John Huddlestun

Associate Professor

Address: 4B Glebe Street, Room 203
Office Hours: TTh 12:15-1:15 pm, Th 3:00-4:00 pm or by appointment
Phone: 843.953.4996

In his own words

As a scholar who deals primarily with history, society and culture of the ancient (and sometimes not so ancient) Middle East, I adopt a comparative approach both in my classes and research. Thus, discussion of any text or artifact--biblical, Mesopotamian, Egyptian or otherwise--draws upon its wider ancient environment (for example, understanding biblical wisdom literature, historiography, or prophecy as larger ancient Near Eastern phenomena). In this regard, teaching the Bible in a secular, liberal arts institution can be a subversive enterprise. Any talk of authors, redactors, compilers, and their motivating ideologies situates the biblical text within its human context, and ultimately explains it as a human product, an approach in accord with the humanities. As a historian of religion, I do not presume to get into the mind of the deity in the Bible or speculate about divine motivations aside from what is present in the text. Students frequently ask me, "Why did God, who is omniscient, do X with Abraham and not Y?" I can offer plenty of reasons—literary, social, historical, political, etc.—for why the author or editor might wish to portray the biblical deity in such a fashion, but as an academic in a secular institution I deal with socio-political, literary and other motivating factors, rather than timeless theological truths. For me, it is the human dimension of ancient texts, including the Bible, that make them most appealing as an object of study, and that allows me to ask questions that would otherwise be less relevant from a purely theological perspective. It is my goal to instill in students an appreciation for the underlying strategies and ideologies that inform these ancient writings and the cultures that produced them.

Prior to his career in academia, Professor Huddlestun worked as a professional musician, living in southern Europe and Israel. He also pursued studies at The Hebrew University of Jerusalem (Hebrew language, Egyptology) before returning to the U.S. to begin graduate work at the University of Michigan.


Ph.D., Biblical (Hebrew Bible) and Near Eastern Studies, University of Michigan
M.A., Biblical and Near Eastern Studies, University of Michigan
B.Mus., Music History/Literature and Performance, Ohio State University

Research Interests

  • historiography and royal ideology in the Hebrew Bible and ancient Near East
  • identity formation and the other in the Hebrew Bible
  • method and theory in comparative studies
  • ancient Israel and Egypt
  • the Nile River as symbol and metaphor in biblical tradition and ancient Egypt
  • Spinoza as biblical exegete
  • David Noel Freedman (biographical study; his place in the history of biblical scholarship)


Courses Taught


“Ancient Egypt and Israel: History, Culture, and the Biblical Text” in The Blackwell Companion to Ancient Israel, ed. Susan Niditch (forthcoming)

"Redactors, Rationalists, and (Bloodied) Rivers: Some Comments on the First Biblical Plague."  In Literature as Politics, Politics as Literature: Essays on the Ancient Neat East in Honor of Peter Machinist (Eisenbrauns, 2013)

"Nahum" in The Oxford Encyclopedia of the Books of the Bible (2011)

"Nahum, Nineveh, and the Nile: The Description of Thebes in Nahum 3:8-9," Journal of Near Eastern Studies 62.2 (April 2003): 97-110.

"Divestiture, Deception, and Demotion: The Garment Motif in Genesis 37-39," Journal for the Study of the Old Testament 98 (2002): 47-62.

"Unveiling the Versions: The Tactics of Tamar in Genesis 38:15," Journal of the Hebrew Scriptures, vol. 3/article 7 (2001).

editor, Divine Commitment and Human Obligation: Selected Writings of David Noel Freedman, 2 vols.: "Ancient Israelite History and Religion" and "Hebrew Poetry and Orthography" (Grand Rapids and Cambridge: Eerdmans, 1997), with "Editor’s Introduction," pp. viii-xiv.