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Mercer hosts Vaughn Smith professor

Mercer University’s Roberts Department of Christianity had the honor of inviting Dr. Carol A. Newsom to be the 2014 Harry Vaughan Smith Visiting Distinguished Professor of Christianity. “Carol Newsom is such an impressive and well-established scholar that we consider ourselves most fortunate that she accepted our invitation,” said Dr. Janell Johnson, associate professor of Christianity at Mercer.

“Every year we have a list of potential speakers suggested by the professors in the Christianity department. We get together every year and try to pick a speaker of a different field. It had been a while since we’ve had an Old Testament speaker, so we chose Dr. Newsom because her expertise is in Old Testament.”

For the 2014 Harry Vaughan Smith Lectures, Newsom presented a series of lectures in Newton Chapel under the title “A Thousand Years of Feminist Biblical Interpretation.” The first lecture was “The Quest for Dignity and Autonomy: Medieval and Renaissance Women Interpreters.” The second lecture was “The Bible and the Right to Preach: Women and the Word in Protestant Christianity.” The third and final lecture was “Radical Outsiders and Ambivalent Insiders: Elizabeth Cady Stanton’s ‘Woman’s Bible.’” “Though she has a broad range of research expertise, her choice of topic for the lecture series, the history of feminist biblical interpretation, was relevant and appealing to Mercer students and faculty, as well as to our community,” said Johnson. “She explained how women in earlier periods in the life of the church defended against interpretation of Scripture that limited women’s roles. It made me really grateful for all the work these women did to bring us to where we are today with feminine preaching.” Throughout her speeches, Newsom utilized a powerpoint presentation with images of the women and their publications in order to provide a visual guide for her audience. “The images were extremely helpful,” said Johnson. “I also loved Dr. Newsom’s sense of humor and how much she clearly enjoyed the topic.”

Newsom is the Charles Howard Candler Professor of Old Testament and director of the Graduate Division of Religion at Emory University’s Candler School of Theology. She is also the author of seven books, many articles, book chapters, translations, encyclopedia articles and reviews. She has received prestigious grants from organizations such as the National Endowment for the Humanities and the Henry Luce Foundation. Newsom is a senior fellow at Emory University’s Center for the Study of Law and Religion, and she currently sits on several editorial boards. She also served as a president of the Society of Biblical Literature.

Newsom earned her B.A. from Birmingham-Southern College in 1971, Master of Theological Studies from Harvard Divinity School in 1975 and Ph.D from Harvard University in 1982. She has received honorary degrees from Birmingham-Southern and the University of Copenhagen, the latter for her work transcribing, translating and providing commentary on the Dead Sea Scrolls and her study of Old Testament theology. Newsom’s current research focuses on the Dead Sea Scrolls, the Wisdom tradition, the book of Daniel and apocalyptic literature.

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