Timothy Stanley

Religious Book History

From ancient codices to enlightenment era print, my research investigates the religious legacies discernible in the history of books.


Writing Faith. Minneapolis: Fortress Press. 2017. This book provides a novel reevaluation of Jacques Derrida’s deconstructive account of writing. Derrida’s various essays on writing's materiality in books, scrolls, typewriters and digital displays briefly touched on the question of religion. At times he directed his attention to the mediatic nature of Christianity. However, such comments have rarely been applied to formal aspects of religious texts. In response, this book investigates the rise of the Christian codex in its second-to-fifth-century-CE Jewish and Greco-Roman contexts. By better understanding the religious nature of this technical development, it becomes possible to reframe writing's coincidence with faith. 

The idea of a book, which always refers to a natural totality, is profoundly alien to the sense of writing. It is the encyclopedic protection of theology and of logocentrism against the disruption of writing, against its aphoristic energy.
— Jacques Derrida, Of Grammatology
The revolution that has begun is, above all, a revolution in the media and forms that transmit the written word. In this sense, the present revolution has only one precedent in the West: the substitution of the codex for the volumen - of the book composed of quires for the book in the form of a roll - during the first centuries of the Christian era.
— Roger Chartier, Forms and Meanings


"Faithful Codex: A Theological Account of Early Christian Books." Heythrop Journal. vol. 57 no. 1 (2016): 9-28. This essay advances an interpretation of early Christian codex books, which goes beyond Catherine Pickstock’s critique of Jacques Derrida. Firstly, it summarizes Derrida’s deconstruction of Plato’s Phaedrus and introduces his understanding of writing as différance. Secondly, it outlines Pickstock’s After Writing in order to understand her emphasis upon the liturgical nature of platonic dialogue. It is here that an ambiguity emerges between writing and codex books in Pickstock’s account. In response, the insights of book historians such as Roger Chartier will be brought to bear in order to understand the longer history of the codex, which sees the printing press as a continuation of the early transition from roll to codex in the second century of the Common Era. It has long been noted that Christians of this period were early and pervasive adopters of codex binding for their sacred literature. By summarizing the reasons why, it will be shown how the codex expressed early Christian religious concerns.

"The Early Codex Book: Recovering its Cosmopolitan Consequences." Biblical Interpretation: A Journal of Contemporary Approaches vol. 23 no. 3 (2015): 369-98. In 1933 Frederic Kenyon was one of the first to note the early Christian addiction to codex books. As later scholars confirmed, Christian communities reproduced their sacred literature in a way that differed from the largely scrolled Greco-Roman as well as Jewish bibliographic cultures of the first centuries of the Common Era. Book historians and scholars of biblical literature alike have developed a range of competing theories in order to better understand this peculiarity. By evaluating their claims, a number of clarifications can be made in order to demonstrate the codex's sensitivity to Jewish scribal practices as well as its capacity to include a cosmopolitan diversity of texts. Through these clarifications the codex book form itself can provide vital interpretative insights into early biblical literature and the longer history of the book today.


“Religious Print in Settler Australia.” Presentated at Scholarly Musings, the State Library of NSW, Sydney, Australia, June 4, 2019.

“Religious Print after the Enlightenment.” Presented at the Historical, Cultural and Critical Inquiry Seminar, The University of Newcastle, Australia, May 3, 2019.

"What Is This Strange Technological Thing Called the Bible." Paper presented at the Bible and Critical Theory Conference,  Auckland, New Zealand, September 1-2, 2012.

"Canon after Codex." Paper presented at the American Academy of Religion Annual Conference, Atlanta, Georgia, October 30 - November 2, 2010. Paper re-presented at the Group for Religious and Intellectual Traditions Seminar at the University of Newcastle, Australia, May 24, 2011.

"The Return of the Scroll: From Codex to Google." Paper presented at the Valuing Theological Education Conference, The University of Oxford, January 4-6, 2010.


2018, Australian Religious History Fellowship (AUD$20,000), State Library of New South Wales, Sydney, Australia

2010, New Staff Grant (AUD$10,000), School of Humanities and Social Sciences, The University of Newcastle, Australia


Religion in Deliberative Democratic Theory

Religion's persistent visibility in political life has renewed scholarly debate about the scope of tolerance in civil societies. My contribution evaluates religious thought in deliberative democratic theory.

Edited Works

Religion after Secularization in Australia. Edited. New York: Palgrave MacMillan, 2015. Religion’s persistent and new visibility in political life has prompted a significant global debate. One of its key features concerns the nature and impact of secularization. This book intervenes in two ways. Firstly, it provides summative accounts of the history, culture and legal interactions that have informed Australia’s unique example. Secondly, it critically analyzes secular political theory concerning the public sphere, deliberative politics and democratic practices. The compendium aims to propel the debate in new directions and promote urgently needed public understanding. My own contribution focused on hermeneutics in deliberative democracies.

Something therein that loves a wall, That sends the frozen-ground-swell under it, And spills the upper boulders in the sun, And makes gaps even two can pass abreast... Before I built a wall I’d ask to know, What I was walling in or walling out, And to whom I was like to give offense.
— Robert Frost, Mending Wall


The Pragmatist Question of Sovereignty.” Political Theology vol. 20 no. 2 (2019): 139-56. In Democracy and Tradition, Jeffrey Stout asks Christian political theologians if they can discern God's activity in modern democratic cultures. In so doing they might "acknowledge the sovereignty of God while transcending both resentment of, and absorption into, the secular." As Stout recognizes, the question of sovereignty is relevant not only to Christian, but also Jewish and Islamic thought. However, interreligious comparisons remain undeveloped in his work. In response, the following essay coordinates Stout’s pragmatism with developments in comparative theology. It then evaluates both the Jewish messianism of Gershom Scholem alongside Islamic sovereignty (hakimayyah) in the thought of Sayyid Qutb. While their viewpoints differ in considerable respects, they nonetheless provide key test cases for Stout’s questions concerning divine sovereignty. In sum, the paper opens new avenues for religious deliberations in democratic traditions.

Introduction: On Unity, Liberty and Charity.” Political Theology vol. 20 no. 2 (2019): 103-111. Political theology has multiple provenances. One less cited is the seventeenth century irenic dictum: “and we would all embrace a mutual unity in things necessary; in things non necessary liberty; in all things charity.” While aimed at ecumenical peace, this call for mutual unity implied a deliberative context that went beyond sectarian Christian concerns. Liberty and charity were as conducive to a comprehensive church as more modest laws of toleration. My claim is that this dictum’s themes are extemporized in recent pragmatist thought.

"Bonhoeffer's Anti-Judaism." Political Theology vol. 17 no. 3 (2016): 297-305. On July 2, 2000, Yad Vashem, Israel’s Holocaust Martyrs and Heroes Remembrance Authority, deferred action on the petition to have Dietrich Bonhoeffer named a righteous gentile. My contention is that critics of this decision conceal a more pernicious difficulty that arises in Bonhoeffer’s Lutheran legacy. David Nirenberg's recent Anti-Judaism: The Western Tradition, demonstrates the history and development of such categories with particular attention to Luther. What goes unnoticed is the ongoing operations of anti-Judaism in later theologians such as Bonhoeffer. Although Bonhoeffer may not have been anti-Semitic, the degree to which his theology remained bound to centuries old anti-Judaism is another matter. 

"Utopia and the Public Sphere." In Religion after Secularization in Australia, 191-210. Edited by Timothy Stanley. New York: Palgrave MacMillan, 2015. Although the question of religion did not feature prominently in Jürgen Habermas’s early political theory, his more recent work has continuously addressed the topic. This later interest in religion is grounded in what one commentator in a volume on The Power of Religion in the Public Sphere, cited as the urgent need to integrate religious voices in the workings of public reason in order to avoid social disharmony and to thwart potential violence. However, the following paper argues that the hermeneutic procedures Habermas develops for the public sphere cannot bear the weight that his later understanding of religion demands of them. Such an insight validates Paul Ricoeur’s earlier argument that Habermas’s “depth hermeneutics,” were themselves utopic in nature. It is from this vantage point that a return to Ricoeur's thought is justified, through which a more productive understanding of the public potential of religious discourse can be understood.

"Karl Barth and Jürgen Habermas: Transcendental Aporias of Global Civil Society." Political Theology. vol. 9 no. 4 (2008): 477-502. Currently, religion and globalization seem to be working towards opposite ends. As Mark Juergensmeyer has noted, while religiously invoked terrorism fragments society, the Internet, cell phones and the media industry foster the formation of an increasingly global social fabric. But religion is not a single faceted phenomenon. As much as there are prophets of violence such as Osama bin Laden, there are prophets of peace and reconciliation such as Bishop Desmond Tutu. How a civil society might be configured in relation to the inherent ambiguity surrounding religious traditions remains difficult to discern. How might Christian traditions make a positive contribution to this context? To answer this question I will articulate a dialogue between Jürgen Habermas's theory of civil society and the political theology of Karl Barth.

"From Habermas to Barth and Back Again." Journal of Church and State. vol. 48 no. 1 (2006): 101-126. What role does religious transcendence play in liberal democracies? In Jürgen Habermas’s early political theory of the bourgeois public sphere, religion was downplayed if not dismissed completely. In the past several years however, he has developed a greater interest in religion. Habermas seems to like the positive solidarity-forming effects religion can have on communities that mediate in a public sphere between private individuals and state authority. However, in light of continuing terrorist activity, he is deeply critical of any sort of other worldly transcendence that is too open to violent cooption. Nonetheless, Habermas relates his renewal of a critically engaged public sphere of debate to universalized rational procedures which he discusses in light of a philosophical notion of “detranscendentalization.” However, if it is the case that the solidarity of communities is being eroded by the influences of mass media and free market globalization as Habermas claims, then a further reflection on the way religious communities form around shared transcendent beliefs is required. Are his detranscendentalized rational procedures of critical debate adequate in inspiring the critical power communities need to solidify themselves against state authority? It is in light of this question that I develop the thought of Karl Barth.


"Supplementing Arendt." Paper presented at The American Academy of Religion Annual Conference, Boston, Massachusetts, November 18-21, 2017. 

"Suspending the Political: Sovereignty in Scholem, Barth and Qutb." Paper presented at The American Academy of Religion Annual Conference, Baltimore, Maryland, November 23-26, 2013.  

"Bonhoeffer and the Judaism Question." Paper presented at the Annual Australian Bonhoeffer Conference, Kincumber, Australia, November 15-16, 2013.

"Religion in Public: A Theory of Metaphor." Paper presented at the Political Religion in Secular Australia Symposium, Newcastle, Australia, July 22-23, 2013.

"Religion in Political Life." Public presentation at the New Institute Public Forum, Newcastle Civic Hall, May 22, 2013.

"Theology between Religion and Politics." Morpeth Public Lecture, Newcastle, Australia, May 29, 2012.

"Karl Barth and Jürgen Habermas: Christianity and Global Civil Society." Paper presented at the American Academy of Religion Annual Conference, Washington, D.C., November 18-21, 2006.


2012-13, Religion in Political Life Research Program (AUD$100,000), Faculty of Education and Arts, The University of Newcastle

Public Media

  • "Opinion: State of Religion in Politics," Opinion Editorial, The Newcastle Herald, May 20, 2013.

  • "On Pope Benedict XVI Resignation," Radio Interview on ABC's The Wire and TV Interview on Newcastle's NBN Network, February 12, 2013.

  • "Fundamental Concerns on Mosque," Interview for The Newcastle Herald, December 10, 2010.

  • "Religion in American Politics." Radio panel interview on BBC Radio’s Greater Manchester program Sunday Breakfast, November 7, 2004.


The Critique of Metaphysics

Despite their critique, metaphysical reality claims persist in religious thought. My research addresses recent developments in philosophical theology.

Protestant Metaphysics after Karl Barth and Martin Heidegger. London; Eugene: SCM Press; Wipf & Stock, 2010. Karl Barth and Martin Heidegger are doubtless two of the most important and influential thinkers of the 20th century. This book investigates how the question of being developed through their respective accounts of protestant theology. Whereas Heidegger suggested a post-onto-theological pathway, Barth inverted the question of being in a thoroughgoing theological ontology. In the end, both reconfigured the relationship between philosophy and theology in ways that continue to shape contemporary debate. 

If I were yet to write a theology—to which I sometimes feel inclined—then the word ‘being’ would not be allowed to occur in it. Faith has no need of the thinking of being. If faith has recourse to it, it is already not faith. Luther understood this.
— Martin Heidegger, "The Reply to the Third Question At the Seminar in Zürich, 1951"
A free theologian does not deny, nor is he ashamed of, his indebtedness to a particular philosophy or ontology, to ways of thought and speech.
— Karl Barth, The Humanity of God


"A Serious Man." Bible and Critical Theory. vol. 9 no. 1 (2013): 27-37. The film A Serious Man cinematically deconstructs the life of a mid-twentieth century, mid-western American physics professor named Larry Gopnik. As it happens, Larry is up for tenure with a wife who is about to leave him, an unemployed brother who sleeps on his couch, and two self-obsessed teenage children. The film presents a Job-like theodicy in which the mysteries of quantum physics are haunted both by questions of good and evil as well as the spectre of an un-named God, reverently referred to as Hashem. The following paper examines the broader set of philosophical, theological and ethical concerns which arise from the film’s themes, using it to illustrate those concerns. Just as Newtonian physics underwrote Kant’s evocation of the image of starry skies above and moral law within, quantum physics underwrites a new set of ethical anxieties, which the film narrates as a key facet of contemporary western culture’s postmodern re-enchantment. Although some, such as Slavoj Zizek, see this as a positively charged opportunity to rethink metaphysics and ethics, the film leaves the audience with more sinister conclusions. 

"Barth after Kant." Modern Theology. vol. 28 no. 3 (2012): 423-445. Barth consistently comments on Kant's importance for his early thought in his autobiographical sketches, letters, and even more explicitly in his 1930 lectures on Kant in his Protestant Theology in the Nineteenth Century. Interestingly, however, little attention has been paid to these latter lectures in the secondary literature. In part, this oversight is due to the manner in which Barth's theology has been thought to overcome Kant's influence much earlier on in his intellectual development. Hence, although commentators such as Merold Westphal, Simon Fisher and Bruce McCormack have developed keen interest in Kant's influence upon Barth's early work, even engaging Barth's Neo-Kantian context in great detail, my contention is that Barth's later interpretation of Kant is crucial and gives further insight into Barth's legacy for contemporary thought today. After Kant, Barth did not abandonment or disregard the metaphysical question of being, but rather, faced it all the more rigorously.

"Before Analogy: Recovering Barth’s Ontological Development." New Blackfriars. vol. 90 no. 1029 (2009): 577-601. What is the nature of Barth's development over the 1920s? Barth himself understood this period as his “apprenticeship,” and cites his 1931 book on Anselm as a significant juncture in moving beyond this stage in his thinking. Barth's emphasis upon both change and continuity lies at the heart of the discrepancy between two prominent interpreters of his theology, Hans Urs von Balthasar and Bruce McCormack. On the surface it appears as though their disagreement centers around Barth's employment of dialectic and analogy in his theology. However, my thesis is that this focus conceals the ontological strategies Barth's multifarious uses of analogy and dialectic always implied. Although McCormack is right to suggest that Balthasar's depiction of a shift from dialectic to analogy is inadequate, in the end McCormack's account of Barth's development over the 1920s conceals as much as it reveals. The following essay demonstrates the kinds of insights which can be made of the past accounts of Barth's development which focused on the transition from dialectic to analogy. Far from relegating these accounts to the sidelines, McCormack's work helps us see all the more clearly just what was at stake in figures like Balthasar's work. By looking past McCormack and Balthasar's respective periodizations of Barth's development, a clearer focus upon Barth's theological ontology can begin to take place.

"Returning Barth to Anselm." Modern Theology. vol. 24 no. 3 (2008): 413-437. This article focuses on Barth's explication of Anselm's Proslogion 2-4 in his book on Anselm and attempts to show how Anselm helped clarify for Barth the ontological nature of his own early theology, in particular what he meant by the “is” in his affirmation “God is God.” My contention is that Barth's continual pointing to Anselm's Fides Quaerens Intellectum as a vital key to his own theology should not be overlooked. In fact, I argue that only by returning Barth to Anselm in this way is it possible to understand more thoroughly one of Barth's key contributions to contemporary onto-theological debates.

"Heidegger on Luther on Paul." Dialog: A Journal of Theology. vol. 46 no. 1 (2007): 41-45. When it comes to how Heidegger understands theology, Martin Luther was instrumental in his early formulations. Heidegger's interpretation of Luther leads him to descry theology as a discipline best left unfettered by metaphysics and this attitude is carried right through Heidegger's career. By explicating Luther's influence upon Heidegger's early Freiburg lectures from 1919-1923, we can raise important questions about the nuanced way Heidegger construes Luther's theology in the hopes of inspiring key insights for Luther's appropriation in current post-Heideggerian philosophical theology.


"Job: A Serious Man." Paper presented at the Institute for Theology, Imagination and the Arts Research Seminar at the University of St. Andrews, May 14, 2010.

"Why Protestant Metaphysics Today?" Paper presented at the Theology Research Seminar at the University of St. Andrews, April 21, 2010.

"Seinsweise in Barth’s Theology." Paper presented at the Society for the Study of Theology Annual Conference, Utrecht, The Netherlands, April 1-2, 2009.

"The Post-Ontological Paul?" Paper presented at the Society of Biblical Literature Annual Conference, Washington, D.C., November 18-21, 2006.

"Barth’s Prolegomena to Any Future Protestant Metaphysics which Can Possibly Pretend to Be a Science." Paper presented at the Belief and Metaphysics Conference, The Centre of Philosophy and Theology at the University of Nottingham in partnership with the Instituto de Filosofia Edith Stein de Granada, Spain, September 15-18, 2006.

"Heidegger’s Hidden Theology: Revisiting Martin Luther’s Influence upon Martin Heidegger." Paper presented at the 16th Conference of the European Society for Philosophy of Religion, Tübingen, Germany, September 1-4, 2006. 


  • 2004-07, Overseas Ph.D. Research Studentship, British Universities UK and University Ph.D. Research Scholarship, School of Arts, Histories and Cultures, The University of Manchester

  • 2004-05, Richardson Award, North American Alumni Foundation at The University of Manchester (NAAFUM), The University of Manchester