Dr. Ellison received a PhD and MA from Vanderbilt University in early Christianity and early Christian art, an MA from the University of South Florida in religious studies (Bible and archaeology), and an MEd (educational leadership) and BA (English) from Brigham Young University. He also studied New Testament Greek at St. Petersburg Theological Seminary, did archaeology field work at the Bethsaida (et-Tell) Excavations and Huqoq Excavations near the Sea of Galilee, and has taught at the BYU Jerusalem Center for Near Eastern Studies.
His research focuses on intersections of early Christian texts, artifacts, iconography, and practices, with particular interest in
- biblical reception
- the lived experience of ordinary Christians in Late Antiquity
- early Christian worship and ritual
- marriage, family, and celibacy in early Christianity
- women in early Christianity and late antique society
- portrayals of Jesus in Christian art
- early Christian house-churches
- the reception history of Adam and Eve
Dr. Ellison has co-chaired the Art and Religions of Antiquity program unit of the Society of Biblical Literature, and with Professor Robin Margaret Jensen (University of Notre Dame) he is co-editor of The Routledge Handbook of Early Christian Art (2018).
Before joining the BYU faculty, he worked for LDS Seminaries and Institutes of Religion. He served a full-time mission in the deaf communities of Oakland and Phoenix and stays fluent in conversational American Sign Language. He and his wife, Lauren, have five children and reside in Provo, Utah.
Selected publications, recent and forthcoming:
- The Visual Rhetoric of the Married Laity in Late Antiquity: Iconography, the Christianization of Marriage, and Alternatives to the Ascetic Ideal. Routledge Studies in the Early Christian World (London: Routledge, 2024).
- Ancient Christians: An Introduction for Latter-day Saints, edited by Jason R. Combs, Mark D. Ellison, Catherine Gines Taylor, and Kristian S. Heal (Maxwell Institute for Religious Scholarship, forthcoming, 2022).
- "Reuniting after Death, Defining Familial Piety in Life: A Case of Rhetoric in Word and Image," in Death and Rebirth in Late Antiquity, ed. Lee Jefferson (Lexington, 2022), 217-246.
- "Imagery in Jewish and Christian Ritual Settings," co-authored with Matthew J. Grey, in The Oxford Handbook of Roman Imagery and Iconography, ed. Lea K. Cline and Nathan T. Elkins (Oxford University Press, 2022), 534-562.
- The Household of God: Families and Belonging in the Social World of the New Testament, edited by Lincoln H. Blumell, Jason R. Combs, Mark D. Ellison, Frank F. Judd, and Cecilia M. Peek (BYU Religious Studies Center and Deseret Book, forthcoming, 2022).
- Mark D. Ellison, Catherine Gines Taylor, and Carolyn Osiek, eds., Material Culture and Women's Religious Experience in Antiquity: An Interdisciplinary Symposium (Lexington, 2021).
- "Reimagining and Reimaging Eve in Early Christianity," in Material Culture and Women's Religious Experience in Antiquity: An Interdisciplinary Symposium (Lexington, 2021).
- "A Gold-Glass Medallion's Participation in Early Christian Discourse on Marriage," in Studia Patristica CXXIII, Papers presented at the Eighteenth International Conference on Patristic Studies held in Oxford 2019, Volume 20: Biblica; Judaica; Philosophica, Theologica, Ethica, ed. M. Vinzent, (Leuven: Peeters 2021), 431-446.
- Review of Christine Schenk, CSJ, Crispina and Her Sisters: Women and Authority in Early Christianity (Minneapolis: Fortress Press, 2017). In Church History: Studies in Christianity and Culture 88, no. 1 (2019): 168–71.
- Review of Paul Corby Finney, The Eerdmans Encyclopedia of Early Christian Art and Archaeology (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 2017). In Theologische Revue 115, no. 1 (2019): 19–22.
- “‘Secular’ Portraits, Identity, and the Christianization of the Roman Household.” In The Routledge Handbook of Early Christian Art, edited by Robin M. Jensen and Mark D. Ellison, 326–46. London: Routledge, 2018.
- "Family, Marriage, and Celibacy in the New Testament.” In New Testament History, Culture, and Society: A Background to the Texts of the New Testament, edited by Lincoln H. Blumell, 532–54. Provo, UT: BYU Religious Studies Center; Salt Lake City: Deseret Book, 2019.
- “Beyond Justice: Reading Alma 42 in the Context of Atonement Theories.” In Give Ear to My Words: Text and Context of Alma 36-42, edited by Kerry Hull, Nick Frederick, and Hank Smith, 21-49. Salt Lake City: Deseret Book, 2019.
- “Preserving or Erasing Jesus’s Humanity: Tensions in 1–2 John, Early Christian Writings, and Visual Art.” In Thou Art the Christ, the Son of the Living God: The Person and Work of Jesus in the New Testament, edited by Eric D. Huntsman, Lincoln H. Blumell, and Tyler J. Griffin, 283–302. Provo, UT: BYU Religious Studies Center; Salt Lake City: Deseret Book, 2018.
- Meet the Early-day Saints, Episode 6: Worship and Ritual
- KSL Radio, Inside Sources with Boyd Matheson, "Exploring the World of Ancient Christianity"
- Y Religion Podcast episode, "Episode 47: Expanding Understanding of Eve," also here with links to publications and photos.
- BYUtv episode of Come Follow Up on Doctrine & Covenants 109-110.
- Maxwell Institute Podcast #129, discussion with Joseph Stuart and Catherine Gines Taylor about the book Material Culture and Women's Religious Experience in Antiquity.
- Y Religion Podcast: "Atonement Models and Alma 42" (July 15, 2020)
- BYU Magazine interview with editor Peter B. Gardner and Dr. Matthew J. Grey about the Huqoq synagogue mosaics: "Tile Tales from Galilee." BYU Magazine, Spring 2019, 34–41.
- Guest post: Nibley Fellow Reflections, June 8, 2015