Kerry Sonia

Andrew W. Mellon Postdoctoral Fellow in Religion

Teaching this semester

REL 2215. The Hebrew Bible in Its World

Close readings of chosen texts in the Hebrew Bible (i.e., the Old Testament), with emphasis on its Near Eastern religious, cultural, and historical context. Attention is given to the Hebrew Bible’s literary forerunners (from c. 4000 B.C.E. onwards) to its successor, The Dead Sea Scrolls (c. 200 B.C.E. to 200 A.C.E.). Emphasis on creation and cosmologies, gods and humans, hierarchies, politics, and rituals.

REL 2242. Death and Immortality in the Ancient World

How do different cultures respond to the oblivion caused by death—the loss of personhood, the deterioration of the body, and the fading memories of those who have died? What rituals and ideologies preserve the memory of the dead among the living? Is this commemoration a kind of immortality? Explores such questions and critically examines the nature of memory as it relates to ancient ideas about death and afterlife. Analyzes epic narrative, ritual texts, and material culture and compares traditions from Mesopotamia, Syria, Israel, Egypt, Greece, and Rome.

I am a specialist in the Hebrew Bible, the religions of ancient West Asia, and theory and method in the study of religion. My research examines the construction of memory and social formation through the religious practices of everyday life, particularly those associated with the family. My teaching focuses on religion in the ancient world and includes courses on the Hebrew Bible, the New Testament, Death and Immortality, and Ancient Warfare. My current research project, entitled The Enduring Dead: the Cult of Dead Kin in Ancient Israel, examines the care and veneration of ancestors through a variety of interpretative lenses, including gender, rhetoric, and political authority.


  • Ph.D., Brown University
  • M.T.S., Harvard Divinity School
  • A.B., Brown University

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