Dr Karen J. Wenell BA, PhD

Dr Karen J. Wenell

Department of Theology and Religion
Senior Lecturer in New Testament and Theology

Contact details

ERI Building
University of Birmingham
B15 2TT

My research centres on biblical texts and their reception, particularly where texts become resources for ethical reflection and action. I am especially interested in the gospels, and the spatial constructs for group identity found within them, focussing on the ways these may be formative for ancient and contemporary moralities. My interests include theories of the sacred and space, critical theory, especially spatial-critical theory and actor network theory, reception historical approaches to biblical texts, ethical consuming, and human rights.  


  • BA (with Departmental Honors) in Biblical and Theological Studies, North Park University, Chicago (1998) 
  • PhD in Theology and Religious Studies, University of Glasgow (2004) 
  • PGCert in Academic Practice, University of Glasgow (2010)


Prior to joining the Department of Theology and Religion in Birmingham in 2011, I was co-editor of the Expository Times (2005-2011), and Lecturer in Creativity, Culture and Faith at the University of Glasgow (2006-2011), where I had previously completed my doctoral research, focussing on ideas about land as sacred space in Second Temple Judaism and Early Christianity. 

Postgraduate supervision

I am interested in supervising research students who would like to work in any of the following areas:

Spatial-critical approaches in Biblical Studies
Ethical Consuming and the Bible (especially NT and Gospels)
Human Rights and the Bible (especially NT and Gospels)
The Bible and Sacred Space (especially NT and Gospels)
The Bible in Religious Education (especially in relation to ethical issues and parables)

Find out more - our PhD Theology and Religion  page has information about doctoral research at the University of Birmingham.


A common theme running through various strands of my research activity is ethics and morality in relation to biblical texts and contemporary life. My current monograph research is on the Kingdom of God in the New Testament and contemporary reception, exploring aspects of ethical consuming and human rights in relation to the biblical conception of the Kingdom.

I am currently Principal Investigator on the AHRC Network Grant ‘Women, Faith and Humanitarian Interventions’, part of the wider Global Challenges Research Fund. With co-investigator Andrew Davies and project partners Global One, we will be exploring religious needs of refugee women and spaces of activation, support and empowerment of women. 

Multidisciplinary investigation of the role of texts and theologies is crucial to the ‘Women, Faith and Humanitarian Interventions’ network, as it has also been for previous projects I have been involved with. I have been co-investigator on the AHRC-funded workshop (led by Damian Sutton) ‘Not Just for Christmas: Consumption, Popular Culture and Religious Observance’, exploring ethical consuming as it relates to cultural and biblical narratives of Christmas and everyday life. I have also engaged with the role of texts and ethical issues in Religious Education provision across the UK as co-investigator on the large grant ‘Does Religious Education Work?’, led by Jim Conroy under the AHRC’s ‘Religion and Society’ programme.


Recent publications


Wenell, K, Økland , J & de Vos, JC (eds) 2019, Constructions of Space III: Biblical Spatiality and the Sacred. paperback edn, Continuum, London.

Wenell, K, Conroy, J, Lundie, D, Baumfield, V, Barnes, P, Gallagher, T, Lowden, K & Bourque, N 2013, Does Religious Education Work? A Multi-dimensional Investigation. Continuum, London.


Wenell, K 2017, 'Kingdom, not kingly rule: assessing the Kingdom of God as sacred space', Biblical Interpretation: A Journal of Contemporary Approaches, vol. 25, no. 2, pp. 206–233. https://doi.org/10.1163/15685152-00250A01, https://doi.org/10.1163/15685152-00250A01

Wenell, K 2014, 'A Markan "Context" Kingdom? Examining Biblical and Social Models in Spatial Interpretation', Biblical Theology Bulletin: a journal of bible and culture, vol. 44, no. 3, pp. 123-132. https://doi.org/10.1177/0146107914540487

Wenell, K 2013, 'Kingdom, not Kingly Rule: Opening up the Space of the Kingdom of God In and Beyond Text', Journal for the Study of the New Testament.

Wenell, K 2009, 'All Consuming Christmas? Religion, Culture and Challenges of Consumption', The Expository Times, vol. 121, no. 3, pp. 105-114. https://doi.org/10.1177/0014524609348814

Chapter (peer-reviewed)

Wenell, K 2023, Sacred Space. in S Ahearne-Kroll (ed.), The Oxford Handbook of the Synoptic Gospels. Oxford Handbooks, Oxford University Press, pp. 372–391. https://doi.org/10.1093/oxfordhb/9780190887452.013.29

Wenell, K, Økland, J & de Vos, C 2016, Introduction. in K Wenell, J Økland & C de Vos (eds), Constructions of Space III: Biblical Spatiality and the Sacred. T & T Clark International, London.

Wenell, K 2016, Religion and Ethical Consumption: Supramorality and Space. in D Shaw, T Newholm, A Chatzidakis & M Carrington (eds), Ethics and Morality in Consumption: Interdisciplinary Perspectives., Chapter 2, Routledge Studies in Business Ethics, Routledge.

Wenell, K 2016, The Kingdom of God as ‘Space in Motion’: Towards a More Architectural Approach . in K Wenell, J Økland & C de Vos (eds), Constructions of Space III: Biblical Spatiality and the Sacred. The Library of Hebrew Bible/Old Testament Studies, vol. 540, T & T Clark International, London.


Wenell, K 2012, ‘Ears to hear’: The Bible, The Sower, and Performative Christianity. in T van der Zee & TJ Lovat (eds), New Perspectives on Religious and Spiritual Education. Waxmann, pp. 117-132.

Wenell, K, Porter, S & Holmen, T 2011, Jesus and the Holy Land. in Handbook of the Study of the Historical Jesus. vol. 3.

Wenell, K 2011, Scripture. in A Companion to Catholic Education.


Wenell, K 2011, 'Editorial', The Expository Times, vol. 13, no. 2, pp. 53.

Web publication/site

Wenell, K, ahrcnotjustforchristmas.files.wordpress.com/2010/01/not-just-for-christmas-working-paper.pdf: Not Just for Christmas? A Working Paper, 2010, Web publication/site.

View all publications in research portal