Interview: Jeannine K. Brown

Brown PhotoDr. Jeannine K. Brown is Professor of New Testament at Bethel Seminary. She earned a B.A.  from University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire, M.Div from Bethel Seminary, and Ph.D. from Luther Seminary. You can visit her website (soon to be updated)  at jeanninekbrown.com

 

How did you decide to become a biblical scholar? Share your autobiographical journey.

I arrived at seminary (Bethel Seminary in St. Paul, MN) without any formal Bible training but with the goal of preparing for leading in a college student ministry in the years ahead. In my very first class at seminary, I fell in love with a deep study of the Bible and issues around biblical interpretation (hermeneutics). This study included original languages, a solid sense of context, and historical and cultural awareness.  

This growing interest was fostered by my advisor, Dr. Robert Stein, who encouraged me to consider going on for a Ph.D. in New Testament studies. I am indebted to Dr. Stein for his willingness take me on as his teaching assistant and give me opportunities to teach in his courses. I also had the chance to teach Greek labs and the beginning Greek courses at Bethel Seminary. All of this cemented the sense of God’s call in my life to a teaching vocation.

I went on to complete my Ph.D. in New Testament at Luther Seminary, St. Paul, MN, with my dissertation focused on Matthew’s Gospel.

Tell us about your current work. What are you most excited about right now?

I’ve been preparing a couple of new courses for my spring semester at Bethel Seminary, both of which I am excited about. The first is a New Testament survey that will be offered as a fully distance, online course. I’ve prepared a variety of media, wiki pages, discussion forums, and readings; I’m hopeful that it will be a meaty (and fun!) course for students. The other course, NT Explorations, will take a close look at three NT books: Matthew, Romans, and 1 Peter. We’ll also talk about and do some work on the topic of NT theology.

I recently finished an editing project that is very exciting: The Dictionary of Jesus and the Gospels (rev. ed.). The lead editor on the project, Joel Green, was an associate editor on the first edition. Nick Perrin and myself were the associate editors on this new edition, and it’s an amazing resource for students, pastors, and leaders. I thoroughly enjoyed editing, because it gave me a chance to interact with the work of scholars who are on the cutting edge of Gospels research.

I also love writing and teaching at points of integration among diverse disciplines. I have some collaborative work already published with colleagues from psychology and social science, theology and ethics. I am in the process of writing two books, one with Dr. Steve Sandage (psychologist) on interdisciplinary integration and the other with Dr. Kyle Roberts (theologian) on the Gospel of Matthew—a commentary in the Two Horizons series.

Tell us about your past work. How can it best be used in classrooms, parishes, or simply for personal study?

Scripture as Communication: Introducing Biblical Hermeneutics (2007) is meant to provide an entry point into academic conversations on biblical interpretation. It was written for first-year master’s level students, but I hope that is also might interest laypeople who are wanting to think deeply about how it is that we read and understand the Bible “on its own terms.” If your readers would like to get a taste of what this conversation is about, they can see my YouTube video on “The Peopled Nature of Interpretation.”

I co-wrote Becoming Whole and Holy: An Integrative Conversation about Christian Formation with two others scholars: Dr. Carla Dahl (social science) and Dr. Wyndy Corbin Reuschling (ethics). For anyone interested in thinking about spiritual and personal formation from more than one angle, this is the book! The book itself is a conversation of sorts, since each of us had two chapters to address questions of human becoming (how are humans formed?) and wholeness and holiness (two things that are not always brought together in formation conversations). We then wrote response chapters to one another.

I am excited for the arrival in April of my Matthew commentary in the Teach the Text Commentary series. This series is meant to help people in the church, especially those who teach and lead, to understand Matthew’s Gospel. I’ve worked very hard to make my writing accessible and keep the big picture in mind for my reader.

Who has most influenced you as a scholar? Tells us a bit about it.

I’ve already mentioned Bob Stein, my teacher during my M.Div. at Bethel Seminary (St. Paul), who fostered my sense of vocation. My doctoral adviser, Dr. Arland Hultgren, was a fabulous teacher, mentor, and guide through the ups and downs of Ph.D. work. Additionally, Gordon Fee is someone I’ve admired throughout my career, from his commentaries on 1 Corinthians, Philippians, and the Pastorals, to his theological reflections on Christology, Christian spirituality, and women in ministry. I have had the privilege of being a part of the NIV translation team (the Committee on Bible Translation) since 2010 and spent two years on that team with Dr. Fee before his retirement from the committee. So I’ve had the opportunity to work together with a person that has had such an influence on my understandings of the Bible. Another scholar who has become a good friend is Dr. Lynn Cohick. We have shared many conversations over the years (we are roommates each year at the Society of Biblical Literature meetings), and her keen historical acumen sharpens my own work.

What are the most pressing issues or concerns you have related to the broader field of biblical studies?

The changing face of higher education is certainly a concern as well as an opportunity. Seminaries particularly are struggling to find their footing in a climate where some churches are really taking on the task of training people for ministry. A growing edge for seminaries is partnering with churches to provide what we (seminaries) are good at: in-depth training in studying the Bible, its original languages, the history of the church, theology, and integrative reflection.

One exciting opportunity for theological disciplines broadly speaking is a renewed interest in integration. More publishers seem to be welcoming these integrative currents. What I’ve learned from my experience teaching and writing together with scholars from other disciplines (theology, ethics, social science and psychology, church history) is that there is so much to be gained from jumping into these interdisciplinary conversations in spite of not knowing where they will lead. They push me beyond my comfort zone (my own discipline) and have the potential to move us into new areas of knowledge.

What is Scripture? And what is it for? Or, in other words, why study the biblical text?

The unfolding of this question is really what Scripture as Communication is about, so one answer to this question is to read my book! But, in short, my convictions about the Bible might be best expressed in a number of both/ands:

  • The Bible is both an ancient text—culturally located—and God’s word to the church in history and today.
  • The Bible has both divine and human handprints on it.
  • The Bible both informs us and forms us.

At the heart of it, the Bible is communication and so a communicative model is helpful for its study and interpretation.

What do you like to do for fun?

I love spending time with my family. My husband, Tim, and I live in California, and my two daughters are finishing their degrees in Minnesota. So when they get to San Diego to visit, we go to the beach, explore the area, and take long walks. (We like to do these same things when it’s just the two of us as well.) I also enjoy playing the piano and listening to Tim perform (guitar and singer songwriter).

Anything else you would like to share?

I am thrilled to contribute to this project of illuminating the stories and roles of women in biblical studies. I am grateful for scholars of previous generations who have paved the way for my own work in the field. For example, while previous generations of female scholars often needed to write in areas of gender and the Bible to support their very existence in the guild, because of their work I didn’t need to do this. In a sense, they freed the next generation to work in areas for which they were passionate. It is my hope that my generation will provide even greater freedom for the next generation of women scholars in biblical studies to be themselves and study what energizes them.

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3 Responses to Interview: Jeannine K. Brown

  1. I enjoyed reading this. Jeannine was my mentor/boss when I was in seminary and I enjoyed my time with her very much!

    Like

  2. womenscholars says:

    Gretchen, thanks for sharing that!

    Like

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