Stephen Davis specializes in the history of ancient and medieval Christianity, with a special focus on the eastern Mediterranean and the Near East. In 2013, he was appointed Head of Pierson College, one of fourteen residential colleges at Yale. Prior to coming to Yale in 2002, Davis lived in Egypt for four years, where he was professor and academic dean at an Arabic-language theological college in Cairo.
His areas of teaching and research at Yale include the study of women and gender, pilgrimage and the cult of the saints, the history of biblical interpretation and canon formation, Egyptian Christianity, Arabic Christianity and its relation to Islam, early Christian art and material culture, and the application of anthropological, sociological, and literary methods in the study of historical texts.
In addition to a number of academic articles, he has authored (or co-authored) the following books and monographs: Christ Child: Cultural Memories of a Young Jesus (Yale University Press, early 2014); A Disputation over a Fragment of the Cross: A Medieval Arabic Text from the History of Christian-Jewish-Muslim Relations in Egypt (co-authored and edited with B. Orfali and S. Noble; Dar al-Machreq, 2012); The Arabic Life of St. John the Little (published as a monograph in the journal Coptica, vol. 7, 2008); Coptic Christology in Practice: Incarnation and Divine Participation in Late Antique and Medieval Egypt (Oxford University Press, 2008); The Early Coptic Papacy: The Egyptian Church and Its Leadership in Late Antiquity (American University in Cairo Press, 2004); Be Thou There: The Holy Family’s Journey in Egypt (co-authored with W. Lyster and C. Hulsman; American University in Cairo Press, 2001); The Cult of St. Thecla: A Tradition of Women’s Piety in Late Antiquity (Oxford University Press, 2001).
Davis’ current research projects demonstrate his interdisciplinary interests in archaeology, textual studies, and social history. Since 2006, he has served as executive director of the Yale Monastic Archaeology Project (YMAP), conducting field work and training graduate students at two sites in Egypt: the White Monastery in the south and the Monastery of John the Little in the north (see http://www.yale.edu/egyptology/ae.htm.) Connected to their excavations at the northern site, he and his team are working on a collaborative monograph entitled Dwelling in the Desert: The Archaeology of an Early Medieval Monastic Residence in Wādī al-Naṭrūn. Davis is also engaged in three projects involving the cataloguing, editing, and translation of ancient and medieval texts. In 2013, he initiated a project to catalogue the collection of Coptic and Arabic manuscripts at the Monastery of the Syrians in Wadi al-Natrun, Egypt—a collection consisting of more than 800 volumes. In addition, he is translating a medieval Christian Arabic commentary on the book of Revelation by the thirteenth-century theologian Ibn Kātib Qayṣar, and he is collaborating with three other scholars on producing an edition of a complex trilingual liturgical manuscript originally from the White Monastery in Egypt but now housed at the Bibliothèque nationale in Paris (BN Copte 68).
Finally, Davis’ research also involve broader methodological and comparative work on questions related to the social history and material culture of monasticism. Publications nclude an article on monastic archaeology for the Oxford Handbook on Christian Monasticism and Monasticism (2018) for the Oxford Very Short Introduction series.