Academic Integrity within a Confessional Institution: An Insiders Response to Thomas Verenna
I went public with my criticism of the essay, and still believe that it is not a responsible presentation of the full biblical evidence on the treatment of women, as it barely skims the push back texts in OT or NT and has no mention whatsoever of Jesuss interactions with women in the Gospels. My criticism has focused not only on the imbalanced nature of this essay, which enjoys a huge public audience, but the lack of circumspection in putting something so un-nuanced into the public domain with no consideration of its reflection back on the integrity of the institution which Dr. Rollston serves.
See Also: On Academic Integrity and the Future of Biblical Studies in Confessional Institutions By Thomas Verenna
By Paul M. Blowers
Dean E. Walker Professor of Church History
Emmanuel Christian Seminary
One of my favorite quotations of late is Merold Westphals line, There are no cheap seats where the love of wisdom reigns (Whose Community? Which Interpretation? p. 69).
It has come to mind a lot lately as I have watched unfold a thickening saga in which allegedly informed outsiders have decided, through the blogosphere and even on a reputable internet journal like this one, Bible and Interpretation, to hold court on the inside of developments involving the seminary in which I have taught for almost 25 years, a school of which I have, indeed, been quite protective in the fray of a recent controversy showcased and given interpretation-replete-with-footnotes by a certain graduate student from Rutgers University, Mr. Thomas Verenna. Mr. Verenna is a blogger and ostensible self-appointed vigilante for academic freedom whom I dont even know but who seems to know all about me, my colleagues, and the institutional identity and policies of Emmanuel Christian Seminary. Emmanuel is a graduate seminary of the Stone-Campbell (Restoration) tradition with a historic and especially abiding relationship with the Christian Churches/Churches of Christ.
As those who have been following things are aware, the major controversy has surrounded one of my colleagues, Dr. Christopher Rollston, an eminent scholar of Near Eastern studies with special expertise in epigraphy, and with additional international acclaim as an expert in the identification of archaeological and epigraphic forgeries. He is the author of a marvelous recent book, Writing and Literacy in the World of Ancient Israel (SBL, 2011), which has been widely praised. Dr. Rollston wrote a blog in late August on the Huffington Post concerning the marginalization of women as a biblical value. I went public with my criticism of the essay, and still believe that it is not a responsible presentation of the full biblical evidence on the treatment of women, as it barely skims the push back texts in OT or NT and has no mention whatsoever of Jesuss interactions with women in the Gospels. My criticism has focused not only on the imbalanced nature of this essay, which enjoys a huge public audience, but the lack of circumspection in putting something so un-nuanced into the public domain with no consideration of its reflection back on the integrity of the institution which Dr. Rollston serves. The title of the essay is The Marginalization of Women: A Biblical Value We Dont Like to Talk About. This editorial we is very problematic, as it blurs the line between the we of the church, the we of Emmanuel, and the we of secular public opinion. This is even more serious than it appears. Presuming this we includes Emmanuel and his faculty colleagues, the very context in which Dr. Rollston spends most of his time, and where he is most likely to have knowledge of a lack of awareness of the issue of difficult texts of the Bible dealing with the status of women in ancient societies, his article insults those of his colleagues who have indeed proactively engaged not only the biblical evidence of the marginalization of women but the churchs responsibility to deal with it. One could easily draw the conclusion, as have some of my Emmanuel colleagues, that Dr. Rollston hasnt been listening at all to our conversations on women in the Bible and women in ministry (an issue were passionate about in an ecclesial tradition often resistant to opening doors to women in ministry).
But let me come more to the point. Mr. Verenna (who, I assume, as a graduate student has never taught in a theological seminary) has prefaced his prosecution of me and Emmanuel with his own autobiographical reflection about originally being bullied in a Catholic school, and moved from there to a totalizing discourse on the sorry state of academic freedom, especially in confessional schools like Emmanuel (though Emmanuel requires no signed doctrinal statement from faculty). His discourse is well-rehearsed and nothing novel, a simplistic polarization between traditionalist and progressive/critical learning approaches, as if no one could possibly dwell in the shadowlands between or beyond them. His specific point is that it is a flat choice, in schools like ours, between intellectual freedom and being confessionally enslaved. (If one reads Mr. Verennas article, Dr. Rollston incarnates the former, and I the latter). Mr. Verennas personal story is echoed and mirrored by Dr. Robert Cargill and Dr. James Tabor (an old teacher of mine during his time at Notre Dame), who have now joined into a controversy in whichto recall Merold Westphals linethey have taken up the cheap seats. There is a common and familiar narrative here, of which Bart Ehrman is perhaps the most famous case study, though unfortunately he completely lost his faith a good while back and hopefully will be able to retrieve it. It goes like this: Part 1: emergence from a constrictive, hierarchical, or fundamentalist-biblicist background; Part 2: gradual liberation to a truly critical perspective and acquisition of a PhD from a reputable university that grants one academic legitimacy; and Part 3: varying degrees or forms of dispossession of ones past and tendency to reinterpret all scholars (and students) experience in the light of ones own. Dr. Cargill has written of his own journey in this regard (http://blog.beliefnet.com/
.html). He was liberated from his allegedly narrow Church of Christ roots and now teaches in the University of Iowa, from which position, in this particular controversy, as a member of the academy, and as a scholar and a professor engaged in the academic enterprise (his words), he has claimed the sanction of the whole academy (very nebulous term) to prosecute Emmanuel and myself. Perhaps this is sheer hubris. So far as I know, however, hes never stepped foot on the campus of our seminary.
Meanwhile, Im not interested here in developing a personal apologia, as my own publications indicate how seriously I take critical study of the Bible and church history, and Mr. Verennas attempt to profile me as anti-critical or anti-intellectual is a sheer farce. Id rather reflect on the particular existential horizon of those, like myself, who teach within a seminary that has a record of always fiercely protecting the rights of its faculty to engage in historical-critical study of Scripture while being serious about certain basic theological and ecclesiological commitments that are built into the system with most seminaries. Within our own Stone-Campbell heritage, Emmanuel has been a moderate school, trying to avoid the polarizations of liberal and conservative and providing a healthy environment for students to be challenged in their faith, put through the refiners fire of tough questioning, and yet given strong theological and spiritual resources to build for future ministry. For us, historical-critical scholarship (and the biblical languages that we still require of most of our students) serve the church first, the academy second. Take it or leave it, thats our stated understanding of things, and we expect students not only to manage their new-found learning in an ecclesial context, but to find constructive ways to use it for edifying purposes. Simply put, most of them will not be devoting large amounts of time to guiding their parishioners through form criticism or biblical-critical Forschungsgeschichte, but will have to help them pastorally with making sense of Jobs outcries or the outrageous death of Jephthahs daughter. Our assumption at Emmanuel, certainly, is that students will need the engagement of historical criticism to help perform pastoral tasks, but this is only one component, of course, in their formation for ministry in churches, chaplaincies, campus ministries, overseas mission, teaching, non-profit organizations, or wherever they serve.
Always our faculty at Emmanuel are checking themselves over how to put all of the pieces together, especially as we deal with students who have all sorts of reactions to historical-critical scholarship (e.g. facile appropriation; rejection; compartmentalization; suspended judgment, etc.) and different levels of spiritual maturity. I suspect most seminary faculties struggle to do the same, at least those schools that bear the kind of onus that we do. Its an unrelenting process that requires patience, mercy, accommodation to the specific needs of individual students, but also still, at least for Emmanuel students, some Gospel in the final accumulation of critical data only some of which will have been fully digested in the short time we have them with us. We want them to retain as much knowledge as they can, but more importantly to be wise in its use. Certainly we do not desire them to obsess over mimicking the expertise of their professors, which could set them up to fall flat in the real world of ministry.
Sadly, over and beyond this Huffington Post controversy, while still very much within the public domain (so that I am betraying nothing private here), Dr. Rollston, in his 2006 installation address for the Nakarai Chair in OT at Emmanuel, reflected on his own journey from a very conservative upbringing to an elite university education in Semitic studies. In the address, he declared to a broad audience that Emmanuels real purpose in educating students for ministry should be precisely to cultivate religious elites and public intellectuals (his phrases). I think notespecially if being a public intellectual means cavalierly undertaking commentary on sacred revelation in the secular blogosphere just to take shots at the fundamentalists and biblicists (the biblical values folks) whom Dr. Rollston already left behind long ago. Like many of our fellow seminaries, Emmanuels stated purpose has been, and I presume will remain, to prepare humble servants of the Church who interpret, proclaim, and most importantly love the Word of God in Scripture as a textual embodiment of Gods transforming grace for all peopleand most certainly for the marginalized and the oppressed. Hopefully Emmanuels grads, like the women and men coming out of other confessional institutions, can learn to do that with excellence and eloquence, whether in the ecclesial or the secular domain.
What is the point of this article?
It says nothing. It answers no questions. It appears to be a bunch of words strung together with some barbs at the author, but makes no case whatsoever.
(Although I do appreciate being mentioned in the same sentence as Bart Ehrman. I know you meant it as a barb, but thank you. I appreciate it. Thank you also for providing links to some of my written work. That is always appreciated.)
But the article doesn't address the fundamental questions that remain:
1. Has Emmanuel fired a tenured professor because of an article he wrote (that Dr. Blowers may have completely misunderstood?) The fact that he continues to defend his criticism of Rollston's HuffPo article suggests so.
2. Did the President of Emmanuel fire Dr. Rollston for financial reasons (including ridding the faculty of a "liberal" scholar in the hopes of soliciting a donation from a potential conservative donor while saving money on Dr. Rollston's endowed salary line), and then appeal to an ambiguous "cause" for termination? (One only hopes that the Emmanuel President didn't make any mention of the acute financial crisis that Emmanuel is presently experiencing as part of any notice of termination, as that might suggest an ulterior motive.)
3. Why even offer tenure if Emmanuel is going to completely disregard it when it is expedient?
Dr. Blowers answered no questions. This article says nothing. It's just numerous paragraphs in search of a purpose.
In the mean time, the damage that (allegedly) firing Rollston has done, and the further gasoline on the flames that Dr. Blowers has provided through his repeated online comments has brought about far more negative publicity than Dr. Rollston's article ever could have.
If Dr. Rollston was fired because he brought about negative publicity to the Emmanuel "brand" (to use Dr. Blowers' word), then qal v'homer: how much more should Dr. Blowers be fired for bringing even more negative publicity to Emmanuel's brand?
I shake my head. Emmanuel appears to have tossed aside tenure, academic integrity, and what's left of their reputation for 30 conservative shekels of silver.
Just read through the piece, thanks for this. It is an estimable example of what top-notch apologetics looks like; Tertullian and Irenaeus would be quite envious. I have to say I was a little disappointed when I got to the end and realized that you had ignored completely any question or critique I had raised and instead quite curiously you chose to attack points I hadn't made.
For example, you write:
"His specific point is that it is a flat choice, in schools like ours, between “intellectual freedom” and being confessionally enslaved. (If one reads Mr. Verenna’s article, Dr. Rollston incarnates the former, and I the latter)."
But this is not something I've said. What I did say was that you have threatened disciplinary action against him for writing a very non-controversial piece which doesn't conflict with critical scholarship and that you’ve somehow found fault with it (for what reason no one seems to be able to figure out). One part I find amusing in your article above:
"For us, historical-critical scholarship (and the biblical languages that we still require of most of our students) serve the church first, the academy second."
What is indeed most interesting is trying to determine whether or not you agree with your own position. If you agree with the above-stated claim, then I can understand why you'd not like Dr. Rollston's piece, as it is very difficult to fit the parts of the Bible that contain elements of the marginalization of women into a church-centered life--unless, of course, that church-centered life is fundamentally okay with such a position as the marginalization of women. But it seems to me that you disagree with your own foundational doctrine. After all, it is not at all difficult to "find constructive ways to use [the marginalization of women-Ed] for edifying purposes"--I certainly can think of ways, so a patristics scholar of your stature should have little trouble with such an activity. So what purpose is there for threatening disciplinary action? It seems to me, as a sympathetic reader, that you have no interest at all in finding a way to exegete these verses for the church, or to engage Chris in the same manner that you claim (e.g., "...my own publications indicate how seriously I take critical study of the Bible and church history.").
Indeed threatening disciplinary action, carrying on as you have, is indicative of someone who continues to have little trust in their own theological conclusions. Otherwise you would have followed your own carefully-written dogma about the value you give to critical scholarship.
Once more, I must be clear, I'm not just presuming happenings; everything I have argued (and what others here have argued) comes from information *you* have supplied, in your own words--whether you are sorry you said them or not is quite irrelevant here. When I wrote my piece, I was responding to your statements, to your claims--not the words of the 'blogosphere' since, after all, it was you--not Thom Stark--who used the words 'disciplinary action'. You don't deny it and have attempted to shift goal posts by apologizing for *stating it publicly*, but you haven't yet apologized for the threat itself.
Your shift to previous decades at Emmanuel seems rather out of place, since Emmanuel is not the same school it was in the 1980's. The Emmanuel of the past seems rather foreign to the Emmanuel of the present, when one considers the lengths you are going to in order to defend a stance (the disciplinary action you threatened against Dr. Rollston) about which you claim we are all ignorant (but of which you refuse to deny).
It all comes down to integrity here and nothing in my article seems to be challenged by anything you've just written; when someone threatens disciplinary action against a tenured colleague--using the pronoun 'we' which includes the speaker (that means you, in this instance, as it is in first person plural--a point you try to make in your article, how clear one must be when using 'we')--for no apparent reason beyond a very typical academic disagreement, there is a serious problem. You can quote all of the past instances where Emmanuel has rushed to the defense of other people; it doesn't mean a thing because those instances aren't *this* instance. And in this instance, threatening disciplinary action seems to not only be unjustified but personal--not as the result of anything I've written, what Bob Cargill has written, or James Tabor has written, but from what you've written and you alone. And this is not coming from outside Emmanuel, but from within (you). Quite troubling indeed!
I hope that in your next response, you actually explain why you feel I'm completely ignorant of the goings'-on at Emmanuel and, more to the point, I look forward to your apology--not for the public announcement that you have threatened disciplinary action against Dr. Rollston--for even thinking those words which, in all honesty, probably do not help your case that you're pro-critical scholarship and pro-intellectualism.
I continue to be in awe of a Rutgers' undergraduate's knowledge of the history and present state of affairs at Emmanuel Christian Seminary. Do you have other sources (interviews, documents, investigative journalism, etc.) besides a blog by Thom Stark? I highly doubt it. So why don't you stop occupying the "cheap seats" and move out of an arena that has nothing to do with you. Better yet, I invite you apply for admission for master's studies at Emmanuel so you could really get to know us (and me). You're obviously a smart guy, especially in your interest in issues of academic freedom; I presume you'd be a good student. Or just come down and check us out; I'll take you to lunch myself and we'll talk face to face rather than through the internet where all of life is so nicely packaged.
I'm delighted to make contact with you again, even under these circumstances. I had a very fine course on Paul with you at Notre Dame years ago (perhaps 1984?). I've watched you and Cargill on TV various times, perhaps not always with satisfaction but sometimes with great satisfaction.
Sorry, though, the "academy" is not a purely "common enterprise" at all. Such was a myth of modernity that has been exploded in postmodernity. And the canons of academic freedom and integrity simply are not the same in secular and confessional institutions, and there is little likelihood that there ever will be absolute identity in that regard. Too many differences of mission and lots of other things.
Hope you are well and thriving,
My article was an answer to Thomas's question at the very beginning of his piece: "“How do we want to educate students in the field of Biblical Studies?”
Who do you represent? Otherwise, get out of the cheap seats.
And one more question - could you be wrong?
As I asked Mr. Doudna, who do you represent? Otherwise, get out of the cheap seats.
Until I know who you claim to represent, then, as the good ol' boys say in Appalachia, "you ain't got a dog in the fight."
Being someone who has - both literally and figuratively - paid for my ticket to sit in "the good seats" (or, verily, should I say has played in the game itself?), I would like to point out several things:
(1) One of the things I learned during my time at Emmanuel was the importance of the difference between intentions and perceptions. So often, in ministry, the line between the two is lost and, regardless of the former, the latter bears significantly weightier implications. The same is true in this circumstance. While I have many and various thoughts and concerns as to the intentions of the present author and the administration of ECS - one thing is very clear: that being that the way this situation has been handled by Mr. Blowers LOOKS and is most readily PERCEIVED as disturbingly skullduggerous in nature. I am in agreement with those who have noted how the consistent dodging of questions only serves to exacerbate the situation. Quite frankly, I’m surprised that ECS administration has not placed a moratorium on public discussion of the situation by those employed by the institution. Clearly, the unbridled public dissemination of opinion on the matter coming from within the very walls of the Phillips Building at Emmanuel has done nothing but spark a PR nightmare that is only worsening with every comment and blog post authored. While I have seen a great deal of positive responses to Rollston’s original HuffPo piece that note how his piece will reflect well on Emmanuel, there has been nary a positive response to the handling of Rollston’s piece by the ECS brass.
(2) Given my proximity to the situation, knowing all parties involved fairly well, having both studied and taught at Emmanuel, I can level the following criticism of the current author in question (i.e., Blowers): The pushback that has been leveled against Rollston has been unreasonably mordant. This is not uncharacteristic of Blowers in general. As a student of Prof. Rollston, Blowers has made numerous insulting comments towards me, Prof. Rollston, and the field of Hebrew Bible in general. On one occasion, upon seeing me enter a weight room, he told me I needed to “work out my brain.” Furthermore, I have seen incessant posting of caustic material on Blowers public Facebook page. The content has, on many occasions, been directed towards people like Bart Ehrman. Blowers has a proclivity for going after those whom he perceives to be popular academics. Ehrman certainly fits the bill of a “popular academic,” thanks to his numerous popular publications, appearances on shows like Stewart’s _The Daily Show_, etc. Rollston has, in similar (although not parallel) fashion, enjoyed (and deservedly so) a meteoric rise in his career. Rollston has not produced as much material for the popular audience as Ehrman has; however, given Blowers’s penchant for attacking what would normally be accepted as good scholarship (oftentimes pieces that don’t even necessarily offer anything new to the field), one could easily perceive a sort of “ecclesial elitism” when it comes to the data contained in the biblical text. I might also point out that Blowers has also been known to critique publications with _a priori_ prejudice – e.g., prior to the publication of Geza Vermes book _Christian Beginnings_ (released July 5, 2012), Blowers posted the following comment on Rollston’s public Facebook wall over a month before the book was released:
“Vermes needs to stick to what he's truly brilliant at, reconstructing Jesus's Jewish context, not making calls about the legitimacy of what he sees as the total reinvention of Jesus by the early church in the era leading up to Nicaea.”
June 28 at 1:44pm
How can one reasonably level such a critique of a written work one has definitively not had the opportunity to read? It is clear that this kind of vitriol is not uncharacteristic of Blowers. After all, on September 1, 2012, Blowers posted an apology for a number of vicious comments directed at Brian McLaren, where Blowers stated,
“Friends, I want to repent of my remarks about Brian McLaren on FB a few days back. I realize that I offended some of his loyal following, and that it may have sounded like I was casting doubt on him without taking time to outline substantive criticism.”
Does anybody else see a trend developing here? Instead of allowing individuals to lay out a case and evaluating their conclusions and use of the data itself, Blowers simply attacks the individual (or irrelevant points, such as the use of the first person plural pronoun), often suggesting that the individual in question should keep quiet or not be allowed to enter the conversation in the first place. Such is not the stance of a productive or constructive individual – let alone a scholar. It is not surprising, then, that Blowers might feel put out by Rollston’s decision not to write an article on historical theological interpretation (although Blowers would likely still attack Rollston if he had). One gets an odd sense that Blowers has a proprietary and entitled attitude towards biblical interpretation. If it doesn’t fit Blowers’s paradigm, then it seems as though the thoughts should be discarded.
(3) Rollston, more than almost any other in my life, has been a paragon of a minister – most especially a minister within an academic context. Prof. Rollston has always had an open ear and more than a few encouraging words for me in whatever situation I seem to find myself. Some of my most treasured moments are those shared between him and me. He has been to me one of the most caring, gentle, and meek ministers I have encountered in my experience within the Church. He has invested in me far beyond the classroom. His office door has always been open to me – even if it’s just to chat over coffee and catch up. Amazing is the fact that amidst his constant research, reading, and translating he still MAKES time for his students. This kind of relational intentionality – more so than any worship service, than any prayer or sermon – has bolstered my faith. Furthermore, let us not forget that Prof. Rollston preaches and teaches on a weekly basis – driving three hours round trip – to serve a congregation that joyfully feasts on his teaching. Prof. Rollston is a paragon of a teaching-minister, a friend, and a father. If I can be even a tenth of the man of God and father that he is, then I will have lived more than a satisfactory life. Mr. Blowers – and ECS – would do well to consider their very un-Christian actions towards and treatment of one of their best assets.
Thanks for posting more fully here some of your views on the matter. Far from clearing up all questions and concerns, however, this post brings some into sharper relief and creates new ones.
Your argument about the editorial "we," which you have continued to make from your first public criticism until now, remains as unconvincing as ever. Your latest assertion, that it somehow was an insult to other Emmanuel faculty, honestly seems absurd to me. Further, that entire paragraph highlights a rhetorical move which you have repeatedly made in your written criticisms, namely that of pitting other faculty against Rollston, at least in principle, without letting them speak for themselves on the matter. You have in places dropped a few names in your defense, all the while begging the question that Dr. Rollston’s work and their work actually stand in opposition. Based on my own experience of study at Emmanuel, I would strongly disagree with this assumption, as well as with your rhetoric.
More troubling, your reductionist narration of the supposed journeys of fellow Christians and scholars is not only astounding to me, it is most certainly a distraction here. For one, among those here accused of living such an unsatisfying life are those who in fact continue to serve churches and educational institutions of their original religious heritage ‘in spite of’ (assuming your logic here) “an elite university education.” In our own personal conversations, you have at times presumed to understand my own education by applying this prefabricated mold to it, despite my protests that you were way off the mark and greatly under-informed. The most transparently hypocritical statement in your paragraph is the charge of a “tendency to reinterpret all scholars’ (and students’) experience in light of one’s own.” If I can simply expand that to a “tendency to reinterpret all scholars’ (and students’) experience in light of one’s own (overconfident, under-informed, distorted) perceptions," then I think I might start to understand what is happening here. Perhaps we can all do well to reexamine our interpretations of each other’s motives here, but a big part of that would be for you to stop using Bart Ehrman as your model of interpretation for everyone whom you perceive to have become more 'liberal' than you would like, or more liberal than they used to be, or whatever the theological problem seems to be (and in that comment intend no observation about Ehrman's well-known academic work).
As you know, I am not speaking from the “cheap seats” here (although I think those who are doing so are quite justified in expressing their concern for a friend and colleague). Down here in the front where the details are clearer, I am still mystified as to what this post was supposed to add to the discussion. You have clarified little about the situation for those peering in and those asking direct questions, and in response to scrutiny of your public criticisms, you have launched further criticisms, ostensibly rather personal ones, not just of Dr. Rollston, but of others as well. How is this helpful?
Also, the interpretation of a lecture given 6 years ago given in the last paragraph is clearly an uncharitable one, and I am surprised that you bring this up here. The use of the terms "public intellectual" and "religious elites" was clearly not what you have portrayed it to be (I think Thom has already stated this well: http://religionatthemargins.com/2012/10/paul-blowers-shovels-more-nonsense-at-the-feet-of-a-straw-man-christopher-rollston/, two larger paragraphs toward the bottom). "Public intellectual" hardly seems like such an awful idea, except in the anti-intellectual culture which is so common these days. I know for a fact that this is not a culture you are a part of, however, so I am perplexed as to why you attack that idea (in public, arguably as an intellectual, no less).
Also, while you interpret Dr. Cargill’s concern and prediction of general outcry as “sheer hubris,” I highly doubt it is anything of the sort, but rather the voice of experience speaking. As I told you myself, people have seen this type of story before—or at least many will think they have, with the same effect either way. You can hardly expect that he is wrong in predicting that there will be further outcry should this situation end the way that others have ended recently. As many but not all may be aware, Emmanuel is accredited not only by the Association of Theological Schools, but also ('secularly') by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools. It claims to have standard academic tenure, and even cites the standard AAUP (American Association of University Professors) guidelines for academic freedom in its handbooks. As such, there will inevitably be certain expectations about how faculty are treated and protected, and these issues are always of interest to those in academic professions. Hence the keen interest even from the “cheap seats,” which I hardly find surprising or inappropriate.
Dr. Rollston is without a doubt the professor who has had the most impact on my life, both in school and in ministry. He is a professor who is a widely known and published scholar, yet his door is always open to students. He is honest about the text, and is available to help any student work through questions about the Bible and about faith. For me, this was monumental in my development as a Christian. I know that Dr. Rollston has offered the same support to countless other students during their time at Emmanuel.
Both in and out of the classroom, Dr. Rollston’s character is nothing less than exemplary. He is a patient, kind person, and that is evident to anyone who spends time with him. Emmanuel is very fortunate to have Dr. Rollston on staff, and I consider myself very fortunate to have studied under him. I consider him a mentor and a friend, and he has my absolute respect. To read the articles and comments, and Facebook posts about this article and about Dr. Rollston has been so upsetting to me. I share the concern that others have - specifically, what kind of disciplinary action is Dr. Rollston facing?
On a side note, I have been serving in ministry within the Stone Campbell Movement for almost ten years now. Though I experienced immense support as a woman in ministry from all of the professors at Emmanuel, there are few Christian churches that allow women to be ordained or to preach. I happily served in one of those few churches for the past six years, but I am not counting on finding many other opportunities to minister as an ordained woman within the Christian churches.
I enjoyed reading the Huffington Post article about the marginalization of women in the Bible. Women were marginalized during biblical times, and continue to be marginalized in the church today. There is simply no way to hide it. I am hopeful that the future for women in ministry continues to improve. Dr. Blowers, I am distressed by your response to Dr. Rollston’s article, and the impact this will have on the reputation and community of Emmanuel.
I am a bit perplexed by Dr. Blowers' continued 'who are you' and 'get out of the cheap seats' comebacks. Not only do they remind me of a sixth grade bully attempting to argue with kids on the playground, I'm confused by the blatant contradiction.
Dr. Blowers says that the seminary serves the church and not the academy. But apparently Dr. Blowers won't even acknowledge your question until you present your academic affiliations.
And, given the fact that Mr. Watts is an established church man, one would think Dr. Blowers would be more eager to answer his questions.
But this is what has become of Paul Blowers' argument. First, he gets into a sarcastic shouting match with an undergraduate (Mr. Verenna). Now, he's taken to asking to asking people for their credentials while parroting his mocking 'get out of the cheap seats' refrain. We really must ask if Paul Blowers is the best face Emmanuel can put forward for damage control during this emerging scandal.
If supposed Christian professors and institutions attack God and His word, how then can they teach it as truth and that it applies to all men and all aspects of life today?
If God's word is subject to fallible human opinion then we have no God, no Bible and everyone is wasting their time teaching and defending both. If there is no God then we wouldn't be having these discussions for there would be nothing for the unbeilever to attack or be saved from.
There would no light to shine upon the world as Jesus would not have existed and there is no such thing as sin.
So Dr. Rollston has committed a grievous error on his part by his attack on God's role for women and his lack of scholarship because he dishonestly leaves evil out of many of the acts of the people of the Bible.
The devil does play a role in people's lives, past and present. Even though many do not accept his existence or his work. Abraham sinned when he told Pharaoh that Sarah was his sister but diud God tell him to sin? No. If one reads the Bible correctly one would see that nowhere does God tell men to treat women badly or make them second class citizens.
Women have a different role in life than men and this is where the confusion begins. Unbelievers do not grasp this fact because their minds are deceived and they do not have the Holy Spirit guiding them to the truth.
Dr. Rollston should have known better and lead people to the truth of what scripture is saying instead of leaping on the secular bandwagon against God and His ways.
"...the only individuals who will support the institution, and the only students who will attend the college are the far-right leaning, bordering-on-fundamentalist conservative Stone-Campbell sectarians who regularly champion anti-intellectual causes and badmouth any form of critical biblical scholarship."
And shortly thereafter, who is the one person that has rallied to Paul Blowers' defense?
Everyone's favorite internet Bible troll, the enigmatic "Dr" David Tee. (http://scotteriology.wordpress.com/2012/07/05/dr-david-tee/)
You can't make this stuff up...
I really would like a serious response to this, because for me it gets to the nub of the issue. It is not a rhetorical question. I suspect that "confessional" scholars think they can contribute to research, but I'd like to hear how they justify such a claim.
1- Mr Blowers acts here in his essay and especially in his responses more like a 10 year old pounding his fist on the table and insisting on 'his way or else' than an academic.
2- David Tee has managed to prove himself even more inept and maladroit as a thinker than he ever has before. Quite a feat really, given his invincible ignorance.
More anon, which I'm sure everyone but Mr Blowers and Mr Tee (surely a villains' pseudonym lifted from some badly made 'B-film' aired in some third world sticky floored theater) will appreciate.
The theological faculty of the University of Copenhagen is of course non confessional.
But this has not been a simple matter of disagreement, or a friendly sparring match between two colleagues over nuance (which it should have been, by all accounts). No, Dr. Blowers may be displeased with Dr. Rollston's HuffPo article, but he took it from a general disagreement to something much more scandalous. He has threatened a colleague with 'disciplinary action'! This doesn't come from the blogosphere but Dr. Blowers himself.
One thing is certain; when someone at an institution uses the editorial "we" (in the sense of "We are looking at disciplinary action in the next few days" - Dr. Blowers) because one scholar doesn't like what another scholar said--we call that censorship. Maybe at Emmanuel, 'the church' comes before all else, including the respect deserved of tenure, or of the many loyal years devoted to the institution by the colleague being 'disciplined'. But let's be absolutely clear. Dr. Blowers has stated:
"Within our own Stone-Campbell heritage, Emmanuel has been a “moderate” school, trying to avoid the polarizations of liberal and conservative and providing a healthy environment for students to be challenged in their faith, put through the refiner’s fire of tough questioning, and yet given strong theological and spiritual resources to build for future ministry."
But one must wonder how threatening the most prominent and well-respected member of faculty at your institution with disciplinary action for putting students "through the refiner's fire of tough questioning" is in line with that *stated* goal. And one has the right to ask, directly of Dr. Blowers and of Emmanuel itself: what sort of standard is being set when they can so easily disregard the tenure process, can disregard its colleagues, and also, quite directly, their student body in the process?
This is a question that I posed to Dr. Blowers directly last week; and over 3,000 words later, Dr. Blowers has not taken the time to answer it.
Actually, I am in Appalachia (I hope you pronounce it correctly). As such, I know that doing what is right, regardless of "representation" is what is expected in our hills. As you are clearly concerned with representation, I will take this as an affirmation that you do indeed represent ECS whenever, wherever you post.
But, let us talk about representation for a minute, if you will.
As a firm believer in Christ, I like all Christians, represent Christ to the world. Do you? Are you representing the questioning? Are you representing Grace? Do you defend those who you think have wronged you in some way?
As a student of Scripture, I represent those who believe that, like the author of Job, to question is to live.
As an academic, I represent those who seek the truth an all truth is God's truth, even if it upsets us, or causes us to consider the work we have done in the field as now worthless.
As a further teacher, I represent those who hope to teach in academic freedom, to follow Luther, Calvin, Barton, Campbell, and Wesley, in challenging what we know from Tradition, in challenging what we've been taught - taught how to read Scripture - and to, by this, encourage others.
I represent equally those who doubt, because in my doubt - doubt over the purity of Scripture, doubt in the "biblical values" - my faith in Christ has grown.
Paul, I want to now know - if your push to terminate, have you used more than your physical voice, and instead, as one who sits in an endowed chair, and related to those who have endowed chairs, some how become the oppressor you have sought to hide in Scripture?
Let's talk theology, Paul. Are you, in all of this, in all of your interactions with Dr. Rollston, with students, those like us - with Scripture - have you exhibited the open table of your heritage, the grace of Jesus?
Tell us, Paul, theologically, who do you represent?
You know that I have always respected you and continue to do so, and I took more than the required number of classes with you (and wish that I could have taken more). We also went to church together for four years. I must reject the charge of not giving you the benefit of the doubt, and I continue to be in conversation with you about this here and elsewhere. You chose to add this post to the mix, it doesn't seem fair to fault me simply for choosing to respond to some concerns it raises.
Blowers appears to have put down the shovel...at least for now...
No one at Emmanuel has "hushed" me, and perhaps that's a sign of institutional health rather than of a self-protective mode. I'm not responding anymore because I've said all I want to say and I'm tired. And as you say after you bombastic tirades from the cheap seats, "Cheers."
If employees, like Dr. Rollston, of Christian Universities, Seminaries, Bible colleges continue to attack God's word and claim he is wrong then they are fighting against the cause of Christ and the purpose for the existence of said Christian institutions.
They provide excuses and justifications to the unbelieving world which allows them to continue to live their sinful lives and provide no motivation for the unbeliever to repent. They also thwart the work of the Holy Spirit and instead of planting seeds n unbeliever' lives, they help harden their hearts.
When people enter the realm of of studying the Bible, they are not entering a human kingdom but God's domain and it is HIS rules that apply not human ones. The issue is not academic freedom or 'doing scholarship' BUT sifting through the information and separating the truth from the error and going with the truth.
If the Christian employee does not do this and does not present the truth to the world, who will? Presenting the truth is part of academic freedom and it can be done in a scholarly way.
But if no one does it then how will those unbelieving scholars hear the truth? Christians are to obey God over man and that applies to scholarship and academics as well as normal life.
For a Christian, like Dr. Rollston is supposed to be, to claim that God lied and is wrong is telling the world that the Christian doesn't believe in the very God they claim to believe in.
God does not lie or sin for if He did then He would be in need of a Saviour just like humans are and that removes Him from being God and demotes His word to nothing leaving humans with no hope or salvation.
It is NO surprise that unbelieving scholars and academics have rallied to Dr. Rollston's side. He tells them what they want to hear and gives them ammunition to attack more of God's word.
To maintain its Christian reputation the school needs to discipline Dr. Rollston because he is not teaching the truth but working against God and Christ. What they do is up to them as they have the right to act in any manner that is Biblical and just.
Outside people, like myself, have no say in what they can or can't do. I am writing here because this is a serious issue for the church as a whole and a lesson on what is right and wrong.
Dr. Rollston may be right in the secular world's eyes BUT that does not make him right in God's eyes and He is the one everyone should be worried about not academic freedom.
It seems that Dr Blowers doesn't even understand Rollston's position on scripture. I find it to be a position of belief perseverance, much akin to Dr Sweeney's story about the New Guinea tribe and their
belief about cursed mosquitos.
Wasn't it the previous OT professor, Dr Hull the one who wrote the bible has too many cracked eggs for one basket?
And at the Beck thesis, Emmanuel declared that they would not bow to the fanciful desires of fundies that want everyone to believe the notion that Isaiah had one author was a valid position.
I understand why commenters here are very concerned about academic freedom and I think Verenna's question about academic freedom vs. confessional interest is valid and important. Contra Dr. David Tee, I would be very concerned as well if I were in the front row. However, I have a question about the so-called scholarly disagreement that Blowers states against Rollston's article.
Does Blowers really believe that there is such a thing as a biblical value that is clearly and consistently expressed throughout the Bible? Love God and love your neighbor I suppose, but anything as remote from that as the treatment of women? Do seminary professors in general think that evidence in the NT to the contrary of something in the OT makes the older evidence disappear? I tend to tune out when hermeneutics or theory of interpretation are brought up, but is Blowers taking an implicit fundamentalist stance by denying that the denigration of women is a value that is in the bible?
1) Dr Blowers cannot step down at his own will. He started this.
2) I just read the HuffPo article, and it is really brilliant and explaining somthing that should have been obvious for the last 225 years, since Johann Philip Gabler in his famous lecture about the separation between systematic and historical theology, remarked that we cannot in our time take Paul's words about women to be serious. We--and I use "we" without knowing whom I may be insulting--always need to have a dialectical dialogue with the Bible, and the HuffPo article represents just that need.
3) So something else must be going on here. I went to Emmanuel Christian Seminary's home page and found that it is a small institution, 11 faculty (compared to my own institution with almost a hundred employed). It must be some war of some kind, or maybe Dr Blowers just found an occasion to stab his colleague. I know nothing about conditions at ECS but I simply try to sort out the reasons for this strange attack against Dr. Rollston, who is, indeed, not a very radical scholar.
4) The very angry reactions from Dr. Blowers indicate that this is not an academic but a personal matter. It seems very personal. Who is the audience which Dr. Blowers addresses? Definitely not the outside world but some insiders (his reactions towards the "cheap seats" indicate this).
So Dr. Blowers why did this end up as a public matter? You have done more damage to your institution than ten articles by Dr. Rollston in the HuffPo would have been able to do. What will your people say about you dragging your instution through the mud in this way?
Professor dr.theol. (like Greg Doudna)
The Theological Faculty (from 1479)
The University of Copenhagen
PS: I will leave out of this response the troll-Tee. He really has no place here.
Conservative Scholarship—Critical Scholarship: Or How Did We Get Caught by This Bogus Discussion: On Behalf of the Dever-Davies Exchange, The Bible and Interpretation http://www.bibleinterp.com/index.htm, 2003
Conservative Scholarship on the Move, Scandinavian Journal of the Old Testament 19 (2005), 203-252
But I am not sure that this is really about conservative scholarship.
As it appears in here without any context, the straightforward interpretation of the text renders "cheap seats" not as the ones farthest from the action, but as the opposite of dearly bought. "where the love of wisdom reigns" surely doesn't mean a stage or an arena that has spectators so far away that they don't know what is really going on, at least not as well as those in the front row. No, it is not a place where you need to be close - inside even - to grasp everything. Rather, it is a place - like a university - where wisdom is so respected and honored that it takes serious effort to attain the ability to live up to its standards.
If I'm wrong, so be it. Btw, it he chances are slim and none that Rollston wrote the headline of his article at HuffPo. I don't recall if he used "we" in the article, but if not, you have made your case on the slenderest of reeds.
While I appreciate your inclusion of historical-critical methodology, the entire point of such methodology is not to be forced to come to predetermined conclusions which agree with that of the church.
Also, I would be interested to see just how many of the students that the college you belong to prepares for ministry actually use what they are taught in the pulpit. How many congregations your students preach to actually know about issues of forgery in the New Testament? How many of them are aware about debates about authorship? How many of them even know what the term "historical Jesus" means?
Perhaps I will be surprised by the number, but more often than not I have found that pastors do absolutely nothing to inform their congregation on important issues like these and, as a result, their congregations end up becoming undereducated about historical issues.
Would you but a house without examining it's foundations? Of course you wouldn't. So how much more foolish is it to accept Christianity without examining the Bible critically when your faith becomes the house you live your life within? And yet most pastors across the US tell congregations to do exactly this!
Bear in mind that Emmanuel is affiliated with the Christian Churches/Churches of Christ, a fellowship which has historically maintained that the Bible is the Word of God. If Dr. Rollston's article conveys that the Bible advocates something that is not actually God's message by which He intends to guide His church, and that something that is taught in the Bible as guidance for the church should not be valued, then there's a real problem here.
While Dr. Rollston can express his views (however poorly grounded they may be) in this free country, that does not mean that churches whose members consider the Bible to be valuable and authoritative should contribute to an institution that supports the misinterpretation and rejection of the teachings of the Bible. Quite the contrary: their members should be obligated by their consciences not to support such an institution. Likewise the overseer of seminaries, if they are committed to maintaining their schools as places where the Bible is taught as the authoritative Word of God, and not merely as the subject of academic exploration, should be obligated by their consciences to ensure that the school's professors do not undermine that commitment.
In addition I must say that I found the argumentation in the article weak. For example, as an example of the Bible's view of women, Dr. Rollston mentioned that "The book of Judges says a Levite actually did force his concubine out the door to be gang raped, and after she died he cut her corpse into twelve pieces." But who can read that account in Judges 19 and imagine that the author of Judges intended to make a didactic point about the role of women? Is it not obvious to anyone who proceeds to read chapter 20 that the gang-rape of the concubine was considered so abhorrent that it ignited a civil war? And is it not obvious, by the time a reader reaches Judges 21:25, that the author's purpose as he related that atrocity, and others, was to show that "Every man did what was right in his own eyes," not to make a point about the role of women? I daresay that this is obvious even at Butler and UNC-Charlotte. If Dr. Rollston acknowledges this, then it was irresponsible to abuse the text by misrepresenting its didactic content. If he does not acknowledge this then frankly I would not trust the quality of his interpretation. This is just one example but several more could be explored.
Dr. Rollston stated, "Gender equality may not have been the norm two or three millennia ago, but it is essential." I want to know what he means by "gender equality," what he thinks that this is essential /for/, and why, if the Bible does not teach gender equality, he seems to be openly saying that it is essential for the church to reject what the Bible teaches (i.e., is this only something that /seems/ to be happening, or, if that is indeed exactly what he means, then why is he saying that)?
Yours in Christ,
James Snapp, Jr.
(Minister, Curtisville Christian Church)
If this is what ECS has on its program, the sooner the better Dr. Rolston will hopefully be able to leave. If not, I understand that you have a view on the rights of women that can be paralleled with that of the Talibans who just shot that poor and intelligent Pakistan girl because she wanted education and a better life for women.
Besides, your exegesis of Judges 19-21 is poor. Just explaining away the horrible message of that story, but explaining nothing. I can recommend Mario Liverani's article "Message, Women, and Hospitality: Inter-tribal Communications in Judges 19-21", in his collection Myth and Politics in Ancient Near Eastern Historiography (2004) who shows in all its horror the role of women in that society.
Your position is inexcusable.
Are you saying that if the overseers of a school assure their supporters that the school's professors will pursue to establish in their students a belief in the Bible as the authoritative guide for the church, that the overseers should act as if nothing has happened when a professor tells his students that regarding the roles of women, the church should ignore what the Bible teaches? Such a thing, istm, would be unconscionable.
Regarding Judges 19-21: With thanks for the reference to Mario Liverani's article ["Messages," not "Message," should be in the title], I will simply ask: do you expect anyone to believe that when the book of Judges says that a Levite forced his concubine out the door to be gang raped, and after she died he cut her corpse into twelve pieces, the author intended these to be exemplary acts, and not actions motivated by desperation and outrage? Dr. Liverani affirmed as he began his article that a mundane retelling of Judges 19-21 does not do the story justice; how much less, then, does the abbreviated description that Dr. Rollston gave in his article. Don’t you think that Dr. Rollston omitted some important factors in the equation that he presented to readers of the Huffington Post?
Also, I take offense at your claim that my view of the rights of women is “primitive” and “can be paralleled with that of the Talibans.” I don’t think you even know what my view on the subject is, precisely. These statements from you are mere insults. It might appear to some that you are resorting to a rhetorical ploy: when you have no argument, call your opponent the devil (or if you don’t believe in the devil, the Taliban). This resembles some of the cavalier-sounding statements I have seen from others regarding ECS, amounting to, "Let Dr. Rollston promote the rejection of the Bible as the authoritative guide for the church, or else we will call you stupid."
PNL: "If this is what ECS has on its program, the sooner the better Dr. Rolston will hopefully be able to leave."
If you say so.
Yours in Christ,
James Snapp, Jr.
(The part of your comment about the "cheap seats" quotation seemed to be addressing something that someone else has said, so I won't engage that, unless I misunderstood you and you were addressing something I had said.)
Allow me to tweak some of your impressions of my approach. Let me see if I can express my concerns in just two sentences. (1) Dr. Rollston's Huffington Post article incorrectly conveys that the Bible advocates views that are harmful to women. (2) Dr. Rollston incorrectly asserts in his article that the Bible's statements about the role of women should not be valued.
Now consider the very first sentence at http://www.ecs.edu/HEA/general.aspx which runs as follows: "Emmanuel Christian Seminary is a Graduate Christian Seminary committed to the lordship of Jesus Christ, the authority of Scripture and to the vision of the unity of world Christianity as arising from the work of such thinkers as Thomas and Alexander Campbell and Barton W. Stone."
I draw your attention to the second thing to which ECS is committed: the authority of Scripture. Contrast this with excerpts from the final paragraph of Dr. Rollston's article: "To embrace the dominant biblical view of women would be to embrace the marginalization of women," and, "The Bible often marginalized women and that's not something anyone should value."
My concern is not so much about the academic honesty of Dr. Rollston as it is about the plain honesty of ECS. ECS has presented itself as a school committed to the authority of Scripture. If its overseers allow an ECS professor to publically disavow the authority of Scripture – and, istm, it is obvious that an ECS professor has done that – then ECS would be claiming to be something that it is not.
(Btw, I don't grant Krister Stendahl's claim that the New Testament is anti-Semitic. But that's another subject.)
You wrote: "The hard issue is that not all of the biblical readings in defense of slavery, subordination of women, divine legitimacy of kings and state powers and so on may have been misreadings." I see it a little differently: difficulty arises when a text that plainly means one thing, and was plainly intended to be applied in a certain way, when initially expressed, comes to mean something different, and/or seems intended to be applied differently, when seen through the lens of the gospel of Christ. Therein is the wrestling-match, involving the written Word, the Holy Spirit, and the Christian interpreter.
But as far as I can tell, that is not what Dr. Rollston advocated in his article. It looks to me like he advocated removing the written Word from the equation; the final sentence of his article seems tantamount to a claim that various statements in the Bible have no value and no authority. In doing so, he contradicts Emmanuel Christian Seminary's commitment to the authority of Scripture. Is there some angle from which the situation can be viewed so as to not see this?
Yours in Christ,
James Snapp, Jr.
since you have read Liverani, you probably also have read Gabler's lecture?
The Talibans are reprsenting a part of religion which is shared by similar strains within Christianity and Judaism (and also found in other religions, of course).
Whatever you quote from Liverani, his point is that the woman there is not allowed to say one word, and her message is only "read" when she is dead. Don't try to explain away the nasty content of the story, especially the Levite's behavior.
Please point at stories that have a postive view on women in the OT. Yes they are there, but about foreign women like Ruth and Yael.
So, what is really your point? What is the Bible to you?
I don't think that my own Bibliology should be the focus of the discussion; there is already a question on the table that is closer to the subject of Dr. Rollston's article: do you think that the author of the book of Judges, by recording that a Levite forced his concubine out the door to be gang raped, and that after she died he cut her corpse into twelve pieces, intended to commend these actions as normative? And, inasmuch as the author recorded that a civil war commenced to punish those who had attacked the concubine, does it really look as if the author's intent was to promote the marginalization of women?
Regarding your claim that the Taliban represent a part of religion which is shared by similar strains within Christianity: I disagree, on the grounds that the Taliban's motivation is rooted in their interpretation of the Quran and Hadith, which have no inherent authority for Christians. But that is a separate discussion. The point I was making is that the Old Testament passages which Dr. Rollston used as examples of the Biblical marginalization of women do not instruct the church to marginalize women. He considers it problematic, for example, that nothing in the book of Proverbs encourages young women to find a noble husband, because the book was intended for men. One might as well say that Dr. Rollston has advocated the marginalization of people without computers, because his article was published online.
Another thing to consider is that as Dr. Rollston defined the "dominant biblical view of women" in his article, he apparently did not take Jesus into the equation. Jesus Christ is not mentioned anywhere in the article. Dr. Rollston states that polygyny "was approved of," and cites Gen 4:19-24, Deut. 21:15, and II Sam. 3:2-5 as examples, but does not mention Jesus' statements on the subject of marriage in Matthew 19. Now if you were to drive down a road and begin to wonder about the speed-limit, what would you do? Probably look for a road-sign. But if you were to take the approach utilized in Dr. Rollston's article, you would instead ignore those signs, and instead consult the many signs which used to be there, and since there were so many of them, you would conclude that they convey the dominant view of the speed limit, and that therefore those signs, and not the ones currently posted along the roadside, are what Christians are obligated to obey. The analogy is not exact but I hope you see its intent.
Yours in Christ,
James Snapp, Jr.
I've chimed in as well.
It seems there is more going on here than just a Huffington Post article...
I think you've misunderstood my sentence, "After reading Dr. Rollston's article, I don't see how anyone could draw the conclusion that Dr. Rollston does not believe that the Bible advocates -- not merely depicts, or tolerates, but *advocates* -- an incorrect view of women." You described this as a "blanket denial that the Bible ever advocates views harmful to women." We need to define terms.
I define the Bible as the original text of a collection of 66 books. A Biblical teaching is the teaching that results from the Spirit-guided study of those 66 books (not the study of a selection of anecdotes considered without regard to their relationship to the rest of the text). And I define the Bible's "view of women" as a view of women collectively and inherently (distinct from, or at least not necessarily congruent to, what the Bible says about any particular woman, specific group of women, or woman/women in special, temporary circumstances). (These definitions are consistent, I think, with the approach that should be used when we inquire about the Bible’s view of men.)
So, when we observe that Exodus 22:18 advocates the execution of a woman, we should also observe that the women was to be executed because she was a witch, and that this command was part of the Old Testament Law given to the nation of Israel. A person determined to ignore special circumstances could draw the conclusion that according to the Bible, women are to be executed. But obviously we should not ignore special circumstances: Exodus 22:18 is not intended to target women in general, and the command to enforce the laws given to Israel does not extend to all nations in the covenant of grace.
You asked about what mistake Dr. Rollston has made. His primary mistake, istm, is that he defines the Biblical view of women by isolating specific passages without adequately taking into account other passages that have a definitive impact upon how the church is to apply (or not apply) those passages. When he says that the marginalization of women is the dominant biblical view of women, it reminds me of the story of the blind men and the elephant, except in this case, there is a blind man saying that the elephant is like a bundle of sticks, because he has found the rib-bones of a dead elephant. The rib-bones inside a living elephant are indeed somewhat like sticks, but the elephant as a whole is not like a bundle of sticks. The doctrine of the Christian church rides the whole living elephant.
Regarding the images that you described: I don’t grant that “One can reasonably infer these repeated images represented values and perhaps practices of those producing these texts.” They are one and all metaphorical – vividly shocking depictions of the fate of Israel and Judah, but metaphorical nevertheless, like the harlotry committed by the personifications of Israel and Judah.
Consider the imagery in Rev. 17-18: Babylon is pictured as “the mother of harlots;” the horns of the beast upon which she sits “will hate the harlot, make her desolate and naked, eat her flesh and burn her with fire.” I don’t think one can reasonably infer that John believed that harlots should be handed over to their former customers to be stripped, eaten (!), and burned.
Likewise in the case of the OT prophets, the things you mentioned appear either as components of warnings or as metaphors describing future events, not as endorsements of specific earthly events matching their description. In addition, a case could be made that these metaphors are generally situated as part of prophetic invitations to return to YHWH and dwell with him faithfully. Faithfulness and the effects of faithfulness are what the prophets desire, not unfaithfulness and the effects of unfaithfulness.
Yours in Christ,
James Snapp, Jr.
At least you have shown that you cannot distinguish between exegesis and eisegesis.
The sentence "inasmuch as the author recorded that a civil war commenced to punish those who had attacked the concubine, does it really look as if the author's intent was to promote the marginalization of women?" is most revealing. We do not have the author to ask, we only have what he wrote. And his tale is a horrible tale of the abuse of a woman, by her husband and by strangers. You are putting into the text what you believe to be there, not what is really -- according to the wording of this story -- there. This is eisegesis and only tell us that you at least personally do not share the biblical (OT) writers view on women. Thank you for that.
But this is the evangelicals greatest problem with the Bible: Because they already know what is there, they do not see what is there. And if they don't like what is there, they explain it away.
Read the text!
And quoting the late David Allen:
May your God be with you.
Part of your response to James Snapp Jr., "But this is the evangelicals greatest problem with the Bible: Because they already know what is there, they do not see what is there. And if they don't like what is there, they explain it away. Read the text!"
Yes, thank you. This is precisely what Dr. Rollston's article does: helps us to see what is actually there. Dr. Blowers' criticism is strange at best. I suspect response #45 (yours) has some merit.
As a side note, I think it is absolutely hilarious that Dr. Blowers continues to defend himself in how he has handled all this in light of the fact that his greatest advocate (at least in this thread) is Dr. David Tee! Hey Dr. Blowers, there IS a slight possibility that it is YOU, and not Dr. Rollston, who has put ECS in a poor light!
Former Seminary Student,
He did wrong and spoke heresy. If ECS does not take the proper biblical action then it can no longer discipline its students when they do wrong.
Professors, tenured or not, should not be allowed to be free of responsibility for their words, their teaching or their publications.
God's rules of right and wrong apply to them just like they apply to the common student or the masses. ECS has to uphold God's rules or they just give permission to their students and professors to sin freely.
That is not biblical nor of God. The issue is not about academic freedom, scholarship or anything else the supporters of Dr. Rollston think up. The issue is about obedience to God, and true and false teaching.
The Bible warns about false teachers and the church or its institutions are ot to promote them or allow them into their midsts.
I support ECS in dismissing Dr. Rollston for they have to set the biblical example for their students and obey God.
These links are revealing, and especially the first has a lot of information.
I do not really understand what this "Dr." has to do here?
This seems like a good stopping-point (since we have somehow left the subject of Dr. Rollston’s article), but your comments left me with a question – the same question I asked before. Here it is rephrased:
While one could argue that the author saw the offense committed by the concubine’s attackers as a sin against hospitality rather than against chivalry, where are you getting the idea that the author intended, by recording the rape of the concubine, and then recording that a civil war was fought to bring the perpetrators to justice, and then concluding that every man was doing what was right in his own eyes, to convey to his readers a lesson that women should be marginalized?
Granting that evangelicals face the danger of assuming that the text agrees with preconceived notions of what the Word of God ought to say, that does not prove any specific charge of misinterpretation. A risk is not an act (i.e., the possibility of failure to properly interpret the text is not an actual failure to do so). One could just as easily say that some non-evangelicals face the danger of assuming that the text agrees with their preconceived notions of what the uninspired words of human beings ought to say; this, too, would not prove that a particular text has been misunderstood. To maintain the claim that the author of Judges 19-20 intended for this story to convey that women should be marginalized, it is necessary to show why this is the case; it is not enough merely to repeat or reword a charge of misinterpretation. But all this is somewhat tangential to our initial subject.
Yours in Christ,
James Snapp, Jr.
To James S, I am not as certain as you that the authors and early readers of Revelation did not believe harlots deserved death. Rev. 2:20-23 has Christ vowing to punish a woman and kill her children as just consequences of her teaching (education?), idolatry (eating meat offered to idols?), and sexual behavior (wealthy and unmarried?). (Was this woman Paul's party's host Lydia of Thyatira [Acts 16:14-15]?) These call upon negative stereotypes of women, and the death-curse of Christ upon this woman sounds like a fatwa. I am not as sure as you that the ancient authors and addressees of Revelation did not themselves wish to see this woman dead, and if this woman was a real woman, I am not as sure as you that this text would not incite violence in the earthly sense toward her. If you don't see a problem in sacred texts in things of this nature, and will condemn someone like Rollston for calling attention to a manifestly real problem here (although he did not name this specific instance), I don't know what to say. You seem to hold that there is a single over-arching final biblical view by which every specific instance is filtered in perspective, focused on Christ, in which there are no attitudes of ill-treatment or suppression of women. That sounds good, but where is this single biblical view of women as you envision it stated in the Bible? I honestly don't see more than (as Rollston said) counter-voices pushing back, part of multiple voices in the Bible, and that Rollston is correct in seeing the counter-voices, while real, as hardly dominant throughout the Bible. I suspect in the end you will have to go to some notion of Christ speaking through the church post-biblically, which in effect (expressed in other words) is how Quaker reformers dealt with these issues. I hope you will think about this further and consider that the problem here may not be Rollston.
I do, as an Assistant Professor of Old Testament and a graduate of Emmanuel Christian Seminary, wish to comment on the nature of Hebrew Bible interpretation.
It seems to me that Lemche's vision of biblical interpretation--both the outlines of the discipline and the consensus on the texts--is not the only vision. Merely as one example, Dr. Carol Meyers (Duke) has challenged the use of the word "patriarchy" in describing ancient Israelite culture--and has expressed dissatisfaction with other feminist interpreters precisely in their over-statement of the sources' misogyny.
Similarly, not all qualified biblical scholars agree that merely mentioning violence toward women (as in Judges 19-20) legitimizes it. This judgment goes somewhat beyond a close a close grammatico-historical readings, and rasies key questions of grammar, semiotics, and interpretation. How does one determine the intent, far less the effect, of a story?
For that matter, how does one responsibly describe the "dominant message of the Bible" on a given issue, as Rollston attempts to do in his Huffington Post piece? This integrative move stands in some tension with Rollston's scholarly leanings toward merely describing specific voices.
Particularly problematic is the occasional claim that Blowers is a theologian, while Rollston is not. The question is whether and how Hebrew Bible scholars, from their rather different position than scholars of historical theology, ought to be theological and indeed are theological--because they teach in seminaries, and because they write popular article that address the broader question of biblical values rather than simply the epigraphy of ancient texts.
Much that we as scholars say is not nearly as critical nor descriptive as we might pretend. Our asides, our non-scholarly articles, our concluding rhetorical flourishes, make interpretive judgments about the meaning of texts--not simply those texts' historico-grammatical features.
It is, perhaps, this interpretive "icing" on the cake of our scholarship that most tests questions of academic freedom versus the mission of an institution such as Emmanuel Christian Seminary.
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