James is Academic Director of CenSAMM and Professor of Bible, Society and Politics at MF Oslo. He was previously Professor of Bible, Culture, and Politics at the University of Sheffield and Professor of Bible and Society at St Mary’s University, London.
His interests in the critical study of apocalypticism can be put into two broad subcategories: historical Jesus studies and Christian origins and Judaism in the first century; politics, religion, and reception history of the Bible.
His recent monograph (Spectres of John Ball) is about the most famous priest of the English Peasants’ Revolt of 1381—John Ball—and how he and his apocalyptic exegesis have been interpreted from the fourteenth century to the present. In addition to his book on the subject (see publications), James runs a website dedicated to the reception of John Ball (https://johnball1381.org/) and promoting open access materials.
His next monograph project is on the making of the English radical
tradition in the twentieth century and role apocalypticism has played. His current work also includes editing a volume on the Next Quest for the historical Jesus with Chris Keith which was based on a CenSAMM-hosted conference in July 2022.
James and Alastair Lockhart edit the open access Critical Dictionary of Apocalyptic and Millenarian Movements. His contributions include "John Ball and the Peasants' Revolt" and "Tony Blair," as well as contributing to various definitional articles.
James has also been editor and on editorial boards for a number of journals and monograph series, such as Journal for the Study of the Historical Jesus, Postscripts, Biblical Reception, Religious Studies and Theology, Biblical Refigurations. He is a member of, or has been actively involved in, Studiorum Novi Testamenti Societas, Society of Biblical Literature, European Association of Biblical Studies, British New Testament Society, and the William Morris Society.
Spectres of John Ball: The Peasants' Revolt in English Political History, 1381-2020 (Sheffield: Equinox, 2022)
Cults, Martyrs, and Good Samaritans: Religion in Contemporary English Political Discourse (London: Pluto; Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2018)
Harnessing Chaos: The Bible in English Political Discourse since 1968 (updated edition; London and New York: T&T Clark/Bloomsbury, 2016)
Jesus and the Chaos of History: Redirecting the Life of the Historical Jesus (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2015)
Jesus in an Age of Neoliberalism: Quests, Scholarship, Ideology (London: Routledge, 2012)
Jesus in an Age of Terror: Scholarly Projects for a New American Century (London: Equinox, 2008)
Why Christianity Happened: A Sociohistorical Account of Christian Origins (Louisville: WJK, 2006)
The Date of Mark’s Gospel: Insights from the Law in Earliest Christianity (London and New York: T&T Clark, 2004)
(with Robert J. Myles) Jesus: A Life in Class Conflict (London: Zer0 Books, 2023)
The New Testament and Jewish Law: A Guide for the Perplexed (London and New York: T&T Clark, 2010)
Some recent articles and essays include:
“John Ball and the 1381 English Uprising: From Rebellion to Revolutions,” in Religion in Rebellions, Revolutions, and Social Movements (eds. Warren S. Goldstein, Jean-Pierre Reed; London: Routledge, 2022), 71–88
“The Apocalypse and Political Discourse in an Age of COVID,” Journal for the Study of the New Testament 44.1 (2021), 93–111
“The End of Apocalypticism: From Burton Mack’s Jesus to North American Liberalism,” Journal for the Study of the Historical Jesus 19.2 (2021), 1–20
“Class Conflict and Galilee at the Time of Jesus,” in The Struggle over Class: Socioeconomic Analysis of Ancient Christian Texts (eds. G. Anthony Keddie, Michael Flexsenhar III, and Steven J. Friesen; Atlanta: SBL, 2021), 163–85
“Social Sciences, Social History, and Ideology,” in The Cambridge Companion to the New Testament (ed. Patrick Gray; Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2021), 382–400
“Jesus and John Ball: Millenarian Prophets,” in “To Recover What Has Been Lost”: Essays on Eschatology, Intertextuality, and Reception History in Honor of Dale C. Allison Jr (eds. Tucker S. Ferda, Daniel Frayer-Griggs, and Nathan C. Johnson; Leiden: Brill, 2021), 51–76
“Matthew and the Torah: Jesus as Legal Interpreter,” in Matthew within Judaism: Israel and the Nations in the First Gospel (eds. Anders Runesson and Daniel Gurtner; SBL, Early Christian Literature Series, 2020), 29–52
“Contemporary Politics in Ancient Texts: Some Ways to Read Scholarship on Christian Origins as Ideological History,” in Reading the Political in Jewish and Christian Texts (ed. Julia A. Snyder and Korinna Zamfir with Spencer Healey; Peeters: Leuven, 2020), 277–93
“John Ball and the Bible of Violence in the 1381 English Uprising,” in Bible on Violence: A Thick Description (ed. Helen Paynter and Michael Spalione; Sheffield: Sheffield Phoenix Press, 2020), 17–41
“Class Conflict in Galilee and the Gospel Tradition: A Materialist Suggestion,” Annali di Storia dell'Esegesi 36 (2019)
“The First World War, the Russian Revolution, and the Fate of Social-Scientific Approaches to the New Testament and Christian Origins,” in The First World War and the Mobilization of Biblical Scholarship (ed. Andrew Mein, Nathan MacDonald, Matthew A. Collins; T&T Clark: London, 2019), 225–240
“Once Upon a Time in the West…The Fate of Religion, the Bible, and the Italian Western,” in T&T Clark Companion to the Bible and Film (ed. Richard Walsh; T&T Clark/Bloomsbury, 2018), 151–162
“By What Authority Are You Doing These Things? A Brief History of the Bible in English Political Discourse from Margaret Thatcher to Jeremy Corbyn,” Biblical Theology Bulletin 46 (2016), 144–153
“Borges’ God, Jonathan Meades’ Precursor,” in Borges and the Bible (ed. Richard Walsh and Jay Twomey; Sheffield: Sheffield Phoenix Press, 2015)
“Jesus, Healings and Mark 2:1-12: Forgiveness, a Release, or Bound Again to the Great Satan?,” Evil in Second Temple Judaism and Early Christianity (ed. Chris Keith and Loren T. Stuckenbruck; Tübingen: Mohr Siebeck, 2015)
“The Meaning of Monty Python’s Jesus,” in Jesus and Brian: Exploring the Historical Jesus and his Times via Monty Python's Life of Brian (ed. Joan Taylor; London: T&T Clark/Bloomsbury, 2015)
(with Jackie Harrison) “The Mediation of the Distinction of ‘Religion’ and ‘Politics’ by the UK Press on the Occasion of Pope Benedict XVI’s State Visit to the UK,” Political Theology 14 (2015), 329–45
(with Jackie Harrison) “Atheism, Christianity and the Press: Press coverage of Pope Benedict XVI’s 2010 state visit to the UK,” Implicit Religion18 (2015), 77–105
“A ‘Very Jewish’ Jesus: Perpetuating the Myth of Superiority,” Journal for the Study of the Historical Jesus 13 (2014), 109–129
“Halakah and Mark 7.3: ‘with the hand in the shape of a fist,’” New Testament Studies 58 (2012), 57–68