About Mary Joan Leith

Mary Joan Leith

Mary Joan Leith is Professor of Religious Studies and Theology at Stonehill College. Trained as an archaeologist, her research and publishing has centered on three disparate areas: the archaeology and history of Israel in the Persian period, especially the history of Samaria; early Christian art and archaeology; and the cultural history of the Virgin Mary. She is the author of The Wadi Daliyeh Seal Impressions in the Discoveries in the Judean Desert series, and has written a number of articles about Israelite and Samarian identity. Her most recent book is The Virgin Mary, published in 2021 as part of Oxford’s Very Short Introductions series.


Presenter at

BAS Winter Symposium, February 11, 2023
Persian Surprise: The Most Important Period for Understanding Biblical Religion

Long ignored by biblical scholars, the Persian period (539–332 B.C.E.) has become the darling of biblical scholars over the last half-century as it became apparent that this was the time when the Hebrew Bible, at least as we know it today, first began to come into being. The archaeological record has provided a crucial source of light on this obscure period, but has also raised challenging questions about how, when, and why certain religious concepts developed among the biblical authors and editors.


Spring Bible & Archaeology Fest 2022, April 2 – 3, 2022
Not Just in Judah: Yahwism in the Persian Period

The Bible, which approached its final form in the post-Exilic (Persian) period, has a strong pro-Judean bias. This is not surprising, given that so much of the Bible was shaped by Judean hands. Archaeology and new approaches to the biblical text allow us to resist this bias so that new light is shed on the nature of Yahweh worship in Judah and beyond during the Persian period.


Bible & Archaeology Fest XX, November 17 – 19, 2017
Found: The Ten Lost Tribes of Israel

The proverbial lost tribes have been “found” variously in the British Isles, the American southwest and China, not to mention in the cuneiform records of Assyria which, according to 2 Kings 17, recount that the Israelites were deported from their homeland and replaced with peoples from “Babylon, Cuthah, Avva, Hamath, and Sepharvaim.” Recent archaeological discoveries provide a surprising new perspective on the whereabouts of the supposedly lost tribes.


Bible & Archaeology Fest XVIII, November 20 – 22, 2015
Angels: The Bible and Beyond

There is no Devil in the Hebrew Bible, but there are plenty of angels. What does the Bible tell us about these angels? Are New Testament angels the same? How do the archaeological and artistic records assist us in understanding angels? As in the Bible, ideas about angels are rooted in a surprising array of ancient cultures encompassing a vast span of time. The evidence? New Kingdom Egyptian thrones, neo-Assyrian palace reliefs, Iron Age Phoenician ivories, seals from the kingdom of Judah, and Imperial Roman triumphal arches, Jewish-Christian magical amulets and more.


Ridgecrest Retreat, July 27 – August 2, 2014