Department of Ancient History

Dr Chris Forbes

ancient-staff chrisforbesBA (Hons), PhD Macquarie

Contact Details:

Telephone: +61 2 9850 8821
Fax: +61 2 9850 8240
Office: 16 University Avenue, 2 South


Dr Chris Forbes is a Senior Lecturer in Ancient History, and Deputy Chairman of the Society for the Study of Early Christianity. His fields of research and teaching focus on New Testament history, Alexander the Great and Hellenistic history, Graeco-Roman History of Ideas and the intersection of early Christianity and Graeco-Roman culture. His current research is in the field of the relationship between religion and philosophy in Graeco-Roman thought. He gained his BA (Hons I) Dip.Ed. in Ancient History at Macquarie in 1978, and his PhD in Ancient History in 1987. He has taught at Macquarie in various positions since 1985, full time since 1987, and was appointed Senior Lecturer in 2001. He is a member of the Society for Biblical Literature and the President of the University's Society for the Study of Early Christianity. In 2017 he was winner of the inaugural Faculty of Arts Teaching Champion award..

External Appointments

  • 1981-1994, Part-Time Education Officer, The Australian Institute of Archaeology, N.S.W. Branch
  • 1986, Visiting Scholar, Lent Term, King's College Cambridge
  • 1987, Casual Lecturer, Department of Greek, University of Sydney
  • 1998-1999 Casual Lecturer, St. Andrew's Greek Orthodox Theological College, Sydney


Books (authored)

  • Prophecy and Inspired Speech in Early Christianity and its Hellenistic Environment Tübingen, Mohr-Siebeck, 1995. Republished 1997, Hendricksons Publishers, under license from J.C.B. Mohr / Paul Siebeck, Tübingen.

Contributions to Reference works

  • "Epictetus", in the Dictionary of New Testament Background IVP, 2000.
  • "'Comparison' in the World and Writings of Paul" in Paul and the Greco-Roman World: a Handbook, edited by J. Paul Sampley, Trinity Press International, 2003, pp. 134-171.
  • A 17,000 word chapter on "The Historical Jesus" was published in The Content and Setting of the Gospel Tradition, ed. M. Harding and A. Nobbs, Eerdmans, 2010, pp. 231-262.
  • An 11,000 word chapter on "Paul and the Greeks" was published in All Things to All Cultures: Paul Among Jews, Greeks and Romans, ed. M. Harding and A. Nobbs, Eerdmans, 2013, pp. 124-142.


  • With G.G. Garner, Director of the Australian Institute of Archaeology: Documents of the Egyptian Empire (1580-1380) Melbourne, 1981, 1982; 52 pages.
  • Documents of the Assyrian Empire (1115-612 B.C.) Melbourne, 1986, 158 pages. (Both volumes have been recommended texts for the N.S.W. H.S.C. Syllabus.)

Research Articles

  • "Comparison, Self-Praise and Irony: Paul's Boasting and the Conventions of Hellenistic Rhetoric", New Testament Studies vol. 32, 1986, pp. 1-30.
  • "Early Christian Inspired Speech and Hellenistic Popular Religion", Novum Testamentum vol. 28 part 3, 1986, pp. 257-270.
  • "Paul's Principalities and Powers: Demythologising Apocalyptic?" and "Pauline Demonology and / or Cosmology? Principalities, Powers and the Elements of the World in their Hellenistic Context", Journal for the Study of the New Testament (Sheffield Academic Press), 2001, No. 82, pp. 61-88, and 2002, No. 85, pp. 51-73.
  • "What everybody knows about the Delphic Oracle, and why much of it is wrong", was published in Classicum vol. 40.1, 2014, pp. 12-21.

Book Reviews

  • "Christians and Cynics": a review of F.G. Downing, Cynics and Christian Origins Edinburgh, 1992, was published in The Classical Review vol. XLV, No. 1, 1995, pp. 67-8.
    A review of The Greek Alexander Romance, translated by Richard Stoneman: Penguin Classics, Harmondsworth, 1991, was published in Ancient History: Resources for Teachers, vol. XXIV no. 1, 1994.
  • A review of N.G.L. Hammond, Alexander the Great: King, Commander and Statesman, 3rd edn., Bristol, 1994, was published in Ancient History: Resources for Teachers vol. XXV, no. 2, 1995.
  • A review of Hellenistic History and Culture, ed. P. Green, University of California Press, Berkeley, 1993, was published in Ancient History: Resources for Teachers vol. 27, 1997


  • St. Andrew's Theological College, November 1990, Conference on "St. Paul and Hellenism": a lecture on "St. Paul and the 'Elements of this world': Gal. 4.3-9 and Col. 2.8-20 in Context".
  • Australian Institute of Macedonian Studies' Conference, "Ancient Macedonia", Melbourne, July 1991: a paper entitled "The Case of the Missing Inheritors: Alexander's Epigonoi in the period after his death".
  • S.B.L. / A.A.R. International Conference, Melbourne, July 1992: a paper entitled "Paul and Demonology: Principalities, Powers and the Elements of the World in their Hellenistic Context."
  • Loyola University, Chicago, and Fuller Theological Seminary, Pasadena, 1994, "Principalities and Powers: Cosmology and Demonology in the Graeco-Roman World".
  • Trinity Evangelical Divinity School, Deerfield, Illinois, and Brown University, Rhode Island, 1994, "St. Paul the Sophist, or the Man of Power?"
  • Durham University, Divinity School, 1998: "Pauline Demonology and/or Cosmology? Principalities, Powers and the Elements of the World in their Hellenistic Context".
  • S.N.T.S. International Conference, Bonn, 2003: "Ancient Rhetoric and Ancient Letters: Models for Reading Paul."
  • S.N.T.S. International Conference, Sibiu, Romania, 2007: "Paul's Critique of Rhetoric: 'Mere Words' and 'Real Power' in 1 Cor 1 and 4:18-21".

Public Lectures (selection only)

  • Robert Menzies College, 1983, School of Christian Studies: 4 lectures on "2 Corinthians chs. 11-13: Background, Exegesis and Application."
  • Macquarie, 1983: "New Light on the New Testament": lecture on "Archaeology and the New Testament".
  • Macquarie, 1984: "History in the Acts of the Apostles": lecture on "Archaeology and Acts".
    Ancient History Teachers' Conference: seminar on Assyrian Documents of the Reign of Sargon II.
  • Macquarie, 1985: "Women in the New Testament": lecture on "Women in the Churches of St. Paul: Women and Prophecy".
    Ancient History Teachers' Conference: Seminar on relations between Assyria and Babylon in the 7th century B.C., entitled "Assyrian Foreign Policy and the Rival Power of Babylon: from Sennacherib to the Fall of Nineveh."
  • Macquarie, 1986: "History and the Gospels": a lecture on "Jerusalem in the Time of Jesus."
  • Macquarie, 1987: "History in the New Testament": a lecture on "Prophecy, Head Coverings and Women in the New Testament". Ancient History Teachers' Conference: lecture on "The Delphic Oracle: what we do and don't know".
  • Macquarie, 1988: S.E.C. Seminar, "Books They Left Out": a lecture on "The Epistle of Barnabas".
    Ran and lectured in Continuing Education Course 08.15, "The New Testament and its World"; series of 12 lectures and tutorial discussions, 1988, 1989.
  • Macquarie, 1989: S.E.C. Seminar, "Jews and Christians: a First Century Dilemma": a lecture on "St. Paul and the Jewish Law".
  • Macquarie, 1990: S.E.C. Seminar, "The Book of Revelation in its Roman Setting", a lecture on "Christian Prophecy in the Book of Revelation".
    Ancient History Teachers' Conference: lecture on "Philip, Alexander and the Macedonian Army".
    S.E.C. Evening Seminar: "An Historical Response to the Riddle of the Dead Sea Scrolls": a short paper on "The "Pesher" Interpretation of the New Testament: testing the hypothesis" (subsequently broadcast in edited form on A.B.C. Radio).
  • Macquarie, 1991: S.S.E.C. Seminar, "Conflict, Consensus and Conformity in the New Testament": a lecture on "What would a Greek have Found Strange in the Early Churches?"
  • Macquarie, 1992: S.S.E.C. Seminar, "Reading the New Testament in Late Antiquity": a Lecture on "What happened to St. Paul in Late Antiquity?"
  • Macquarie, 1994: lectured on Alexander the Great for the "University of the Third Age", and at the S.S.E.C. Conference, on "The Social Context of the Historical Jesus".
  • Macquarie, 1995: Lecture for Ancient History Teachers' Conference on "Alexander the Great and the Constraints of Empire".
  • Macquarie, 1996: Lecture on "St. Paul and Delphi" for the S.S.E.C. Conference, and "Alexander the Great or the Lucky?" for M.A.H.A.
  • Macquarie, 1997: Lecture on "The Delphic Oracle", for M.A.H.A. Lecture on "Models for Understanding the Historical Jesus" for the S.S.E.C. Conference.
  • Macquarie, 1998: Lecture on "Competing Cults in the World of the New Testament" for the S.S.E.C. Conference on "Martyrs and Mystics".
  • Macquarie, 1999: AH Teachers' Conference: Lecture on "Philip, Alexander and the Macedonian Army".
  • Macquarie, 2000: Lectures on "Alexander" and "From Alexander to Cleopatra" for the Ancient History Teachers' Conference. Lecture on "St. Paul and the Philosophers" for the S.S.E.C. Conference, "Off the Beaten Track with St. Paul".
  • Macquarie, 2001: Lecture on "Hermas Revived" for the S.S.E.C. Conference, "Loose Canons: Books in and out of the Bible". AH Teachers' Conference: Lecture on "The Historicity of Jesus".
  • Macquarie, 2002: "Alexander the Great Conquers Afghanistan".
  • Macquarie, 2003: AH Teachers' Conference: Lecture on "Alexander the Great: Plots, Propaganda and Self-Image"; S.S.E.C. public lecture on "The Ossuary of James".
  • Macquarie, 2004: AH Teachers' Conference: Lecture on "Alexander the Great's Home Front". "Feeding the Fledgelings: but why by Letter?", S.S.E.C. Conference, "The Founding Fathers and the Fledgeling Church".
  • Macquarie, 2005: S.S.E.C. Conference, "Sinners, Saints and Scholars": "Scholar-Saints: the Rise of Christian Philosophers in the Second Century".
  • Macquarie, 2006: S.S.E.C. Conference, "Greek Intellectual Pioneers - the First Secular Humanists?"
  • Macquarie, 2007: S.S.E.C. Conference, "Paul's 'Secret Identity' in Romans 7:7-25"; AH Teachers' Conference: "Recent Interpretations of Alexander the Great". S.S.E.C. Special lecture: "The Laws of Nature: the ancient origins of a modern scientific puzzle".
  • Macquarie, 2008: AH Teachers' Conference: "Philip, Alexander, and the Macedonian Army". S.S.E.C. Conference: "On the Borders of the Canon: the Gospel of Peter".
  • Macquarie, 2009: AH Teachers' Conference: Lecture on "The Historicity of Jesus". S.S.E.C. Conference, "The Paradoxes of Paul": a lecture on "The Paradoxes of Paul: the Women of St. Paul".
  • Macquarie, 2010: AH Teachers' Conference: Lecture on "The Individual in World History: Alexander the Great". S.S.E.C. Conference: "Competing Contemporary Portraits of Jesus".
  • Macquarie, 2011: AH Teachers' Conference: Lecture on "Alexander the Great's Debt to Philip of Macedon". S.S.E.C. Conference: "Comparing spiritual things with spiritual: 1 Cor. 2:13 and ancient theories of perception and knowledge".
  • Macquarie, 2012: AH Teachers' Conference: "Alexander: the Great?"; S.S.E.C. Conference: "The Archaeology of Galilee and the Historical Jesus".
  • Macquarie, 2013: S.S.E.C. Conference: "An Apostle to the Gentiles, and to the Jews as well?"; Australian Museum Schools Study Day: "Ancient and Modern Views of Alexander". Australia Museum Public Lecture: "Alexander the Great or Alexander the Lucky?"; Macquarie University HSC Studies in Religion Conference: "The Historical Jesus".
  • Macquarie, 2014: AH Teachers' Conference: S.S.E.C. Conference: "Christ and Caesar: Friends, Foes, or a False Antithesis? An Outline of the Issues." Macquarie University HSC Studies in Religion Conference: "Saul of Tarsus and St. Paul, Apostle to the Gentiles".


Society for the Study of Early Christianity



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