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I came to Chester after completing my BA and MA degrees in Biblical Studies at the University of Sheffield. Over these four years, I gradually developed a keen interest in understanding the place of animals in the biblical tradition. This deepening concern for biblical animals motivated me to undertake a PhD at the Theology and Religious Studies department in Chester in January 2014. Since 2016, I have also been a Visiting Lecturer at the department where I have taught Biblical Hebrew and other Biblical Studies modules.
P Atkins photo


My PhD research is especially concerned with how the human-animal boundary is negotiated in the text of Daniel 4. Over several centuries, there has been some general confusion amongst commentators about the exact events described in this text, and specifically whether Nebuchadnezzar actually transformed into an animal or not. This confusion seems to have been aggravated by the ambiguity of the description present in the diverse texts of this narrative. I aim to read Daniel 4 in its ancient Near Eastern context to understand how the boundary between Human and Animal was constructed here. Using this ancient conception of a Human-Animal boundary, I will apply it to the text of Daniel 4 to assess whether the narrative depicts a physical metamorphosis of the king or whether he undergoes a more subtle animal transformation.

Published work

Peter J. Atkins, "Praise by Animals in the Hebrew Bible," Journal for the Study of the Old Testament (forthcoming).

Peter J. Atkins, "Mythology or Zoology: A Study on the Impact of Translation History in Isaiah 13:21," Biblical Interpretation 24 (2016), 48-59.

“Metamorphosis or Madness? The Implications of John Calvin's Interpretation of Daniel 4 for the Human-Animal Boundary,” Society of Biblical Literature (SBL) International Meeting and European Association of Biblical Studies (EABS) Annual Conference, Berlin, August 2017.

“‘He Differed in Nothing from the Beasts’: John Calvin and the Animalisation of Nebuchadnezzar in Daniel 4,” Northern Universities Postgraduate Research Day, Manchester, May 2017.

“Developing Theories of Daniel: A Reassessment of the Place of Papyrus 967,” European Association of Biblical Studies (EABS) Annual Conference, Leuven, July 2016.