Thursday, October 17, 2013

Lynn Cohick - On Being a Female Biblical Scholar

At one time the field of biblical studies was populated only by white males. Those demographics are changing quickly as more women and minorities enter the field. But there are still some challenges.

In a recent interview with Christianity Today Lynn Cohick, Professor of New Testament at Wheaton, talks about her recent commentary on Philippians and what it's like to be a female biblical scholar. Here are some excerpts.

When I was a seminary student I didn't come across many commentaries written by women, so your contribution to this series is especially meaningful for women like me. Although women still face challenges as a minority in evangelical scholarship, are there any benefits of being a female in your field?
I would say it's almost a double-edged sword. I get invited to speak or to write a chapter in an edited volume, and oftentimes there is a presumption, or it's even directly stated: "We need a woman." We need a woman on this panel, or we need a woman speaker because the last three years we've had men.
So you become the token female voice.
Exactly. So while it gives me a chance to work, I also wonder if my efforts are judged differently. I wonder if people think, "Lynn has been asked because she's a woman, so I'm going to presume that her work is not that good, that she wasn't given this based on her merit or her argument, but just because she's a woman.
There are still tremendous challenges for women in evangelical scholarship, and I'm just not sure how to go forward because of the tokenism mindset. I want to encourage female scholars, but I would want a young, male New Testament scholar to look up to me as much as a female New Testament scholar would. I want to move beyond thinking that I should just mentor women. I should also mentor men, and I think that would be the next frontier.
What advice would you give to women who are interested in the field of biblical studies?
Follow your passion. But I would say that to a man as well, though there are different challenges.
Yes you are female, but you're also human…If you're interested in it, charge ahead. Don't let another person box you in as though you're the female voice. If you're really interested in Septuagint studies or Isaiah studies or in Historical Jesus studies, then just charge ahead with that and don't let somebody box you in with "Well you really should be talking about feminist issues or this or that." Think theologically, think hermeneutically, and take it one step at a time.

Read the full interview here.

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