Rev. Dr. Lisa W. Davison is the Johnnie Eargle Cadieux Professor of Hebrew Bible at Phillips Theological Seminary in Tulsa, OK. A native of Radford, VA, Dr. Davison has a BA (Religion & Spanish) from Lynchburg College; an MDiv from Brite Divinity School (TCU), and an MA from Vanderbilt University. Dr. Davison received her Ph.D. in Hebrew Bible from Vanderbilt. She is ordained in the Christian Church (DOC) and has served congregations in Texas & Kentucky. Davison’s first book, Preaching the Women of the Bible, was published in June, 2006. Her other publications include: the commentary on the book of Job for The New Interpreter’s Study Bible, essays on the major prophets for The College Study Bible, an essay in Tabletalk, entries for the Encyclopedia of the Stone-Campbell Movement, a sermon in Those Preaching Women: A Multicultural Collection, commentaries for the New Proclamation Series, Year C, and the essays on “Ruth & Naomi” and “Bathsheba” for Just Women Bible Study. One of her sermons was selected for inclusion in The Living Pulpit: Sermons that Illustrate Preaching in the Stone-Campbell Movement 1968-2018. She also wrote 6 essays for The Preacher's Bible Handbook, ed by Wes Allen (WJK). Dr. Davison's lates book, More Than a Womb: Childfree Women as Agents of the Holy. Prior to joining the faculty of Phillips Theological Seminary, Lisa was Professor of 1st Testament at Lexington Theological Seminary (1996-2009) and Professor of Religious Studies at Lynchburg College (2009-2010). Dr. Davison is a member of the Society of Biblical Literature. She is often invited to speak to local congregations and retreats on the topics: books in the Hebrew Bible, women in the bible, sexuality and the bible, and Christian use and misuse of the Hebrew Bible. Dr. Davison is married to the Rev. Michael Davison, and the two of them enjoy traveling (especially to tropical climates) and gourmet dining.
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🎶 Podcast Intro: Welcome to the pursuing uncomfortable podcast, where we give you the encouragement you need to lean into the uncomfortable stuff life puts in front of you, so you can love your life. If you are ready to overcome all the yuck that keeps you up at night, you're in the right place. I am your host, Melissa Ebken let's get going. 🎶
🎶 Episode Intro: Today. I am really excited to introduce you to the Reverend Dr. Lisa Davison. She is the Johnnie Eargle Cadieux Professor of Hebrew Bible at the Phillips Theological Seminary in Tulsa, Oklahoma. Before that, going back 22 years, she and I first met when she was a Professor of Hebrew Bible at Lexington Theological Seminary in Lexington, Kentucky.
She joins the podcast today to talk about the beautiful stories that evoke hope and faith from the old Testament, Hebrew Bible, first Testament of scripture. She is the go-to person if you have any questions on what's going on in that first testament of the Bible. I couldn't be happier to welcome her to the Pursuing Uncomfortable Podcast. 🎶
Melissa Ebken 00:01
Dr. Lisa Davison, welcome to the Pursuing Uncomfortable Podcast.
Dr. Lisa Davison 00:08
Thank you, Melissa, thank you very much for having me.
Melissa Ebken 00:11
It's a pleasure. We go back aways we first met in 1998, when you were a professor at Lexington Theological Seminary in Lexington, Kentucky, and I was your student.
Dr. Lisa Davison 00:24
Yes. It hasn't been that long. Wow.
Melissa Ebken 00:28
Don't do the math. Nobody listening, do the math. I think it's been, what, seven years? Yeah. Quickly changing topics. In that time, we've both had our paths lead us in different directions and do amazing things in ministry. And today, I want to talk to you about some topics that are super important and are hot button topics right now. The podcast is called Pursuing Uncomfortable, and the difficult and uncomfortable situations and experiences are what we talk about here. So let's jump in. All right. So I did a podcast episode recently about sexuality in the Bible, the Bible's blessing on same sex partnership and marriages. And I know you've done a lot of speaking on this topic. So I would love to hear what you have to say about it. And you call the pack the passages in the Bible that are often used to, well, you call them clobber passages. I'm gonna let you talk about that.
Dr. Lisa Davison 01:34
Sure. And actually, I get the clobber passages from many sources. I'm not the one that came up with that. But yeah, for quite some time. Now, probably since around the time I met you, I have been involved in working with congregations and other groups to talk about what the Bible does or really doesn't say about sexuality. And I got into this work by writing a letter to the editor in the Lexington, Lexington Herald Leader, when a fairness ordinance was being debated and people kept talking about, you know, we'd be like Sodom and Gomorrah if we allow this to pass. And having a very strong Hebrew Bible professor who taught me that Genesis 19 is not about homosexuality, but in hospitality. I wrote a letter to the editor and hit send. And from that I got a lot of responses, not most of them not positive. And the seminary allowed me to do a three Saturday morning session on Sodom and Gomorrah. And then from there, I just was asked in different places to talk about that topic of the Bible and sexuality. Really, I did it first in places, not where I lived. And one of my friends that I got to know through that class at Lexington, invited me to be a part of Washington State group of people who are dealing with issues of marriage equality. And so I went there twice to do this presentation. I have done it probably in as far flung areas as Washington and Idaho, to Virginia and Kentucky. I've done it in Texas, and of course, Oklahoma. And then I've done more through video. Once we went to zoom life, it gave me more opportunities. And what I find is that often, people who are in the churches, when the topic of homosexuality or LGBTQ plus issues come up. Many times their heart tells them what they want to do, to love. But in their head, they keep hearing the Bible says. But the Bible says. And so my task is to educate, to liberate them from what they've been told the Bible says, and to make a decision on their own. And you know, I am not trying to necessarily convert them to a particular way of being. But I say if you still want to say that LGBTQ plus people are not to be included, you can't use the Bible to make your case. And I'm glad you said that because as my experience as a pastor, and I've been in congregational life 22 years, post seminary and three during seminary, when the topic comes up, it's just like you said, people know intuitively in their souls, that the exclusion feels wrong. But how do we make it right? How do we allow it? Where's the permission? And when we realize that we're standing on something that is permission, but we were told it was not, it can really change things for us. Yes, it can. And so in addition to educating/liberating folks who want to love, as we're called to do, I also think my presentations help people within the LGBTQ plus community, to have the Bible given to them as actual life giving texts, rather than an actual weapon that they have been beaten with. So it's a both/and approach that anywhere, somebody invites me, I go. So it's been, it's a great experience, it's very little on my part to give in order to help move on issues of inclusion, and not just inclusion, but acceptance and affirmation, that I'm glad to do what I can.
Melissa Ebken 05:57
And not just inclusion because you want it to be. Inclusion, because all that we know of God's revelation to us through the written word, and the living Word of Christ would point to inclusion. That's a big difference.
Dr. Lisa Davison 06:13
Yes, it is, and trying to help people understand that, that one of the common threads that runs throughout the Hebrew Bible in the New Testament is this God seeking covenantal relationship with humanity and creation. But also, and also, God wanting us to seek community. People like to quote Jesus, love your neighbor as yourself, which actually comes from Leviticus, of all places. And I always point out to them, that you really can't love God if you don't love your neighbor. And you can't love your neighbor if you don't love yourself. And it's, it's those three elements that make those covenantal communities work. And, you know, often I run across people who can't love their neighbor, because they don't believe themselves to be lovable, or at least loved by the holy, which again, I kind of write up to some centuries of Christian teaching about original sin and how bad we are. And then you add on messages telling certain people that you're not created in the image of God. And it's it, it has created such harm, that trying to get that message across love God with all you are, love your neighbor, whether it be human or all of creation, and love yourself, is what I harp on, if you will.
Melissa Ebken 07:38
And that's what I encounter all the time. I've done some work doing Bible studies in county jail. And one thing in common with every single person I sat with, they have been told by every authority in their lives, that they are unlovable that they are unworthy, they're not valued at all. That is one thing in common of every person that I met that was incarcerated. Yeah, that is a tragedy.
Dr. Lisa Davison 08:11
It is and it's a tragedy that a source of that, if not a major source of that has been Christianity, that is supposedly about following the way of a person who was always trying to find ways to love all, especially those that have been told they weren't loved.
Melissa Ebken 08:34
Yeah, and that doesn't mean being a doormat. That means drawing boundaries. That means having the hard conversations, that means doing the difficult things.
Dr. Lisa Davison 08:44
Yes, that's true. That's very true. And, and sometimes we don't want to figure out how to love ourselves. Because there's a lot we haven't faced in ourselves in our lives. That may be painful when we finally face that, but you can't change and until you recognize and move through it. So I'm not a therapist, just a Bible service.
Melissa Ebken 09:10
You know what a seminary is hard. Academically, it's very challenging, but also spiritually and emotionally, is very challenging. And I went through a journey in seminary where I was looking for God, everywhere. And we together went on a trip on the second missionary journey of Paul following in those footsteps. And I thought for sure, that's where I would reconnect. That's where I would find it. And we were in Athens on Epiphany of all places in the Cathedral, the center of orthodoxy on Epiphany, Sunday. I knew that's where I would find it. Didn't. It wasn't until a couple months later, when we were back home and I was standing on the back porch where I lived and looking up at the stars, and just being grateful that in the mass of all of that I had a place in this earth that it came; that God's presence was with me in that moment. So we go throughout life looking for God, and all of these far flung places only to find it's really inside ourselves. And I also encounter a lot, I think you can speak volumes to this, that in the church, oftentimes people prioritize the New Testament is that's the book. That's the Testament where we hear about love, and the love of Jesus. But there's a lot in that first Testament, that would speak to a God of love.
Dr. Lisa Davison 10:51
Yes, I always hear that God of the Old Testament, as many will call it is the god of violence and mean, and the God of the New Testament is God of love, and grace. And I have a couple of approaches to that. The first one is kind of tongue in cheek, but I say, you know, in the Hebrew Bible, if God's upset with you, God strikes you down. That's it. In the New Testament, if God's upset with you, you'll be in a lake of eternal fire, with wailing and gnashing, and all that I'll take the quick death over that, forever. But the other thing, I approach it, again, more seriously, is to talk about everything, from creation stories to stories of Torah and stories of the times of the monarchies, especially exile and return. All of that is built on this covenant of love, and the many other covenant specifically that God makes with human beings and with groups of human beings. And that, you know, look at, for instance, at one of the great figures of the Hebrew Bible, King David, and you know, everybody sings his praises. But when we look at who King David is, he was rapist, a murderer, you name it, and yet, God could use him. His story is about second chances, and third chances. And you know, that, to me, is speaking volumes about the eternal and the holy and how it is about, as I say, the holy sees us, loves us as we are, but knows we could be so much more, until when we don't live up to that doesn't end the love done in the covenant, but it does disappoint God; anger God at times. And, you know, Jesus, honestly, didn't say much that hadn't already been said. Most of his memorable statements, like the two greatest commandments come from Torah. And if we accept that Jesus was a first century Jewish man, then it would make sense that if you want to follow the way of Jesus, you have to know what shaped him. The the text, the traditions, and to do that with respect. I don't, because then you can tell me to pause if you want. But we know that the Christian misuse of the Hebrew Bible has fed into so much anti Judaism, anti Semitism. If we look at Hitler and the Holocaust, Hitler didn't have to come up with the idea of Jewish people being less than because Christianity had been doing that forever and ever. Whether it was a pogrom, or other the Crusades or any of these other acts, Hitler just spread some seeds in fertilized soil, and the church had been a fertilizer. And much of that was built on some of the church's claims that well, your scriptures in Judaism predict Jesus, it was right there, and you missed it. And and so that's how we get into this idea of Christianity has superseded Judaism, that the Jewish people are no longer God's people. And, and even today, it happens in how we present these texts, or how we present people within Judaism. And sometimes it's even the so called progressives that can slip into that to.
Melissa Ebken 14:42
Any extreme is an extreme. I have a couple of comments, one, Paul, in the New Testament, he knew his Hebrew Bible. He knew it up and down, forward, backwards, sideways inside and out. When he, in his journey discovered that when he stuck to the letter of the law as a law, and didn't relate to people that got immense us in trouble, it got him so far away from the spirit of what he learned and held to be true that he was killing people in the name of his religion. And he had the literal come to Jesus moment. And yeah. Do you want to respond to that? And then
Dr. Lisa Davison 15:32
Well, one of the things that I always find intriguing about Paul, is that Paul did some work that we weren't familiar with, like some Midrash, the story of Sarah and Hagar is a good example that he uses utilizes. But I'm willing to say that Paul got some things wrong. And and I think that's just natural. We forget, Paul was a new follower of the way of Jesus had no idea his writings would be read in the 21st century. And so I cut him a lot of slack. What I don't like is when there are some people who think Paul is the final word, and they actually follow Paul more than Jesus, is my experience. And I follow Jesus, Paul was a nice guy, we have some of his correspondence, but I'm not a follower of Paul.
Melissa Ebken 16:29
And when we look into the Greek, Paul's inegalitarian, Paul had women that he championed and worked with. But my other comment previously is about the First Testament, the more I engage with it, the more I see how God provides alternate paths to blessing. There are those who are on this, the 100 yard dash. And that's great. But there are others of us who have to run the mile, or do a little cross country to get where we're going. God provides a pathway.
Dr. Lisa Davison 17:07
Yeah, and we what one of the things I think Christians do, is we like to keep people separated. And so we get into this either/or mindset. And we I just had this conversation with some students not too long ago about how, you know, Isaac was the chosen one, and Ishmael wasn't. And you know, they will live at odds. And same thing with Jacob and Esau and same thing with Joseph and his brothers. And we forget that those stories, have the brothers come together. Isaac and Ishmael come together and bury Abraham, Jacob and Esau reunite, and reconcile. Joseph and his brothers have a roundabout way of reconciliation, like you said, a different path, that the only sibling relationship that can't be reconciled is Cain and Abel. And you can't reconcile with your sibling, if you've killed your sibling. But what it says to me is it's their, the parents in those stories that keep children separated, they keep us into either/or. And I think we've had generations of that kind of, let's remember, everybody's divided. And we never want to tell the story of reconciliation. And so there again, is another path that is provided, sometimes old generations ideas have to pass away. So we can have new hope for the present and the future. And sometimes I'm one of those old ideas that has to pass away some of my thoughts, but I strive not to be that. The other thing I was gonna say about Paul, is you talked about letter of the law versus spirit. Yeah, I mean, within Judaism, they're very comfortable with the idea that this commandments have to adapt to changing times and situations. And I will point out to people, it's in the Torah, you have the story in Numbers 27, where the daughters of Zelophehad are, are allowed to inherit land because they have no brothers. And not just them, though, the teaching about that, the commandment gets changed. But we want to keep it particularly within Christianity as truly written in stone. And we don't recognize that those were being reinterpreted, and that's what Jesus was doing. And that's what Paul was doing, as well as other first century Jewish rabbis teachers, however you want to put that so
Melissa Ebken 19:45
Well and even from Exodus to Deuteronomy than time from Josiah's reforms. They were they're a little different. The essence is very recognizable, but they're expanded upon.
Dr. Lisa Davison 20:00
Yeah, and let me get my other hot button or hot. How do I say my other pet peeve is that within Christianity, somehow we got the idea that when God makes a new covenant with a group, it cancels out everything else. And that's not what the stories tell us that and just thinking about all the multiple covenants we hold at one time as human beings, but we want the Holy to only have one at a time. And you know, even in the Hebrew Bible, you have a covenant given to Sarah and Abraham, you have a covenant given to Hagar. So even the Hebrew Bible couldn't hide that fact. But the divine had multiple covenants at any particular time. And so when we get caught up in this New Covenant, we we often do that as a way of saying, and it's the only God has this covenant now, and if you don't join us, then you're just out of luck. In fact, I challenge people, sometimes maybe the liturgy at the table, should rethink that new like, it's another covenant or another new covenant, not the only new covenant as people fill in that blank. I think so. Anyway. Okay. So
Melissa Ebken 21:22
Jesus in John said, and by the way, I have other sheepfolds. That's right. That's right.
Dr. Lisa Davison 21:28
Or many rooms in the house or however you want to put it?
Melissa Ebken 21:31
Yeah. It With your permission, I would like to talk to you about women in the Bible. That is, and you've written a book, I'll let you tell us the name of the book, I love that name. I love the theme.
Dr. Lisa Davison 21:46
Um sure. I sometimes forget the full name, because I played around with it for so long. So I had a first book that was Preaching the Women of the Whole Bible. And then I have been working for quite some time on this particular book, it's called More Than a Womb, Childfree Women in the Hebrew Bible as Agents of the Holy. And what I do is I have chosen several female characters in the Hebrew Bible, who are not celebrated because they reproduced because they gave the man the son, or even a daughter. In fact, they're never referred to it as biological mothers, or as barren, which is that other term that gets used. These women are known, or characters known for what they did to help Israel keep covenant and move the covenant forward. And the motivation for the book was at least two fold. One, I think that as a woman who chose to be child free, I know that most of what I hear from the pulpit, if it's about women in the Bible, it's about God opening and closing wombs. And, you know, even the early feminist scholars, picked up motherhood and said, you know, this is what women are valued for. So let's celebrate motherhood, well, that's well and good, but then they started making everybody a mother. So I got to thinking about it from my perspective. But then I realized, you know, for those sitting in the congregation that perhaps motherhood was not possible for a multitude of reasons how harmful that must be, to hear those kinds of stories, and then know that your experience was so very different. And to live in a culture even today in the 21st century, that really values females for their wombs. And so to have that kind of, you should be able to go to church and find something to connect to. And I thought, what if we give them some role models, some women who are child free, as far as the stories tell us and see if that might be helpful, as well. So that's, that's the story of the book.
Melissa Ebken 24:10
You know, if I was in a big church, once My heart is in the tiny churches where we all know each other's business. I love the rural churches. I love the times and seasons of agriculture and farming. I also think that big churches have a lot to offer the body of everybody so it's not a slant against that I happened to be in a big church that was a proponent of the purity movement. And I didn't know anything about the church. I was down and out. I was younger and the person preaching, the guy preaching had arose and he started handing it out. He wanted it passed around for everybody to see and enjoy. And then He got it returned to him. And he said, and it was in bad shape at that point while petals are falling off, and I was looking at best, and he said, who could love this rose? And from the back, I was taken up in this moment. I'm like Jesus does. But that's not the point. He was trying to make. Yeah. Wow. And then I realized, holy moly. He's saying the obvious. And I had to get up and go to the bathroom, I was gonna be sick to my stomach.
Dr. Lisa Davison 25:39
Wow, I'm sorry, you had that experience. And, yeah, it can be that obvious. And certainly in our culture. In the past year, we've seen women's bodies being used in in games of power, and being the pawns in this political game of chess. So I, you know, those are the obvious ones that, oh, my gosh, I hope none of my students ever do that. And, and then there are those less obvious ones. Most of us may have been to a church that celebrated Mother's Day. And the way they did that was to give a flower to every mother. And then they say, and here's the flower for all the other women because you're like a mother, you're like a mother, you're like a mother. And I just got tired of that. In my book, I don't know if I coined this term, but I said, we have mother-ised women. Scholars do it to the women in the Bible. You know, well Miriam was like a mother to Moses, well not in Numbers 12. You know, Holda must have been a mother before she became a prophet, and just the stuff and then we do it in the church, you know, and I got to the point that I just didn't accept the rose, except if it was a small child, and you know, I didn't. So both those happened, and were obvious on one side, but on the other side, it's it's not a bad intention, but it has harmful con results. But I was in a church this past May of 2022. And, of course, Mother's Day, and the Children's moment was about that and giving plants, but this person who did the children's moment, either because I was in the congregation, and they knew me, or I'd like to believe because they've been expanding their understanding, didn't even mention mother once. And said, today, we're, we're recognizing women leaders in the church, and that women contribute great things to the church, etc. And I was just so touched, and, and little shocked. But it was a wonderful lesson for those kids because they too, whether they're, you know, going to grow up to be parents or not, they need to know their options. And that you can do wonderful work, whether or not that involves your reproductive system.
Melissa Ebken 28:26
I remember the first time I was given permission to think of and embrace God, as a woman. And guess where that imagery that biblical imagery comes from? Little Book of Isaiah has a lot of Mother imagery, woman imagery, nursing imagery, that, you know, the First Testament has so many images of God in multiple ways. Not only God is father, and sometimes we need God to be a father. But sometimes we need God to be a mother, or a grandmother, or what have you many different manifestations and the First Testament, so many different images of God. If we have the eyes to see and the souls to bear it, that there are so many different wonderful images of the holy to embrace.
Dr. Lisa Davison 29:26
Yes, there are and I I've done a couple of presentations on multitudes of feminine imagery for that world, you know, seamstress, midwife, all these different things. Though, I will say I'm glad you're expanding it because sometimes I find some folks want to say, well, we'll say Father, and then we'll say Mother, and it's all covered. And I say well, if God's a father, I'm not created in the divine image. And if God's a mother, I'm not created in the divine image. So you know midwife, auntie however we just some of these other images that really are more inclusive of everyone, because also they're, my companions not a father. So that means that's a problematic for the for him. Though I think in our culture, it's harder for women to be child free than men. That's a whole nother podcast.
Melissa Ebken 30:29
Absolutely. So for the folks who want to engage the scriptures don't know how to start, feel like there's so much to be gained. But they turn to Genesis one, page one, and feel pretty overwhelmed. What advice would you give them to embrace the scriptures?
Dr. Lisa Davison 30:53
Yeah, well, the first thing I would say is, when you open the Bible, wherever you might come to, that you open it with questions, that you open it with a mind that is ready to hear or see something new. After all these years of study. And now teaching the Hebrew Bible, every time I teach a text, I see something different. So if you come with that kind of attitude, I would recommend getting a good study Bible. Something like the New Interpreter Study Bible, on I use the Jewish Study Bible for my classes. Now, some people don't want to buy that because the Hebrew Bible and not both testament, and Oxford annotated is another good study Bible. But that might be a good place to begin, because you have some commentary in in the margins. They can help you understand some of the terms and some of what is being described. I would also recommend that they look for somewhere that they can engage in a communal Bible study, because again, we need all our voices. And even still, we won't exhaust the meanings of the words that have been written. So having a good group to study the Bible with and if they're really want to learn at a different level, audit the class, you know, here at Philips, we have a lot of courses that are offered asynchronously online, so you can audit and you don't have to be somewhere at a particular time in place, or any of those things during that to be presentable when you're working on it. Or you can audit in person, if that's how you learn better. But for me, that's such a gift. If all my auditors are always happy, because they don't have to do the work. But they get to absorb and learn from students who are doing the degree seeking work. So those are several things I would suggest. I would also say don't go from Genesis and just keep reading. You know, Genesis and Exodus are okay. When you get to Numbers, and Leviticus and Deuteronomy, you might one put a pin in it and move to a different place. Even Joshua and Judges can be difficult without some assistance in that but you know, read a text like Ruth, read Esther, two of the women, or no, Esther, not Ruth. Esther is one of the women in my book, who is never described as a mother, but becomes a queen, a diplomat, leader of her people, you know, to don't feel like you have to go Genesis to Revelation. But mix it up a bit. And again it with a good study Bible with other resources, be they written or human. It is not as overwhelming as you might think, at first.
Melissa Ebken 33:59
I like to tell people the Bible is a library has a lot of different books, or it's like a newspaper, you have news, there are features comics opinions, you don't necessarily read a newspaper, who reads a newspaper anymore? Wouldn't go from the first page to the last, you'd kind of jump around and hit the different things and then go back and fill in where you left off and the Bible's similar.
Dr. Lisa Davison 34:22
Yeah, yeah, it is a library. And if we can remember that, not everything was written by the same person in the same place and same time, and that, at least in my scholarly opinion, it didn't fall from heaven. It wasn't a matter of, you know, the human just holding the stylus or whatever. But everything that inspired the words on the text went through a human agent first and more human agents as it was passed down. So that we know that while there's there are great uh texts that teach us how love God and love our neighbor as ourselves, we also can remember that some of these texts, people might have put too much of their own opinion on them, and justified some things. And so just because it's written doesn't mean it's God, speaking. And the other thing I say, not every story in the Bible is a go and do likewise, story. There are some stories in the Bible that are meant to cop meant to cause us to pause and say, where are we being this person or that person? Where we doing the same thing? And so rather than continue doing the same thing, it's an opportunity to change. And so if we read it that way, I think we'd get into a less of a problem as some of the ones we've had over the years that justify actions based on how they think God spoke in the Bible.
Melissa Ebken 35:57
My last question is about sources, I get so frustrated, when I see something on TV about Christian tradition, or faith tradition, like seriously, is there a class somewhere that teaches you to go out and find the biggest crack pot you can find to be your authority on these sources? You know, how do we know that we are studying from or learning from or referencing a credible source? How do we differentiate that?
Dr. Lisa Davison 36:33
That's a great question. I encourage students and others that I teach with, to find out what you can about the author. You know, because they do have a reading location, they have lenses they bring to the text, but you can also check out their their education, you can kind of see, are they interpreting scripture, just as a response? Or are they doing a more critical study of Scripture. So find out what you can about the author. Try and find people from multitudes of perspectives, and in different locations, so don't just read Anglo European scholars. Read the voices that have been, you know, tried, that people have tried to silence that are now coming back together. And I, I often say, you know, there's no one interpretation of any passage. But that doesn't mean that every interpretation is legitimate. and so another thing is, can you figure out how they got their interpretation? Did they show their work to use a line from math classes. And one of the ways I determine whether an interpretation is legitimate is, are they try and make the words on the page, say something that they don't, by twisting it around or whatever. That's when I say, wait a minute, there's a problem. So let's go back and and look at what the text is actually saying. What's written there, rather than what we want to be written there? And we all have that tendency, we bring our own lenses, but at least I strive to name my lenses as I did in my book at the beginning, and then try to say, okay, now let's do some of this other critical work that tries to get beyond what I bring. And I can show my work, for lack of a better term. In fact, one of the people who read my book that didn't agree with me on anything, but said you sure do have a lot of footnotes. And I was like, because I want you to see how I got the readings that I'm presenting. So those are some some ways I evaluate sources.
Melissa Ebken 39:01
And let's be honest, any real engagement with scripture, you're gonna find a lot of stuff you don't want to see. Yeah. But so often, it's in wrestling with those and doing the homework, that those have brought a real profound message to me. Yes. There's passages, if I were in charge, there would be some pages missing. There would be some passages missing. But they would be taped back in after I did some homework. And after I did some critical study.
Dr. Lisa Davison 39:35
Yeah, that again, I tell folks, there are plenty of texts that don't help me love God with all I am and love my neighbor as myself and I'd love to take them out. But I'm not Thomas Jefferson. I don't get to create my own Bible. And so I have to work extra hard to figure out why those texts are there. What was, what's going on? And and then likewise, the texts, I think that do teach me love God with all I am and love my neighbor as myself. I work even harder at those, because they're the ones I have to make sure I'm not forcing it on to the text, the ideas I had. So that. And one other thing I tell classes is that if we leave those difficult passages alone, somebody else will tell them what they mean. Absolutely, and often, I think some of those who might identify as, as progressive/liberals/got critical, whatever you think, we don't speak up. We just go, well, God's love. Jesus taught us to love Well, that's not helping people. We need to stand up and take on the passages so much like what I did with Sodom and Gomorrah and my news letter to the editor. And what I do regularly with those texts and presentations is people aren't engaging it in the public square who might have a different voice. Instead, what we hear are the loud voices, who I don't believe have done the hard work yet.
Melissa Ebken 41:12
You know, my favorite sermon series recently was last October, it was the passages that make us tremble. So it was October, in diving into those and they require a lot of work a lot of scholarship, but gosh, there's some treasure to be found.
Dr. Lisa Davison 41:29
Yes, I just taught Doctor of Ministry class on prophetic leadership. And so the prophets, as much as we love them for their emphasis on justice, and righteousness and all those social issues. There's some problematic texts, really problematic texts that need work, as well as I think a different understanding is that when I read some of the texts, with God being angry, it makes me very uncomfortable, though I've heard folks say, well, do you want a God who doesn't get angry at injustice? Do you want a God who doesn't get angry? And I also have to remember that some of the words that are said or spoken to people who have been through horrific events, war, a lot of exile, and I haven't been through those. So in some ways, I should be reading those texts as the the problem, not the exile, and, and recognize that, what sounds horrible to me, might have been just what they needed to hear when they were completely hopeless. My privilege has kept me from having to experience that.
Melissa Ebken 42:49
Dr. Davidson, I would love to talk to you. I have 1000 questions. I didn't write them all down. But I could pick your brain on this all afternoon. Maybe we'll do it again sometime. But I want to thank you so much for taking time out of your teaching schedule to speak with us today. Any last thoughts you want to leave with folks?
Dr. Lisa Davison 43:10
Thank you for the invitation and for the good work you're doing. As a former student of mine, I am very, very proud professor at the moment. And I'm grateful for the ministry you offer in a variety of ways. And this podcast, I think, is a way of reaching people who may not show up in congregations, but have those same sort of struggles. So I would just say don't be afraid of the Bible. But don't expect it to tell you what you think what you've been told it says Expect the unexpected when you get there.
Melissa Ebken 43:48
All right. Thank you much.
Dr. Lisa Davison 43:50
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