Dr Karen J. Wenell BA, PhD

Dr Karen J. Wenell

Department of Theology and Religion
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.



  • Jesus and Land: Sacred and Social Space in Second Temple Judaism (Library of New Testament Studies 334; London: T&T Clark International, 2007). 
  • Paul, Grace and Freedom: Essays in Honour of John K. Riches (ed with P. Middleton and A. Paddison; London: T & T Clark International, 2009).
  • JC Conroy, D Lundie, RA Davis, V Baumfield, LP Barnes, T Gallagher, K Lowden, N Bourque and K Wenell, Does Religious Education Work?: A Multi-dimensional Investigation (London: Bloomsbury, 2013). Joint Winner: Society for Educational Studies 2014 Books Prize.
  • Constructions of Space III: Biblical Spaces and the Sacred (ed with J Økland and C de Vos; London: Bloomsbury, 2016). 

Articles and chapters in books 

  • Wenell, K. (2017). "Kingdom, not Kingly Rule: Assessing the Kingdom of God as Sacred Space" Biblical Interpretation 25 (2017), 1-28.
  • ‘Religion and Ethical Consumption: Supramorality and Space’ in D. Shaw, T. Newholm, A. Chatzidakis and M. Carrington (eds), Ethics and Morality in Consumption: Interdisciplinary Perspectives (London, Routledge, 2016), 28-41.
  • ‘The Kingdom of God as ‘Space in Motion’: Towards a More Architectural Approach’ in J. Økland, J. C. de Vos and K. J. Wenell (eds),  Constructions of Space III: Biblical Spatiality and the Sacred. (London, Bloomsbury, 2016), 135-150.
  • Wenell, K., J. Økland and C. de Vos, ‘Introduction’ in J. Økland, J. C. de Vos and K. J. Wenell (eds),  Constructions of Space III: Biblical Spatiality and the Sacred. (London, Bloomsbury, 2016), xiii-xxii.
  • ‘A Markan 'Context' Kingdom? Examining Biblical and Social Models in Spatial Interpretation’ Biblical Theology Bulletin 44:3 (2014), 123-132.
  • ‘'Ears to Hear': The Bible, the Sower and Performative Christianity’ in T. van der Zee and T. J. Lovat (eds), New Perspectives on Religious and Spiritual Education. (Münster, Waxmann, 2012),117-132.
  • 'Testing the Boundary: Ritual, Moral and Supramoral Responsibility in Jesus and Paul' in P. Middleton, A. Paddison and K. Wenell (eds), Paul, Grace and Freedom: Essays in Honour of John K. Riches (London: T & T Clark International, 2009), 65-81.
  • P. Middleton, A. Paddison and K. Wenell, ‘Introduction’ in Paul, Grace and Freedom: Essays in Honour of John K. Riches (London: T & T Clark International, 2009), 1-5.
  • ‘All Consuming Christmas? Religion, Popular Culture and Challenges of Consumption’ The Expository Times 121:3 (Dec 2009), 105-114. 
  • ‘St Peter’s College and the Desacralisation of Space’ Literature and Theology 21:3 (Sept 2007), 259-275. 
  • ‘Contested Temple Space and Visionary Kingdom Space in Mark 11-12’ Biblical Interpretation 15:3 (July 2007), 291-305. 
  • ‘Land as Sacred and Social Space: Some Reflections on the Early Jesus Movement and the Hauhau Religion’ in L. Lawrence and M. Aguilar (eds.) Anthropology and Biblical Studies: Avenues of Approach (Leiden: Deo Publishing, 2004), 208-26.

Chapters in textbooks/handbooks

  • ‘The Setting: Biblical Geography, History and Archaeology’ in M. J. Gorman (ed.) Scripture and Its Interpretation (Grand Rapids, Baker Academic, 2017), 23-44.
  • ‘Scripture’ in S. McKinney and L. Franchi (eds) A Companion to Catholic Education (Gracewing, 2011). 
  • ‘Jesus and the Holy Land’ in S. Porter and T. Holmén (eds), Handbook of the Study of the Historical Jesus (Leiden: Brill, 2010). 
  • ‘The Geography, History and Archaeology of the Bible’ in M. Gorman (ed.) An Ecumenical Introduction to the Bible (Peabody, Mass.: Hendrickson, 2005).

Other publications

  • Blog entry: 23 December 2015, ‘Christmas, Religion and Consumption’. Part of the ESRC Ethics in Consumption Seminar Series.
  • ‘Exegetical Notes: Mark 10:35-45’ The Expository Times 117/12 (September 2006), 507-508.
  • ‘Exegetical Notes: John 6.56-69’ The Expository Times 117/10 (July 2006), 417-418. 
  • J. Riches, S. Miller and K. Wenell, ‘Contextual Bible Study Notes for May Lectionary Readings’ The Expository Times 117/7 (April 2006), 286-290.
  • ‘Exegetical Notes: John 12:20-33 and Acts 3:12-19’ The Expository Times 117/6 (March 2006), 245 and 249-50.
  • ‘Exegetical Notes: Mark 1:40-45’ The Expository Times 117/4 (January 2006), 153-154.‘Exegetical Notes: Luke 1:26-38’ The Expository Times 117/2 (November 2005), 28-29.
  • J. Riches, S. Miller and K. Wenell, ‘Contextual Bible Study Notes for March Lectionary Readings’ The Expository Times 117/5 (February 2005), 192-195.

View all publications in research portal