Jacqueline E. Lapsley (Princeton Theological Seminary): 30 OT/HB Scholars to Read and Follow

Jacqueline E. Lapsley (Princeton Theological Seminary): 30 OT/HB Scholars to Read and Follow October 10, 2020

Dr. Lapsley is a fantastic scholar, so glad to be able to introduce her and her work to you! I have used her work in the classroom with students and they find her very engaging. 

Jacqueline E. Lapsley, Professor of Old Testament and Academic Dean, Princeton Theological Seminary

Why do you love teaching and researching about the OT/HB?

The Old Testament has everything in it! God’s love for all creation and all people, plus every human virtue, vice, and emotion—it’s all on display. Most importantly, it is full of stories. Stories that show us our vocation and potential as human beings made in the image and likeness of God, and stories that show us our plight as human beings who fall short of that vocation and potential.
And the diversity! There are so many voices, coming from such different contexts over hundreds of years, and those voices are in conversation with one another about matters of life and faith—and we are invited to join in that robust, sometimes rowdy, conversation about what it means to live faithfully with God and one another in this world. Also, we see the character of God so clearly: relentlessly loving creation and human beings, passionate about justice (and therefore angry about injustice), and consistently faithful to covenant partners (creation, Israel) even when they are often unfaithful. As my late colleague Patrick D. Miller used to say, “there is nothing revealed about the character of God in the New Testament that has not already been disclosed in the Old Testament.” There is so much theological richness in the Old Testament that often is under-appreciated because it takes a bit of time and patience to discern.

What is one “big idea” in your scholarship?

I hope that my work on ethics and the Old Testament conveys the ways in which a commitment to the flourishing of the vulnerable in creation, whether that be the earth itself, non-human animals, or at-risk human beings, is not only compatible with, but is actually enhanced by, a commitment to read the Old Testament as Scripture. The Old Testament is a rich resource for deepening our bonds with our fellow creatures and with all of creation.

Also, I have written on Ezekiel over the years (a book, then several articles) and all of that work takes up questions of moral agency and the ways in which the trauma of the exile is inscribed on bodies—both the temple body and human bodies. In these works I hope readers would come away with a sense of the way that literary analysis can be in deep service to a sophisticated theological understanding of what is at the heart of a biblical book.

Who is one of your academic heroes and why do you admire them?

I have several heroes in the profession but probably the person I admire most is Carol Newsom, who was my Doktormutter, now retired from Emory University. She is the most sophisticated, subtle, integrative thinker in Hebrew Bible that I have ever come across. Her book on Job (The Book of Job) brought Job to life for me in a way that nothing has, before or since. In all her work she reads widely across disciplines and then draws on those ideas to illumine the Old Testament texts. She is amazing. My Emory classmates and I still joke about how awed we were by her as students, and that awe (and admiration!) continue to this day.

What books were formative for you when you were a student? Why were they so important and shaping?

Brueggemann’s Old Testament Theology came out while I was a student. While I didn’t agree with everything in it, my engagement with it nourished my fledgling interest in Old Testament theology and the methodological difficulties of that sub-area. And because I was interested in OT Theology, I was also

intellectually challenged by Levenson’s The Hebrew Bible, the Old Testament, and Historical Criticism, which I had to read for my comprehensive exams.

Read Lapsley’s Work

I am still proud of Whispering the Word: Hearing Women’s Stories in the Old Testament, and I think the focus on creation in The Bible and Ethics in Christian Life is of critical importance today.

If you ran into me at SBL, and you didn’t want to talk about OT/HB studies, what would you want to talk about?

I do the New York Times crossword every day (it’s been a pandemic lifeline!), and I love casual cycling and hiking, as well as playing tennis. I love to sail whenever I get the chance.

What is a research/writing project you are working on right now that you are excited about?

I’m working on a short book on Genesis 1 for Baker Academic’s Touchstone Texts series. It’ll point to the ways that the biblical text foregrounds God’s interest in, and positive evaluation of, non-human creation.


Browse Our Archives