Paul Dilley (he, him, his)

Professor Paul Dilley
Associate Professor, Ancient Mediterranean Religions
Joint appointment with the Department of Classics
PhD, Yale University, 2008
408 Gilmore Hall
Office Hours: 
Mon/Wed 11:30-12:30 via Zoom - email for appt
Fri 11:30-12:30 in 205 JB or by appt
Curriculum Vitae: 

Paul Dilley (PhD Yale, 2008) is Associate Professor of Ancient Mediterranean Religions, with a joint appointment in the departments of Classics and Religious Studies.  He specializes in the religions of Late Antiquity, particularly early Christianity, with an approach that integrates cultural history, philology, and the digital humanities.  Dilley has received multiple grants and fellowships, from organizations such as the Alexander von Humboldt, Jacob Javits, Woodrow Wilson, and Mellon Foundations, as well as the American Research Center in Egypt, and is a senior fellow of the Mellon Society of Fellows in Critical Bibliography; and given invited talks and lectures in Europe, North America, and the Middle East.  At Iowa he teaches introductory lectures on the Abrahamic religions and ancient Mediterranean religions, as well as a variety of more specialized courses and seminars in Classics and Religious Studies.  

Professor Dilley’s research covers the religions of the Mediterranean world and Iran, from the Hellenistic period to early Islam. He is especially interested in the development of early Christianity within the various cultures of the Graeco-Roman world, including Egypt and Syria; as well as the reception of the classical tradition in these diverse areas.  His first book, Monasteries and the Care of Souls in Late Antique Christianity: Cognition and Discipline (Cambridge University Press, 2017), explores the innovative practices for the training of thoughts and emotion, both individual and group, developed within early Christian ascetic movements, from the perspective of cognitive anthropology.  He has also published various articles in journals and peer-reviewed collections on ancient asceticism and monasticism, the development of orthodoxy and heresy, apocryphal literature, and the canon.

Professor Dilley is co-editor with Iain Gardner and Jason BeDuhn of the "Dublin Kephalaia Codex," a fifth-century Coptic manuscript of 360 surviving pages, containing previously unknown discourses of Mani, the Christian arch-heretic.  The editorial process has involved extensive use of digital photography, including multispectral imaging, to recover damaged text, with generous support from the Australian Research Council and the National Endowment for the Humanities.  A collection of preliminary studies on the manuscript’s exciting new contents, Mani at the Court of the Persian Kings, appeared in the Nag Hammadi and Manichaean Studies series (Brill, 2014); and the first of four fascicles of the critical edition itself appeared in the same series in 2018.  Professor Dilley’s research in Manichaeism is part of a broader interest in the various modes of large-scale and long-term interaction between ancient religious traditions.  He is an organizer (with co-PIs Timothy Barrett and Katherine Tachau) of the 2016-2017 Mellon Sawyer Seminar at the University of Iowa, “Cultural and Textual Exchanges: The Manuscript Across Pre-Modern Eurasia,” which can be explored here:  More recently, his research on the X-Ray tomography of ancient manuscripts, with computer scientist Brent Seales, has been featured in the New York Times, Newsweek, and Iowa Public Radio.

Professor Dilley is also a Digital Humanist, conducting research in text analysis, including “distant reading,” a strategy to uncover clues for interpreting large literary corpora through algorithmic analysis.  He explores basic issues of Greek and Latin text analysis in his article “Digital Philology between Alexandria and Babel,” in Ancient Worlds in a Digital Culture (Brill, 2016), co-edited with Claire Clivaz and David Hamidovic, the first volume of the series Digital Biblical Studies, for which he is a member of the editorial board.  With Sarah Bond, he is a founder and co-PI of Big Ancient Mediterranean, a developing tool and group of modules for the coordinated exploration and visualization of linked geospatial, network, and textual data related to the ancient world.

Professor Dilley has offered several new courses on digital humanities and book history, such as the introductory Big Ideas: Information, Society and Culture, co-taught with Fred Boehmke, that satisfies the QFR requirement; as well as a new course on Global Manuscript Cultures, co-taught with Kendra Strand, open to undergraduates and graduates, including MFA students in book arts.

Click on one of Dr. Dilley's books below to be taken to the publisher's page.

Dilley Book 1       Dilley 2       Dilley 3       Dilley 4


Research Interests: 
Ancient Mediterranean Religions, Late Antiquity, Early Christianity
Selected Publications: 

(For complete list, please see Professor Dilley's CV):

  • Christus Saltans as Dionysos and David: The Dance of the Savior in its Late- Antique Cultural Context,” Apocrypha 24 (2013): 237-254.
  • "Religious Intercrossing in Late-Antique Eurasia: Fragmentation, Corruption, and Written Canons," in Journal of World History (Accepted).
  • "The Chester Beatty Kephalaia Project" (with Iain Gardner and Jason BeDuhn), in Proceedings of the Seventh Conference of the International Association of Manichaean Studies, ed. Siegfried Richter (Leiden: Brill) (Accepted)
  • "Letter to a Holy Man with Prayer," in Koptische dokumentarische und literarische Texts, ed. Monika Hasitzka, Corpus Papyrorum Raineri 31 (Berlin: DeGruyter, 2011), 30-35.
  • "The Invention of Christian Tradition: Apocrypha, Imperial Policy, and Anti-Jewish Propaganda," in Greek, Roman, and Byzantine Studies 50.4 (2010): 586-614.
  • "Christian Icon Practice in Apocryphal Literature: Consecration and the Conversion of Synagogues into Churches," in Journal of Roman Archaeology 23 (2010): 285-302.
  • "Dipinti in Late Antiquity and Shenoute's Monastic Federation: Text and Image in the Paintings of the Red Monastery," in Zeitschrift fur Papyrologie und Epigraphik 165 (2008): 1-18.
Courses Taught: 
  • RELS:1050 Big Ideas: Information, Society, Culture
  • RELS:1001 Judaism, Christianity, and Islam
  • RELS:2182 (CLSA:2482) Ancient Mediterranean Religions
  • RELS:3243 (CLSA:3443) Pagans & Christians: The Early Church
  • RELS:4950 Senior Majors Seminar
Awards, Honors and Grants: 
  • Co-PI, Mellon-Sawyer Seminar, 2016-2017: “Cultural and Textual Exchanges: The Manuscript across Pre-Modern Eurasia” (with Katherine Tachau and Timothy Barrett)
  • Mellon Fellowship of Scholars in Critical Bibliography (2015-2017)
  • Obermann Interdisciplinary Research Grant (May 2015; with Sarah Bond and Ryan Horne) For development of the Terra Biblica and Big Ancient Mediterranean Digital Humanities Projects
  • University of Iowa Internal Funding Initiative (2014-2015; PI)
  • University of Iowa Digital Studio for Public Humanities Grant (2012)
  • University of Iowa Old Gold Summer Fellowship (2012)
  • Alexander von Humboldt Foundation, German Chancellor Fellowship (June 2011; Summer 2006; 2000-2001)
  • Ken Forster Memorial Award for Excellence in Research and Teaching, Penn State University (2010)
  • American Philosophical Society Franklin Grant (Summer 2009)
  • American Research Center in Egypt (ARCE) Fellowship (2007-2008)
  • Charlotte W. Newcombe Doctoral Dissertation Fellowship, Woodrow Wilson National Fellowship Foundation (2006-2007)
  • Jacob K. Javits Fellowship in the Humanities (2002-2006)