Westar Institute recognizes Peter McLellan’s analysis of the Gospel of Mark.

McLellan is pursuing a doctorate.
McLellan is pursuing a doctorate.

November 2016 – Peter McLellan, an adjunct lecturer at William Paterson University and student at Drew Theological School, is the winner of this year’s Christianity Seminar Graduate Student Essay Contest from the Westar Institute.

McLellan will present his winning essay at the Institute’s next national conference, in San Antonio. The conference, a biannual event, brings together scholars, authors and the general public to discuss key topics related to religion.

McLellan is pursuing a PhD in New Testament and Early Christianity at the Theological School. His essay, “Decapolis Death Worlds: Necropolitics, Specters, and Gerasene Ethnicity Among the Tombs,” explores a passage from the Gospel of Mark in which a possessed man from the country of the Gerasenes is exorcised.

McLellan was “more than a little surprised” by the Westar honor, given that the Institute “has a history of engaging in traditional, historical biblical scholarship, and my essay felt far afield of the institute’s usual interest.” That said, he looks forward to interacting with fellow scholars at the conference.

At William Paterson, McLellan teaches philosophy. His mentors at Drew include professors Melanie Johnson-DeBaufre and Stephen Moore. In particular, he cites Johnson-DeBaufre’s work with theories of space and material culture and Moore’s talent for infusing theoretical insights into his critical interpretations of biblical texts.

“More than anything, though,” he added, “my peers in the PhD program at the Theo School have ingrained in me a desire to see the ways in which meaning in the Bible is always contested.”