In my first post for Near Emmaus, I had talked about the Dead Sea Scrolls class I had taken. In that post, I was focusing on nuance and how one little shift in interpretation meant the difference between Qumran and Christianity. I had discussed the impact of that little nuance and how I wouldn’t be here if it wasn’t for that class and my research papers. Well, as the semester went along, I had completely forgotten that post and why I do what I do.
Thursday, through a Qumran lecture, I was reminded about why I am in seminary. I’ve known the practical reason: to earn a Master’s degree to hopefully get into a PhD program at some point in the hopefully-near future. But the purpose as to why that even matters – the reason behind attending seminary in the first place – is not always easy to remember. My unwritten research papers are coming due, reading assignments are not even halfway from completion, and summer plans are mildly distracting. In all of this, I had lost sight of that moment as an undergrad.
So when my professor, Roger Nam, started talking about the site of Qumran with all the miqva’ot and giving a brief history of the Dead Sea Scrolls discovery, all of my current stresses were forgotten. Instead, I was realigned with the ancient world (well, as much as one’s imagination could be, anyway), exploring the significance of living in a relatively isolated community, and wondering how different Jesus’ movement was from the many of his time.
There’s no guarantee that this little reminder will help me finish my work efficiently and on time, but I am at least re-awakened to what initially drew me in. So in this short post, I want to ask what makes you do what you do? What was it that launched your interest in biblical studies, theology, language, or whatever it is that you’re interested in? Is that purpose driving you now?
I love to study because one of my fave questions is, “How do we know?”
Arvo: I agree; “how do we know” is such a needed question (as well as the subsequent question of “how do we know what we know?”).
Great questions Jeremy and questions I need to re-ask myself semi-frequently. Personally, I became a Christian through the very sectarian, very escapist, very fundamentalist Oneness Pentecostal Movement. Since their Christianity is very much right doctrine/belief/practice = heaven and wrong doctrine/belief/practice = hell I began to study because I thought my eternal destiny depended on my rightness. Then as I departed from that movement I had to study to defend why I was changing my beliefs and to convince my friends that I was making the right decision. But after that it became about studying because the questions I was asking about Christianity, about Scripture, about Jesus, meant thinking clearly about my life and religious practice, about being aware and reflective, about faith seeking understanding. Now I just love the subjects themselves. Research is a spiritual discipline in some sense and I hope that as I learn I can be a blessing to the Church.
The problems with the right/wrong dichotomy are, first, that is sets up a false choice scenario, and second, ain’t nobody right about everything.
I became interested in the world of the Bible through a long-standing interest in history and how we use and appropriate it. I’m also very passionate about interfaith issues, and I hope in my future research to bring out the fact that the development of the biblical tradition was very interdependent with other cultures and religions.
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