Dr. Brittany E. Wilson is Assistant Professor of New Testament at Duke University Divinity School. She earned a B.A. from The University of Texas at Austin, a M.T.S. from Duke University Divinity School, and a Ph.D. from Princeton Theological Seminary. Wilson can also be found at academia.edu.
How did you decide to become a biblical scholar? Share your autobiographical journey.
I became a biblical scholar because I wanted to reconcile my faith with my curiosity about the Bible. My journey began when I was in college. Although I was very involved in my college ministry group, I found that many of my questions about the Bible were not being addressed or answered in my faith setting. Because of this gap between my faith and my intellectual inquisitiveness, or “my heart and my head,” I became a history and religious studies double major. I also started learning ancient Greek so that I could read the New Testament in its original language. I signed-up for as many Bible courses as I could, and I decided that I wanted to earn my Masters of Theological Studies (M.T.S.) at Duke Divinity School and eventually earn my Ph.D. After graduating from Duke, I did just that by going to Princeton Theological Seminary where I studied with Beverly Roberts Gaventa. Near the end of my program at Princeton, I had the opportunity to return to Duke as a visiting faculty member in New Testament. One year later, I graduated from Princeton, and one year after that, I became a regular rank, tenure-track faculty member at Duke. Since then, the rest—as they say—is history!
Tell us about your current work. What are you most excited about right now?
I just finished a book that discusses men and masculinity in the Gospel of Luke and the Book of Acts (otherwise known as Luke-Acts). It is called Unmanly Men: Refigurations of Masculinity in Luke-Acts and will be published on April 14, 2015 with Oxford University Press. In the book I look at key male characters in Luke-Acts, and I argue that these men look “unmanly” when compared to wider cultural conceptions of masculinity. Men in Luke-Acts do not subscribe to larger masculine mores about what it takes to “be a man,” and they are instead encouraged to act like many of the women in Luke’s narrative. Above all, these men are encouraged to follow in the footsteps of Jesus, who likewise does not adhere to masculine ideals since he suffered and died on a cross.
Tell us about your past work. How can it best be used in classrooms, parishes, or simply for personal study?
In addition to my work on men, I have also written on women in the New Testament. I have written two pieces on how Mary the mother of Jesus and Mary Magdalene have been interpreted within the Christian tradition (and the history of interpretation more broadly). The piece on Mary the mother of Jesus provides a snapshot of Mary’s rich interpretative tradition despite her few appearances in the New Testament. The piece on Mary Magdalene explains how she became known as a prostitute even though there is no evidence that she was a prostitute in our earliest texts. Both of these works are geared toward the classroom, laity, or those simply interested in the Bible, and they can be found in the Women’s Bible Commentary (3rd edition; Westminster John Knox, 2012).
Who has most influenced you as a scholar? Tell us a bit about it.
I have been influenced by many people, but I would have to say that my advisor at Princeton, Beverly Roberts Gaventa, has probably influenced me the most. Beverly Gaventa is someone who takes both the church and the academy seriously, and she models how to be a New Testament professor and a person of faith. She is a fantastic writer and reader of Scripture, and she is still someone to whom I can turn for advice or an encouraging word.
What are the most pressing issues or concerns you have related to the broader field of biblical studies?
My most pressing concern is how to connect the Bible’s depiction of gender with its theological emphases. These two things are very much connected, but most biblical scholars who work on gender overlook how gender relates to theology. And most biblical scholars who attend to theological issues neglect to note how it intersects with gender. My goal is to bridge this gap and to demonstrate how both gender and theology are inextricably linked in the Bible.
What is Scripture? And what is it for? Or, in other words, why study the biblical text?
Studying the biblical text provides some of our best insights into the workings of the triune God. Careful attention to the text points us to this God and enables us to follow God more faithfully.
What do you like to do for fun?
For fun I love to read fantasy literature (some of my favorites being Lord of the Rings, Harry Potter, the Bartimaeus trilogy, and Hunger Games). I am also a huge Jane Austen fan. When I have time, I also enjoy traveling, going to art museums, and attending the theatre.