Dr. Davina Lopez & Dr. Todd Penner

De-Introducing the New Testament: A Critical Engagement and Pedagogical Proposal

Professors Lopez and Penner are conducting research toward a co-authored book project, the essential aim of which is to critically engage introductory New Testament textbooks. Ostensibly designed to "introduce" material in a value-free manner, such textbooks can be read as reflective of the assumptions, agendas, and values of the discipline and guild of Biblical Studies over the last 150 years. Furthermore, this project seeks to articulate the diverse ways in which modern scholarship, particularly that which is identified as "historical-critical" in orientation, has in effect generated conceptions of "Christian Origins" and "Early Christianity" that cohere with modern ways of thinking, acting, and teaching. That is, modern methods have functioned to construct histories that have much more to do with configuring and reifying contemporary social relations than "accurately" representing a real, original ancient past. Ultimately, this book will rethink modern approaches to the study and teaching of the history and literature of the New Testament, Christian Origins, and early Christianity, coupled with an effort to encourage students to interact with the modern methods in the very act of complexifying such understandings. As teachers committed to the liberal-arts tradition, Penner and Lopez emphasize a pedagogical orientation for this research. The overall thrust of De-Introducing the New Testament is consonant with critical pedagogy in the Humanities, which is invested in empowering undergraduate students to think critically and expansively about the intellectual and cultural worlds they inhabit, adopt, and create. While Scholars-in-Residence, Lopez and Penner are surveying the Burke Library's considerable holdings in introductory New Testament textbooks and teaching materials from the mid-1850s to the present, including lecture notes held in Archival collections of early Union professors who, through their teaching and research, indelibly shaped the modern study of the New Testament, Christian Origins, and early Christianity. Both Austin and Eckerd Colleges promote and support faculty research with undergraduates, and to that end Penner and Lopez are joined in this project by their students Genny Richard (Austin College '11), and Lauren Bridge and Megan Freda (Eckerd College '11).

Davina C. Lopez (Ph.D., Union Theological Seminary, New York) teaches courses in biblical, ancient, and gender studies at Eckerd College in St Petersburg, Florida, where she coordinates the Religious Studies and Women's/Gender Studies Programs and is a co-founder and co-convener of the interdisciplinary Ancient Studies Program. A scholar of the New Testament, her research interests include Pauline studies, Roman imperial art and literature, social theories and methods in the study of religion, and critical approaches to teaching and learning in Biblical and Religious Studies. She also has interests and training in the interdependence of visual and literary materials as well as the study of gender and sexuality. She is the author of Apostle to the Conquered: Reimagining Paul's Mission (Fortress, 2008).

Todd Penner (Ph.D., Emory University) is the Gould H. and Marie Cloud Associate Professor (and Chair) of Religious Studies and Director of the Gender Studies Program at Austin College in Sherman, Texas. Todd’s area of expertise is in New Testament and Christian Origins, with an emphasis on the Jewish and Greco-Roman backgrounds to early Christian literary, social, cultural, and historical formation. His research interests include the interaction of rhetoric, ideology, gender, and power as embodied in early Christian discourses, the same in the development of modern biblical scholarship, and broader hermeneutical and cultural intersections in the study and teaching of Religious and Biblical Studies. Most recently, he has co-authored Contextualizing Gender in Early Christian Discourse (Continuum, 2009).