Jill Middlemas is a specialist in the Hebrew Bible and Old Testament, whose research and teaching are distinguished by its breadth and depth as it relates to her training in the languages and cultures of the ancient world, Theology (with specializations in Old and New Testaments), and Oriental Studies (with specializations in Hebrew and Jewish Studies). Her interest lies in the biblical and extra-biblical literature set within (against) its cultural background, and as adopted, transmitted, and transformed by invested religious communities. Her distinctive contribution has been on reassessing the period and circumstances of what is conventionally referred to as ‘the Exile’ in biblical studies, with particular attention to Templeless Judah, that is, the community who remained in the land after the fall of Jerusalem in 587 BCE and their distinctive contribution to the thought of Bible. A bulk of her work has also focused on various aspects of the related topics of exile, forced migration, and diaspora in the Old Testament literature.
In recent years, her research has drawn on new methods of biblical criticism (e.g. rhetorical criticism, reader-response criticism, deconstruction, feminist criticism and post-colonial criticism) to shed light on varieties of biblical interpretation. At the same time, she has made significant contributions to analyses of the imago Dei as it relates to concerns about imaging the deity (aniconism) and the use of divine metaphors as well as the lament literature, including a thorough guide to research on and the study of the book of Lamentations.
Her research centres around five main themes:
(1) reconstructions of the thought and literature of the period commonly referred to as the exile, but which she argues is better regarded as the Templeless Age, with particular attention to liturgy, laments in the Psalter, and the biblical book of Lamentations,
(2) attention to the distinctive contribution of biblical and extra-biblical case studies of diaspora which evidence positive attitudes towards an adoptive homeland as well as strategies for constructive and successful integration,
(3) greater awareness of prophetic ethics that contribute to inclusion and openness in theological and anthropological reflection,
(4) the significance of the temple as a religious, economic, and social edifice in biblical Israel and for Jewish communities in the Greco-Roman world
(5) the importance of a redefinition of aniconism and divine metaphors for theological analyses of the imago Dei.