Dr. Ruth Anne Reese is Professor of New Testament at Asbury Theological Seminary. She is also the Chair of the New Testament Department. Reese earned a B.A. from Biola University and a Ph.D. from Sheffield University.
How did you decide to become a biblical scholar? Share your autobiographical journey.
I don’t remember a time when I decided to become a biblical scholar. Since I was a child, I loved the Bible. I read and memorized parts of it when I was young. Eventually, I went to an undergraduate institution where I double majored in English Literature and Bible. My experience of being a double major raised a lot of questions for me about how we read and study the Bible as literature. One of my profs told me about an MA in the Bible as Literature that was being offered at the University of Sheffield. I had read a number of works by David Clines, and so I applied for the one year program. Eventually, I received a letter indicating that there were not enough students to offer the course but inviting me to come and do an M.Phil and offering me the opportunity to study with David Clines. So, I set out for the University of Sheffield. While I was there, I met a number of female Ph.D. students along with several female lecturers. The Ph.D. students were very encouraging and indicated that I had the capacity to do the Ph.D. My professors agreed and recommended me for the Ph.D. program. There were, of course, other steps and hurdles along the way. But I really didn’t set out to become a Bible scholar. At each step, I found that I had more questions that I wanted to answer, and I set about doing research in order to answer my own questions. The very process of doing research to answer my own questions became the catalyst for becoming a biblical scholar.
I have spent my scholarly life working in the General Epistles. My dissertation was on Jude and a variety of hermeneutical approaches to that book. I then went on to write a commentary on 2 Peter and Jude that was published in the Two Horizons Commentary series. My more recent work has focused on theological interpretation and the role of memory and collective memory in our understanding and interpretation of the biblical text. I also teach classes on the Bible as narrative; wealth and poverty in the Bible; and classes on the books of 1-2 Corinthians and Hebrews.
Who has most influenced you as a scholar? Tells us a bit about it.
I am very grateful for mentors and peers who have invested in me and who have helped me have the confidence to pursue the work that I do. As an undergraduate there were 3-4 professors who helped me to excel at my studies: one was my Greek professor; another was a Hebrew Bible and Theology professor; and the third taught hermeneutics in the English department. Each one of these men took time to encourage me and to help me find my own voice. When I got to graduate school, I was very fortunate to have a good relationship with my supervisor, Prof. David Clines. Prof. Clines gave me the freedom to do my own work while reading and engaging my ideas in a way that sharpened my thinking. As you can see, all of the mentors that I had were men, and I am grateful for the way that they spoke into my life with care and respect.
What are the most pressing issues or concerns you have related to the broader field of biblical studies?
I work and teach in a seminary that trains men and women for ministry. I am always asking myself about the relevance of the work that I read to the life of the church and to the lives of men and women of faith.
Why study the scriptures/biblical text?
For me, careful study of the Scriptures in their original languages and with attention to their literary and historical contexts continues to open up new insight and meaning in these words. Ultimately, for me, meditation and study of the Scriptures leads to a deeper understanding of God and of the relationship between God and humanity.
What do you like to do for fun?
Much of my spare time is spent with my husband and son doing family things (going to soccer games, hiking, visiting with friends), but if there is time beyond that, I still enjoy a good novel and a bit of creative writing.