Robin M. Jensen

Robin M. Jensen

Endowed Professor
The Patrick O'Brien Professor of Theology
Biblical Studies/Christianity and Judaism in Antiquity
History of Christianity
Liturgical Studies


B.A. Concordia College (Moorhead, MN)

M.A. Columbia University/Union Theological Seminary

Ph.D. Columbia University

Research and Teaching Interests

Trained in both the history of art and the history of Christian doctrine and liturgy, Jensen’s teaching and research explores the intersections among Christian theology, liturgical practice, and material/visual culture. She is particularly attentive to the interpretation of Christian art and architecture in light of its ritual function and religious significance. Her numerous books, articles, and essays in collected works reflect these interests, including her most recent volume, Christianity in Roman Africa: The Development of Its Practices and Beliefs (2014), which was co-written with her husband, J. Patout Burns and examines the lived practice of ancient Christianity as reflected in both material and documentary evidence. Currently, she is completing The Cross; History, Art, and Controversy for Harvard University Press (anticipated 2016) and is editing both The Routledge Companion to Early Christian Art and The Cambridge History of La te Antique Archaeology.

Recent Publications

2017. The Cross: History, Art, and Controversy (Harvard University Press, expected March, 2017).
2015. Co-edited with Lee Jefferson. The Art of Empire: Christian Art in its Imperial Context. Minneapolis: Fortress Press.
2014. With J. Patout Burns. Christianity in Roman Africa: The Development of its Practices and Beliefs. Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans Press.
2012. Baptismal Imagery in Early Christianity. Ada, MI: Baker Academic Press.
2011. Living Water: The Art and Architecture of Ancient Christian Baptism. Leiden: Brill Publishers, Vigiliae Christianae Supplementary Series.
Co-editor with Kimberly Vrudny. 2009. Visual Theology. Collegeville, MN: Liturgical Press.
2005. Face to Face: The Portrait of the Divine in Early Christianity. Minneapolis: Fortress Press.
2004. The Substance of Things Seen: Art, Faith, and the Christian Community. Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans Press.
2000. Understanding Early Christian Art. New York: Routledge Press.
Book chapters (since 2011): 
2015. “The Three Hebrew Youths and the Problem of the Emperor’s Portrait in Early Christianity,” In Jewish Art in Its Late Antique Context, eds., Uzi Leibner and Catherine Hezser (Mohr Siebeck, Texts and Studies in Ancient Judaism Series, 2015), 303-20.
2015. “The Apocryphal Mary in Early Christian Art,” Oxford Handbook of Early Christian Apocrypha, ed. Andrew Gregory and Christopher Tuckett. pp. 289-305. Oxford: Oxford University Press.
2014. “Archaeology of Initiation," A Companion to the Archaeology of Religion in the Ancient World. Ed. Jörg Rüpke and Rubina Raja, pp. 253-67. New York: Wiley-Blackwell.
2014. “Verso una vera arte cristiana: Evidenze stilistiche e iconografiche dell’adattamento Cristiano dell’arte figurative tardo antica,” Genealogia delle immagini cristiane.  Ed. Daniele Guastini, pp. 39-59. Firenze-Lucca: VoLo. Trans., D. Guastini.
2010. “Saints’ Relics and the Consecration of Church Buildings in Rome,” Papers Presented at the Conferences on Early Liturgy to 600 (2009/2010). Eds. Juliette Day and Markus Vinzent, pp. 153-69. Oxford: Studia Patristica, vol. 71, 2014), 153-69.
2014. “The Gospel of John in Early Christian Art," The Edinburgh Companion to the Bible and the Arts.  Ed. Stephen Prickett, pp. 131-48. Edinburgh: Edinburgh University Press.
2013. “Visuality,” In The Cambridge Companion to Ancient Mediterranean Religions. Ed. Barbette Spaeth, pp. 309-43. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
2013. “Christianity in North Africa,” in The Cambridge History of Religions in the Ancient World, Vol. II. Eds. Michele Renee Salzman and William Adler, pp. 264-91. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
2013. “The Invisible God of Christianity,” in Histories of the Hidden God. Ed. April DeConick, pp. 217-33. Acumen.
2013. “Augustine in the Visual Arts 430-1200,” in The Guide to the Historical Reception of Augustine. Eds. Karla Pollmann and Willemien Otten. Oxford: Oxford University Press.
2011. “The Emperor Cult and Christian Iconography,” in Rome and Religion: A Cross-Disciplinary Dialogue on the Imperial Cult. Eds. Jeffrey Brodd and Jonathan Reed, pp. 153-71. Atlanta: SBL Publications.
2011. “Nudity in Early Christian Art," in Text, Image, and Christians in a Greco-Roman World. Eds. C. Osiek and A. Niang, pp. 296-319. Wipf and Stock.
2011. “Paul in Art,” in The Blackwell Companion to Paul. Ed. Stephen Westerholm, pp. 507-30. Wiley-Blackwell.
2011. “Baptismal Practices at North African Martyrs’ Shrines,” in Ablution, Initiation, and Baptism in Early Judaism, Graeco-Roman Religion, and Early Christianity. Eds. David Hellholm et al., pp. 1673-95. Walter deGruyter.
2011. “Jesus in Christian Art,” in The Blackwell Companion to Jesus. Ed. Delbert Burkett, pp. 477-503. Wiley-Blackwell Press.
Journal articles (since 2011)
2017. “Visualizing Virtuous Victims: Martyrs and Spectacles in Roman Africa.” In Studies in Mediterranean Archaeology (anticipated, 2017).
2015.“Recovering Ancient Ecclesiology: The Place of the Altar and the Orientation of Prayer in the Early Latin Church.” Worship 89 (March, 2015), 99-124. Published also as “À la redécouverte de l’ecclésiologie des premiers siècles chrétiens: emplacement de l’autel et orientation de la prière dans l’église latine primitive,” in La Maison-Dieu 278 (2014/2), 51-81.
2015. “Integrating Material and Visual Evidence into Early Christian Studies: Approaches, Benefits, and Problems.” Patristic Studies in the Twenty-first Century: Proceedings of an International Conference to Mark the 50th Anniversary of the International Association of Patristic Studies (Brepols, 2015), 529-50.
2015. “Compiled Narratives: The Rhetorical Strategies of Early Christian Art” (Presidential Address 2014). Journal of Early Christian Studies 23 (2015), 1-26. 
2014. “Visual Narratives, Picturing the Text.” Liturgy 29.4 (October-December 2014), 45-62.
2014. “The Chlef Basilica (Algeria) and its Mosaics.” Acta ad archaeologiam et atrium historiam pertinentia 27 n.s. 13 (2014), 99-117.
2012. “Material Evidence for Early Christian Baptism: Creating or Solving Problems.” Journal of Early Christian Studies vol. 20 (2012), 371-406.
2012. “Early Christian Art and Divine Epiphany.” The Toronto Journal of Theology 28 (Spring, 2012), 125-44.
2012. “Ancient Baptismal Spaces: Form and Function.” Studia Liturgica 42 (2012),108-29; also printed as “Antike Räume der Taufe: Form und Funktion,” in Theologie und Liturgie (2012).
2011. “Poetry of the Font: Inscriptions in Early Christian Baptisteries.” Acta ad archaeologiam et atrium historiam pertinentia 24, n.s. 10 (Norwegian Institute at Rome Publication Series, 2011), 65-83.


Jensen has served as the President of the North American Patristics Society and the Society for the Arts in Visual and Religious Studies. Currently, she is the Vice President of the International Catacomb Society. She is a member of several editorial boards, including The Journal of Early Christian Studies and Faith and Form: The Interfaith Forum for Religion, Art, and Architecture. She has received numerous awards and grants for her work including a National Endowment for the Humanities Collaborative Grant, a Henry Luce III Fellowship, and a grant from the Lilly Endowment for theological research. 



Office: 240 Malloy Hall

Phone: (574) 631-0382



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