Barton Professor Rodney Werline Publishes Second Volume of “Experientia”

WILSON, N.C. — Dr. Rodney A. Werline, Marie and Leman Barnhill Endowed Chair in Religious Studies at Barton College, recently co-edited and published through the Society of Biblical Literature “Experientia, Volume 2: Linking Text and Experience,” a collection of essays concerning the relationship between text and experience in studying early Judaism and Christianity. Dr. Colleen Shantz, of the University of St. Michael’s College in the Toronto School of Theology, served as co-editor of the new collection.

The essays collected in this new volume and in “Experientia, Volume 1,” represent the first sustained effort to examine religious experience in early Judaism and early Christianity by an international group of scholars.

“I have been working on various projects with my co-editor, Colleen Shantz, for about seven years,” Dr. Werline shared. “She has also become a close and dear friend, and she continues to produce fresh, new scholarship.” He added that a third volume of “Experientia” may be in the works under the leadership of Dr. Shantz.

“The most exciting part of religious scholarship arises when someone is able to apply new methods to ancient texts, bringing new knowledge to the foreground that previous scholars overlooked,” Dr. Werline continued. “The texts in “Experientia, Volume 2” come from real people who claim some experience of the divine. The essays are helping to shape this new area of research.”

He hastened to add, “The people who contributed to this volume are some of the best scholars in the world, and they are also some of the nicest people in the world. That is the most rewarding part of this project.”

This collection of essays continues the investigation of religious experience in early Judaism and early Christianity begun in Experientia, Volume 1, by addressing one of the traditional objections to the study of experience in antiquity.  The authors address the relationship between the surviving evidence, which is textual, and the religious experiences that precede or ensue from those texts.  Drawing on insights from anthropology, sociology, social memory theory, neuroscience, and cognitive science, they explore a range of religious phenomena including worship, the act of public reading, ritual, ecstasy, mystical ascent, and the transformation of gender and of emotions.  Through careful and theoretically informed work, the authors demonstrate the possibility of moving from written documents to assess the lived experiences that are linked to them.  The contributors are István Czachesz, Frances Flannery, Robin Griffith-Jones, Angela Kim Harkins, Bert Jan Lietaert Peerbolte, John R. Levison, Carol A. Newsom, Rollin A. Ramsaran, Colleen Shantz, Leif E. Vaage, and Rodney A. Werline.

Copies of “Experientia, Volume 2” may be purchased through SBL Customer Service
P.O. Box 2243, Williston, VT 05495-22453 or by phone at 877-725-3334 (toll-free) or 802-864-6185, or email:

Dr. Werline also serves as general editor of the “Early Judaism and Its Literature” series published by the Society of Biblical Literature, co-founder and co-chair of the Religious Experience in Early Judaism and Early Christianity Consultation for The Society of Biblical Literature, and founding member and steering committee member of Penitential Prayer: Origin, Development, and Impact Consultation for The Society of Biblical Literature.

He completed his Bachelor of Arts degree at Kentucky Christian College in Grayson, Ky., in 1983. Dr. Werline continued his studies, earning a Master of Divinity degree at Southern Baptist Theological Seminary in Louisville, Ky., in 1986, and a Ph.D. in Religion at The University of Iowa in Iowa City, Iowa, in 1995. His area of study focused on Judaism and Christianity in the Greco-Roman World.

Throughout his professional career, Dr. Werline has maintained a strong focus on research and publishing. Widely respected for his work, he has numerous books, projects, articles, and book reviews in print. He is the author of two books, his most recent being “Pray Like This,” written for a lay readership. He has co-edited six books of collected essays.

As an expert in early Judaism and religious experience, Dr. Werline has delivered a number of conference presentations across the United States and abroad, including Lisbon, Portugal; Rome, Italy; London, U.K.; and Amsterdam, The Netherlands. He has been invited to be a Researcher in Residence at Vrije Universiteit, Amsterdam, The Netherlands, during spring 2013.

In spring 2011, Dr. Werline was recognized with the distinguished Jefferson Pilot Faculty Member of the Year award at Barton College for teaching excellence in the classroom and faculty commitment to student success.

Dr. Werline is the son of Wanda Werline of Lexington, Ky., and the late Delbert Werline. He and his wife, Kathy, have two daughters, Madison and Baylee. The Werlines make their home in Wilson.