How did you decide to become a biblical scholar? Share your autobiographical journey.
I think I sort of fell into this line of work. I love to read, and I enjoy teaching. I was initially an elementary education major in college, but after my sophomore year, I realized I did not have the right temperament or skill set to work with young children. So I began thinking about teaching at the college level, and since I was always drawn to history, and loved reading the Bible, I decided to major in Religious Studies. I went straight to the PhD program after graduating from college, which felt like I jumped into the deep end of the pool without having first learned to swim. I had a few moments when I thought I’d not make it, but eventually, I learned to paddle around.
Tell us about your work (past and current). What are you most excited about right now? What do you hope your work will contribute?
I work primarily in the New Testament area, or more broadly, Second Temple Judaism. I have looked at women in the Greco-Roman world (Women in the World of the Earliest Christians: Illuminating Ancient Ways of Life, Baker Academic, 2009), and am currently working with Dr. Amy Hughes on a book on Christian Women in the Second through Sixth Centuries. We hope to have the draft done by August 2015, and published the year after that. I’m really enjoying exploring the stories of women in the formative centuries of the church, and hope this book will encourage women (and men) of the valuable, even critical, contributions made by women in the church.
My dissertation looked at a second century figure, Melito of Sardis, and his Paschal homily. I was quite interested in his description of Jews/Judaism, and that sparked a continuing interest in the relationship between Jews and Christians in the ancient world, and the rhetoric used by Christians in speaking about Jews or Judaism (“Jews and Christians” in The Routledge Companion to Early Christian Thought, 2010).
I just completed a commentary on Philippians for the Story of God Commentary (Zondervan, 2013). I was concerned that writing a commentary might be a bit constraining, like a circus horse on a lunge line, because I would have to stick with the matters raised by Paul. However, what I experienced was more like being a horse in a pasture (I grew up with horses and rode with my kids through their high school years). I found that the biblical topics provided a nice boundary but also wide-open spaces to ponder with the historic church and the global church. I plan to begin writing a commentary on Ephesians for the NICNT this summer. As you can tell, I tend to focus on Paul’s letters! Perhaps I’m drawn to their dynamic quality and enjoy exploring the social world assumed in the epistles.
Who has most influenced you as a scholar? Tells us a bit about it.
I understand this question as asking, who has shaped me personally as a scholar, not which scholars’ ideas have greatly influenced my work. Two come immediately to mind, because of the role they played at key moments. First, is the ever-patient reader of my dissertation, Ross Kraemer, who is such a powerful role model for me. In the dissertation process, she asked very good, hard questions, and helped me develop critical thinking skills. She models the academic virtues of curiosity, close analysis of texts, and rigorous methodology. She is comfortable with disagreement, and I never felt as though I must agree with her conclusions in order to win her approval.
Another person stepped in about a decade ago, when I was at a critical juncture. My colleague, Gene Green, greatly encouraged me when I had hit a wall in my writing. After looking at a chapter of mine, he said, “I don’t see Lynn in this piece.” These were words of freedom and gave me confidence to think out my own ideas and work hard to express them clearly. I hope to model that attitude of encouragement to others.
What are the most pressing issues or concerns you have related to the broader field of biblical studies?
One issue I’m concerned about deals with the marginalizing of women in the Academy, not only as scholars, but also as professors. Recent studies indicate that students have a strong bias towards male professors. Given the current college environment where student evaluations often impact tenure and promotion, I am concerned for female faculty.
My second concern might sound like a contradiction to my first point; I’m also concerned that within biblical studies we have elevated the issue of “women in the church” to a shibboleth, to the litmus test of orthodoxy. In so doing, we shut down debate about not only key biblical passages but also about attending political and economic entailments of our positions. So while I think it is possible to have a conversation and legitimate disagreement about the position of women and men as leaders within the home and church, because such discussions concern adiaphora (indifferent things, see Romans 14), the bias against female faculty that our culture creates, as indicated in my first point, should be addressed on campuses.
A third concern is the need to employ hermeneutics that remain connected to biblical authorial intent but also allow for different perspectives and cultures to see new insights in the text. Said another way, I hope that the voices of the global church outside the West will grow stronger. I have been part of Langham Partnership International for over a decade, and have benefited greatly by learning from scholars around the world who illumine for me aspects of the text that my own culture and experiences have failed to highlight.
Why study the scriptures/biblical text?
The Bible is God’s communication with us, and is given to the church to be read in community, and with the guidance of the Holy Spirit. It should shape my imagination, my worldview, and my hope. I would encourage study in whatever way God has wired you. My husband is a musician; he writes songs and puts Scripture to music. He plays the piano and has led worship. His “study” of Scripture is different than mine, as I could not carry a tune in a bucket! Since we are to love the Lord with our whole selves – embodied believers who will have a glorified body for the new heavens and new earth – it seems natural that we will study, ponder, mediate upon, and drink up the Word in a myriad of ways.
What do you like to do for fun?
I enjoy jogging, and bicycling and watching sports like tennis and football. I love to wander in museums, and read mystery novels.
Do you have a website or blog?
I sometimes share on Scot McKnight’s blog, Jesus Creed
See also this video interview with Dr. Cohick on women in the ancient world.