By Madison Boboltz , Staff Writer
Since 2003, Hardin-Simmons University has hosted a lecture series about scripture in honor of Dr. George Knight, a professor of New Testament and Greek who taught at HSU for 26 years, retired in 2002 and who passed away in November of 2018.
This year, to honor his legacy, the lecturers were delivered on Oct. 28-29 by some of his former students, who now, themselves, are professors at Logsdon Seminary and School of Theology. The topic this year was Women of the Old Testament.
The first lecturer was Dr. Susan Pigott, professor of Old Testament and Hebrew, who spoke at 7 p.m. on Monday night, Oct. 28 in Logsdon Chapel. She focused on the story of Hagar in Genesis 16. First, she explained the importance of reexamining this story.
“Many readers and interpreters have negative misconceptions about her and her son, Ishmael. They believe they deserved to be exiled, and some even cast a xenophobic lens in order to trace modern conflict back to her. However, neither she nor Ishmael are portrayed negatively in the text,” Dr. Pigott said.
After pointing out several problems in modern translations of the text which undermine the abuse Hagar suffered, and which distort the meaningful promises made about her son by using words with negative connotations and choosing negative prepositions, and comparing these translations to her own, Dr. Pigott concluded that Hagar is a mother-patriarch in her own right.
“She is the first person in the Bible to encounter the Messenger of the Lord. The promise made to her regarding her seed exactly parallels that given to the patriarchs. And, she is the only person in the Bible to give God a name,” Dr. Pigott stated.
At its root, Dr. Pigott teaches, the story of Hagar is about being seen. It demonstrates how the God of her oppressors chose to act on her behalf and how she, with a courageous and selfless attitude, returned to her abusers so that her son may one day be free.
Having done significant scholarly research on this text for an article published for Review and Expositor, Dr. Pigott also incorporated her own creative rendering of the story into her lecture. Last year, she wrote a series of poems about Hagar, titled “Pas de Troís,” which includes several different personas, including Hagar, Sarai, Abram and the Messenger of the Lord. To bring the poem, and the biblical text to life, theatre students performed the poem at the conclusion of the lecture.
The second lecturer was professor of Old Testament and dean of Logsdon Seminary and School of Theology, Dr. Robert Ellis. He spoke during chapel at 9:30 a.m. on Tuesday morning in Behrens Auditorium. He opened his lecture by quoting the Talmud—a collection of Jewish written and oral tradition, which states that the enslaved Hebrews in Exodus were redeemed “through the merit of righteous women of that generation.”
Dr. Ellis reviewed the story of the Hebrew slaves in Exodus, and recalled how tyrants turn immigrants into scapegoats, just as Pharaoh did to the Israelites. One of the ways Pharaoh’s attempts were thwarted, however, were through the actions of the Hebrew midwives, Shiprah and Puah, who refused to kill Hebrew babies born male; Moses’ mother Jochebed and sister Miriam, who strategically delivered him to safety; and Pharaoh’s daughter, who found him and raised him so he may eventually go on to lead the slaves out of captivity.
Dr. Ellis also told the stories of Rahab in Joshua 2, Deborah and Jael in Judges 4 and Ruth, of whom a book of the Bible is named after. Each of these women were unlikely heroines, yet they made incredible professions of faith, exercised wisdom, courage and leadership and sacrificial loyalty. Dr. Ellis concluded they teach us lessons which all of us, men and women, should strive to implement.
The last lecture took place at noon on Tuesday in Logsdon Chapel and was presented by Dr. Meredith Stone, professor and associate dean of Logsdon Seminary. In the midst of a campus wide power outage, having no microphone, limited lighting and no heating, she managed to give a compelling account of the book of Esther through an imperialistic-critical approach.
Dr. Stone drew comparisons between this book of the Bible and the Star Wars Saga. Imperialism, she said, is a yielding of economic, political and ideological power over subordinates. In the book of Esther, this power is yielded by the Persian Empire and King Ahasuerus.
Dr. Stone taught that resistance can take many forms. Strategies of negotiation include flattery or deference, acts of anonymity or direct defiance. Queen Vashti exercised direct defiance by refusing to appear before the king. Then, just as in Star Wars, the empire strikes back by decreeing that the king will find a new wife to replace Vashti. This acts as a warning to women of high and low status that they must honor their husbands, the masters of the house.
Then, having been brought to the capital, or sex trafficked, as Dr. Stone described as a more accurate understanding of the situation, Esther becomes queen—perhaps negotiating her position by employing the strategy of flattery or deference. Esther goes on to resist the plot of Haman to commit genocide against the Jews by acts of political persuasion.
Dr. Stone concluded that the book of Esther teaches that there are many different ways to resist power. Heroes like Vashti may destabilize the empire through direct defiance, and others, such as Esther, may overthrow evil schemes by utilizing accessibility to power by demonstrating strategic intellect.
Finally, many students, faculty, staff and guests enjoyed a luncheon following Dr. Stone’s lecture in the Johnson Multipurpose Room. Here, they reflected on the valuable insights of the lectures and honored special guests.
This year also marks the beginning of an effort of Knight’s family to endow the lectures. Contributions can be made online at https://connect.hsutx.edu/donate/logsdon. For more information, one can call Logsdon at 325-671-2194.