John Penniman is Associate Professor of Religious Studies. He arrived at Bucknell in 2015 after completing his PhD at Fordham University in the Bronx. He grew up in Oak Ridge, TN–a Manhattan Project Secret City–and went to college at Elon University in North Carolina. At Bucknell he teaches courses on the history of Christianity and theories of religion. His most popular courses include Dying for God: Martyrdom from Antigone to ISIS; How to Be Alone: Religion, Solitude, and Loneliness; The New Testament and Christian Origins; and Digesting Divinity: Religion, Food, and Diet. Prof. Penniman’s research focuses on the religions of late antiquity and the development of Christianity within the cultural worlds of ancient Greece and Rome. His first book, Raised on Christian Milk: Food and the Formation of the Soul in Early Christianity, traces a 2000 year old history of the notion that “you are what you eat,” showing how ancient Christians followed leading philosophical and medical theories of the day regarding the power of food to shape bodies, minds, and souls. His next book, tentatively titled The Hands of God: Drugs and Medicine in Early Christian Practice, will re-interpret the history of Christian ritual in light of ancient pharmacology. As part of his research on religion and the history of medicine, Prof. Penniman is project director of the Bucknell Health Humanities Initiative. This NEH-funded effort will develop a medical/health humanities minor at Bucknell, forge partnerships between humanities faculty and local health organizations, and spotlight groundbreaking research in this emerging interdisciplinary field.
- Ph.D., Fordham University
- M.Phil., Fordham University
- M.T.S., Emory University
- B.A., Elon University
- Religions of Late Antiquity
- Early Christianity
- Ritual Theory
- Medical and Health Humanities
- History of Christianity
- History of Biblical Interpretation
- “Abrahamic Religions”
- Theories of Religion
- Gender, Sexuality and Religion
- Religion and Pop Culture
Raised on Christian Milk: Food and the Formation of the Soul in Early Christianity (Yale University Press, 2017).
“Blended with the Savior: Gregory of Nyssa’s Eucharistic Pharmacology,” Studies in Late Antiquity 2.4 (December 2018): 512-541.
"Fed to Perfection: Mother's Milk, Roman Family Values and the Transformation of the Soul in Gregory of Nyssa," Church History 84:3 (Fall 2015): 1-36.
"The Health-Giving Cup: Cyprian's Ep. 63 and the Medicinal Power of Eucharistic Wine," Journal of Early Christian Studies23.2 (Summer 2015): 189-211.