I am a Research Fellow at the Neal A. Maxwell Institute for Religious Scholarship. I am primarily interest in the problems surrounding the reception of Biblical narratives in late antique Syriac literature. I also work with Syriac manuscripts and the history of Syriac scholarship, especially in the United Kingdom.


I received a BA in Jewish History and Hebrew from University College London, an MSt in Syriac Studies from the University of Oxford, and a PhD in Theology from the University of Birmingham.

Blog Posts


    Genesis in the Syriac Tradition

    I am interested in the afterlife of Genesis in the Syriac tradition. Since this begins with understanding the Syriac (Peshitta) version, I am currently preparing (with Bas ter Haar Romeny) an annotated English translation of Peshitta Genesis. Further basic philological work is also necessary to edit and translate the corpus of works that retell the various Genesis stories. My first book (Brill, 2023) is a study of the reception of the story of Joseph (Genesis 37 & 39) in the early Syriac tradition. This will be followed by a companion study that tackles the rest of the Joseph story. Such foundational work lays the ground for a more synthetic history of the book of Genesis in the Syriac tradition. This book-length study will take the form of a biography of the text and reception of Genesis in the first thousand years of the Syriac tradition. A long-term project in this area is a historical commentary on Genesis in the Syriac tradition.


    Syriac Poetry & Homiletics

    I am primarily interested in the poetics of verse sermons (memre) on biblical themes. The sub-genre of narrative and dialogue poems are the source material for a book-length study on the Bible and biblical imagination in Late Antique Mesopotamia, which will draw on the methodological approaches currently used in the study of Jewish Midrash. In the near term I am translating several memre on biblical figures by Narsai in connection with collaborative project to translate the complete works of Narsai Corpus (Aaron Butts, Robert Kitchen and I are the editors). This translation work will be followed by a book-length study of Narsai and the Bible.


    Codicology and Textual Criticism

    Manuscript study and editorial praxis are the foundation of my work in Syriac studies. These practices are also the object of study (methodology, history of scholarship) and the fundamental elements of contemporary philological, historicist and book history research. I am working on a new catalogue of Syriac manuscripts in the Vatican Library, beginning with the portion of the collections that original came from Deir al-Surian (fifty-four codices). My focus in textual criticism currently relates to editing and translating several Syriac texts on the OT Patriarch Joseph. Among this cluster of publication projects is a joint project with Aaron Butts and Joseph Witztum to prepare a critical edition and translation with commentary of the Syriac History of Joseph and its Arabic and Ethiopic Versions for the Corpus Christianorum Series Apocryphorum (Brepols).


    History of Syriac Scholarship

    I am interested in the personalities and economy of knowledge production at it relates to Syriac scholarship in the United Kingdom and the United States. The first fruits of this interest is a contribution to the collection history of the Mingana Syriac manuscripts housed at the University Birmingham. That chapter required substantial work in the Mingana archives—work that will generate other publications, including a collection of Mingana’s letters with a long biographical introduction. Alphonse Mingana (d. 1937) stands at the latter end of the first golden age in British Syriac studies, which begins with William Cureton and the purchase of the first Deir es-Suryan manuscripts by the British Library in 1841. I intend to explore the history of Syriac Studies in this period (1841-1937) in a book-length study.

    Kristian Heal

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