Department of Religions and Philosophies & School of History, Religions and Philosophies

Professor Catherine Hezser

Key information

Department of Religions and Philosophies Professor of Jewish Studies Centre for Jewish Studies Member Centre for Migration and Diaspora Studies Member, Centre for Migration and Diaspora Studies Member
Dr Theol (Heidelberg), PhD in Ancient Judaism (Jewish Theological Seminary of America, New York), Habilitation in Jewish Studies (Free University Berlin)
Russell Square: College Buildings
Email address
Telephone number
+44 (0)20 7898 4633
Support hours
On sabbatical leave 2023- 2024


Prof. Catherine Hezser studied Jewish Studies, Theology and Philosophy at the universities of Muenster and Heidelberg in Germany and at the Jewish Theological Seminary of America in New York. 

She completed her studies with a Dr. theol. (Heidelberg, 1986) and a Ph.D. in Jewish Studies (New York, 1992). After spending two years as a senior research fellow at Kings College Cambridge (1992-94), she went to the Free University Berlin to teach and complete her Habilitation in Jewish Studies (Berlin, 1997). Afterwards she did research at the Hebrew University Jerusalem as a Yad Hanadiv - Rothberg Foundation fellow and was granted a Heisenberg Professorship by the Deutsche Forschungsgemeinschaft. 

From 2000 to 2005 she was the Al and Felice Lippert Professor of Jewish Studies at Trinity College Dublin and the Director of the Herzog Centre for Jewish and Near Eastern Religions and Cultures. Since 2005 she has been teaching at SOAS, University of London.


Research interests

Prof. Hezser has distinguished herself as a major expert in the social history of Jews in Roman Palestine in late antiquity. She employs the methods and results of the social sciences and of (post-modern) literary criticism to better understand Jewish life and culture in Hellenistic and Roman times. In her many publications she examines ancient Judaism within the context of Graeco-Roman and early Christian society. Prof. Hezser is also interested in issues of modern Jewish identity and its literary expressions in Europe, America and Israel.

Prof. Hezser has participated in a variety of interdisciplinary research projects, e.g., as a senior research fellow at King's College, Cambridge (1992-94), in a project on early Judaism and Christianity with the late Prof. Keith Hopkins; at the Free University, Berlin (1994-2000), in a project on the Talmud Yerushalmi and Graeco-Roman culture, initiated by Prof. Peter Schaefer. She carried out research on ancient Jewish slavery as Lady Davies Visiting Research Professor at the Hebrew University (2003). Before joining the SOAS faculty she held the Al and Felice Lippert Chair of Jewish and Near Eastern Religions and Culture at Trinity College Dublin (2000-05). She is currently editing the Routledge Handbook of Jews and Judaism in Late Antiquity. 

She is currently working on a British Academy funded project on “Rabbinic Literature in the Context of Late Antique Scholasticism”. In 2023 she will start a new three-year research project funded by the UK-German Collaborative Grant in the Humanities (AHRC-DFG). The title of this project is “Rabbinic Civil Law in the Context of Ancient Legal History: A Legal Compendium on the Bavot Tractates of the Talmud Yerushalmi”.

The main objective of the project is to integrate Jewish civil law, as it developed in Roman Palestine in late antiquity (3rd-4th c. CE) and is codified in the Bavot tractates of the Talmud Yerushalmi, within ancient legal history. Scholars of ancient legal history generally deal with Roman law as the basis of modern European law, whereas rabbinic law is studied in the context of Jewish Studies. Ancient rabbis were legal adjudicators who devised rules and precedents in areas of civil law that have analogies in non-Jewish legal traditions, especially Hellenistic and Roman law. Compiled in the Bavot tractates of the Talmud, rabbinic civil law constitutes a significant Near Middle Eastern corpus of ancient civil law. The analysis and comparison of rabbinic with (mostly Egyptian) Hellenistic and with Roman civil law will enable us to overcome the inappropriate division between Jewish and non-Jewish, eastern and western legal traditions and enable an integrated approach to ancient law. The project examines the impact of Roman law on the eastern provinces in the context of Roman imperialism and the development of a legal hybridity in local Near Middle Eastern societies.

The Routledge Handbook of Jews and Judaism in Late Antiquity, edited by Catherine Hezser (London and New York: Routledge, 2024), which also contains a total of 34 chapters, 4 of them authored by Prof. Hezser, has just been published. For more information and the possibility to preview the volume see:

Prof. Hezser’s new book, Jews and Health: Tradition, History, and Practice is published by Brill in January 2023.



PhD Supervision

  • David Eliezer Cohen, The Biblical Exegesis of Don Isaac Abravanelnow published as a monograph
  • Stephanie Montgomery Kee, Cyprian of Carthage on Martyrdom
  • M. Naiem Ahmed, “In the Shadow of the Holocaust: Representations of Relations Between Jews and Non-Jews in  Film (1990-2020)
Name Title
Mr Nevsky Everett The Sacramental Character of the Cross in the Assyrian Church of the East
Stephanie Kee Martyrdom and Communion in the North African Church: in the works of St Cyprian of Carthage


Contact Catherine