University of Northern Iowa

Department of Philosophy and Religion
154 Baker Hall
Cedar Falls, IA 50614
Phone: 319-273-6990
Fax: 319-273-7095


Welcome to my Homepage

Please visit the links below for information about my background and courses.

Humanities I | Religions of the World | New Testament | Old Testament | Professional Background | Presidential Scholars| Judaism and Islam

•The Psalms of Solomon and other publications•


"I Cried to the Lord": A Study of the Psalms of Solomon's Historical Background and Social Setting (Leiden: Brill, 2004).

[Table of Contents]

"Theodicy in the Psalms of Solomon," in Handbook of Theodicy in the World of the Bible, Antti Laato and Johannes C. de Moor, eds. (Leiden: E. J. Brill, 2003), 546-575.

This study examines the date of composition, the social setting, the provenance, and the religious affiliation of the eighteen Greek poems known as the Psalms of Solomon, a Palestinian Jewish pseudepigraphon from the first century B.C.E. The book is divided into two major historical units: Pompeian and pre-Pompeian era Psalms of Solomon. A separate chapter examines the remaining Psalms of which the precise historical backgrounds are uncertain. All chapters include a translation of the psalm under examination, textual notes, and a discussion of all the characters mentioned in the text. The book explores the Psalms of Solomon's use of poetry to document Pompey's 63 B.C.E. conquest of Jerusalem through a comparison of these poems with contemporary classical texts, Dead Sea Scrolls, Pseudepigrapha, and archaeology. It also includes numerous textual discussions of the Dead Sea Scrolls and classical poetic works that deal with the 63 B.C.E. Roman conquest of Jerusalem by Pompey as well as theme of messianism. This study also explores the practices of the Sadducean priests in the Jerusalem Temple as documented in the Psalms of Solomon. For other recent publications on the Psalms of Solomon, and for more information on this book, visit my professional background page.

This essay explores the issue of theodicy in the Psalms of Solomon. It includes a discussion of how the writers of the Psalms of Solomon attempted to explain the Roman conquest of 63 B.C.E. while maintaining that they had remained faithful to the covenant. The chapter explores the literary structure of these poems, dates of composition, authorship, covenant and Torah, discipline, prayer and fasting, and messianism. The book includes chapters on theodicy in literature from ancient Near Eastern texts of the second millennium B.C.E. to rabbinic Judaism. Description

Herod the Great as Antiochus Redivivus: Reading the Testament of Moses as an Anti-Herodian Composition. In Of Scribes and Sages: Early Jewish Interpretation and Transmission of Scripture. Studies in Scripture in Early Judaism and Christianity, no. 9; Library of Second Temple Studies; Craig A. Evans, ed. (Edinburgh: T & T Clark, 2004), 134-49. Description


I was raised in the Detroit area in the suburb of Sterling Heights, Michigan. My family, including two brothers, still resides in the northern Detroit area and I frequently visit the region. Like many students, I worked my way through school in a variety of jobs. Being from an industrial area, the majority of my work experience occurred in factories related to the automotive industry making such items as brake parts and dashboard panels. Operating the large machines required to manufacture car parts was a difficult, demanding, and scary job. I also worked as a metal grinder, as a machine operator in a spaghetti factory (a position that was unbearable in the summer due to the heat of the giant ovens), a plastic factory, and in a restaurant (midnight shift). After completing my undergraduate studies at Oakland University, I spent four years as a soldier in the U. S. Army during the Cold War. During this time, I was privileged to serve as a member of the Berlin Brigade, in the former West Berlin located in side the Berlin Wall. One of my jobs in the military was to serve as a courier transporting documents across the Iron Curtain. While stationed in West Berlin, I frequently visited the archeological museums of East Berlin and traveled widely through Europe and the Middle East.

After leaving Germany, I moved to Israel, and lived on Kibbutz Kfar Hanassi for six months, where I worked as an avocado picker, chicken handler, and as a grinder in the aluminum foundry. I then spent over two years both traveling and serving as staff member on the following archeological excavations in Israel: Tel Haror (3 seasons; Philistine and Middle Bronze Age periods); Eilat (Prehistoric religious sites); Banias (Roman, Islamic, Crusader periods); Gamla (2 seasons; Roman, Bronze Age periods); Hayonim Terrace (Prehistoric period); Meroth (Byzantine, Roman periods). I have also excavated at London's Guild Hall with the Museum of London's Department of Urban Archaeology. My journeys took me to over seventeen countries where I visited many sites related to the Bible, humanities, and world religions. My travel and archaeological work proved quite informative and exciting, given such unusual experiences as attacks by wild boars, the discovery of a bomb at an excavation site, finding a Canaanite Temple, terroristic threats, illness, storms at sea, and the extremes of desert heat. I was also fortunate to spend time with Bedouin, Druze, and Kurds, whose lifestyles remain in many respects similar to the ancient cultures of my present research. After many years of travel and archaeological fieldwork in Israel and England, I have come to realize that historical, textual, and archaeological studies cannot be separated. In my courses I like to share some of my experiences with students, through photographs and artifacts, in order to help them learn about the past and present.

Following my travels, I earned a Master of Divinity degree at the University of Chicago, focusing upon ancient languages, history, classics and the Dead Sea Scrolls. I then studied at Temple University in Philadelphia, where I received an M.A. and Ph.D., concentrating in Biblical Literature and world religions.

Burial site of Antiochus I of Commagene
Nemrut Dag, Eastern Turkey

Ready to capture Troy

(at ancient Troy in Turkey)

I have been a member of the Department of Philosophy and Religion at the University of Northern Iowa since August, 1999, where I teach courses in biblical studies, world religions, and humanities. I became interested in religion, ancient history, and archaeology while living and traveling overseas. My areas of interest include the Hebrew Bible (Old Testament); the New Testament; Jewish and Christian non-canonical literature; the Dead Sea Scrolls; Archaeology, Women in Antiquity, and World Religions. My recent publications examine the connection between religion and violence by focusing upon the development of the violent messiah in the Dead Sea Scrolls. My other works include articles on Herod the Great, the Psalms of Solomon, women in the Dead Sea Scrolls, the archeology of early synagogues, and the history of biblical archeology. At present I am writing commentaries on the Psalms of Solomon and the Assumption of Moses (Testament of Moses). I am currently working with the Crisler Biblical Institute (Carmel, CA) to sponsor an archaeological excavation in Turkey.

Dead Sea Scroll Caves at Qumran

Photographs by Kenneth Atkinson

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