When Nothing is Impossible: New Book Focuses on Women of the Bible

elainephillipspicture.jpg.opt376x562o0,0s376x562For those who have ever thought something was impossible, Elaine Phillips, a professor of biblical studies at Gordon, has written a new book that suggests otherwise.

With God, Nothing is Impossible is Phillips’s first book for lay audiences, a devotional based on the stories of women in the Bible, both well known and less prominent. The Gordon Bookstore will host a book signing with the author on Thursday, April 3 at 1 p.m. The event is free and open to the public. The book will be for sale at a reduced price.

“Biblical characters, with all their wounds and scars, are living illustrations that there is a bigger and majestic tapestry,” Phillips said. “I wanted to write about their stories and the themes we see in each: how each points to God’s goodness and unfailing love.”

In addition to her new book, Phillips recently completed a commentary on Esther, which is included in The Expositor’s Bible Commentary and was edited by Tremper Longman III and David Garland. She regularly takes students to Jerusalem University College in Israel, where she serves as adjunct faculty for three-week summer study programs in historical geography. Phillips‘s other areas of interest and scholarly writing include the books of Exodus and Esther, biblical wisdom literature, and rabbinic Midrash. Her new book draws on her historic expertise and reminds readers of the fruit of faithful living. While mostly oriented for woman, it is accessible to anyone with a desire to grow in biblical faith.

One reviewer said, “Reading about each biblical woman, not just from the perspective of Scripture, but also with relevant historical and cultural context, allowed me to see each one not just as a character in a story, but as a real, flesh-and-blood individual in history.”

The Global Language(s) of Scholarship

Academia today often requires dialogue across cultures, especially in addressing global issues, old and new. These faculty from very different disciplines have been busy with such work:

Wilson_Marv_2008_11_19_02_55_441_2009_09_16_05_18_15Marv Wilson, professor of biblical studies, recently delivered the Ninth Annual Edwin M. Yamauchi lectureship at Miami University, Oxford, OH, March 7-9. His lecture combined chapters of a new book he’s written, scheduled for publication in May. Exploring Our Hebraic Heritage: A Christian Theology of Roots and Renewal (Eerdmans) is a sequel, of sorts, to Our Father Abraham, but more theological.  The Department of History at Miami University sponsored the event in co-operation with other organizations within the Oxford community. In addition to his main lecture on “Abraham: Historical Figure of Continuity, Discontinuity and Eschatological Hope,” Wilson also spoke to faculty and students at four other scheduled events in Oxford during the weekend.

Melkonian-Hoover-_Ruth_2007_11_02_09_00_44Ruth Melkonian-Hoover, associate professor of political science and international affairs, addressed the Venezuelan crisis recently in her column for the Center for Public Justice. At the end of May, she’ll be attending the Christians in Political Science conference at Azusa along with Michael Jacobs, assistant professor of political science, and two Gordon students, Ian Isaac and Ilya Timchenko,who recently returned from Ukraine over spring break. Melkonian-Hoover will present a workshop entitled, Jacobs,_Michael_2013_07_12_10_06_29“Religion and Immigration Attitudes,” while Jacobs will explore, “Just Business or Just Politics: Christian Approaches to Corporate Social Responsibility.”

Perez-Serrano_Pilar_2011_12_07_09_39_50Associate professor of Spanish, Pilar Pérez Serrano, will be traveling to Harrisburg, PA, in early April to present the following paper at the North East Modern Language Association conference  entitled, “Mediocridad y fantasía: jugando a ser alguien en tres obras de Juan Pablo Heras.”  This spring her new book,  “La rebelión de Los esclavos: tragedia y posibilidad en el teatro de Raúl Hernández Garrido” (Madrid: Fundamentos) will be released, and she’s recently published two two book reviews for the  Spain’s Association of Theatre Author’s journal, El Kiosco Teatral: Leer Teatro.

Seeing Christ Through the Eyes of Others

Hunt_Steve_2008_11_19_02_49_281_2009_09_16_05_12_42Understanding the narrative of John’s Gospel  just became more illuminating, thanks in part to the editorial scholarship of Steven Hunt, professor of biblical studies. Hunt helped bring to light a series of studies that explore how both major and minor characters in John teach us about Christ as the central figure.

book coverEdited by Hunt, D. Francois Tolmie and Ruben Zimmermann, Character Studies in the Fourth Gospel: Narrative Approaches to Seventy Figures in John (Mohr Kurier Publishers) is a ground breaking resource for pastors and lay leaders a like. Here’s how the publishers describe the resource:

“This volume represents the most thorough study of characters and characterization in the Fourth Gospel heretofore published. Building on several different narrative approaches, the contributors assembled here offer sixty-two essays related to characters and group characters in John. Among these are detailed studies presenting fresh perspectives on characters who play a major role in the Gospel (e. g., Peter, Mary Magdalene, etc.), as well as original studies of characters who have never been the focus of narrative analysis before, characters often glossed over in commentaries as insignificant (e. g., the boy with the loaves and fish, the parents of the man born blind, etc.). Clearly, characters in John stand in the shadow of the protagonist – Jesus. In this volume, however, they step fully into the light. Thus illuminated, it becomes clear how complex and nuanced many of them are.”

Christian Scholars Address Ethics Crises

Whether there’s a new cultural crises in ethics or such crises have simply become more public through the information age, the need to address them is real. At this year’s interdisciplinary  Christian Scholars Conference in June and around the theme, “Crises in Ethics: Theology, Business, Law and the Liberal and Fine Arts,” two Gordon professors travelled to Nashville to present papers on panel discussions.

Joining two other bible scholars on a panel called, “Old Testament Theology of Prayer,” Elaine Phillips, professor of biblical studies and Christian ministries, discussed, “The Prayer of the Upright:  Confession, Petition, Accusation, and Intercession in Wisdom Literature.” There are several studies on prayer in the Psalms or on select prayers within the Old Testament, but little in the way of a comprehensive exploration of the theology of prayer in all the Old Testament.  Her session was the second in a three-year project to examine the theology of prayer in the various sections of the Old Testament with the intent of providing the groundwork for a canonical Old Testament theology of prayer. 

Across campus, Jonathan P. Gerber, assistant professor of psychology, discussed the recent number of high-profile lapses in research ethics, where many of these cases emerged due to new analytic techniques for detecting and managing fraud, techniques which are broadly applicable to other empirical disciplines. Gerber’s peer-reviewed panel discussed the impact of recent cases of social psychological ethics, the techniques used to uncover fraud, the role of Christian institutions in maintaining research integrity, and the application of these techniques to other disciplines.

Specifically, Gerber addressed the fraud of Diederik Stapel and whether it led to calls to revise research practices in psychology.  Gerber’s paper—entitled, “Did Stapel’s research fraud lead to knowledge distortion or reputation reduction?”—provided the preliminary results of a 60 year meta-analysis of social comparison research, including over 600 research papers. Gerber said, “The effect sizes in Stapel’s work were not significantly different to other researcher’s findings, suggesting that knowledge about social comparison has not suffered from Stapel’s misconduct, even though the field’s reputation has. It appears that, sometimes, you can fake too well.”

Missions and the Christian Church in a Changing World

Paul Borthwick

Between his many global travels, conferences, speaking engagements and teaching, Paul Borthwick, adjunct professor of Christian ministries, somehow found the time to write another book. Just released by InterVarsity Press, Borthwick‘s book, Western Christians in Global Mission: What’s the Role of North American Church? provides a current analysis on how the Western church is viewed through the eyes of Majority World leaders.  His book offers an appraisal of the North American church as well as the Majority World Church while also providing specific and theologically-based ideas for moving forward, calling for a return to our passions to serve and follow the Christ of history. 

Because of his book’s recent publication, Borthwick was a podcast guest on the blog, God and Culture, which you can listen to here. He will also be a featured speaker at this year’s Urbana Missions Conference. Here’s how his publisher described his newest book: 

“The world has changed. A century ago, Christianity was still primarily centered in North America and Europe. By the dawn of the twenty-first century, Christianity had become a truly global faith, with Christians in Asia, Africa and Latin America outpacing those in the rest of the world. There are now more Christians in China than in all of Europe, more Pentecostals in Brazil than in the United States, and more Anglicans in Kenya than in Great Britain, Canada and the United States combined. Countries that were once destinations for western missionaries are now sending their own missionaries to North America.

“Given these changes, some think the day of the Western missionary is over. Some are wary that American mission efforts may perpetuate an imperialistic colonialism. Some say that global outreach is best left to indigenous leaders. Others simply feel that resources should be focused on the home front. Is there an ongoing role for the North American church in global mission? Missions specialist Paul Borthwick brings an urgent report on how the Western church can best continue in global mission.”

Lazarus, John’s Gospel, and Friendship in South Africa

Steve Hunt in Cape Town, South Africa, at the end of his trip.

The last thing Steve Hunt, professor of biblical studies and Christian ministries, thought when he began his scholarship on the Gospel of John was that it would take him around the world, to South Africa to be exact. 

But since 2009, Hunt has been working on a book with D. Francois Tolmie, dean and professor of New Testament at the University of the Free State, Bloemfontein, South Africa, entitled, Character Studies in the Fourth Gospel: Narrative Approaches to Sixty-Seven Figures in John (to be published by Mohr Siebeck in 2013).  As a result, Tolmie invited Hunt to his homeland—his first trip to South Africa—from October 6-13, 2012, where the two worked on their book and Hunt guest lectured for a large audience on, “Lazarus: Jesus’ Beloved Disciple in the Gospel of John.” A revised version of the lecture will be published in one of two South African theological journals, Acta Theologica or Neotestamentica, late next year. Below is Hunt‘s abstract on Lazarus: 

“The question related to the Beloved Disciple’s identity in the Gospel of John has confounded interpreters for centuries. No doubt, part of the confusion here issues from the rather muddled traditions related to this Gospel which originated in the second century A.D.

The internal evidence of the Gospel, on the other hand, is relatively clear. Based on Wolfgang Iser’s literary theory of ‘consistency building,’ only one person can be identified as Jesus’ beloved disciple in the Gospel called ‘John,’ and that person is Lazarus. Building on the narrator’s repeated references to Jesus’ love for Lazarus in ch. 11, I’m trying to show how the rest of the Gospel makes eminently good sense when one re-reads it in light of this identification. The study is more than an exercise in curiosity, however, as the ramifications of the proposal for the re-interpretation of the Fourth Gospel are enormous. Consider, for example, that instead of the Gospel originating with one of Jesus’ ‘Twelve Disciples’, the Fourth Gospel actually originates within an anti-temple Judean community which celebrated ‘the other disciple’ of Jesus—his Beloved Disciple, Lazarus.”

Salvation Army Honors Roger Green with Rare Citation

On August 20, 1917, Bramwell Booth, the eldest son of William and Catherine Booth and the person who succeeded William as the General of The Salvation Army, inaugurated The Order of the Founder to honor his father. Millions of members of the Salvation Army have lived and died since the Order was established, but it has been presented to only about 250 people.  It is an honor that is given sparingly.

On the first Saturday in June 2012, Roger Green, professor and chair of biblical studies and Christian ministries, was granted the Order at a gathering of 4,500 Salvationists. Born into a Salvation Army family with grandparents and parents both serving as ministers, Green has written numerous works on the Army and his biblical scholarship is extensive. Green admits to being “completely surprised” by the award; even more so when he saw that the Organization had flown in his younger brother and his wife from Kentucky, and their older brother and his wife from Chicago to celebrate the award with him and his wife.

Linda Bond, the current General of the Salvation Army, would have presented Green with the Order personally during her visit to the Old Orchard Beach Camp Meetings July 29, but Green will be in Chicago then participating in ministry with the Army there. Instead, she sent this citation: Continue reading

Summer Scholar: Touring the Land of the Bible

Editor’s note: This is the third in a series of stories about Summer Scholars, exploring what Gordon professors are up to in between semesters. Here Elaine Phillips, professor of biblical studies, shares a few of the highlights of her upcoming study trip to Jerusalem. She is the second from left in the front row of the photo below, which was taken during the last class in 2010 on the south side of the Temple Mount, steps from the first century, “so we know Jesus would have ‘walked there,'” Phillips said. The hands-on class has become a Gordon tradition.

Walking Through the Geographical and Historical Settings of the Bible
By Elaine Phillps

We leave 9 June with 15 Gordon students – and return on the 30th.  Four of the students will actually stay an additional two weeks for another course in Jordan taught by a good friend and former colleague of ours at Jerusalem University College. Although the title of the course is Physical Settings of the Bible, we are always unavoidably doing contemporary political contexts, modern Israeli and Arab cultural observations, eating fabulous Middle Eastern cuisine, hiking, and bonding 24/7. Here’s a quick overview of our trip:

10-11 June – arrival and getting over jet lag — informal walks around both the Old City and New City of Jerusalem

12 June – Orientation and walking introduction to Jerusalem

13 June – walking field study — Old Testament Jerusalem:  City of David, Hezekiah’s tunnel, pool of Siloam

14 June – New Testament Jerusalem:  Herod’s Temple platform, church of the Holy Sepulcher

15 June – tribal area of Benjamin field study:  Gezer, Gibeon, Wadi Qilt

16 June – field study survey of approaches to Jerusalem:  Mt of Olives, Herodion, Bethlehem Continue reading

What Young People Offer the Church

Youth ministry needs a new way of thinking, says Sharon Ketcham, associate professor of Christian ministries. On April 5, the national organization Youth Specialties sent an independent videographer to Gordon to interview Ketcham for an upcoming training event aimed at youth workers. Ketcham’s scholarship explores biblical and theological perspectives on the role of community in shaping the faith of young people, and how the local church can best address adolescent faith development. She speaks and teaches often on the topic. Here’s a snapshot of what Ketcham said last week:

“The community of faith has an inherent purpose to it, one that addresses the questions many young people ask today. But does the community of faith offer today’s youth a sense of that purpose in such a way that they are captured by the story and that they can be invited to be a part of that story themselves? Are kids contributing to that community, or are they merely expected to be passive recipients of the faith that’s being transferred to them? If the church or ministry is only a service provider, one that doesn’t recognize the contributions of its youth, why would they want to continue to be a part of that faith tradition? If Jesus is just another commodity they consume in our culture, then really the Christian faith becomes nothing more than anything else they consume in our culture. And as consumers we easily discard. Genuine Christian faith, though, as seen throughout the biblical story of God’s people, is an invitation into a community to be an active contributor and participator, and that happens as young as a little one can walk across the floor of the church building. The question we need to ask, then, is whether our church ethos is one that honors the contributions of our young people.”

Beyond Salvation: The Writing Life of William Booth

100 years after his death, William Booth (1829–1912) is remembered for the role he played in founding the Salvation Army, the evangelical organization that now operates in more than 120 countries. What few people know, though, is that Booth was also a prolific author, writing articles and speeches on topics such as Christian doctrine and women in ministry.

Roger J. Green, professor and chair of Biblical Studies and Christian Ministries and resident expert at Gordon on the Salvation Army, has compiled many of Booth’s more important essays in a new book, Boundless Salvation: The Shorter Writings of William Booth. Green has written extensively on Booth, his theology, Catherine Booth and the organization. A lifelong Salvationist, he’s also the co-editor of Word and Deed: A Journal of Salvation Army Theology and Ministry, and travels internationally for the Salvation Army on speaking engagements. He was the first layperson appointed to the Army’s International Doctrine Council. Click here for more details on his new book.