Department of Biblical and Ancient Studies

Prof PF Craffert

College of Human Sciences
School of Humanities
Department: Biblical and Ancient Studies
Tel: 012 429 4060


  • DTh (Unisa)

NRF Rating


Fields of academic interests

  • Historical Jesus
  • Religious experiences
  • Experience and beliefs
  • Out-of-body and near-death experiences
  • Ghosts, spirits, angels and ancestors as apparitional figures

Field of Specialisation

  • Historical Jesus research
  • Religious experience
  • Altered states of consciousness
  • Neuroanthropological study of religious beliefs



  • The life of a Galilean shaman: Jesus of Nazareth in anthropological-historical perspective. 2008 Eugene, OR: Cascade Books. ISBN 9781556356856.
  • Illness and healing in the biblical world: Perspectives on health care. 1999. Pretoria: Biblia.
  • Mediating divine power:  Perspectives on religion in the biblical world. 1999. Pretoria: Biblia.
  • Meeting the living among the dead: Perspectives on burials, tombs and the afterlife. 1999. Pretoria: Biblia.

Book chapters:

  • 2014. "What actually happened?: Miracle stories in anthropological historical perspective." In Kollmann, B & Zimmermann, R (eds.), Hermeneutik der frühchristlichen Wundererzählungen: Historische, literarische und rezeptionsästhetische Aspekte, 405–424. WUNT 339. Tübingen: Mohr Siebeck.
  • 2010. "Altered states of consciousness: Visions, Spirit Possession, Sky Journeys." In Neufeld, D. & DeMaris, RE (eds.), The social world of the New Testament, 126–146. New York: Routledge.
  • 2007. "Neutestamentliche Forshung nach der Revolution in den Neurowissenschaften: Ungewöhnliche mensliche Erfahrungen ins Bewusstsein rufen." In G. Theissen and P. Van Gemünden (eds.), Erkennen und Erleben: Beiträge  zur psychologischen Erforschung des frühen Christentums, 92–117. Gütersloh: Gütersloh Verlaghaus. 2007.
  • 2006. "Multiple realities and historiography: rethinking historical Jesus research." In Breytenbach, C, Thom, JC, and Punt, J (eds.), The New Testament interpreted: Essays in honour of Bernard C. Lategan, 87–116. Novum Testamentum Supplement 124. Leiden: Brill.
  • 2005. "What on earth (or in heaven) is a resurrected body? The outline of a historical-anthropological answer." In Chatelion Coumet, P & Berges, U (eds), One text, a thousand methods: Essays in memory of Sjef van Tilborg, 227–253. Leiden: Brill.
  • 2002. "Religious experiences and/as (alternate) states of consciousness from a biopsychosocial perspective." In Du Toit, C W (ed.), Brain, mind and soul: Unifying the human self, 53–97. Pretoria: Unisa.
  • 2001. "An exercise in the critical use of models: The 'goodness of fit' of Wilson's sect model." In Pilch, JJ (ed.), Social scientific models for interpreting the Bible: Essays by the Context Group in honour of Bruce J. Malina, 21–46. Leiden: Brill.
  • 1998. "Some prospects for interdisciplinary teaching programmes at Unisa." In De Beer, CS (ed.), Unisa as distinctive university for our time / Unisa as eiesoortige universiteit vir ons tyd, 175–201. Pretoria: Unisa.
  • 1996. "Reading and divine sanction: The ethics of interpreting the New Testament in the New South Africa." In Porter, S & Olbricht, T (eds.), Rhetoric, scripture and theology: Essays from the 1994 Pretoria conference, 54–71. Sheffield: Sheffield Academic Press.
  • 1996. "On New Testament interpretation and ethnocentrism." In Brett, MC (ed.), Ethnicity and the Bible, 448–468. Leiden: Brill.

Journal articles

2015. "Do Out-of-Body and Near-Death Experiences Point Towards the Reality of Nonlocal Consciousness? A Critical Evaluation." The Journal for Transdisciplinary Research in Southern Africa 11(1): 1–20.

2015. "What Does It Mean to Be Possessed by a Spirit or Demon? Some Phenomenological Insights from Neuro-Anthropological Research." HTS Teologiese Studies/Theological Studies, Art. #2891. 71(1): 1–9.

2015. "When is an Out-of-Body Experience (not) an Out-of-Body Experience? Some Reflections About Out-of-Body Phenomena in Neuroscientific Research." Journal of Cognition and Culture 15 (1–2): 13–31.

2014. "Critical Neuroscience as an Interdisciplinary Tool for the Investigation of Neuromatters." Acta Academica 46 (2): 107–125.

2014. "Heavenly Journeys as Neurocultural Experiences: Social-Scientific Interpretation as a Challenge for Traditional Scholarship?" Neotestamentica 48(1): 387–403.

2014. "Historical Critical Interpretation Is Not (Necessarily) Critical Historical Interpretation: Taking Account Of The Oral/Aural Conditions Of The First-Century Mediterranean World." Journal for  Early Christian History 4(1): 3–25.

2013. "Performing 'the Duty of Discontent' in Dialogue with Christian Strecker: A Plea for Cross-Cultural Historical Jesus Research." Journal for the Study of the Historical Jesus 11(2): 281–299.

2013. "Jesus’ Resurrection as a Cultural Reality." The Fourth R 26 (2): 3–14, 17.

2012. "Caretakers, Critics, and Comparativists: A Meta-Analysis of Historical Jesus Research." Journal for the Study of Religion 25 (2): 111–135.

2012. "The Placebo Phenomenon and Well-Being: Notes on the Healing Process as an Evolutionary Adaptive Trait." Religion & Theology 19:3&4 (2012): 1–23.

2011. "Shamanism and the Shamanic Complex." Biblical Theology Bulletin 41 (2): 59–67.

2011. “I ‘Witnessed’ the Raising of the Dead: Resurrection Accounts in a Neuroanthropological Perspective."  Neotestamentica 45 (1): 1–29.

2011. "Medical Anthropology as an Antidote for Ethnocentrism in Jesus Research? Putting the Illness-Disease Distinction into Perspective." HTS Teologiese Studies/Theological Studies 67(1), Art. #970, 14 pages. DOI: 10.4102/hts.v67i1.970

2010. "Beetroot, Garlic, Lemon and Jesus in the Fight against HIV/AIDS: Historical Jesus Research as an Antidote for Religious and Folk Exploitation." Neotestamentica 44 (2), 292–306.

2009. "Jesus’ Resurrection in a Social-Scientific Perspective: Is There Anything New to be Said?" Journal for the Study of the Historical Jesus 7 (2009): 126–151.

2008. "Anthropological-Historical Research: Reflections from the Inside." Theologia Viatorum 32(2): 219–273.

2008. "Did Jesus Rise Bodily From The Dead?: Yes and No!" Religion & Theology 15(1&2): 133–153.

2007. "New Testament Studies—Preventing or Promoting a humane society?" Religion & Theology 14(1&2): 161–205.

2005. "How Historiography Creates (Some)body: Jesus, the Son of David—Royal Stock or Social Construct?" Scriptura 90 (3): 608–620.

2005. "Why Jesus Could Walk on the Sea but He Could Not Read and Write: Reflections on Historicity and Interpretation in Historical Jesus Research" (with Botha PJJ). Neotestamentica 39 (1): 5–35.

2003. "Mapping Current South African Jesus Research: The Schweitzerstrasse, the Wredebahn and Cultural Bundubashing." Religion & Theology 10(3&4): 339–377.

2003. "Crossan’s Historical Jesus as Healer, Exorcist and Miracle Worker." Religion & Theology 10(3&4): 243–266.

2002. "Appropriating Historical Jesus Research in Africa." Religion & Theology 9 (3&4): 199–224.

2002. "Seeing a Body into Being: Reflections on Scholarly Interpretations of the Nature and Reality of Jesus’ Resurrected Body." Religion & Theology 9 (1&2), 89–107.

2002. "Historical Anthropological Jesus Research: The Status of Authentic Pictures Beyond Authentic Material." HTS 58(2): 440–471.

2001. "Vernuwing in Historiese Jesus Navorsing." Verbum et Ecclasia 22 (1): 1–29.

2001. "Jesus van Nasaret as Historiese Figuur: Die Rol van Wêreldbeelde en Interpretasiestyle." Fragmente 7: 101–115.

2000. "Digging up Common Judaism in Galilee: Miqvaot at Sepphoris as a Test Case." Neotestamentica 34(1): 39–55.

1999. "Jesus and the Shamanic Complex: First steps in Utilising a Social Type Model." Neotestamentica 33(2): 321–342.

1998. "The Pauline Household Communities: Their Nature as Social Entities." Neotestamentica 32(3): 309–341.

1998. "Biblical Archaeology as an Academic Discipline: In Search of Its Academic Identity." Religion & Theology 5(3): 335–364.

1998. "From Apartheid to Ordinary Readings of the Bible: Has the Ethics of Interpretation Changed?" Scriptura 64(1): 65–79.

1997. "Opposing World-Views: The Border Guards between Traditional and Biomedical Health Care Practices." South African Journal of Ethnology 20(1): 1–9.

1997. "The Stuff World-Views Are Made Of." Scriptura 61(2): 193–212.

1996. "Relations between Social-Scientific, Literary, and Rhetorical Interpretations of Texts." Biblical Theology Bulletin 26(1): 45–55.

1995. "Wie Sê Jy Is Jesus: Die Dialektiek tussen Christus Vandag en Jesus van Ouds."  Religion & Theology 2(3): 298–312.

1995. "The Anthropological Turn in New Testament Interpretation: Dialogue as Negotiation and Cultural Critique." Neotestamentica 29(2): 167–182.

1995. "Is the Emic–Etic Distinction a Useful Tool for Cross-Cultural Interpretation of the New Testament?" Religion & Theology 2(1): 14–37.

1994. "Through the Eyes of a Historian: Willem Vorster on Historical Interpretation." Neotestamentica 28(3): 51–76.

1994. "’n Herdefiniëring van Paulus se Konflik in Galasië: Die Brief aan die Galasiërs deur die Bril van die Sosiale Wetenskappe." Hervormde Teologiese Studies 50(4): 859–876.

1994. "Taking Stock of the Emic-Etic Distinction in Social-Scientific Interpretations of the New Testament." Neotestamentica 28(2): 1–21.

1993. "The Pauline Movement within First-Century Judaism: A Framework for Transforming the Issues." Neotestamentica 27(2): 233–262.

1993. "In Discussion with Klippies Kritzinger: Some Thoughts on Relevance, Intellectuals and Democracy." Theologia Evangelica 26(3): 31–36.

1993. "Nuwe-Testamentiese Studies ─ ‘n Paradigma vir Saamwees in Afrika." Theologia Evangelica 26(3): 10–21.

1992. "More on Models and Muddles in the Social-Scientific Interpretation of the New Testament: The Sociological Fallacy Reconsidered." Neotestamentica 26(1): 123–144.

1991. "Towards an Interdisciplinary Definition of the Social-Scientific Interpretation of the New Testament." Neotestamentica 25(1): 123–144.

1989. "The Origins of Resurrection Faith: The Challenge of a Social-Scientific Approach." Neotestamentica 23: 331–348.

1989. "Die Gesprek tussen AB du Toit en EP Sanders oor Paulus en Palestynse Judaïsme: Die Pad Vorentoe." Hervormde Teologiese Studies 45(4): 843–863.

1989. "Paul’s Damascus Experience as Reflected in Galatians 1: Call or Conversion?" Scriptura 29 (1989): 36–47.

Professional positions, fellowships & awards

  • Member of Context Group, SBL, AAR, AAA, International Association for the Cognitive Science of Religion, NTSSA
  • Alexander von Humboldt Fellow


  • South African Out-of-Body Experiences Project
  • Brain, Knowledge and Self: Towards A Critical and Interdisciplinary Exploration of the Experiences, Belief(s) and Practices that Make Us Human