Revd Canon Professor Susan Gillingham


The Book of Psalms has been a consistent focus in my research: in the 1980s I completed a doctorate at Keble College which countered the then dominant cultic and historical approach to the psalms by reading them as prayers with a more universal, personal appeal.  The Poems and Psalms of the Hebrew Bible  was published in 1994.  In the late 1990s I became increasingly interested in ‘Reception History’ as a method for understanding the multivalent nature of biblical texts, especially the Psalms. As this required an appreciation of over two millennia of cultural history, both Jewish and Christian, not only looking at the translation and commentary tradition but also the reception of psalms in liturgy, art, music, poetry, film, and social, political and ethical discourse, this developed into a  twenty-five year research project.  Psalms through the Centuries was published in three volumes, in 2008; 2018; and 2022.  Throughout this time I also published several other books  and some sixty articles. In 2022  a Festschrift appeared,  edited by Katherine Southwood and Holly Morse, aptly summarising my ongoing research interests by the title:  Psalms and the Use of the Critical Imagination.  Essays in Honour of  Professor Susan Gillingham.

I have stayed mostly in Oxford since my doctorate days, having taught for over forty years for the Faculty of Theology and Religion and in various Colleges.  I served the Faculty in many different guises until I retired in 2019;  I focussed especially on Access Initiatives and Undergraduate Welfare. Throughout this period I acquired several international academic associations,  especially with the Universities of the Bahamas,  Baylor TX,  Bonn, Georgia GA, Göttingen, Malta, Pretoria, Reykjavík,  Strasbourg, Upsala, and Vienna, as well as various theological seminaries, especially  the Pontifical Bible Institute in Rome,  the Tantur Ecumenical  Institute in Jerusalem, and the Virginia Theological Seminary in Alexandria VA.  I have given some sixty  conference papers and named lectures, mostly on issues relating to studies on the Psalms and multivalent readings of Scripture,  many in the context of Jewish/Christian discourse.  I’ve participated in several research projects in Oxford during this time, the most notable being  the co-founding and overseeing of the Oxford Psalms Network with TORCH (see ), along with two Medievalists from the English Faculty. This was chosen as one of four impact submissions in the recent REF.  Having run out of funding we are seeking its reincarnation as another TORCH project, provisionally entitled ‘The Psalms in Sacred Time and Sacred Space’.

I was appointed as a lecturer at Worcester College in 1988, and for some years held a variety of other college lectureships.  In 1995 I gained a permanent post as University Lecturer in Old Testament and Fellow and Tutor in Theology at Worcester.  I retired, a reluctant victim of the EJRA, in 2019.

Reception History is now a seminal discipline throughout the Humanities in general and the Faculty of Theology and Religion in particular.  I was made a Reader in 2008, and a Professor, in 2014;  I was awarded the degree of Doctor of Divinity (DD) in 2015, being only the second woman to receive such an award, and was given a Professorial Distinction award in 2016.  I prize teaching as much as research, so to have been shortlisted by OUSU for the 'Most Acclaimed Lecturer of the Year' award in 2018 was a particular pleasure.  I was elected as President of the Society for Old Testament Study from 2018-19 and am an active member of the Society for Biblical Literature.  I was ordained as a Permanent Deacon in 2018 and since then have been licensed as a Curate to St Barnabas Church in Jericho.  I was made a Canon Theologian at Exeter Cathedral in 2019.  I am currently writing another commentary on the Psalms in the Penguin Short Classics Series, returning to my earliest research on the psalms, this time as a ‘universal classic’.   

Research Area:

Old Testament/ Hebrew Bible

Research Interests:

Reception History, especially of the Psalms, specialising in the influence of music, art and poetry in the cultural history of psalmody; literary studies, especially of individual psalms and the Psalter as a whole;  history of religion, especially the influence of ancient Near Eastern myth and ritual in ancient Israelite religion;  biblical archaeology, especially ancient iconography; biblical poetry, especially in the study of metaphor and its relationship with ancient iconography;  biblical hermeneutics, especially multivalent readings of biblical texts; feminist studies of the Hebrew Bible/Old Testament, especially in the history of its development; studies in the Prophets, especially the interrelationship between prophecy and psalmody throughout the Old and New Testaments; homiletics, especially the understanding  and appropriation of psalmody in Jewish and Christian faith traditions today;  interfaith  discourse, especially the use of the Psalms in Judaism, Christianity and Islam; therapeutic use of the psalms, especially at the interdisciplinary and interfaith level.

Research Centres & Projects:

The Oxford Psalms Network (with TORCH)


Member of Editorial Board of LHBOTS from 2016.  


For a full list of publications

Selected Publications