Dr. Karen H. Jobes is Gerald F. Hawthorne Professor of New Testament Greek and Exegesis at Wheaton College and Graduate School. She earned her B.A from Trenton State College, M.S. from Rutgers University, M.A.R. from Westminster Theological Seminary, and Ph.D. from Westminster Theological Seminary. Her website can be found at karenjobes.com
How did you decide to become a biblical scholar? Share your autobiographical journey.
About twelve years after becoming a Christian in college, I was teaching adult Sunday School in my church. At the time I was working in software engineering and computer systems management but discovered how much I enjoyed teaching the Bible. And of course I also became aware of how much I didn’t know and understand about the Bible. In the mid-1980s I discerned a strong calling to attend seminary, which was confusing since I didn’t want to pastor. When I discovered the MA in Biblical Studies at Westminster Theological Seminary in Philadelphia, I enrolled with the intent of returning to my computer work after two years of study. But during that time the calling to academic teaching developed, and with the affirmation of my professors, I continued on to a PhD in Biblical Hermeneutics.
Tell us about your work (past and current). What are you most excited about right now? What do you hope your work will contribute?
During my doctoral work I developed a strong interest in the Septuagint. Septuagint studies was appealing because it allowed me to be involved in both Hebrew and Greek, so I did my dissertation on the Greek texts of Esther in relation to the Masoretic text. When I ended up teaching New Testament, the Septuagint became an important part of my work as the literary and theological background for NT exegesis. I have enjoyed writing commentaries on Esther (Zondervan), 1 Peter (Baker Academic), and 1, 2, 3 John (Zondervan). Because I believe all biblical studies should benefit and edify the church, I would hope these works would make a strong contribution.
I have also gone on in Septuagint studies, writing with Moisés Silva Invitation to the Septuagint (Baker Academic) that has become a standard textbook. I’m also active in the International Organization for Septuagint and Cognate Studies.
My teaching and writing have usually had a symbiotic relationship that mutually energizes my work. As I’m nearing the last years of my career, I’m excited about the possibility of creative scholarship unfettered by service to a particular curriculum.
Who has most influenced you as a scholar? Tells us a bit about it.
During my seminary and doctoral work my scholarship was shaped primarily by my dissertation supervisor, Dr. Moisés Silva. He never shied away from the difficult problems in biblical scholarship, but he also modeled a way to do academic biblical work in the context of evangelical faith. From him I also learned linguistic methodologies, an appreciation for the role of the Septuagint in NT exegesis, and an example of a very reasoned, balanced way of looking at the debates in biblical research. From Dr. Tremper Longman I learned literary methodologies and a greater sensitivity to the literature of the OT. And from the courses I took with the late Dr. Raymond Dillard and books by Dr. John Walton, I learned to read and appreciate the OT text in its ancient historical context.
What are the most pressing issues or concerns you have related to the broader field of biblical studies?
The increasing failure to read the biblical canon as a unified witness, along with a. dismissal or denial of canon as a legitimate context for understanding the biblical texts. b. An increasingly reader-centric hermeneutic that violates linguistic principles of author-reader communication. c. A diminished view of biblical authority and sound hermeneutical principles as biblical texts are brought to bear on contemporary issues.
Why study the scriptures/biblical text?
To better know and understand God’s word and to preserve and transmit that revelation of the gospel of Jesus Christ to the next generation.
What do you like to do for fun?
I enjoy taking cooking classes, reading for recreation, and I’ve started to dabble in some art classes.
Anything else you would like to share?
When I sensed the Lord calling me to seminary in the mid-1980s, I knew of no other women who were in biblical studies in their own right. When I heard Dr. Roberta Hestenes (at that time a professor at Fuller) speak at a conference, I found the courage to pursue my calling because there was at least one other woman doing the work. I prayed that God would raise up many other women, and in these last thirty years it has been a joy to see how many women are being called to and trained in biblical scholarship. The Lord has abundantly answered my prayer! But I am concerned that there will be a regression, as I fear the twin sins of sexism and racism are perennial problems that call for the vigilance of the church and the Christian academy.