Presenting at the College Theology Society Annual Convention 2018

The CTS Annual convention will be held at St. Catherine University in St. Paul, MN (May 31-June 3). My abstract submission was accepted, so I will read my paper in one of the convention’s Scripture panels. For more information on this conference, click here.

 

 

 

Title of Paper: Orienting Catholic Exegesis Against Anti-Semitic Interpretations of the Old Testament: An Analysis of the Jerome Biblical Commentary

Abstract of Paper:

One of the stated goals of the Jerome Biblical Commentary (1968) was to showcase how Catholic exegetes could contribute to biblical studies, and to simultaneously give priests and laypeople a resource for the Bible. The update in the New Jerome Biblical Commentary (1990) still orients itself in a defensive posture about Catholic participation in this scholarship. Still, neither editions accounted for the ways that some traditional interpretations concerning the relationship between the Old and New Testaments have supported anti-Semitism. There are examples of this in historical Christian theology, contemporary Catholic interpretation, and even in the Jerome Biblical Commentary itself. While they are not all overtly anti-Semitic, the levels include hard supersessionism and statements that do not reflect the inclusive spirit of Vatican II. Examining these issues could be a helpful lesson for Catholic commentaries on the Bible.

This paper provides a historical survey of Christian interpretations of the Old Testament that do not rightly contend with the existence of Judaism. There are several important thinkers who have been instrumental in this history, but pointing to areas of Christian thought that provide a faithful alternative will also be an important part of the survey. Next, there is an analysis of both commentaries and their contribution to this topic, which will establish a foundation for practical steps of improvement. Finally, these steps will be explicated to provide both a concrete set of editorial suggestions and a pedagogical reflection on the problem itself. Embracing the legacy of the Jerome Biblical Commentary and its connection to Vatican II, Catholic participation in biblical scholarship can truly depart from a defensive position. In an ecumenical dialogue about Christian exegesis from a decidedly Catholic perspective, the lack of any discussion of anti-Semitism is almost a sin of omission.

Runner-up in Joy and Adolescent Faith & Flourishing Essay Competition

I was recently notified that I was selected as a runner-up to an essay competition held by the Yale Center for Faith & Culture. Each year graduate students submit projects in three different forms: (1) essay, (2) curriculum, and (3) sermon series. Topically, these projects are sorted into either of the these categories: “Theology of Joy and the Good Life” to “Joy and Adolescent Faith & Flourishing.” On January 31, I submitted an essay to the latter category.

Paper title: “Peace & Joy in Augustine”

Abstract of Essay:

Peace and joy are intimately connected in St. Augustine of Hippo’s famous book, The City of God. Forming his theology of peace in the context of the fall of Rome, Augustine used a conceptual contrast between earthly and heavenly cities. Augustine’s contrast highlights that there are many incompatible definitions for peace that do not all promote joy. Situating his definition of peace using Psalm 147, Augustine forms a teleological argument that defines the heavenly city’s peace. It is the contention of this paper that Augustine provides an occasion to discern our way through competing models of peace in the world of adolescents. This requires that we engage with skepticism; a way of thinking popular in our contemporary moment. Taken the right way, skepticism can be a tool that buttresses the vitality and self-awareness of a teleologically directed earthly city. Peace is a condition of restoration through which adolescents find joy.

 

 

For the website listing the announcement, follow this link.

 

 

Spring Conferences at St. Catherine and Duke University

Winter break is a time of rest for many college students, but today I was informed that I have a lot of preparation to do. There are two upcoming opportunities to share some of my research.

Creation and Destruction: Beginnings and Ends in Religious Thought (February 2018)

  • Title of Paper: “The Degrading Transformations of Nebuchadnezzar and Jekyll: Stevenson’s Reception of the Book of Daniel in Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde”
  • Location: Duke University: Durham, NC.

College Theology Society Annual Convention (June 2018)

  • Title of Paper: “Orienting Catholic Exegesis Against Anti-Semitic Interpretations of the Old Testament: An Analysis of the Jerome Biblical Commentary
  • Location: St. Catherine University: Saint Paul, MN.

 

I am looking forward to both of these conferences. If you have any questions, please let me know. It would be awesome to hear feedback or get advice on these presentations.

HASTAC and the Vanderbilt Center for Teaching

My application to be a HASTAC Scholar was recently accepted. I feel so honored to contribute to the Vanderbilt Center for Teaching (Link). There are a lot of projects that I have in mind, but it looks like my primary task will be to work on online education. HASTAC is an abbreviation for the Humanities, Arts, Science, and Technology Alliance and Collaboratory. It is an international community that focuses on the digital humanities and integrating it with college classrooms.

 

Presenting at Fourth International Conference on Hate Studies (Gonzaga University)

Gonzaga University holds an annual conference that focuses on Hate Studies, the study of hate in its various societal incarnations. The theme of this year’s conference is: “engaging with communities for justice.” Several months ago I submitted a paper proposal, and it was just accepted yesterday. My original title and abstract are provided below.

 

Title: When Words of Life Inspire Hate: Trump’s Nationalistic Interpretation of the Bible

Abstract:

Nearly everyone has heard of Donald Trump’s embarrassing gaffe at Liberty University when he tried to quote the Bible during his speech, failing to say 2 Corinthians correctly. Many listeners took this to be an obvious sign of his unfamiliarity with the Bible, but his followers were completely unfazed by it. The 2017 Presidential Election cycle was one of the most significant elections in the history of the United States, and Trump succeeded in polarizing voters. Unfortunately, one of the tools he weaponized in his bid to woo the American people was the Bible. Trump has cited passages like 1 John 4:12 which says: “No one has ever seen God; but if we love one another, God lives in us and his love is made complete in us.” Likewise, he cited Psalm 133:1 in his Inauguration speech, saying: “how good and pleasant it is when God’s people live together in unity.” There are several other passages from the Bible that Trump has used to describe his political philosophy (e.g., Exodus 21:22-25), but the element that unites them is the extremely nationalistic bent of his biblical interpretation. It is the contention of this paper that the appeal of Trump’s use of the Bible is in his co-opting of religious language, filling it with a nationalism (i.e. Christians/Israel = America) that helps him justify decisions that are deeply problematic. Trump interprets the Bible in a way that empowers him to “preach” a message that inspires hate in the hearts of America.

 

 

Pepperdine Thesis Defense and Graduation

 

Thesis Title:

“Doubts of Conventional Structures of Piety in Yhwh’s Court: A Study on the Function of śāṭān in Job 1-2”

Thesis Abstract:

This study is focused on illuminating the ideological significance of the śāṭān from the prologue of the book of Job. Scholarly characterizations of this figure vary wildly with appeals to legal, investigative, and hypostatic functions serving as the broader categories in which the śāṭān is typically approached. Studying these scholarly characterizations introduces some of the main features involved in the formation of modern scholarship (1905-1989). These features are indispensable for approaching the śāṭān in a contemporary context. After an assessment of the major issues in the scholarly discourse, this study engages with the occurrences of the root śṭn as it appears in the Hebrew Bible. This will form the basis from which the major śāṭān-texts can be interpreted (1 Chr 21:1; Zech 3:1-5; Job 1-2). The focus throughout this study will be to build a foundation for an exegetical analysis of the way the śāṭān participates in Job 1-2.

The śāṭān of Job 1-2 is a servant of Yhwh in the heavenly court who is tasked with determining the piety of human beings. A crucial part of this characterization is that the śāṭān signals a challenge to the retributive theological tradition embedded in books like Deuteronomy in Proverbs. The śāṭān points out that because Yhwh offers a moral system that dispenses weal and woe based on human piety, it is unknowable as to whether Job’s righteousness belongs to him or to Yhwh. It is the task of the Joban prologue to offer a provocative portrait of the heavenly court so that the reader can truly assess the various applications of retributive theology. One aspect of Job 1-2 that needs to be observed is that the dialogue between Yhwh and the śāṭān can easily be read with Wisdom and Psalmic language regarding the dichotomous behavior of the wicked and the righteous. Noting the broader appeals to this language helps show that the śāṭān is intimately tied to the theological message of the prologue. Through its imagery and well-placed ambiguity, the prologue constantly raises the reader’s doubt about the motives of Job and the heavenly council. Indeed, the doubts that are raised regarding Yhwh’s introspection in Job 2:3 continue to be unsettled.

 

 

Presenting Paper at the AAR New England Maritime Regional Meeting

A few weeks ago I was asked to submit a paper to a conference happening at Boston University because of another paper I had presented almost a year ago. The topic was much different then (Jewish-Christian dialogue), but I enjoyed my experience very much, and am pleased that my proposal was accepted. It will be my first time presenting research at an event held by the American Academy of Religion.

Title: “Problematizing and Renegotiating Histories of Satan.”

Abstract:

In this study, Williams explores two major methodological issues that are involved with histories of Satan. The first is development-based studies on the biblical śāṭān that was initially observed by Peggy L. Day. The second points out the problem with depending only on Christian and secular receptions of Satan. There are numerous examples of Satan in Jewish sources that are not consulted. At the end of this study, some potential solutions will be suggested.

My topic for this paper was formulated during my master’s thesis at Pepperdine University, but it remained largely undeveloped since it was largely tangential.