Francesca Stavrakopoulou

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Francesca Stavrakopoulou
Francesca Stavrakopoulou 4 2015 (cropped).png
Stavrakopoulou in Conway Hall in 2015
Born (1975-10-03) 3 October 1975 (age 46)
TitleProfessor of Hebrew Bible and Ancient Religion
Academic background
Alma materOxford University
ThesisKing Manasseh and Child Sacrifice: Biblical Distortions of Historical Realities (2002)
Academic work
DisciplineBiblical studies
InstitutionsUniversity of Exeter
Main interestsHistory of ancient Israel and Judah

Francesca Stavrakopoulou (/frænˈɛskə ˌstævrækəˈpl/; born 3 October 1975) is a British biblical scholar and broadcaster. She is currently Professor of Hebrew Bible and Ancient Religion at the University of Exeter.[1] The main focus of her research is on the Hebrew Bible,[2] and on Israelite and Judahite history and religion.[3]

She also popularises biblical historical subjects as a TV presenter on BBC2 and Channel 4.[2] She comments on the Historicity of the Bible and Hebrew Bible (Old Testament) narratives, the role of women in the Abrahamic religions and the development of the Biblical texts.[2][4]

Early life and education[edit]

Francesca Stavrakopoulou was born on 3 October 1975[5] to an English mother and a Greek father.[2][6] Stavrakopoulou was brought up in no particular religion and is a self-described atheist.[2] She was educated at the Godolphin and Latymer School and won an exhibition to Worcester College, Oxford.[7][8]


Stavrakopoulou was awarded a D.Phil. in theology by the University of Oxford.[2] Her dissertation, which examined the creation of an imagined past within the Hebrew Bible, was subsequently published as King Manasseh and Child Sacrifice: Biblical Distortions of Historical Realities.[9][10]

Stavrakopoulou filled subsequent teaching and research positions at Oxford at Worcester College, as a Junior Research Fellow and as a Career Development Fellow in the Faculty of Theology, departing Oxford in 2005.[11]

Stavrakopoulou began a position in Hebrew Bible and Ancient Religion in the University of Exeter's Department of Theology and Religion in 2005,[11] rising to the level of senior lecturer by March 2011.[2] She served as Head of Theology and Religion at Exeter between 2013 and 2016.[1]

In 2011, Stavrakopoulou was secretary of the British-based Society for Old Testament Study in 2011,[2] and member of the European Association of Biblical Studies and of the US-based Society of Biblical Literature.[2]

Her 2021 book, God: An Anatomy, was shortlisted for the 2022 Wolfson History Prize.[12]

Public appearances and presentations[edit]

Stavrakopoulou talks with Samira Ahmed, Giles Fraser and Adam Rutherford at Conway Hall in 2015.

Stavrakopoulou has appeared on several occasions in BBC One's programme featuring "moral, ethical and religious debates," The Big Questions hosted by Nicky Campbell; appearances include on the topics "Is the Bible still relevant?", [4] "Is there a difference between a religion and a cult?",[13] and "Are religions unfair to women?"[14]

Stavrakopoulou has served as writer and presenter for a number of media productions relating to her scholarly and political interests. She contributed to Channel 4's series The Bible: A History (2010), regarding the historicity of Moses.[2] Her first primetime presentation was a three-part television series for the BBC2 The Bible's Buried Secrets (2011;[2] not to be confused with NOVA's 2008 programme of the same name).[2]

She is also a Patron of Humanists UK, and has spoken on the history of religion and religious depictions of female sexuality at the Humanists UK Annual Convention in 2016 and the 2014 World Humanist Congress in Oxford respectively.[15]

Scholarly positions[edit]

The main focus of Stavrakopoulou's research is on the Hebrew bible,[2] and on Israelite and Judahite history and religion.[11][third-party source needed] Stavrakopoulou supports the academic consensus that important figures in the Hebrew bible were not historical figures as represented in that text.[2][4] She has further stated that she believes "very little, probably" of the Hebrew bible is historical fact, based on the arguments that ancient writers had an understanding of "fact" and "fiction" very different from a modern understanding, and that the Hebrew bible "wasn't written to be a factual account of the past"; she concludes, saying she does not believe accounts of Moses and King David in the Hebrew bible to be factual, and that "as an historian of the bible, I think there is very little that is factual". In her 2021 book, God: An Anatomy, Stavrakopoulou "presents a vividly corporeal image of God: a human-shaped deity who walks and talks and weeps and laughs, who eats, sleeps, feels, and breathes, and who is undeniably male. Here is a portrait–arrived at through the author’s close examination of and research into the Bible–of a god in ancient myths and rituals who was a product of a particular society, at a particular time, made in the image of the people who lived then, shaped by their own circumstances and experience of the world".[16] This book has been described by John Barton as showing that the non-corporeal God of Judaism and Christianity "was not yet so in the Bible, where God appears in a much more corporeal form".[16]

Major published works[edit]


  • ——— (2005). Discerning the Nature of Academic Theology (Dip. L.A.T.H.E.). Oxford, England: University of Oxford. OCLC 66385438.
  • ——— (2002). Biblical Distortions of Historical Realities: a study with particular reference to King Manasseh and child sacrifice (PhD). Oxford, England: University of Oxford. OCLC 59313595.


Stavrakopoulou's dissertation-based monograph, and her subsequent authored book-length publications are:

  • Stavrakopoulou, Francesca (2004). King Manasseh and Child Sacrifice: Biblical Distortions of Historical Realities. Berlin, GER: Walter de Gruyter. ISBN 3110179946.
  • ——— (2010). Land of our Fathers: The Roles of Ancestor Veneration in Biblical Land Claims. New York, NY: T&T Clark. ISBN 9780567028815.
  • ——— (2012). Reading the Hebrew Bible. Routledge. ISBN 978-0-415-47141-1.
  • ——— (2021). God: An Anatomy. Penguin Random House. ISBN 9780525520450.


  • ———; Barton, J., eds. (2010). Religious Diversity in Ancient Israel and Judah. New York, NY: T&T Clark. ISBN 9780567032157.
  • ———; Horrell, D. G.; Hunt, C.; Southgate, C., eds. (2010). Ecological Hermeneutics: Biblical, Historical and Theological Perspectives. New York, NY: T&T Clark. ISBN 9780567033031.

Journal articles and book chapters[edit]

Stavrakopoulou's major journal articles and her authored book chapters include:

  • ——— (2006). "Exploring the Garden of Uzza: Death, Burial and Ideologies of Kingship". Biblica. 87 (1): 1–21. JSTOR 42614642. Quote: Given the important theological and narrative functions of the death and burial notices in emphasizing the continuity of the Davidic dynasty… variations [in the stated burial places] have proved problematic for many commentators.
  • ——— (2010). "'Popular' Religion and 'Official' Religion: Practice, Perception, Portrayal". In Barton, J. (ed.). Religious Diversity in Ancient Israel and Judah. New York, NY: T&T Clark. pp. 37–58. ISBN 9780567032157. Retrieved 3 April 2016.
  • ——— (2011). "Tree-Hogging in Eden: Divine Restriction and Royal Rejection in Genesis 2-3". In Higton, M.; Rowland, C.; Law, J. (eds.). Theology and Human Flourishing: Essays in Honor of Timothy J. Gorringe. Eugene, OR, USA: Wipf and Stock. pp. 41–53. ISBN 978-1621898849. Retrieved 3 April 2016.
  • ——— (2016). "Religion at Home: The Materiality of Practice [Ch. 19]". In Niditch, S. (ed.). The Wiley Blackwell Companion to Ancient Israel. Wiley Blackwell Companions to Religion. New York, NY: John Wiley & Sons. pp. 347–365. ISBN 978-0470656778. Retrieved 3 April 2016. Quote: For scholars of ancient Israel and Judah… the designation 'household religion' has particularly come to index a category of difference: on one level, it tends to be a label employed to describe and interrogate forms of religious practice that are distinct from religious activities associated with temples and other high-status religious sites. … On another (though related) level… the term… is also employed to designate a category of difference concerned with distinguishing the "real" religions of Israel and Judah from the somewhat caricatured biblical portrayal of 'ordinary' or 'normative' religious practice in these ancient societies.


  1. ^ a b "Professor Francesca Stavrakopoulou | Theology and Religion | University of Exeter". Retrieved 19 June 2019.
  2. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l m n Singh, Anita (8 March 2011). "Profile of the BBC's new face of religion". The Telegraph. Retrieved 17 March 2011.
  3. ^ "Francesca Stavrakopoulou: Bloomsbury Publishing (US)".
  4. ^ a b c Campbell, Nicky (Presenter); and Right Reverend Michael Ali; Professor Richard Dawkins; Rabbi Laura Janner-Klausner; Professor Francesca Stavrakopoulou (participants) (9 May 2011). "Is the Bible still relevant?". The Big Questions. Series 4. Episode 15. Event occurs at 0:22-1:05, 4:21-6:12. BBC One. Retrieved 4 April 2016.{{cite episode}}: CS1 maint: uses authors parameter (link)
  5. ^ "Stavrakopoulou, Francesca". Library of Congress Name Authority File. (Francesca Stavrakopoulou, Worcester Coll.; Dr.Phil. thesis in theology, Univ. of Oxford) thesis cat. inf. form (b. Oct. 3, 1975; author's preferred form of name entry: Stavrakopoulou, Francesca)
  6. ^ "Bibliothèque St Étienne de Jérusalem – École Biblique et Archéologique Française".
  7. ^ "31 October 1996 - No 4415".
  8. ^ Worcester College Magazine, Trinity 2019, issue 24, ed. Coleen Day, Oxford University Press, p. 12
  9. ^ Francesca Stavrakopoulou (2004). King Manasseh and Child Sacrifice: Biblical Distortions of Historical Realities. Walter de Gruyter. ISBN 978-3-11-017994-1.
  10. ^ Wyatt, N. (2008). "King Manasseh and Child Sacrifice: Biblical Distortions of Historical Realities [by Francesca Stavrakopoulou]". J. Theol. Studies. 59 (1): 222–223. doi:10.1093/jts/flm050.
  11. ^ a b c Stavrakopoulou, Francesca (4 April 2016). "Professor Francesca Stavrakopoulou / Head of Theology and Religion, Professor of Hebrew Bible and Ancient Religion" (self-published academic biography). University of Exeter, Staff Profiles. Retrieved 4 April 2016.[third-party source needed]
  12. ^ "£50k Wolfson History Prize shortlist announced". Books+Publishing. 22 April 2022. Retrieved 29 April 2022.
  13. ^ "BBC One - The Big Questions, Series 5, Episode 18". 20 May 2012. Nicky Campbell asks, is there a difference between a religion and a cult?... Contributors also include Francesca Stavrakopoulou, professor of ancient religion at Exeter University; Dr George Chryssides from Birmingham University; Simon Cooper from the Unification Church; Glenn Carter, president of the UK Raelian Movement.
  14. ^ "BBC One - The Big Questions, Series 6, Episode 16". 5 May 2013. This is a special edition from King Edward VI Handsworth School in Birmingham and Nicky Campbell asks just one Big Question: Are religions unfair to women? Taking part are: Francesca Stavrakopoulou, Professor of Hebrew Bible and Ancient Religion at the University of Exeter; Cole Moreton, author of Is God Still an Englishman?; Christina Rees, who sits on The Archbishops' Council of the Church of England; the theologian Vicky Beeching; the feminist Kate Smurthwaite; Liz Weston from Christ Church, Southampton; Sarah de Nordwall from Catholic Voices; Eunice Olumide, a convert to Islam; Rania Hafez from Muslim Women in Education; Rabbi Shmuel Arkush, Director of Lubavitch in the Midlands; and Bharti Tailor, President of the Hindu Forum for Europe.
  15. ^ "Francesca Stavrakopoulou". Humanists UK. Retrieved 19 June 2019.
  16. ^ a b "God: An Anatomy by Francesca Stavrakopoulou". Retrieved 29 December 2021.

Further reading[edit]

External links[edit]