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After a BA degree at Auckland University, New Zealand, Joan completed post-graduate studies at the University of Otago and then went to the British School of Archaeology in Jerusalem (Kenyon Institute) as Annual Scholar in 1986. She undertook a PhD at New College, Edinburgh University, and was appointed in 1992 to a position of lecturer (subsequently senior lecturer) at the University of Waikato, New Zealand, in the departments of both Religious Studies and History. In 1995 she won an Irene Levi-Sala Award in Israel’s archaeology, for the book version of her PhD thesis, Christians and the Holy Places (Oxford: Clarendon, 1993, rev. 2003). In 1996-7 she was Visiting Lecturer and Research Associate in Women’s Studies in Religion at Harvard Divinity School, a position she held in association with a Fulbright Award. She has also been Honorary Research Fellow in the Departments of History and Jewish Studies at University College London. She has taught at King’s College London since 2009.

Research interests and PhD supervision

Joan’s approach is multi-disciplinary; she works in literature, language, history and archaeology. She has written numerous books and articles in her fields of interest.

  • The New Testament and other early Christian texts within their wider social, historical and cultural contexts, with a special interest in archaeological evidence.
  • The historical figures of Jesus of Nazareth, John the Baptist, Judas Iscariot, Paul, Pontius Pilate, Mary Magdalene, and other New Testament persons, both in terms of the ancient evidence and how they have been constructed over time, including in modern literature and film.
  • Second Temple Judaism, particularly the Jewish legal schools (Pharisees, Sadducees, Essenes, ‘Zealots’) and popular religious movements.
  • The Dead Sea Scrolls and the archaeology of Qumran.
  • Alexandrian Judaism, Philo of Alexandria, and the ‘Therapeutae’
  • Women and gender within early Judaism and Christianity, especially regarding women in leadership roles.
  • Jewish-Christianity and early Christian constructions of history and orthodoxy.
  • Comparative Graeco-Roman religion and philosophy: literary, epigraphical and archaeological evidence.
  • The archaeology and history of Christian holy places and travel to Palestine over the centuries, with special interest in the sites of Golgotha, Gethsemane, Eleona, Nazareth, Capernaum and Bethlehem, as well as historical geography.
  • Reception exegesis: using creative artefacts to reflect on texts and history.

For more details, please see her full research profile.


Joan is a historian who teaches in early Christianity and Second Temple Judaism.

Expertise and public engagement

Joan regularly works in media and gives public talks. 

Selected publications 

What did Jesus look like? Taylor, J. E., 8 Feb 2018, 1st ed. Bloomsbury T&T Clark.

Jesus and the Mechanics of Empowerment Taylor, J., 2020, Revolutionary: Who was Jesus? Why does he still matter?. Holland, T. (ed.). London: SPCK Publishers, p. 1-33

Philo of Alexandria: On the Contemplative Life: Introduction, Translation and Commentary Taylor, J. & Hay, D., 2020, Leiden: Brill. (Philo of Alexandria Commentary Series)

Jesus and Brian: Exploring the Historical Jesus and his Times via Monty Python's Life of Brian Taylor, J. E. (ed.), 10 Sep 2015, 1st ed. Bloomsbury T&T Clark.

The Essenes, the Scrolls and the Dead Sea Taylor, J., 5 Feb 2015, Revised Paperback ed. Oxford: Oxford University Press.