Kathleen E. McVey

McVey 2012

 Joseph Ross Stevenson Professor of Church History
Department of History
106 Hodge Hall
Phone: 609.497.7996
Fax: 609.497.7728
Email: [email protected]
(Roman Catholic)

Professor McVey has been a member of the Princeton Theological Seminary Faculty since 1979. Prior to that she taught at the École Biblique et Archéologique Française, Jerusalem, Israel, and at the University of Missouri-St. Louis, and, more recently, at Union Theological Seminary in New York. She also participated in archeological excavations sponsored by the American Schools of Oriental Research in Carthage, Tunisia, and in Idalion, Cyprus, and she has held fellowships at Dumbarton Oaks in Washington, D.C., and at the American School of Classical Studies in Athens.

Her principal interests are in the history of Syriac Christianity, its intersections with the broader cultures of Late Antiquity and its influence on earliest Islam. Many of her publications concern the literary and theological content of hymns, including the symbolic interpretation of architecture in hymnody. The role of women and the interpretation of femaleness in early Christian literature are at the center of her current research.

Dr. McVey has participated in two ongoing ecumenical consultations: the Pro Oriente dialogue among Syriac tradition churches and the United Methodist Church’s Consultations on Orthodox and Wesleyan Spirituality.

She is a founding member of the North American Syriac Symposium and serves on the editorial boards of the series Fathers of the Church, the Cambridge Dictionary of Christianity, and Hugoye: Journal of Syriac Studies.



  • Ph. D. Harvard University (Religion: Early and Eastern Christianity) 1977
  • Catholic University of America (Danforth & Mellon Fellowships to study Coptic, Syriac and Arabic languages) 1969-71, 1976-77
  • B.A. Radcliffe College, Harvard University (Russian History and Literature) 1966

 Ph.D. dissertation: The Syriac life of Severus of Antioch, composed by George, Bishop of the Arab tribes: a critical edition, English translation and literary and historical commentary (Directed by John Strugnell and George H. Williams; reviewed by A. de Halleux in Le Muséon 94 (1981) 208-211)

Representative Publications:


‏‏‏‏‏‏‏Ephrem the Syrian: Hymns on the Nativity, Hymns Against Julian, Hymns on Virginity and on the Symbols of the Lord, Classics of Western Spirituality (New York: Paulist, 1989; second printing, 1999)

George, Bishop of the Arabs: A Homily on Blessed Mar Severus, Patriarch of Antioch. Introduction, Syriac text and English translation. Corpus Scriptorum Christianorum Orientalium, Vols. 530-531. Scriptores Syri. (Louvain: Peeters, 1993)

Articles and essays:

"A fresh look at the letter of Mara bar Serapion to his son," Orientalia Christiana Analecta 236 (1990) 257-72

"The Anti-Judaic Polemic of Ephrem Syrus' Hymns on the Nativity", Of Scribes and Scrolls: Studies in the Hebrew Bible, Intertestamental Judaism, and Christian Origins, ed. Harold W. Attridge, John J. Collins, and Thomas H. Tobin (Lanhan, Md: University Press of America, 1990) 229-40

"The Domed Church as Microcosm: Literary roots of an architectural symbol," Dumbarton Oaks Papers 37 (1983) 91-121; reprinted in Art, Archaeology and Architecture of Early Christianity, ed. Paul C. Finney, Studies in Early Christianity 18 (New York: Garland, 1993) 183-213

"The Sogitha on the church of Edessa in the context of other early Greek and Syriac hymns for the consecration of church buildings," in Essays in honor of Sebastian P. Brock, ARAM (Publication of the ARAM Society for Syro-Mesopotamian Studies) 5 (1993) 329-370

"Christianity and Culture, Dead White European Males, and the Study of Patristics" (Inaugural Address) in Princeton Seminary Bulletin 15.2 n.s. (1994) 103-130

"The chreia in the desert: rhetoric and the Bible in the Apophthegmata Patrum," in The Early Church in its Context: In Honor of Everett Ferguson, ed. Abraham J. Malherbe, Frederick W. Norris & James W. Thompson, supplements to Novum Testamentum 90 (Leiden: Brill, 1998) 245-255

"Were the Earliest Madrâšê Songs or Recitations?" in G. J. Reinink and A. C. Klugkist, ed., After Bardaisan: Studies on Continuity and Change in Syriac Christianity in Honour of Professor Han J. W. Drijvers, Orientalia Lovaniensia Analecta 89 (Leuven: Peeters, 1999) 185-99

"Ephrem the Syrian's use of female metaphors to describe the Deity," Zeitschrift für Antikes Christentum 5.1 (2001) 261-88

"Ephrem the Syrian: A theologian of the presence of God" Chapter 49 in The Early Christian World, 2 vols. ed. Philip F. Esler (London: Routledge, 2000) pp.1228-1250; slightly revised version appears as Chapter 13 in S.T. Kimbrough, ed., Orthodox and Wesleyan Spirituality (Crestwood, NY: St. Vladimir’s Seminary Press, 2002) 241-64

“Images of joy in Ephrem’s Hymns on Paradise: Returning to the womb and the breast” Journal of the Canadian Society of Syriac Studies 3 (2003) 1-19

“What then shall we do? Pacifism, “just war,” and “holy war” in western Christianity” in Chad R. Abbott and Everett Mitchell, eds., Breaking Silence: Pastoral Approaches for Creating an Ethos of Peace (Longmont, CO: Pilgrims Process, Inc., 2004), 217-36

“Ephrem the kitharode and proponent of women: Jacob of Sarug’s portrait of a 4th c. churchman for the 6th c. viewer and its significance for the 21st c. ecumenist” in S.T. Kimbrough, ed., Orthodox and Wesleyan Ecclesiology (Crestwood, NY: St. Vladimir’s Seminary Press, 2007) 229-53