Interview: Beth M. Stovell

BstovellDr. Beth M. Stovell is Assistant Professor of Old Testament at Ambrose University. She earned a B.A. from University of Texas, a M.C.S. from Regent College, and a Ph.D. from McMaster Divinity School. Stovell can be found at her academia.edu site, personal website at beth.stovell.info or on Twitter @BethStovell.

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

I never imagined I would be a biblical scholar. I started my undergrad planning to be a neurosurgeon and then became completely enamoured with Classics and English Literature while at University of Texas. I loved ancient languages and literature, but I had no idea what I would do with that. I got a job as a Latin high school and junior high teacher. I figured out I loved teaching, but I wanted to learn more. I went to Regent College for my Masters degree, thinking I might become a novelist. I was studying English Literature and Spiritual Theology when my amazing mentor Dr. Maxine Hancock said to me that I had the gifts of a professor. This combined my passion for writing, research, and teaching in a way that I never imagined could be joined.

Initially I thought I would be a English professor. Then another wonderful mentor from Regent, Dr. Rikk Watts, told me that I had the makings of a biblical scholar. This was harder for me to believe because I grew up in a very conservative background where women were not supposed to teach adult men anything biblical or theological, including in an academic setting or via writing. Being a biblical studies professor and a biblical scholar would mean facing a kind of opposition in my field and my family that being an English professor would not. And yet, I felt a clear sense that biblical scholarship was something that God was calling me to enter. Thankfully my husband, Jon Stovell, who is a theologian, affirmed this decision and helped me to have the courage to pursue this calling.

Jon and I began our PhDs at McMaster Divinity College in 2007. Our time at MDC made it clear to me that I had accurately heard God’s calling. I found such great fulfilment in becoming a biblical scholar and all that it entails. My excellent mentors, Dr. Stanley E. Porter, Dr. Mark Boda, and Dr. Cynthia Long Westfall helped me understand what being a biblical scholar looks like and gave me great opportunities to move forward in my career.

Since 2011, I have worked in two different teaching contexts. My first teaching position was at St. Thomas University in Miami Gardens, FL where I was Assistant Professor of Biblical Studies. It was an exciting experience to be the only Protestant in the School of Theology and Ministry and to share that perspective in a Catholic context. I learned deep and abiding lessons about ecumenism in theological scholarship.

In August 2014, I began a new position as Assistant Professor of Old Testament at Ambrose University in Calgary, Alberta, Canada where I teach for Ambrose Seminary. I was excited to teach in a seminary context and to return to Canada, my husband’s native land. At Ambrose, I have the opportunity to encourage and empower other women (and men) who are exploring their mission and calling in a similar way as I was. It is a great gift to be mentoring others the way I was mentored! Since arriving in Canada, my husband and I have also begun working for our denomination, Vineyard Canada, as coordinators for theological and spiritual formation at the national level. I find it exciting to be working in both the Academy and the Church.

Tell us about your work (past and current). What are you most excited about right now? What do you hope your work will contribute?

My first two books were both published in 2012. I co-edited Biblical Hermeneutics: Five Views (IVP) with Stan Porter. The goal of the book is to provide an awareness for the complexities of evangelical biblical hermeneutics. At times, evangelicals struggle with understanding that there is more than one approach to interpreting Scripture and that interpretation is impacted by our assumptions and our approaches. The book functions as a view into a forum where five scholars discuss these issues with one another.

Mapping Metaphorical Discourse in the Fourth Gospel: John’s Eternal King (Brill) was my second book in 2012. It was based on my dissertation. This book examines the influence of metaphors of kingship in the Hebrew Bible upon the New Testament, using cognitive approaches to biblical metaphor. It argues that kingship is a central metaphor in the Fourth Gospel.

I am currently in the midst of several writing projects. I am currently writing two commentary volumes on the Minor Prophets for the Story of God Bible Commentary series (Zondervan) and a co-authored book with Dr. Stanley E. Porter on interpreting biblical language (InterVarsity Press). I am also currently editing a volume on biblical and theological perspectives on motherhood (Wipf and Stock).

I find that my work always sits in what I call “bridging spaces.” I like to find ways to bridge disciplines whether linguistics or English literature and biblical literature or theology and biblical studies. I also love to bridge the world of the academy with the world of the Church. Some of my work is intended for scholars, other work is for students, and other work for the typical person in the congregation.

I hope that my work contributes to the interdisciplinary study of biblical literature, to constructive approaches to biblical hermeneutics, to a deeper awareness of biblical metaphor, and to advancing biblical theology. I hope that my writings at the popular level help people to see the value and depth of reading Scripture.

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

In one way, I would describe my scholarship as deeply impacted by the mentors I have had along the way like Dr. Maxine Hancock, Dr. Rikk Watts, Dr. Cindy Westfall, Dr. Stan Porter, and Dr. Mark Boda. I would also say that as a scholar I have been shaped by the amazing women who have come before me. I am inspired by mystics like Julian of Norwich, Teresa of Avila, women who sought justice like Dorothy Day, and also by the astounding women in my field like Lynn Cohick, Carol Kaminski, Ruth Anne Reese, Katie Heffelfinger, Jo-Ann Badley and many others who I feel so honoured to know.

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

I believe the role of women in the academy is still a pressing issue in biblical studies. Particularly in my corner of the academic world in evangelicalism, I find that there is still a far journey ahead for women to be included and encouraged as men are in our field. I work with organizations like the Institute for Biblical Research, where I am on the board and help organize their annual women scholars’ breakfast to encourage women biblical scholars. I work with Christians for Biblical Equality to try to help open up more doors for women and raise awareness of these issues.

I also think we still have so much space to explore biblical hermeneutics and how it impacts our understanding of Scripture. It is only recently that scholarly voices have arisen from all over the world and from diverse theological traditions to discuss hermeneutics together. This richness of diversity provides an exciting new future for biblical scholarship and I believe we are only at the beginning.

Why study the scriptures/biblical text?

Scripture is an opportunity for us to enter into the ancient world and realize that our struggles and our joys are shared through the centuries and even millennia. Scripture is a way to learn more about who God is and a way to be drawn into God’s presence. Scripture also shows us more of who we are and what our purpose is in this world. Scripture draws us into the deep mysteries of creation, liberation, transformation, and renewal.

What do you like to do for fun?

I have a deep love for music, writing, and adventure. For fun, I love exploring new music and enjoy playing guitar and piano and singing. I love writing poetry, stories, and generally being creative. My husband and two adorable kids keep me adventuring for fun, whether that is exploring our local park, making adventurous foods from all over the world, or going on extended road trips.

Anything else you would like to share?

I am thankful for the opportunity to share my journey with others through this website. I love what Women Biblical Scholars is doing and wish you all the best as you continue this valuable work!

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