MC seminar to focus on “The Bible and Black Lives”

MC seminar to focus on “The Bible and Black Lives”

Sept. 22, 2017

“The Bible and Black Lives” is the fall 2017 theme for Maryville College’s “Maryville Seminar on the Socially Engaged Teaching of the Bible.”

To explore the theme, two biblical scholars will visit campus on Oct. 9 and Oct. 16 for presentations that are free and open to the public.

Powery to discuss ‘Reading the Bible in an Age of Protest’ Oct. 9

Dr. Emerson Powery, professor of biblical studies at Messiah College, will give a presentation titled “Reading the Bible in an Age of Protest” on Mon., Oct. 9 at 7 p.m. in the Clayton Center for the Arts’ Harold and Jean Lambert Recital Hall.

Do contemporary events impact the interpretation of the Bible? Do protests impact the way we read sacred texts? Should they? During his presentation, Powery will discuss the function of biblical interpretation during the period of the abolitionist movement in antebellum America.

“Concentrating on enslaved voices—and their commitment to freedom—allows us to appreciate the contribution marginal voices offer to the larger discussion of the role the Bible played in this cultural American crisis,” the description of Powery’s presentation reads. “It also offers insight into how a humanities education prepares students to engage its wider culture.”

Powery’s research, writing and editing relates to the New Testament, including Jesus Reads Scripture (Brill, 2003) and True to Our Native Land: An African American NT Commentary (Fortress/Augsburg, 2007). His most recent (co-authored) publication, The Genesis of Liberation: Biblical Interpretation in the Antebellum Narratives of the Enslaved (WJKP, 2016), engages the function of the Bible in the 19th-century “slave narrative” tradition, including the narratives of Frederick Douglass and Harriet Jacobs.

Junior to explore ‘Hagar in the Wilderness’ Oct. 16

Dr. Nyasha Junior, assistant professor of Hebrew Bible in Temple University’s Department of Religion, will give a presentation titled “Hagar in the Wilderness” on Mon., Oct. 16 at 7 p.m. in the Clayton Center for the Arts’ Harold and Jean Lambert Recital Hall.

Hagar, who in the Bible is the wife of Abraham and mother of Ishmael, is a recognized figure within Judaism, Christianity and Islam. While Hagar is described as an Egyptian enslaved woman in Genesis, African-American artists, writers and scholars have interpreted Hagar as a Black woman. Based on her forthcoming book Reimagining Hagar: Blackness and Bible (Oxford University Press), Junior will unravel the mystery of how and why Hagar became Black.

Junior’s research and teaching interests focus on the intersections of race, gender and religion. She is the author of An Introduction to Womanist Biblical Interpretation (Westminster John Knox Press, 2015). In addition to her academic publications, Junior writes for general audiences at a variety of media outlets. She is a member of the Society of Biblical Literature, and she serves on the Web Steering Committee of the Wabash Center for Teaching and Learning. 

Maryville Seminar on Socially Engaged Teaching of the Bible

The Maryville Seminar on Socially Engaged Teaching of the Bible is funded through a two-year “Teaching of the Bible Grant” from the Presbyterian Church (USA). With the grant, the religion faculty at MC – with the strong support of the Center for Campus Ministry – established a seminar that includes several programs and initiatives through the spring 2018 semester.

The seminar serves several purposes: to equip instructors at Maryville College and other institutions of higher education with innovative and socially engaged approaches to teaching the Bible; to expose students and members of the larger community to exceptional models of biblical scholarship in dialogue with pressing social issues; to disseminate scholarship and pedagogical materials more broadly to the larger scholarly and ecclesial communities; and to eventually expand the number of interdisciplinary biblical studies course topics within the core curriculum of Maryville College.

With the grant, Maryville College is bringing visiting scholars to campus who are known for both their area of research and publication, as well as their commitment to engaging undergraduates in the study of Bible. Last spring, Dr. Ellen Davis, the Amos Ragan Kearns Professor of Bible and Practical Theology at Duke Divinity School, gave a presentation about her work on ecological readings of the Bible.

There are also plans to develop a website to house teaching materials from visiting scholars, as well as videos or podcasts of the interviews and conversations with the visiting scholars, with the hope that Maryville College will become a source for people who are interested in bringing these conversations to their classrooms or congregations.

Dr. Phillip Sherman, associate professor of religion at Maryville College, is producing a podcast called “Teaching a Bible That Matters,” which includes interviews with professors who teach biblical studies.


Maryville College is ideally situated in Maryville, Tenn., between the Great Smoky Mountains National Park and Knoxville, the state's third largest city. Founded in 1819, it is the 12th oldest institution of higher learning in the South and maintains an affiliation with the Presbyterian Church (USA). Known for offering its students a rigorous and highly personal experience that includes an undergraduate research requirement, Maryville College is a nationally ranked institution of higher learning that successfully joins the liberal arts and professional preparation. Total enrollment for the Fall 2017 semester is 1,181.