News & Information

Speakers & Experts


Sam Thomas, Ph.D.
Associate Professor of Religion

Phone: (805) 493-3693


Professor Thomas studied biology as an undergraduate and intended to go on to study medicine. While volunteering at L'Hopital Francais de St. Louis in Jerusalem after college, Dr. Thomas discovered what would become a lasting fascination with the origins of Judaism and Christianity in Mediterranean antiquity. Instead of medical school, he went on to graduate school to study the histories, languages, theologies, cultures, and peoples that contributed to the formation of the texts and the traditions of ancient Judaism and Christianity. The author of many books and articles, he serves as editor for The Marginalia Review ( and the NEH-funded Bible Odyssey website (

In addition to his academic work, Dr. Thomas actively cultivates his interests in furniture making, poetry and literature, service and social justice, and backcountry hiking and fly fishing. Dr. Thomas is the founding faculty adviser of the CLU SEEd Project (Sustainable Edible Education), serves on the Faculty Steering Committee of the Center for Equality and Justice, and regularly teaches a course in Environmental Ethics.


  • "What is the Bible? A Material History of the Text"

    This talk begins with the origins of writing as a cultural practice, and discusses the evolution of writing from ancient Israel through early and Medieval Judaism and Christianity. Why writing? Why texts? The talk also gives some attention to the ritual uses of the Bible and some of the intriguing questions raised by new textual technologies.

  • "Food, Faith, and Sustainability"

    This talk discusses the realities of contemporary food production and raises questions about the ethics of food - locally and globally. It addresses questions such as: what are the ethical dimensions of production, distribution, and consumption? How might religious (especially Christian) faith inform decision-making around food? How is eating a religiously significant act?

  • "Jewish-Christian Relations from Antiquity to the Present"

    This discussion addresses Jewish-Christian relations from the ancient world to contemporary developments, focusing on the theological and historical grounds for separation and dispute, as well as the historical consequences of negative attitudes toward the "other." Also discussed will be recent movements toward mutual understanding and the ability to embrace one another.

  • "The Bible and the Dead Sea Scrolls"

    This talk gives a basic introduction to the Dead Sea Scrolls and the site of Qumran, and discusses their significance for understanding the Bible and the origins of Judaism and Christianity. The talk also addresses some contemporary debates and controversies about these ancient scrolls.

  • "Gardens Then and Now"

    This talk considers: What is a garden? In Western cultural, religious, and intellectual traditions, gardens play a central role in the drama of what it means to be human. The talk begins with gardens in the ancient world and ends with contemporary ones.