Mitchell Chillcot of Duke Divinity School explores the close connection between חרב (sword) and the Kittim (a term commonly understood as a reference to imperial rule) in the Dead Sea Scrolls. He argues that this relationship is intended to highlight the Kittim as curators of violence throughout history, whereas the Qumran community itself is diametrically opposed to such a violent way of life.
“Three Models of Wielding Lev. 19:17 in Antiquity”
Matthew Goldstone of New York University describes the diverse spectrum of responses to the biblical injunction of Leviticus 19:17 that commands that one actively rebuke his or her fellow. The semi-isolated members of the Qumran center strove to forge a system of complete control over daily life while the culturally insecure position of the early rabbis motivated them to formally recognize the danger of verbal offense. The mixed message that we find in the gospels reflects the tension between the ideal of love and humility and the practical demands of communal stability. The juxtaposition of these traditions reveals the divergent ways religious leaders of antiquity wielded this biblical passage as a means to ensuring their formative goals.
“In the interests of peace: Jews, gentiles and land management in Mishnah Peah”
Christine Landau of the University of Virginia demonstrates how how the rabbis, who lived in a culturally and religiously diverse area, wielded Scripture alongside the sickle to define themselves as a community that farmed the land God had given them in accordance with God’s commands. At times, rabbinic and gentile farmers appear to have collaborated quite closely in harvesting and other tasks, and the rabbis explain some of their legal positions as being “in the interests of peace.” Yet for them coexistence with gentiles required careful self-definition and negotiation of boundaries, together with the awareness that scripture itself required such boundaries to remain somewhat fluid.
“Revealed Words and Subjunctive Worlds: The Uncreated Qur’an and the Order Transforming Power of God’s Speech”
Evan Anhorn of Boston University will take up Eisenstadt’s theory on the order-maintaining and order-transforming dimensions of culture. He will apply his findings to the role of Sunni theology as a social institution of Islamic civilization—an institution which establishes social boundaries, distributes power and meaning and maintains social roles and authority. Building on this, he will examine the createdness of the Qur’an as a specific location of charismatic social renewal. The contours of this theological debate suggest alternate visions of society and the division and regulation of power within it.
“Squelching the Double Vision: Hobbes’s Subversion of Sola Scriptura“
Ben Dillon of Duke University will present an examination of two cases of Thomas Hobbes’s controversial exegesis in his masterpiece Leviathan that have profound political implications: his treatment of the term “spirit,” which issues in the denial of any incorporeal substance; and his account of martyrdom, which effectively renders true martyrdom impossible. The effect of these exegetical moves is, first, to deny any spiritual realm beyond the material; and second, to render all claims by clergy to authority over citizens’ bodies illegitimate; combined, they serve to bolster his claims for absolute civil sovereignty, all while appealing to the Protestant principle of sola scriptura.
“Vision of Hope: Scripture in the Context of the Salvadoran Civil War”
Meg Stapleton Smith of Yale Divinity School will present an examination of the ways Scripture was utilized as a way to justify the violent acts of the Salvadoran government, as well as critically examine how Scripture became a source of inspiration within the Christian Base Communities to authenticate and validate the humanity and faith of the poor. Ultimately, Scripture was weaponized within the context of the Salvadoran Civil War to be both a modicum of violent governmental rationale, as well as a vehicle of expression for the poor’s national liberation, economic amelioration, and spiritual enlightenment.
Evan Anhorn is a third year PhD student in the Religion department at Boston University. His work engages the role of Islamic law and theology in promoting and shaping civic participation and engagement for Muslims in Canada and Germany. He is furthermore interested in minority Muslims in the West, the problem of tolerance and community boundaries, the social construction of sacred knowledge and the relationship of religious institutions to the center of society.
Ezra Blaustein is a third year PhD student in the History of Judaism division of the University of Chicago Divinity School. He is interested in the intellectual history of medieval Jews living under Islam, with a focus on texts written in Judeo-Arabic. Prior to his time in Chicago, he received a MA in Medieval Jewish History from Yeshiva University.
Michael Carlson is Master’s Candidate at Yale Divinity School, concentrating in Religion and Literature. A graduate of Loyola University Chicago, majoring in Literature and Theology, he has also been a high school English teacher, a Jesuit novice, and communications associate at Franciscan Mission Service. Currently, his studies involve the intersection of faith and art, particularly through literature.
Follow Michael here: @mcarlson1985
Mitchell Chilcot is a Master’s student at Duke Divinity School and a graduate of William Jessup University. He is primarily interested in the interactions between Judaism and Christianity during the first three centuries of the Common Era. In addition, he is interested in issues related to the study of the Synoptic Gospels, the historical Jesus, and the Dead Sea Scrolls.
For more about Mitchell, click here.
Follow Mitchell here: @MitchChilcott
Ben Dillon is a PhD Candidate at Duke University. This is in his final year of a doctorate in Christian theology. His research has focused on early modern philosophy (especially Spinoza and Hobbes), the thought of Augustine, and the relation between western Christianity and political liberalism. His dissertation treats the theological argumentation undergirding Thomas Hobbes’s defense of state sovereignty. He holds a BA from Dartmouth College and a MA in Religion from Yale Divinity School.
Khadeega M. Ga‘far is an MA fellow at the American University in Cairo where she studies philosophy and an MA candidate at Cairo University where she researches Islamic Philosophy. In her studies, she tries to bring philosophical perspectives to understanding of contemporary concerns in religion and politics. Currently, she is an Essayist at al-Hayat newspaper writing on the contemporary and historical Islamic thought.
Follow Khadeega here: @khadeega
Matthew Goldstone is a fourth year PhD candidate at New York University. Prior to beginning his doctoral work he received his Master’s Degree from the Jewish Theological Seminary in Judaic Studies and spent two years of intensive study in Jerusalem. His dissertation explores the discourse surrounding rebuke in the rabbinic corpus of Late Antiquity in addition to a selection of Christian texts from the Persian Empire.
Adraine Gooden comes from the island of Jamaica, the “land of wood and water.” He is a second year MA student in Religious Studies at Howard Univeristy School of Divinity and holds a BA in Religion & Theology from Northern Caribbean University. He served as a former pastoral intern in the West Jamaica Conference of Seventh-day Adventist Church, where he supervised 14 congregations. His interest is in New Testament studies and his thesis topic is “From God and a Woman: the Moral Integrity of Womanhood in the Birth Narrative.”
For more information about Adraine, click here.
Mark Randall James is a PhD student in religious studies at the University of Virginia. His work focuses on Jewish and Christian interpretation of scripture and the distinctive rationalities of scriptural religious traditions. His dissertation, ‘Learning the Language of Scripture: Origen and the Logic of Induction,’ is a re-examination of Origen’s hermeneutics in light of Origen’s Stoic philosophy of language.
Follow Mark here: @interpretweeter
Christine Landau is a PhD Candidate in Religious Studies in Judaism and Christianity in Antiquity at the University of Virginia. Her dissertation is a comparative study of early rabbinic culture in Palestine and early Christian monastic culture in Egypt. She has worked in academic and trade publishing, in nonprofit fundraising, and as an editor, freelance writer, and translator. She has an MA in Biblical Languages from the Graduate Theological Union in Berkeley, and a BA in English Literature from Swarthmore College.
Valerie Landfair is a PhD Candidate in theology at Regent University School of Divinity in Virginia Beach. Her research interests include African and African-American prayers, Pentecostal and Charismatic theology, contextual theology, and leadership in the public square. Her recent publications include: “Eschatological Prayer in African Pentecostalism” in Pentecostal Theology in Africa (2014), and “Ogbu Kalu, African Pentecostalism and Shalom” in CCDA Theology Journal (2014). She holds a MDiv from North Park Theological Seminary and a BS in Organizational Management from Illinois State University.
David Priddy is an MA student at Wake Forest University. H is an a ordained Baptist minister serving as interim minister at two Presbyterian Churches and an adjunct Professor at Campbell University in the Religion Department. He loves to travel, read, play string instruments, and raise chickens along with this wife, Mikaela Aryn, and son, Liam.
Meg Stapleton Smith is a Master’s Candidate in Ethics at Yale Divinity School. A graduate of Boston College, her current research interests lie mainly in Salvadoran Liberation Theology and contemporary Christian Social Ethics. Meg has studied under renowned liberation theologians such as Roberto Goizueta and Jon Sobrino, has lived in El Salvador, and has a continued relationship with a Christian Base Community, Pueblo de Dios en Camino, in San Ramon, El Salvador. Meg is also a writer and a regular contributor to the blog, Daily Theology. For more information about Med, click here.
Follow Meg here: @mstapletonsmith
Sunil Yadav is a second year Master of Divinity student at the University of Chicago Divinity School. He is currently investigating applications of inter-religious engagements in conflict resolution/reconciliation process within religiously plural societies. Primarily based upon the traditions of Hinduism and Buddhism, his studies attempt to explore the tools, techniques and methodologies that are effective in approaching modern-day religious conflicts. He recently conducted a two-month long field research in Myanmar investigating theological, historical, political, social and economic factors influencing Buddhist-Muslim conflict.