Robert Cousland


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Graduate Student Supervision

Doctoral Student Supervision

Dissertations completed in 2010 or later are listed below. Please note that there is a 6-12 month delay to add the latest dissertations.

The protestant missionaries as bible translators: mission and rivalry in China, 1807-1839 (2016)

The first generation of Protestant missionaries sent to the China mission, such as Robert Morrison and William Milne, were mostly translators, committing most of their time and energy to language studies, Scripture translation, writing grammar books and compiling dictionaries, as well as printing and distributing bibles and other Christian materials. With little instruction, limited resources, and formidable tasks ahead, these individuals worked under very challenging and at times dangerous conditions, always seeking financial support and recognition from their societies, their denominations and other patrons. These missionaries were much more than literary and linguistic academics – they operated as facilitators of the whole translational process, from research to distribution; they were mission agents in China, representing the interests and visions of their societies and patrons back home. Using rare Chinese Bible manuscripts, including one that has never been examined before, plus a large number of personal correspondence, journals and committee reports, this study seeks to understand the first generation of Protestant missionaries in their own mission settings, to examine the social fabrics within which they operated as “translators”, and to determine what factors and priorities dictated their translation decisions and mission strategies. Although Morrison is often credited with being the first translator of the New Testament into Chinese, the truth of the matter is far more complex. The following study is designed to illustrate both the complexity of the historical process underlying the Protestant translations of the Bible, as well as the complexities attendant upon notions of translation and authorship. Recognizing how these translators interacted with one another and how they made use of their sources, and appreciating their continued struggle for support, recognition and patronage is the key to understanding their translation approaches and decision-making.

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"The first dispensation of Christ is medicinal" : Augustine and Roman medical culture (2008)

This study examines the knowledge and use of medicine in the writings of Augustine.An initial overview of Roman medical culture highlights that ancient medicine was both apractical and intellectual activity, that it was culturally linked with rhetoric, philosophy, andfaith, and that many aspects of medicine were performed in a public setting. Knowledge ofmedicine formed part of the intellectual background of the well-educated Roman citizen,through autodidactic studies. Roman medicine underwent a minor renaissance in NorthAfrica during Augustine’s lifetime; he would have obtained his knowledge of medicinethrough access to a range of textual and non-textual forms of information. Augustine’sinterest in and knowledge of medical topics was more comprehensive than has beenpreviously credited: he employed a sophisticated medical terminology; he was fascinated byaspects of human physiology, particularly the function of the senses; and he understood thephilosophical divisions which separated the various medical sects.His greatest use of medicine was in the area of figurative language. His employmentof medical metaphors, particularly that of Christus medicus (Christ the physician), wasextensive, far exceeding that of other Latin patristics writers, both contemporaries and thosewho followed him. Various reasons can be adduced for the attraction which medicalmetaphors held for Augustine, including the popularity of the figure of Christus medicus inNorth Africa, the use of medicine and medical metaphor in Manichaean texts, andAugustine’s relationship with the physician Vindicianus. Augustine’s own experience withill health was also a significant contributing factor. A painful illness in 397 likely providedan impetus to his writing of the Confessions, a work filled with medical metaphor, in whichhe confesses as a patient to a physician. Augustine expanded this medicalization of the selfto the body of Christian sufferers through reference to the pain which ancient therapeuticsinflicted. He used the metaphor of the sick bed to oppose the Donatist schism, by creatingopportunities for ordinary Christians to turn their illnesses into martyrdoms. This allowedthem simultaneously to reject unacceptable forms of healing and obtain full participation inthe church.

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Master's Student Supervision

Theses completed in 2010 or later are listed below. Please note that there is a 6-12 month delay to add the latest theses.

A history of interpretation of Romans 9:6-13 in the Patristic Period (2017)

No abstract available.

The Six Books Apocryphon: Towards a Ritual Analysis (2015)

No abstract available.

Playing the market: Contemporary Christian music and the theory of religious economy (2013)

Contemporary Christian music (CCM) is a fascinating and understudied part of the religious vitality of modern American religion. In this dissertation the theory of religious economy is proposed as a valuable and highly serviceable methodological approach for the scholarly study of CCM. The theory of religious economy, or the marketplace approach, incorporates economic concepts and terminology in order to better explain American religion in its distinctly American context. In this study, I propose three ways in which this method can be applied. Firstly, I propose that CCM artists can be identified as religious firms operating on the “supply-side” of the religio-economic dynamic; it is their music, specifically the diverse brands of Christianity espoused there within, that can allow CCM artists to be interpreted in such a way. Secondly, the diversity within the public religious expressions of CCM artists can be recognized as being comparable to religious pluralism in a free marketplace of religion. Finally, it is suggested that the relationship between supply-side firms is determined, primarily, by the competitive reality of a free market religious economy.

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Opening and Entering the Gospel of Mark: Jesus in the House (2010)

Recent studies of the historical Jesus have placed greater emphasis on the spaces and places that were the context for the New Testament Gospels. This study adopts such an emphasis by exploring the ‘dominant architecturalmarker’ in Mark’s gospel: the house.An investigation of the archaeology, anthropology, and social environment of 1st-century Palestine is used to examine the boundaries present in that society. By utilizing the theories of ‘liminality’ as conceived by Arnold van Gennep andVictor Turner, this thesis hypothesizes that the thresholds of houses in Mark’s gospel represent the powerful social boundaries present in Palestine at the time of Jesus. Thus, when the Gospel frequently depicts Jesus opening or entering‘houses’, it shows that he is superseding these boundaries, and sacralizing and purifying the space.A study of 1st-century houses in Palestine reveals that they were bounded spaces, evidenced in ‘closed’ archaeological forms and social purity regulations. Mark’s depiction of ‘gatherings’ around Jesus reveals the dynamics of socialboundaries by examining ‘who’ was typically allowed to assemble in a house. A detailed investigation of several Markan passages shows that Jesus disregards these boundaries by allowing ‘outsiders’ access to the house. It is concludedthat passage through a door or over a threshold represents a bridging of ‘different or opposing categories’, showing then that the presence of crowds and individuals gaining access to Jesus despite the prominent architecture of separation speaks powerfully about the authorial desire to show Jesus as ‘opening’ all of the ‘house of Israel’. Jesus is seen as disregarding the liminalsocial restrictions in order to restore access to the divine for those previously marginalized. Jesus’ actions in these houses reveal a ‘purifying’ theme, culminating in Mark’s account of Jesus’ act of cleansing the Temple.The final chapter of the thesis considers possible links between Markan use of the house and later Christian communities. Turner’s notion of communitas is applied in order to show that Markan depiction of liminal boundaries may have been significant to early Christian communities in conflict with surrounding societies.

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