Christopher Rollston

Christopher Rollston

Christopher Rollston

Department Chair, Professor of Northwest Semitic Languages and Literatures


Office Phone: (202) 994-6701
801 22nd St NW Washington DC 20052


Professor Rollston is active in the American Society of Overseas Research and the Society of Biblical Literature (and has chaired and co-chaired many epigraphic sessions for the annual meetings of both).  He served for several years on the Governing Board of the American Society of Overseas Research, and has also served on the Editorial Board of the Bulletin of American Society of Overseas Research.  He is currently on the Society of Biblical Literatures’ executive board, and he is also currently on the editorial board of the Journal of Biblical Literature.  He is the co-editor (with Professor Eric Cline of George Washington University) of the Bulletin of the American Society of Overseas Research.  For almost two decades, he has been the editor of the journal MAARAV.  He has also functioned as a reviewer for a number of additional journals and presses.  In addition, for several years he served on a regular basis on Reaffirmation Committees (on-site and off-site) for the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools and also for the Association of Theological Schools.  Several years ago, Professor Rollston was a witness for the prosecution in the Israeli “Epigraphic Forgery Trial.”  More recently, he has served as an epigraphic consultant for National Geographic.

He has also lectured and delivered invited papers in a number of venues, including Princeton University, Yale University, Duke University, Hebrew University (Jerusalem), Brown University, Al-Quds University (Jerusalem), Emory University, Tel Aviv University, Vanderbilt University, Baylor University, the University of Wisconsin (Madison), the University of Michigan, DePaul University, and Amherst College.
He enjoys foreign travel, African and Indian art, carving, and metallurgy, and the restoration of antique furniture, especially quarter-sawn white oak and mahogany.

Among the foci of Professor Rollston's research are: Hebrew Bible (Old Testament), religion in the ancient Near East (especially ancient Israel), law and diplomacy in the ancient Near East, Northwest Semitic epigraphy, literacy in the ancient world, ancient writing practices, scribal education, origins and early use of the alphabet, ancient and modern epigraphic forgeries, inscribed ossuaries (“bone boxes”), personal names, prosopography, ancient wisdom literature, prophecy in the ancient Near Eastern and Mediterranean context, Septuagint, Dead Sea Scrolls, Greek New Testament, and Early Christianity.

Professor Rollston earned an M.A. (1996) and Ph.D. (1999) at The Johns Hopkins University (Department of Near Eastern Studies) in ancient Northwest Semitic Languages and Literatures. He is a member of Phi Beta Kappa. Rollston works in more than a dozen ancient and modern languages, including various ancient Semitic languages (e.g., Hebrew, Phoenician, Aramaic, Palmyrene, Nabataean, Ammonite, Moabite, Edomite, Ugaritic, Akkadian), several ancient and modern Indo-European languages (e.g., Hellenistic Greek, Classical Latin; Modern German, French, Spanish, and Italian), as well as Sahidic Coptic.

Professor Rollston was a full-time faculty member in the Dept. of Near Eastern Studies at Johns Hopkins University for two years (as a Post-Doctoral Fellow of Northwest Semitic), where students consistently noted his strong teaching abilities. For around a decade he held the Toyozo Nakarai Professorship of Old Testament and Semitic languages at Emmanuel School of Religion, where he was a popular teacher and mentor, resigning that position in 2012.  During the spring semester of 2013, Rollston was the Visiting Professor of Northwest Semitic Languages and Literatures at George Washington University. During the fall semester of 2013, he was a National Endowment for the Humanities Research Scholar at the Albright Institute of Archaeological Research (Jerusalem), and during the spring semester of 2014, he was a Visiting Professor of Northwest Semitic Literature at Tel Aviv University.  About a decade prior to this, during the spring and summer of 2002, Rollston was a National Endowment for the Humanities Research Scholar at the American Society of Overseas Research (Amman).  Rollston has excavated in Syria (Umm el-Marra) and in Israel (Megiddo), and he has conducted research at museums and departments of antiquity in Lebanon, Israel, Jordan, and Syria, as well as various museums in North America and Europe.

Dr. Rollston’s volume entitled Pious Forgeries: Forging History in the Ancient World of the Bible and the Modern World of Biblical Studies will be published by Eerdmans Publishing Company in 2021. This volume traces the history of textual forgeries from ancient Mesopotamia and Egypt, ancient Israel, Early Christianity, the Middle Ages, and the modern period. In addition, Dr. Rollston has recently signed a contract to author a monograph entitled Writing and Scribal Culture in Second Temple Judaism and Early Christianity, as part of the Library of New Testament Studies, Bloomsbury. Moreover, he also continues to work on the republication (based on new photographs) of the some sixty Old Hebrew jar inscriptions dating to the 8th century BCE from the biblical site of Gibeon. And during recent months, Dr. Rollston has also been commissioned to publish 19 Aramaic and Greek ostraca (ink inscriptions on broken pieces of pottery) from the site of Macchaeurus, a famous site from the period of the First Jewish Revolt against Rome (ca. 66-73 CE), and also the place where John the Baptist was martyred. Finally, Dr. Rollston is also the lead editor for a Festschrift in honor of Dr. P. Kyle McCarter of Johns Hopkins University, a volume entitled Biblical and Ancient Near Eastern Studies in Honor of P. Kyle McCarter (Society of Biblical Literature Press, 2020). 

Professor Rollston has stated that “of all the aspects of the life of an academic, I enjoy teaching the most.” Regarding the importance of the formal study of ancient texts at the university level, he has said: “the study of ancient literary, religious, and legal texts from Mesopotamia, Egypt, and the Levant reminds us of the world-views and social constructs of our ancient ancestors. These ancient texts are absolutely essential for a solid and nuanced understanding of modern politics, modern religion, modern law, and even modern medicine.”  During the course of his career, Professor Rollston has taught at the undergraduate, master's, and Ph.D. levels. 

Among the courses he has taught at GW are: Dead Sea Scrolls, Gods and Goddesses of the Ancient Near East, Hebrew Bible (Old Testament), Banned Books of the Bible, Law and Diplomacy in the Ancient Near East and Mediterranean, History of Ancient Israel, and even Latin for Lawyers. Of course, he has taught a number of different languages during his career, including Hebrew, Aramaic, Phoenician, Ugaritic, Akkadian, Greek, Latin, and Coptic. About teaching at George Washington University, Professor Rollston has said, “It is a great university with a distinguished faculty and stellar students.  There’s no place else I’d rather be.”

For almost two decades, Professor Rollston has been at the forefront of the use of digital technologies in the study of ancient inscriptions, working especially with the West Semitic Research Project of the University of Southern California. He has been part of numerous photographic expeditions in the Middle East, Europe, and North America that resulted in the production of high resolution digital images of some of the most important Semitic inscriptions in the world. He uses software programs such as Adobe Photoshop in his own research, and it is commonplace for him to use Photoshop in his university courses as well. Inside and outside the classroom, Rollston teaches students the methods for drawing inscriptions in Photoshop, and fairly often tech-savvy students will teach him things about Photoshop that he didn’t know. About this Rollston says, “it is a constant symbiotic windfall, as we all learn from each other about the most recent innovations and methodologies in the field of digital technology.” Not surprisingly, Rollston often brings students into his research and has co-published articles with some of his most diligent students.

Dr. Rollston has published some 60 to 70 refereed academic articles (in addition to scores of encyclopedia articles) in a number of refereed journals, including Levant (where he co-authored the editio princeps of the ancient Moabite inscription from Khirbet Ataruz in modern Jordan), the Bulletin of the American Society of Overseas Research, the Journal of Biblical Literature, Near Eastern Archaeology, Antiguo Oriente, Israel Exploration Journal, Tel Aviv, and MAARAV as well as in volumes of collected essays (including contributions to Festschriften honoring scholars such as Israel Finkelstein, Jo Ann Hackett, Joseph Naveh, and Frank Moore Cross). He has also published in various semi-popular venues, including Biblical Archaeology Review and the Huffington Post.  In addition, Dr. Rollston edited the volume entitled Enemies and Friends of the State: Ancient Prophecy in Context (Penn State University Press, 2018), he authored the volume entitled Writing and Literacy in the World of Ancient Israel: Epigraphic Evidence from the Iron Age (Atlanta: Society of Biblical Literature, 2010). This volume was selected by the American Society of Overseas Research (in November 2011) as the recipient of the prestigious “Frank Moore Cross Prize for Northwest Semitic Epigraphy,” a prize named for the late Harvard University Professor Frank Cross. In addition, Rollston edited a New Testament volume entitled The Gospels of Michael Goulder: A North American Response, among the contributors are Krister Stendahl, Alan Segal, John Kloppenborg, and Bruce Chilton (Trinity Press International, 2002).