Richard W. Swanson, Ph.D., M.Div.

Richard W. Swanson, Ph.D., M.Div.

Professor of Religion

Religion, Philosophy & Classics Department


Ph.D. in Scripture & New Testament, 1991, Luther Seminary; M.Div., 1981, Luther Seminary; B.A., 1977, St. Olaf College


Dr. Richard Swanson teaches courses that explore biblical interpretation, interpretive theory and the ways people live and hope. Because Swanson is convinced that change is the only reliable constant, he spends his time studying how change provokes new readings of biblical texts. He has written five books and numerous articles. His research focuses on the interaction between religion and culture and the interpretive implications of ancient and modern performances of biblical narratives. Interested in performance, Swanson has worked closely with the Augustana Theatre Department for several years. As a result of this collaboration, he has written a number of plays. His play, "When the World Was Wild and Waste," won several awards at the Kennedy Center Regional College Theatre Festival, including awards for scenic design and playwriting. His most recent play, "Real as Air," explores his sister's life with amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS), also known as Lou Gehrig's disease. Swanson has served as co-chair of the Bible in Ancient and Modern Media Section for the Society of Biblical Literature, and as a member of the executive board for the Network of Biblical Storytellers, Intl. He has also been invited to participate in translation seminars organized by the Nida Institute for Biblical Scholarship in Misano Adriatico, Italy. He earned an M.Div. and Ph.D. from Luther Seminary. Before beginning his doctoral studies, Swanson was a parish pastor for six years. Swanson was also the recipient of the 2016-19 Stanley L. Olsen Chair of Moral Values, 2013-14 Carole Bland Cultivating Faculty Excellence Award, 2010-12 Frederick C. Kohlmeyer Distinguished Teaching Professorship, 2008 Vernon and Mildred Niebuhr Faculty Excellence Award and Clara Lee Olson Endowed Chair in Christian Values from 2001-11.