Istvan Czachesz

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Czachesz, Istvan

Professor of Biblical Studies
Department of Archaeology, History, Religious Studies and Theology

Job description:

In my research, I combine the historical study of ancient religions with insights from the natural sciences, including cognitive neuroscience, evolutionary theory, and computer modeling. In addition to my core teaching duties in Biblical Studies, I also lecture broadly on the religious history of the ancient Mediterranean world, which often brings to my courses students from various programs. One of my passions is to introduce scientific approaches into historical research. The big question I would like to answer is whether religion has increased human wellbeing in history.

Research interests

Early Christianity, Cognitive Science of Religion, Digital Humanities


Selected books:

Cognitive Science and the New Testament: A New Approach to Early Christian Research. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2017.

The Grotesque Body in Early Christian Literature: Hell, Scatology and Metamorphosis. London and New York: Routledge, 2014.

Commission Narratives: A Comparative Study of the Canonical and Apocryphal Acts. Leuven: Peeters, 2007.


Selected articles:

"Evolutionary theory on the move: New perspectives on evolution in the cognitive science of religion," Unisinos Journal of Philosophy 19(3), 2018, pp. 263-271.

"Visionary Practices in the Fourth Book of Ezra," in J.N. Bremmer, V. Hirschberger, and T. Nicklas (eds), Figures of Ezra, Leuven: Peeters, 2018, pp. 51-78.

"Armaments and Ornaments: Mate-Guarding and the Origins of Religion," Religion, Brain & Behavior, 2018, doi:10.1080/2153599X.2018.1498014.

"Cognition, Culture, and Religion: Surveying the Field," in N. Clements (ed), Religion: Mental Religion, Macmillan Interdisciplinary Handbook of Religion, Farmington Hills, MI: Macmillan Reference USA, 2017, pp. 197-217.

"Die unbeholfenen Zauberlehrlinge in Ephesus (Die Söhne des Skevas): Apg. 19.11-17" (The Sorcerer’s Clumsy Apprentices; The Sons of Sceva; Acts 19:11-17) in R. Zimmermann et al. (eds), Kompendium der frühchristlichen Wundererzählungen. Band 2: Die Wunder der Apostel, Gütersloh: Gütersloher Verlagshaus, 2017, pp. 257-267.

"'Unser Sohn ist Magier geworden!' (Wunderbare Brandlöschung in Philippi): ActAndr(Greg) 12" (Our Son has Become a Magician!: Miraculous Extinguishing of Fire, Acts of Andrew 12), in R. Zimmermann et al. (eds), Kompendium der frühchristlichen Wundererzählungen. Band 2: Die Wunder der Apostel, Gütersloh: Gütersloher Verlagshaus, 2017, pp. 801-806.

"Cultural Evolution and Biblical Studies," in C. Gianotto and F. Sbardella (eds), Traiettorie antropologiche e storiche. Un omaggio ad Adriana Destro, Brescia: Morcelliana, 2017, pp. 239-255.

"Religious Experience Behind the Account of Isaiah’s Ascent to Heaven: Insights from Cognitive Science," in J.N. Bremmer, T.R. Karmann and T. Nicklas (eds), The Ascension of Isaiah, Leuven: Peeters, 2016, pp. 235-257.

"From Mirror Neurons to Morality: Cognitive and Evolutionary Foundations of Early Christian Ethics," in U. Volp, F.W. Horn, and R. Zimmermann (eds), Metapher – Narratio – Mimesis – Doxologie: Begründungsformen im frühchristlicher und antiker Ethik, Tübingen: Mohr Siebeck, 2016, pp. 271-287.

"Network Analysis of Biblical Texts," Journal of Cognitive Historiography 3, 2016, pp. 43-67.

"Tours of heaven in light of the neuroscientific study of religious experience," Journal of Cognitive Historiography 2, 2015, pp. 34-54.

"How Can Evolutionary Theory Contritute to Biblical Studies?," in D.J. Chalcraft, R. Watson and F. Uhlenbruch (eds), New Directions in Biblical Studies: Social Scientific and Cultural Approaches, Sheffield: Phoenix Press, 2014, pp. 16-38.

"How to Read Miracle Stories with Cognitive Theory: On Harry Potter, Magic, and Miracle," in R. Zimmermann and B. Kollmann (eds), Hermeneutik der frühchristlichen Wundererzählungen, Tübingen: Mohr Siebeck, 2014, pp. 391-404.

"Jesus' Religious Experience in the Gospels: Toward a Cognitive Neuroscience Approach," in P. von Gemünden, D. G. Horrell and M. Küchler (eds), Jesus. Rezeptionen des Galiläers in Wissenschaft, Kirche und Gesellschaft. FS Gerd Theissen, Göttingen: Vandenhoeck & Ruprecht, 2013, pp. 553-580.

"The Evolutionary Dynamics of Religious Systems: Laying the Foundations of a Network Model," in A.W. Geertz (ed), Origins of Religion, Cognition and Culture, Durham: Acumen, 2013, pp. 98-120.

Publications in CRIStin

  • Apud Pelaez, Ismael; Czachesz, Istvan. Creencias, Rituales y Memoria. Una introducción a la Ciencia Cognitiva de la Religión. Psicología, Conocimiento y Sociedad 2019; Volum 9 (1). ISSN 1688-7026.s 229 - 257.

  • Czachesz, Istvan. Visions with Authority: Reconsidering the Origins and Transmission of Apocalyptic Visions, with Special Attention to Jewish and Christian Pseudepigrapha. Mohr Siebeck 2019 ISBN 9783161570254.s 207 - 226.

  • Czachesz, Istvan. Christian Beginnings and Cultural Evolution. Bloomsbury Academic 2019 ISBN 9781350078123.s 162 - 178.

  • Czachesz, Istvan; Theissen, Gerd. Cognitive Science in Biblical Interpretation. Bloomsbury Academic 2019 ISBN 9781350078123.s 13 - 39.

  • Czachesz, Istvan. Introduction: Cognition, Evolution, and Biblical Exegesis. Bloomsbury Academic 2019 ISBN 9781350078123.s 1 - 12.

  • Apud, Ismael; Czachesz, Istvan. The neuropsychology of religious experience. A review of different scientific approaches to the phenomenon / Neuropsicologia de la experiencia religiosa. Una revision de distintas aproximaciones cientificas al fenomeno. Estudios de Psicología 2019; Volum 40 (2). ISSN 0210-9395.s 338 - 362.s doi: 10.1080/02109395.2019.1596373.

  • Czachesz, Istvan. Armaments and ornaments: mate-guarding and the evolutionary roots of religion. Religion, Brain and Behavior 2018. ISSN 2153-599X.s 1 - 19.s doi: 10.1080/2153599X.2018.1498014.

  • Czachesz, Istvan. Evolutionary theory on the move: New perspectives on evolution in the cognitive science of religion. Unisinos Journal of Philosophy 2018; Volum 19 (3). ISSN 1984-8234.s 263 - 271.s doi: 10.4013/fsu.2018.193.08.

  • Czachesz, Istvan. Ritual and Transmission. Oxford University Press 2018 ISBN 0191065064.s 115 - 133.s doi: 10.1093/oxfordhb/9780198747871.013.7.

  • Czachesz, Istvan. Magic. Oxford University Press 2018 ISBN 0191065064.s 187 - 203.s doi: 10.1093/oxfordhb/9780198747871.013.11.

  • Nikolsky, Ronit; Czachesz, Istvan; Tappenden, Frederick S.; Biro, Tamas. Language, Cognition, and Biblical Exegesis: Interpreting Minds. Bloomsbury Academic 2019 ISBN 9781350078123.s 1 - 12.