Interview: Laura J. Hunt

Dr. Laura J. Hunt is adjunct professor at Ashland Theological Seminary and Spring Arbor University. She also does copy editing work. Dr. Hunt earned her B.R.E and M.T.S. from Michigan Theological Seminary and her Ph.D. from University of Wales Trinity Saint David. She is an Elder in the Free Methodist Church. Dr. Hunt can be found online at her website, www.laurajhunt.com, and twitter handle, @lauraj222.

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

I would probably never have gotten my PhD in New Testament if one of several doors had been opened to me earlier. Once I finished my undergraduate degree in Religious Education, and then while I was working on my Masters of Theological Studies, I wanted to contribute in the church, but those doors were shut. Then I worked for a time in a seminary library, and there was talk of putting me in charge there, but then that door closed. So each time I just went back to school and got another degree. So it’s definitely one of those Joseph kinds of things (Gen 50:20), and I am grateful for the way God redeemed the journey.

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 am currently working on two projects. First, I am editing my dissertation for publication, “Jesus Caesar: A Roman Reading of John 18:28—19:22.” I looked at John 18:28—19:22 from the perspective of the Latin language, using Umberto Eco’s semiotics. While Latin was never extensively spoken in the East, the presence of Romans there did position Latin as the language of power, and the Greek text shows evidence of that contact. Roman understandings and expectations are also addressed in that passage, especially loyalties and law. I am both excited and nervous about seeing how my work fares within the wider academy.

I am also working on an SBL paper on 1 Peter 2:1-3. This work brings in cultural assumptions about wet nurses in order to more fully exegete the metaphor. It is, however, another example of a list I have been keeping of passages of Scripture that have resonances in the world of women that seem to have not been fully explored in the past. So someday I hope to bring all of those together as a way to, first, increase our understanding of these passages but, also, to highlight the insights women can bring both to biblical studies and to exegetical preaching in the church.

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

First, I should mention Anthony Thiselton. I had been shaped in the church by the construction of “liberals” as the “evil others,” but in his work he engaged scholars with quite different presuppositions, and their contributions ended up propelling him to deeper, more nuanced conclusions that I could get excited about. He graciously spent time with me when I was considering a PhD at Nottingham, and that time is one of my favorite memories of my journey into the world of scholarship. So his work and his character became examples to me. Second, Brian Tucker. I watched him finish his PhD, and when he invited me to be one of his TAs, I got to look over his shoulder at the work of teaching and scholarly development. He was also the one who saw potential in me and called it out, so I will always be grateful for that. Finally, my PhD supervisor, Catrin Williams. I chose her because I felt that she was kind, but that she would demand high standards, and that was exactly right. She sent me back to the drawing board so many times, but my work deepened and improved as a result. At the same time, she welcomed me into her world and introduced me to her colleagues, so in both of those ways, my scholarship is a direct result of the time she invested in me.

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

I am not sure I have been in the field long enough to have a wise answer to this, but so far I would say it’s the lack of open positions as compared to the number of qualified candidates. Academic institutions are struggling, so on the one hand I understand their over-reliance on adjuncts. And being an adjunct suits me, personally. Working several part time jobs allows me to balance teaching with continued research, occasional contributions in the church as well, without requiring the administrative duties that full time faculty positions demand. But adjuncts have no institutional loyalties, and vice versa, so it is not a viable model for the future—for anyone, I would think. And while I support online education, where adjuncts are also often used, because it allows atypical students better access to knowledge, the identity-formation component that happens naturally in face-to-face settings is much more difficult to provide online, and therefore is often missing. Right now, there is a huge tide towards teaching online, but at some point, as with any movement, that will stem, and things will begin to balance out, and it will be interesting to see where that balance lands.

Why study the scriptures/biblical text?

I think it’s a matter of integration. As other fields, such as literature, history, archaeology, and even science, develop, biblical scholars have the chance to ask themselves whether new developments in those fields might shed new light on biblical texts. These can then be submitted to the rest of the academy for discussion and correction or further development. Ideally, such conversations and insights would then be available for pastors, to support their ministries: preaching, of course, but also for personal development and as models and insights into discipleship and mission. It is sad that so many of the ministers I have met refuse to avail themselves of the insights the academy has to offer, because their ministries are hampered accordingly.

What do you like to do for fun?

Well, I do have a tendency to fall down the rabbit hole of internet surfing. But my very favorite thing is to spend time with my adult children. I like to listen to the stories of their lives, and then, too, we have a lot of family jokes that regularly get passed around, and a couple of them debate with me over current events, and come from different presuppositions than I do, so that makes for interesting discussions. It’s a hard question to answer, though, because research is fun, and translating is fun, and there is joy that comes at the end of wrestling through a hard concept and coming to new insights, so ultimately work is fun as well. I always pick biblical studies over housework!

Anything else you would like to share?

Here are the bits and pieces I share with my students: I am connected with several different places of worship and learning. I teach for Spring Arbor University, primarily on the Toledo Campus. I am also an adjunct for Ashland Theological Seminary, on their Southfield, MI campus. I’m a teaching assistant/copy editor for a professor at Moody Theological Seminary. I wrote a Bible study based on his work called The Not-Very-Persecuted Church. I am also an ordained Elder in the Free Methodist Church.

On a more personal note, I’ve been married for 37 years to Doug, my high school sweetheart. We have five children, aged 36 to 21, whom we homeschooled for about 25 years. I spent 10 years in Belgium when I was growing up. As a result, I love good breads and good cheese–the coarser the better for the first, and the stronger the better for the second. I have been a Doctor Who fan since Tom Baker. Finally, I was not raised in a Christian home, but Jesus walked into my life when I was 17, and I’ve been following him ever since.

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