Religion Studies Department



William "Chip" Gruen, III, Ph.D.
Department Chair

Associate Professor of Religion Studies

Department of Religion Studies
Muhlenberg College
2400 Chew Street
Allentown, PA 18104
Office: 484-664-3434
Fax: 484-664-5627


University of Pennsylvania , Philadelphia , PA : Ph.D in Religious Studies , May 2005

Dissertation entitled: “The Compilation and Dissemination of The Life of Antony ” Robert Kraft, chair. E. Ann Matter and Brent Shaw, readers.

University of Cincinnati, Cincinnati, OH: Master of Arts in Ancient History , 1999

University of Kentucky, Lexington, KY: Bachelor of Arts in Philosophy and Classical Studies , 1996

Selected Teaching Experience

2006- Present
Courses Currently Offered at Muhlenberg College:
REL 100 Religion and Popular Culture
REL 117 Animals and the Sacred
REL 201 Theory and Method in the Study of Religion
REL 233 Christian Traditions
REL 304 New Testament
REL 355 Christianity at the Crossroads: The Emerging Church in Late Antiquity
REL 385 Readings in New Testament Greek
REL 453 Advanced Seminar: Sacrifice

Visiting Assistant Professor of Religious Studies, University of Pennsylvania:
New Religion Movements
Christian Origins
Comparative Studies in Religious Violence
The Life and Letters of Paul
Religions of the West

Research Interests

My most current research examines issues of symbol and meaning in ancient Christian text and art.  I am interested in the use of animals as representative of divinity and the potential for rival meanings around contested symbols. Of primary concern are the symbolic use of the donkey and its use in the Palatine Crucifix and related texts.

I am also actively pursuing projects that deal with issues of religious and ethnic identity in the ancient southeast Mediterranean.  The project includes an examination of conflict among various sects, emphasizing identity and status among the participants.  Special emphasis is placed on The Life of Anthony and its later textual tradition.

Selected Presentation of Research

November, 2010 (Upcoming), Annual Meeting, Society of Biblical Literature, "Proselytization, Serpents, and Poison in Ancient Christianity: A Reappraisal of the Longer Ending of Mark"

November, 2009, Annual Meeting, American Academy of Religion, "Domesticity/Liminality/Wildness: Christological Animal Symbolism and the Meanings of Sacrifice"

November, 2009, Annual  Meeting, Society of Biblical Literature, "Domesticating Animal Symbolism: The Place of Donkeys in the Acts of Thomas"

November, 2008, Annual Meeting, Society of Biblical Literature, "Constructing Monastic Identities: Ethnicity in the Lives of the Anchoritic Monks

May, 2008, International Congress on Medieval Studies, "'By Race and Egyptian': Ethnic Categories in the Life of Antony"

November, 2007 Annual Meeting, Society of Biblical Literature, "Ancient Symbols, Ancient Meaning: A Reappraisal of the Palatine Crucifix.


"Constructing Monastic Identities: Ethnicity in the Lives of the Anchoritic Monks, in Annali di storia dell'esegesi, (Forthcoming, 2010)

"The Liminal Donkey: A Reappraisal of the Palatine Crucifix," (Forthcoming, Early Christianity)

"Seeking a Context for the Testament of Job," Journal for the Study of the Pseudepigrapha, Vol. 18.3 (2009),163-179.

Review of Randolph Richards, Paul and First- Century Letter Writing: Secretaries, Composition, Revue of Biblical Literature (02,2007).


Society of Biblical Literature
American Academy of Religion
American Research Center in Egypt
North American Patristics Society

Committee Appointments at Muhlenberg College

Writing Program Committee (Chair), Muhlenberg College (2007-Present) - Elected to two year term in election Spring 2009.

Humanities representative of the Institutional Animal Care and Use Committee, Muhlenberge College (2007-Present)

Library Liaison to the Religion Studies Department for Trexler Library, Muhlenberg College (2006-Present)