Michael Penn | curriculum vitae


Ph.D. Department of Religion, Duke University, September, 1999.

Dissertation: “‘With a Chaste and Closed Mouth’: Ritual Kissing, Social Boundaries, and Early Christian Communities.”

M.A. Department of Religion, Duke University, September, 1996.

Graduate Certificate, Program in Women’s Studies, Duke University, September, 1995.

A.B. Department of Molecular Biology, cum laude, Princeton University, May, 1993.

Thesis: “The Biological Images Project: Using Computers to Help Teach Biology.”

International and National Awards                                                                      

American Council for Learned Societies Digital Extension Grant (2016)

Andrew W. Mellon Foundation Five College Digital Humanities Research Fellowship (2013)

American Council for Learned Societies Frederick Burkhardt Residential Fellowship (2011)

Institute for the Study of the Ancient World Residential Fellowship (2011)

American Council for Learned Societies Digital Innovation Fellowship (2011, declined)

British Academy/American Philosophical Society Research Fellowship (2011)

American Academy of Religion Research Assistance Grants (2011, 2004)

Wabash Center Grant for Pedagogical Issues in Teaching Eastern Christianity (2011)

National Humanities Center Grant to Co-Organize “Late Antiquity at 40” Conference (2010)

John Simon Guggenheim Fellowship (2007)

National Humanities Center Residential Fellowship (2007)

National Endowment for the Humanities Fellowship (2007)

National Endowment for the Humanities Summer Research Fellowship (2005)

Nominee, American Academy of Religion Best First Book Award (2005)

Alternate, American Council for Learned Societies Fellowship (2005)

National Endowment for the Humanities Summer Seminar Grant (2004)

Wabash Center Summer Research Grant (2004)

Wabash Center Grant for Summer Workshop on Teaching and Learning (2004)

United States Information Agency Fellowship for Cairo, City of Islam Program (1999)

Finalist, Woodrow Wilson/Charlotte Newcombe Dissertation Fellowship (1999)

Goethe Institute Fellowship for Summer German Study (1995)

University Awards

Meribeth E. Cameron Faculty Award for Scholarship (2015)

William R Kenan, Jr. Faculty Chair (2013-present)

Faculty Grants (2015, 2014, 2013, 2012, 2011, 2009, 2008, 2007, 2006, 2005, 2004, 2003)

Research Assistant Grants (2016, 2015, 2014, 2013, 2012, 2011, 2010, 2009, 2008, 2007, 2006)

Faculty Fellowships (2011, 2010, 2008, 2006)

Diversity Grant for Syriac Liturgical Music Concert (2010)

Library and Informational Technologies Grant (2004)

Kraft-Hiatt Postdoctoral Fellowship, Brandeis University (2001)

Finalist, Princeton Society of Fellows Postdoctoral Fellowship (2000)

Jean O’Barr Teaching Endowment Award, Duke University (1998)

Margaret Taylor Smith Teaching Endowment Award, Duke University (1997)

J.B. Duke Doctoral Fellowship, Duke University (1993)

Publications (Single Author Books)

Envisioning Islam: Syriac Christians in the Early Muslim World (Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press, 2015).

When Christians First Met Muslims: A Source Book of the Earliest Syriac Writings on Islam (Berkeley: University of California Press, 2015).

Kissing Christians: Ritual and Community in the Late Ancient Church (Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press, 2005). Nominated for the American Academy of Religion’s Best First Book Award. Reviewed in: Bible and Critical Theory, Catholic Historical Review, Church History, Henoch, Journal of Biblical Literature, Journal of Medieval and Early Modern Studies, Journal of Theological Studies, Medieval Encounters, Religious Studies Review, Spiritus.


Publications (Collaborative Books)

Hymnal According to the Rite of the Syriac Orthodox Church of Antioch (Antioch Press, Forthcoming). Co-translated with Gabriel Aydin and the Syriac Orthodox Bishops of America.

English translation of Ruben Duval, Traite de grammaire Syriaque (Gorgias Press, Forthcoming). Co-translated with Maria Doerfler and Adam McCollum.


Publications (Articles and Book Chapters)

“Early Syriac Reactions to the Rise of Islam” in The Syriac World (New York: Routledge, Forthcoming).

“Automated Syriac Script Charts” Studia Patristica 45 (Forthcoming). Co-authored with Nick Howe and Kaylynn Crawford.

“Melania’s Afterlives” in Melania: Early Christianity Through the Life of One Family (Berkeley: University of California Press, Forthcoming 2016).

“Know Thy Enemy: The Materialization of Orthodoxy in Syriac Manuscripts” in Snapshots of Evolving Traditions: Textual Fluidity, Manuscript Culture and New Philology (Berlin: Walter de Gruyter, Forthcoming 2016).

“A Character Style Library for Syriac Manuscripts,” Proceedings of the International Workshop on Historical Document Imaging and Processing (2015). Co-authored with Nick Howe and Alice Yang.

“Demons Gone Wild: An Introduction, Edition, and Translation of the Syriac Qenneshre Fragment,” Orientalia Christiana Periodica 79 (2013): 367-399.

“Using Computers to Identify Ancient Scribal Hands,” Studia Patristica 44 (2013): 261-265.

“Jacob of Edessa’s Defining Christianity: An Introduction, Edition, and Translation” Journal of Eastern Christian Studies 64 (2012): 175-199.

“The Wright Decoder: A Page Index to the British Library Catalogue of Syriac ManuscriptsHugoye: Journal of Syriac Studies 15.1 (2012): 30-76.

“God’s War and His Warriors: The First Hundred Years of Syriac Accounts of the Islamic Conquests” in Just Wars, Holy Wars, and Jihads: Christian, Jewish, and Muslim Encounters and Exchanges (Oxford University Press, 2012), 69-90.

“Reconsecrating a Defiled Church: A Medieval Syriac Ritual and its Later Modifications” Parole de l’Orient 35 (2010): 417-434.

“Addressing Muslim Rulers and Muslim Rule” Oriens Christianus (2010): 71-84.

“Moving Beyond the Palimpsest: Erasure in Syriac Manuscripts” Journal of Early Christian Studies 18 (Summer, 2010): 261-303.

“A Temporarily Resurrected Dog and Other Wonders: Thomas of Marga and Early Christian/Muslim Encounters” Medieval Encounters 16 (Summer, 2010): 209-242.

“Piety and the Pumice Stone” Studia Patristica 45 (2010): 197-201.

“The Composition of the Qenneshre Fragment” in Aramaic in Post-Biblical Judaism and Early Christianity (Winona Lake, Indiana: Eisenbrauns, 2010), 33-48.

“Monks, Manuscripts, and Muslims: Syriac Textual Changes in Reaction to the Rise of Islam” Hugoye: Journal of Syriac Studies 12 (Summer, 2009): 235-257.

“A New Introduction, Edition, Translation, and Commentary of John and the EmirLe Muséon (June, 2008): 65-91.

“Kissing, Purity, and Early Christian Social Order” Studia Patristica 39 (2006): 87-92.

“Syriac Sources for Early Christian/Muslim Relations” Islamochristiana 29 (2003): 59-78.

“Ritual Kissing, Heresy, and Early Christian Orthodoxy” Journal of Ecclesiastical History (November, 2003): 625-640.

“Identity Transformation and Authorial Identification in Joseph and AsenethThe Journal for the Study of Pseudepigrapha 13 (2002): 171-183.

“Performing Family: Ritual Kissing and the Construction of Early Christian Kinship” Journal of Early Christian Studies 11 (Summer, 2002): 151-174.

“‘Bold and Having No Shame’: Ambiguous Widows, Controlling Clergy, and Early Syrian Communities” Hugoye: Journal of Syriac Studies 4 (Summer, 2001): 155-181.

“Introduction and Translation of Shenoute’s ‘On the Piety of Women’” Coptic Church Review 16 (Spring, 1995): 26-29.


Publications (Book Reviews, Entries, Reports, Review Articles)

Book reviews in Review of Biblical Literature, Church History, Journal of Early Christian Studies, National Women’s Studies Association Journal

“Jacob of Edessa” in The Encyclopedia of Islam, Third Edition (Leiden: Brill, Forthcoming).

Pseudo-Methodius” and “John bar Penkaye” in The Oxford Dictionary of Late Antiquity (Oxford: Oxford University Press, Forthcoming).

“Nonnus of Nisibis,” “Athanasius of Balad,” “Julian of Halicarnasus” in Encyclopedic Dictionary of the Syriac Heritage (Piscataway: Gorgias Press, 2011).

“The Great Isaiah Scroll” Art Forum (June, 2008).

Research Report on Imaging Islam in Religious Studies News (January, 2007).

“Counter Factual Essay,” “One Source Social History,” “Taking a Stand” in Teaching the Bible: Practical Strategies for Classroom Instruction (Atlanta: Scholars Press, 2005).

Conference Report of “Aramaic in Post-Biblical Judaism and Early Christianity” in Hugoye: Journal of Syriac Studies (July, 2004).

“Der Kuß” in Die Religion in Geschichte und Gegenwart (Tübingen: Mohr Siebeck, 2001), 1907-1908.

“Feminist Pedagogy as Praxis” Duke Journal of Gender Law & Policy 4 (Spring, 1997): 217-219


Invited Lectures

“Envisioning Islam.” Featured Fellow ACLS Annual Meeting, May, 2016.

“When Christians First Met Muslims,” Baylor University, Apr., 2016.

“Something Old and Something New.” Duke University, Feb., 2015.

“Commenting on Chalcedon.” Norwegian School of Theology, Oslo, Dec. 2014.

“Rethinking Early Christian-Muslim Relations.” Brown University, Feb., 2014.

“New Approaches to Ancient Manuscripts.” Tufts University, Jan., 2014.

“Revealing Changes.” Bowdoin College, Dec., 2013.

“Using Muslims to ‘Think With’: Narratives of Islamic Rulers.” Amherst College, Oct., 2013.

“The Materialization of Orthodoxy.” Syracuse University, Feb., 2013.

“Changing Times and Changing Texts.” Duke University, Oct., 2012.

“Early Christian Reactions to the Rise of Islam.” New York University, Apr., 2012.

“When Islam Became a Religion.” Cornell University, Mar., 2012.

“Mobile Manuscripts and Cantankerous Christians.” University of Minnesota, Jan., 2012.

“Muslims and Manuscripts.” University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill, Feb., 2011.

“The ‘Fuzzy’ Side of Early Christian-Muslim Interactions.” Smith College, Nov., 2010.

“Rethinking Early Christian-Muslim Relations.” University of Texas at Austin, Oct., 2010.

“Ambiguity and Alterity: Blurring the Lines of Early Islam.” Brown University, Sept., 2010.

“Muslims, Manuscripts, and Syriac Christianity.” University of Michigan, Feb., 2009.

“Syriac Accounts of the Islamic Conquests.” Providence College, Dec., 2008.

“The Ethics of Erasing in Manuscript Culture.” University of Glasgow, July, 2008.

“Beyond the Palimpsest.” Duke University, Feb., 2008.

“Syriac Christian Reactions to the Rise of Islam.” University of Richmond, Feb., 2008.

“Erasure in Syriac Manuscripts.” University of Tennessee, Oct., 2007.

“Demonic Martyrs.” University of Pennsylvania, Jan., 2007.

“Syriac Christian Perspectives on Islam.” Williams College, Nov., 2006.

“Kissing and the Origenist Controversy.” University of Toronto, Dec., 2005.

“Ritual Kissing and Early Christian Distinction.“ Amherst College, Dec., 2003.



“Using the Power of Computing to Understand the Interactions of Early Christians and Muslims” by Eric Goldsheider in Insight.

“Christian-Muslim History Not All Hostile” by Rich Barlow in The Boston Globe

“Pucker Up” by Martin Marty in The Christian Century.

“Kiss and Tell the Gospel” by Bethany Pledge in Christianity Today On-Line.

“Ritual Kissing Key for Early Christians” by Rich Barlow in The Boston Globe.

“Evolution of the Kiss” by Ronni Gordan in The Springfield Republican.


 Conference Presentations

“Automatically Generated Dynamic Script Charts.” Oxford Patristics Conference. Aug., 2015.

“Know Thy Enemy.” Society of Biblical Literature. Nov., 2013.

“Digital Analyzing of Ancient Handwriting.” North American Patristics Conference. May, 2013.

“Digital Analysis of Syriac Manuscripts.” Ancient Religion/Modern Technology. Feb., 2012.

“Materializing Orthodoxy.” Society of Biblical Literature. Nov., 2011.

“Computer Assisted Paleography of Manuscripts.“ Oxford Patristics Conference. Aug., 2011.

“Marking Heresy.” North American Patristics Conference. May, 2010.

“How to Tell a Heretic When You Read One.” MARCO Manuscript Workshop. Feb., 2010.

“Feminist Pedagogy.” What Does it Mean to Be an Educated Woman. Oct., 2009.

“God’s War and His Warriors.” Just Wars, Holy Wars, & Jihads. Oct., 2008.

“Monks, Manuscripts, and Muslims.” North American Patristics Conference. June, 2008.

“Partial Analysis.” MARCO Manuscript Workshop, Feb., 2008.

“Piety & the Pumice Stone.” Oxford Patristics Conference. Aug., 2007.

“Arabs, Muslims, and Islam in the Book of Governors.” Syriac Symposium 5. June, 2007.

“Beyond Add & Stir: Teaching Syriac Christianity.” Dorushe Syriac Conference. Feb., 2006.

“Possession & Polemic in the Qenneshre Frag.” North American Patristics Conference. June, 2005.

“When Demons Go Bad.” NEH Faculty Seminar. July, 2004.

“Christianity, Scripture, & the Islamic Conquests.” Society of Biblical Literature. Nov. 2003.

“Syriac Responses to the Islamic Conquests.” American Academy of Religions. Nov., 2003.

“Ritual Kissing, Purity, & Early Christianity.” Oxford Patristics Conference. Aug., 2003.

“Syriac Explanation of the Islamic Conquests.” Interdisciplinary Approaches to Islam. Feb., 2003.

“What I Wish I Knew Then.” Panelist, Society of Biblical Literature. Nov., 2002.

“Ritual Kissing & Social Boundaries.” Poster Session, Society of Biblical Literature. Nov., 1999.

“Kissing & Early Christian Group Cohesion.” American Academy of Religion. Nov., 1998.

“Kissing & Gender Hierarchies.” Duke Women’s Studies Research Conference. Nov., 1998.

“Online Discussion for Constructs Studies.” Panelist, American Academy of Religion. Nov., 1997.

“‘Widows & the Didascalia.” Woman as Widow in Pre-Industrial Societies. May, 1997.

“Hippolytus’s Bodies.” Duke Women’s Studies Graduate Research Conference. Jan., 1997.

“Praxis as Polemic: The Valentinian Chrism Ritual.” Society of Biblical Literature. Nov., 1996.

“Imaging Inscriptions.” Society of Biblical Literature. Nov., 1994.


Stanford University, Professor (2017 – Present)

Mount Holyoke College: Professor (2014-December 2016), William R. Kenan, Jr. Chair (2013-present), Associate Professor (2008-2014), Assistant Professor (2002-2008)

“Introduction to the New Testament” (2015, 2014, 2013, 2011, 2010, 2006, 2004, 2003, 2002)

“Introduction to the Hebrew Scripture” (2016, 2014, 2011, 2007, 2005, 2004, 2003)

“Sex and the Early Church” (2014, 2009, 2007, 2004)

“What Didn’t Make It in the New Testament” (2016)

“What Didn’t Make It in the Bible” (2015, 2014, 2013, 2003)

“Early Christian-Muslim Relations” (2011, 2010)

“Early Christianity in Conflict” (2006, 2002)

“Early Christianity in Iran and Iraq” (2010)

“Women and Early Christianity” (2005)

“Forging Early Christian Identities” (2004)

“Paul and His Earliest Interpreters” (2003)

Brandeis University, Postdoctoral Fellow (2001-2002)

“Introduction to the New Testament” (2002)

“Introduction to Christianity” (2001)


Haverford College, Visiting Assistant Professor (2000-2001)

“Introduction to Christianity” (2001)

“Forging Early Christian Identity” (2001)

“Gender and Science” (2001)

“Body, Sexuality, and Christianity” (2000)


Bryn Mawr College, Visiting Lecturer (2000)

“Questioning Gender/Engendering Questions” (2000)

“Gender and Science” (2000)


Duke University, Instructor, (1998-1999)

“Women, Sexuality, and the Christian Tradition” (1999, 1999, 1998)

“Under Construction: Women’s Bodies Ancient and Modern” (1998, 1998)

Duke University, Teaching Assistant (1996-1998)

“Introduction to Church History” (1997, 1996)

“Introduction to the New Testament” (1998)

“Introduction to the Old Testament” (1997)

“Catholic Spirituality Through the Ages” (1997)

“Introduction to Women’s Studies” (1997)


Secondary School Teacher (part-time, 1990-1999)

Director of Forensics: Durham Academy High School, Durham, NC. (1994-1999)

Debate Coach: Princeton High School, Princeton, NJ. (1991- 1993)

Debate and Speech Coach: Pinewood High School, Los Altos, CA. (1990- 1991)


Additional Work History (part-time, 1987-1993)

Apple Computer, Inc. Sunnyvale, CA. Software Engineer for Apple’s Advanced Technology Group and Classrooms of Tomorrow divisions (Summers 1989-1993)

Weizmann Institute, Rehovot, Israel. Recombinate DNA research (Summer 1989)

Palo Alto Veterans Hospital, Palo Alto, CA. Immuno-cytochemistry (Spring 1989)

Ames Research Center, NASA, Mt. View, CA. Electron microscopy (Fall 1987-Spring 1989)


Academic Service

Department Chair (2015-Present)

Author of Religion Department’s Mellon Innovation Fund Tenure Track Proposal (2015)

Advisory Board, Journal of Early Christian Studies (2015-Present)

Author of Religion Department’s Tenure Track Proposal (2014)

Coordinator of Religion Department’s External Review (2014)

Interim Department Chair (Spring 2014)

Chair of Departmental Search Committee for Hire in African-American Religions (Winter 2014)

Mount Holyoke Student Fulbright Committee (Fall 2013)

External Reviewer for Tenure and Promotion Cases (Fall 2010-Present)

External Reviewer for National Humanities Center Fellowships (Fall 2010-Present)

National Endowment for the Humanities, Fellowship Adjudication Panel Member (Summer 2010)

Co-Appointment in Mount Holyoke Gender Studies Department (Fall 2006-Spring 2008)

Search Committee for Gender Studies Pre- and Post-Doctoral Fellowships (Fall 2006-Spring 2007)

Faculty Appeals Committee (Fall 2006-Spring 2007)

AAR Steering Committee “History of Christianity Section” (Winter 2004-Fall 2006)

Faculty Grants Committee (Fall 2003-Spring 2005)

Member Faculty Seminar: “Identities” (Fall 2003-Spring 2004)

Chair Five College Biblical Studies Steering Committee (2003-2004, 2009-2010)

Critical Incident Response Team (Fall 2002-Fall 2004)

Search Committee for Tenure Track Hire in Islam (Fall 2002-Winter 2004)

Search Committee for Tenure Track Hire in Buddhism (Fall 2002-Spring 2003)

Grant Administrator of Wabash Grant for Graduate Student Education (Fall 1998-Fall 1999)

Reading Group Coordinator, Late Ancient Studies Reading Group (Fall 1997-Fall 1999)

Assistant Square Supervisor, Duke Archeological Expedition, Israel (Summer 1995)