Julia M. O’Brien

Paul H. and Grace L. Stern Chair in Old Testament Studies
Professor of Hebrew Bible/Old Testament

BA, Wake Forest University, 1981
MDiv, Duke University, 1984
PhD, Duke University, 1988

Dr. Julia M. O'Brien is Paul H. and Grace L. Stern Professor of Old Testament at Lancaster Theological Seminary, where she has taught since 1997.

Julia received a BA summa cum laude in Religion from Wake Forest University in 1981, a MDiv from Duke Divinity School in 1984, and a PhD in Hebrew Bible and Semitic Studies from Duke University in 1988, where her areas of study included the history and archeology of the Old Testament, as well as Judaism and Literary Criticism.

Her academic specialties and research interests include the prophetic literature of the Hebrew Bible (especially the Minor Prophets); the intersection of gender studies and Biblical studies; theological, feminist, and ideological approaches to prophetic books, especially Minor Prophets; gender studies; ethical issues in biblical interpretation; theology of Hebrew Bible; violence; metaphor; constructions of family; images of God; reading Bible as literature.

She is Editor-in-Chief of the Oxford Encyclopedia of the Bible and Gender Studies and authored Micah, part of the Wisdom Commentary Series (Liturgical Press, 2015). Previous publications include Nahum (Sheffield Academic Press, 2001); Nahum through Malachi (Abingdon Old Testament Commentary series, 2004); and Challenging Prophetic Metaphor (Westminster John Knox, 2008).  With Chris Franke, she co-edited Aesthetics of Violence in the Prophets (T & T Clark, 2010).

Julia lectures and leads workshops on various topics related to the Bible and contemporary culture, including (homo)sexuality and the Bible; the family in ancient and modern perspectives; biblical promises and Middle Eastern politics; and secular readings of Old Testament narratives.

Courses Taught (selected)

Interpreting the Bible
Women and the Bible
Violence and the Bible 
Gender, Sexuality and the Bible
The Bible and the Family
Christianity and the Arts
Introduction to the Hebrew Bible/Old Testament
Sacred Stories 
Reading Hebrew
Ruth and Esther

Specialties & Research

Ethical Issues in Reading the Hebrew Bible 

Gender Studies

Literary Approaches to the Bible


Sexuality and the Bible

Violence and Constructions of Families


Editor, Oxford Handbook of the Minor Prophets. Oxford University Press, projected for 2020.

Micah. Wisdom Commentary Series. Liturgical Press, 2015.

Editor in Chief, Oxford Encyclopedia of Bible and Gender Studies. Print and online. Oxford University Press, 2014.

The Aesthetics of Violence in the Prophets. Co-edited with Chris Franke. Library of Hebrew Bible/Old Testament Studies. T & T Clark, 2010.

Challenging Prophetic Metaphor: Theology and Ideology in the Prophets. Westminster John Knox, 2008.

Nahum, Habakkuk, Zephaniah, Haggai, Zechariah, Malachi. Abingdon Old Testament Commentaries. Abingdon, 2004.

Nahum. Readings series. Sheffield Academic Press, 2002. 2nd edition, Sheffield Phoenix, 2009.

The Yahweh/Baal Confrontation and Other Studies in Biblical Literature and Archaeology: Essays in Honor of Emmett Willard Hamrick. Edited by Julia M. O’Brien and Fred L. Horton, Jr. Studies in the Bible and Early Christianity, 35. Mellen Biblical Press, 1995.

Priest and Levite in Malachi. Society of Biblical Literature Dissertation Series, no. 121. Atlanta: Scholars Press, 1990.

Selected Articles

“The Enduring Day of Wrath: Zephaniah 1, the Sibylline Oracles, and the Dies Irae.” In Biblical Poetry and the Art of Close Reading. Edited by J. Blake Couey and Elaine T. James. Cambridge University Press, 2018.

“Talking Back: A Sermon.” In Unsettling the Word: Biblical Experiments in Decolonization. Edited by Steve Heinrichs. Mennonite Church of Canada, 2018.

“Edom as (Selfish) Brother. In Obadiah. Edited by Bob Becking. Readings Series. Sheffield Phoenix, 2016. Reprinted from Challenging Prophetic Metaphor (above)

“Metaphorization and Other Tropes.” Oxford Handbook of the Prophets. Edited by Carolyn Sharp. Oxford University Press, 2016.

“Trauma All Around: Pedagogical Reflections on Victimization and Privilege in Theological Responses to Biblical Violence." In La Violenca in the People’s Life. Edited by Susanne Scholz and Pablo Andinach, Semeia Studies.

“Imagery, Gendered: Prophetic Literature.” In The Oxford Encyclopedia of the Bible and Gender Studies. Edited by Julia M. O’Brien. Oxford University Press, 2014.

“The Hermeneutical Predicament: Why We Do Not Read the Bible in the Same Way and Why it Matters for Palestinian Advocacy.” In The Biblical Text in the Context of Occupation: Towards a New Hermeneutics of Liberation. Edited by Mitri Raheb. Diyar, 2012.

“Psalm 23: Exegesis.” Lectionary Homiletics XXII (3): Apr-May, 2011: 3-4.

“The Economics of Family: Changing Biblical Norms.” Biblical Archaeology Review 36: 2010.

“Violent Pictures, Violent Cultures? The ‘Aesthetics of Violence’ in Contemporary Film and in Ancient Prophetic Texts.” In The Aesthetics of Violence in the Prophets. Edited by Julia M. O’Brien and Chris Franke. Library of Hebrew Bible/Old Testament Studies. T & T Clark, 2009-2010.


Curriculum Vitae