Areas of Expertise (5)
Manuscripts of the Gospels
Elizabeth Schrader Polczer, PhD, is Assistant Professor of New Testament at Villanova University. She holds a doctorate in Early Christianity from Duke University, with a focus on textual criticism, Mary Magdalene, and the Gospel of John. Elizabeth has been invited to present her peer-reviewed research at Duke University, Princeton University, Vanderbilt Divinity School, Yale Divinity School, Pepperdine University, Elon University, Wheaton College, Perkins School of Theology, the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign, and the University of Regensburg and the University of Leipzig, Germany, along with dozens of churches across the U.S. and Canada.
Elizabeth's interest in the text of John's Gospel culminated in the publication of her Master's thesis in the Harvard Theological Review. She has published additional peer-reviewed papers in the Journal of Biblical Literature, TC: A Journal of Biblical Textual Criticism, and the Comparative Oriental Manuscript Studies Bulletin.
Duke University: Ph.D., Early Christianity and New Testament
- Society of Biblical Literature : Member, 2015 - Present
- American Society of Papyrologists : Member, 2018 - Present
Select Media Appearances (5)
Signs of Mary Magdalene in John 11
The Christian Century online
“If John’s christological confessor is also the first person the risen Jesus appears to,” says biblical scholar Elizabeth Schrader Polczer, “that could make her a competitor to Peter’s authority.”
Was Mary Magdalene really from Magdala? Two scholars examine the evidence
National Catholic Reporter
In a paper published in December, Elizabeth Schrader, a doctoral student at Duke University, and Joan Taylor, a professor at King's College, London, argue that the assumption Magdala refers to Mary's place of origin is entirely speculative.
One Biblical Scholar’s Attempt to Uncover the Real Mary Magdalene
Reelvant Magazine online
For several years, Elizabeth Schrader was a singer-songwriter who had an interest in Mary Magdalene, the Jewish woman who traveled with Jesus and was a witness to both his crucifixion and resurrection. But after years of study at the General Theological Seminary of the Episcopal Church, she’s on her way to becoming an expert of biblical history and along the way, has made some big discoveries about Mary Magdalene — some of which could reshape our understanding of her prominence in the Early Church.
Scribes tried to blot her out. Now a scholar is trying to recover the real Mary Magdalene.
Religion News online
On Monday (July 22), the feast day of Mary Magdalene, Elizabeth Schrader will hike up a mountain in the south of France to the cave where, legend has it, the saint lived out her remaining days after the crucifixion of Jesus.
A Conspiracy to Suppress Mary Magdalene? No Longer Just a Dan Brown Plotline
The Daily Beast online
In a peer-reviewed article published in the journal Harvard Theological Review, Duke doctoral student and text critic Elizabeth Schrader argues that Mary Magdalene’s role in the Jesus story was deliberately obscured by those who copied out the Bible in order to dilute the importance of Mary Magdalene.
Select Academic Articles (4)
Was Salome at the Markan Tomb? Another Ending to Mark's GospelComparative Oriental Manuscript Studies Bulletin
2022 Although the NA28 text of Mark 16:1 states that three women (Mary Magdalene, Mary of James, and Salome) visited the empty tomb, there is significant variation on this detail in the earliest textual transmission. Salome is absent from the empty tomb in oldest Latin copy of Mark (Codex Bobiensis, dated 380–420 ce), as well as Codex Bezae (dated c.400 ce) and two other important Old Latin witnesses (Codex Colbertinus, VL 6, and Fragmenta Sangallensia, VL 16). Obviously Salome is not a participant in a minority textual strand of Mark 16. This paper explores potential editorial motives behind these variants, and suggests that ancient controversies about Salome and the perpetual virginity of Mary may have inspired some of the textual instability, to the point where a confident recovery of Mark’s initial text is impossible in these verses. It will also raise the question of whether the varying names and number of women in 15:40–16:1 is connected to the broader problem of the endings of Mark.
The Meaning of “Magdalene”: A Review of Literary EvidenceJournal of Biblical Literature
2021 While it is common today to refer to Jesus’s disciple Μαρία[μ] ἡ Μαγδαληνή as Mary “of Magdala,” with Magdala identified as a Galilean city named Tarichaea, what do our earliest Christian sources actually indicate about the meaning of this woman’s name? Examination of the Gospel of Luke, Origen, Eusebius, Macarius Magnes, and Jerome, as well as evidence in hagiography, pilgrimage, and diverse literature, reveals multiple ways that the epithet ἡ Μαγδαληνή can be understood. While Mary sometimes was believed to come from a place called “Magdala” or “Magdalene,” the assumption was that it was a small and obscure village, its location unspecified or unknown. Given the widespread understanding that Mary Magdalene was the sister of Martha, it could even be equated with Bethany. However, Jerome thought that the epithet was a reward for Mary’s faith and actions, not something indicative of provenance: Mary “of the Tower.” No early Christian author identifies a city (Tarichaea) called “Magdala” by the Sea of Galilee, even when they knew the area well. A pilgrim site on ancient ruins, established as “Magdala” by the mid-sixth century, was visited by Christians at least into the fourteenth century, and thus the name is remembered today. In view of the earlier evidence of Origen and Jerome, however, the term ἡ Μαγδαληνή may be based on an underlying Aramaic word meaning “the magnified one” or “tower-ess,” and is therefore best left untranslated.
“Rabbouni,” which means Lord: Narrative Variants in John 20:16TC: A Journal of Biblical Textual Criticism
2021 In the received text of John 20:16, Mary Magdalene responds to Jesus with the Aramaic word ῥαββουνί, translated into Greek as διδάσκαλε (“teacher”). However, in some early manuscripts, ῥαββουνί is instead or also translated as κύριε/domine (“Lord”). Moreover, many other witnesses include the additional phrase καὶ προσέδραμεν ἅψασθαι αὐτοῦ (“and she ran to touch him”). Where did these variants originate, and how were they interpreted in the history of the church? This study broadly surveys the philological, text-critical, exegetical, and patristic evidence, and demonstrates that a first-century Aramaic context supports the translation of ῥαββουνί as “Lord”; meanwhile, the variant “and she ran to touch him” may have originated in a Valentinian setting where Mary Magdalene was being connected with Achamoth/the “lower Sophia.” Deliberate editorial activity was likely at play in these various presentations of Mary Magdalene at John 20:16, since the stakes around her were particularly high in the early centuries of Christianity. Thus, Johannine exegetes should begin to look beyond our received text of John 20:16 and discover the narrative variants preserved in this important verse, which have enlivened its interpretation throughout the history of the church.
Was Martha of Bethany Added to the Fourth Gospel in the Second Century?Harvard Theological Review
2016 This study examines the text transmission of the figure of Martha of Bethany throughout the Fourth Gospel in over one hundred of our oldest extant Greek and Vetus Latina witnesses. The starting point for this study is instability around Martha in our most ancient witness of John 11–12, Papyrus 66. By looking at P66’s idiosyncrasies and then comparing them to the Fourth Gospel's greater manuscript transmission, I hope to demonstrate that Martha's presence shows significant textual instability throughout the Lazarus episode, and thus that this Lukan figure may not have been present in a predecessor text form of the Fourth Gospel that circulated in the second century. In order to gain the greatest amount of data on the Fourth Gospel's text transmission, I rely on several sources. Occasionally these sources conflict in their rendering of a variant; I have tried to make note of these discrepancies and look at photographs of witnesses whenever possible. Although this study is primarily focused on Greek and Vetus Latina witnesses, an occasional noteworthy variant (e.g., from a Syriac or Vulgate witness) may be mentioned when relevant to the subject at hand. The work of many established redaction critics, who have already hypothesized that Martha was not present in an earlier form of this Gospel story, will also be addressed.