Your expertise is in ancient biblical texts, but you teach them in a contemporary way. How do you incorporate hands on learning into your lessons?
The Bible is a visual book, but its 2000-year-old imagery doesn’t always make sense to a modern reader. So I often invite students to draw what they read, to translate the imagery of the Bible from words to pictures. I find that in order to draw something accurately, students must have a deep understanding of the text’s meaning. Drawing a text helps in learning the skills of interpretation.
The concept of your dissertation as a Ph.D. candidate in Hebrew Bible is quite unique. Tell us about your thesis.
In my dissertation, I examine early Jewish texts in which the natural world occupies four particular categories of significance: nature as a model for human righteousness, nature as a sign of things to come, nature as giver of testimony and an instrument of judgment, and nature as a heavenly mystery and a cosmic secret. I am also interested in the ways in which ancient apocalyptic conceptions of the natural world relate to depictions of nature in the Hebrew Bible.
You started your academic life as an English major. What influences led you to teaching?
In my first semester of college, after I gave a presentation, one of my professors encouraged me to consider teaching—so he planted the seed. It took me a while to discern what I wanted to teach. I have always been drawn to the study of literature. In seminary, I fell in love with Greek and Hebrew—the Bible’s original languages. The narratives of Genesis especially captured my imagination and inspired me to pursue teaching biblical studies at the college level.
You lived in The Netherlands for five years. What did you enjoy most from the experience?
I have spent much of my life learning to translate dead languages, but in the Netherlands, I was able to become fluent in a living language—Dutch. I learned so much from the Dutch Mennonites, especially about hospitality as a form of Christian mission. I miss biking everywhere, excellent public transportation and easy access to strong Gouda cheese. I still consider the Netherlands my second home.