.  He has also edited and translated early Christian texts, most recently, with Andrew Crislip, Selected Discourses of Shenoute the Great: Community, Theology, and Social Conflict in Late Antique Egypt (Cambridge UP 2015), and he has co-edited several scholarly volumes, including Religion and the Self in Antiquity (Indiana UP 2005) and Shifting Cultural Frontiers in Late Antiquity (Ashgate 2012).

Professor Brakke's research has received support from the American Council of Learned Societies, the National Endowment for the Humanities, and the Alexander von Humboldt Foundation.

He is currently a member of an international team of scholars that is producing the first unified critical edition and translation of the works of Shenoute of Atripe (ca.348-465), the leader of a large monastic community in Upper Egypt and the greatest native writer of Coptic.  His current projects include also revising and updating The Gnostic Scriptures by Bentley Layton and a new translation of the Festal Letters of Athanasius of Alexandria.
Professor Brakke is the president of the International Association for Coptic Studies and a member of the Board of Consultants of the Journal of Religion. From 2005 to 2015 he served as editor of the Journal of Early Christian Studies, which is sponsored by the North American Patristics Society.
Potential graduate students interested in studying early Christianity or Christianity in late antiquity should be aware of the presence at OSU also of Professors Tim Gregory, Bert Harrill, and Kristina Sessa in History; Fritz Graf, Anthony Kaldellis, and Sarah Iles Johnston in Classics; and Sean Anthony, Lynne Kaye, and Michael Swartz in Near Eastern Languages and Cultures.  All of these faculty members participate in the Graduate Interdisciplinary Specialization in the Religions of the Ancient Mediterranean (GISRAM).

Professor Brakke discusses the History of Christianity here.