Interview: Wil Gafney

Will Gafney photographed in Fort Worth, Texas on March 27, 2015. (Photo by/Sharon Ellman)

Rev. Dr. Wil Gafney is Associate Professor of Hebrew Bible at Brite Divinity School.  She earned her BA from Earlham, MDiv from Howard University School of Divinity, Graduate Certificate in Women’s Studies from Duke University, and PhD in Hebrew Bible from Duke University. Dr. Gafney is an ordained priest in the Episcopal Church. She can be found at her website and on twitter @WilGafney.

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

I started my professional career as a research biologist after having intended to go to medical school. However in college I was captivated by research and decided to pursue that. A renewal of faith in the A. M. E. Zion Church led me to the scriptures for religious reasons and I found myself particularly drawn to the Hebrew Scriptures. I knew on my first day of seminary I wanted to pursue a Ph.D. In my Spiritual Formation class with Kelly Brown Douglas we read Howard Thurman’s Jesus and the Disinherited. His concept of the “religion of Jesus” resonated deeply with me. I immediately understood that the Hebrew Scriptures were the wellspring of the religion of Jesus. I was also enthralled by my introduction to the Hebrew Scriptures with the late Gene Rice, also from the first day—the class started with the Enuma Elish. Meanwhile in my religious life I had begun comparing translations of the bible and using lexical tools to engage the underlying Hebrew. I even taught myself the aleph-bet. When I took Hebrew with Dr. Rice, I was hooked.

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

In seminary I encountered women who couldn’t be ordained by their churches and was perplexed. I was a member of the AME Zion Church that had ordained Julia Foote a Deacon in 1894 and an Elder in 1900, and in between ordained Mary Small Deacon (1895) and Elder (1898). I also knew that there were women prophets in the bible whom God had called to preach and did not understand why the matter was not settled for everyone else. When Dr. Rice introduced me to the prophet Huldah I was enthralled. I wrote on her for class, for the first paper I presented (at the Regional Society of Biblical Literature), for my entrance essay, and she and her sisters became the subjects of my dissertation and first book, Daughters of Miriam: Women Prophets in Ancient Israel. Continue reading

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Interview: Susan Wendel

SWendellDr. Susan Wendel is Associate Professor of New Testament at Briercrest College and Seminary. She earned a BEd from the University of Regina, MA from Briercrest College and Seminary, and a PhD from McMaster University.

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

With the aim of becoming better equipped to serve the church, my husband and I left our established careers to attend seminary. When we entered seminary, I assumed that my husband would become a pastor and I would work alongside him as a pastor’s wife. After only a short time of studying, however, my husband began to note how I thrived in a setting where the bible was studied at the academic level. As I continued to study, and as my husband continued to encourage me, my love for the discipline grew. For the first time in my life, I felt as if I could use my intellectual abilities to serve the church effectively. After seminary, I entered a doctoral program and now teach New Testament at the same seminary where I first learned to study the biblical text.

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 publications thus far have circled around the question of how interpretation of the Jewish scriptures shaped the identity of early Christ-believers. My work in this area includes a monograph entitled, Scriptural Interpretation and Community Self-Definition in Luke-Acts and the Writings of Justin Martyr (NovTSup 139; Leiden: Brill, 2011). More recently, I co-edited the volume Torah Ethics and Early Christian Identity (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 2016). Besides composing other articles on this topic, I am currently working on a chapter for a volume in a series for Bloomsbury/T&T Clark on the reception of Paul in early Christianity. In one way or another, all of these research projects shed light on how the Jewish scriptures helped to frame the worldview, practices, and identity of early Christ-believers.    Continue reading

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Lynn Cohick on Philippians

Dr. Lynn Cohick discusses her commentary on Philippians. Cohick is Professor of New Testament at Wheaton College.

See also her lecture below entitled “‘We are the Circumcision’: Philippians 3 and the Christian Life”

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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,, 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. Continue reading

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Karen Jobes Discusses her Commentary on 1, 2, & 3 John

Dr. Karen H. Jobes was Gerald F. Hawthorne Professor of New Testament and Exegesis at Wheaton College and Graduate School from 2005-2015. Prior to that she taught at Westminster Theological Seminary .Among other publications, she is the author of a commentary on 1, 2, & 3 John.

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Interview: Nyasha Junior

Junior headshotDr. Nyasha Junior is Assistant Professor of Hebrew Bible/Old Testament. She earned her B.S. in Foreign Service from Georgetown University, M.P.A. from Princeton University, M.Div. from Pacific School of Religion, and Ph.D. in Old Testament from Princeton Theological Seminary. Formerly a professor at Howard University, she is now Assistant Professor of Hebrew Bible at Temple University. Dr. Junior can also be found on her website, blog No Extra Credit, and Twitter @NyashaJunior.

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

My grandmother died, I had a quarter life crisis, and I wasn’t enjoying my job in public policy. So I decided to make a switch and become an early second career person. I grew up in a very religious family, and the stories of the Bible were fascinating to me. Since I was going to start over, I wanted to find something that I was really interested in studying. When I started the M.Div. I wasn’t entirely sure what it was or what I wanted to do with it. I didn’t think that I had the temperament to be a pastor. My first class at Pacific School of Religion was Introduction to Old Testament with Jeffrey Kuan, and I was hooked immediately. I asked him to be my advisor. He shepherded me through my M.Div. and the process of applying for doctoral programs in biblical studies. He continues to serve as one of my mentors. I decided to start the Ph.D. based on my interest in biblical studies even though I didn’t fully understand what the life of an academic was. But now I am grateful I can make a living doing what I do. Continue reading

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19th Century Female Biblical Interpreters

The following is a guest post from Amanda MacInnis-Hackney who is a Ph.D. student at Wycliffe College, University of Toronto. The post originally appeared on her blog. You can also find her on twitter @CWtheology.


L-R: Lissa Wray Beal (Providence); Rachel Krohn (Wycliffe); Marion Taylor (editor of the volume; Wycliffe); Christiana de Groot (editor of the volume; Calvin).

One of the highlight’s of this year’s CETA (Canadian Evangelical Theological Association) conference was the panel discussion on the newly released Women of War, Women of Woe: Joshua and Judges through the Eyes of Nineteenth-Century Female Biblical Interpreters.

I’m only just now finally reading this superb volume, and I am struck by several things. First, in all of my biblical studies classes, the focus has always been on historical critical interpretation. Citing theological sources, or biblical commentaries that were more than 10 years old was considered bad research. Newer was always better. I think this methodology feeds into the problem I identified in yesterday’s post that the modern age suffers from a self-centred historical amnesia in which we are the enlightened generation and we are the first and only to consider the “obscure” passages of Scripture and we read them, or “recover” them because no one else before us has, supposedly. Continue reading

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Need a Textbook on Biblical Hermeneutics?

If you are teaching an introductory course on biblical hermeneutics or need a resource for a class that touches on the subject matter, you might consider Jeannine K. Brown’s book Scripture as Communication: Introducing Biblical Hermeneutics. Brown provides a clearly written and accessible discussion that takes students through complex theories, while presenting her own perspective on Scriptural interpretation. Brown proposes a model for treating exegesis as communication, stating that “interpersonal categories are truer to an understanding of the Bible as Scripture and more useful than models that primarily emphasize the text as code” (p. 15). While not taking a simplistic understanding of authorial intention, she does stress the importance of not treating the text as purely autonomous as though no communication was being attempted by the writer.

JbrownScriptureThe book has twelve chapters divided into two main sections: “Theoretical Perspectives on Scripture as Communication” and “Practical Guidance for Interpreting Scripture as Communication.” The first section covers terminology and summarizes various theoretical models already circulating such as speech-act theory, relevance theory, and literary theory. She discusses various perspectives on authorial intention, the relationship between text and reader, and how we define “meaning.” Brown also provides a short overview of two hundred years on hermeneutics, starting with Friedrich Schleiermacher.

In the second section, Brown discusses practical matters of interpretation such as attending to genre (especially poetry, epistle, and narrative). The choice of genre is intentional on the part of the author as a way to communicate. For example, poets tend to use sounds and images to make a point. In other chapters, she also discusses the languages of Scripture and how language works as communication, along with the social world of the Bible, literary context, and canon. Finally, Brown addresses how we might recontextualize Scripture so that its sacred message shapes us in the here and now.

Thanks to BakerAcademic for providing a complimentary copy of this book upon request.

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A (Not Entirely) Foolproof Guide to Getting Published for Academics: Part II

In this post Katya Covrett continues her discussion on how to become a published author. Be sure to check out Part I as well. Covrett is Executive Editor at Zondervan Academic.

Find an editor

An acquisitions editor (also called acquiring or commissioning editor) is the one who seeks out authors and books for a publisher. Some academic acquisitions editors have a focus in a particular discipline, like theology or the Old Testament or biblical studies in general, or in a particular category, such as textbooks or reference books; others are generalists and acquire broadly across the publisher’s spectrum. Continue reading

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A (Not Entirely) Foolproof Guide to Getting Published for Academics: Part I

In a previous post Katya Covrett discussed the shortage of published works by female authors in biblical and theological studies. In this post she offers professional tips on how to get published. Covrett is Executive Editor at Zondervan Academic, responsible for acquiring works in various areas of biblical-theological studies. Originally from Russia, where she served as a translator at Far East Russia Bible College, she came to the US to study the Bible and theology, stumbled into publishing, and has been part of the Zondervan editorial team now for more than fifteen years. She has extensive experience acquiring and editing academic books and actively seeks to support female scholars entering and persisting in the academic publishing world. She has a BA in English Linguistics and an MTS in Systematic Theology and New Testament. She currently serves on the advisory board of Logia, an initiative at the University of St. Andrews, Scotland, which seeks to support and encourage women to pursue divinity disciplines at the postgraduate level..

While there is no truly foolproof way to get published, with proper homework and preparation, one may greatly increase their chances. In the next two posts I will go over the basic steps of academic publishing with comments on each and a few “Pro Tips” along the way. At this point I am assuming several things: 1) you are a scholar seeking to publish academically; 2) you already have a desire and motivation to publish; 3) you have a book idea or at least an area of interest for publishing.[1]

I am grateful to my colleagues Nancy Erickson (Zondervan Academic), Stan Gundry (Zondervan Academic), Jim Kinney (Baker Academic), Robin Parry (Wipf and Stock), and Dan Reid (IVP Academic) for reviewing these posts and offering their critical and constructive feedback.

Put together a proposal

Most publishers make their publishing decisions based on a book proposal; most book proposals contain similar information. Here I will outline key elements of a book proposal. Continue reading

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