American Women in Biblical Scholarship: History between Colleges & Churches

“Recovering the contributions of an early American female biblical scholar provides a window onto the historical dimensions of debates about gender, authority, and power in North American theological education and church life. ”

Team Members/Contributors

Davina C. Lopez Eckerd College Contact Me

About this sabbatical grant for researchers

Although American women have long participated in biblical scholarship and interpretation, there have been few studies of their involvement before the 1960s. Even as women worked as professors, scholars, and teachers during this earlier time, their seminal work has largely been forgotten. As many of these earlier women biblical scholars were also involved in deliberating questions about gender, authority, and leadership in American churches during their own lifetimes, and these issues are by no means behind us. Emilie Grace Briggs (1867-1944), the daughter of infamous biblical scholar Charles Augustus Briggs (1841-1913), is probably more well-known as the editor who completed several of her father's books. She was also a biblical scholar in her own right, and she produced a major handwritten monograph on women’s leadership in ancient Christian communities that remains unpublished. In this work she traces the historical and regional differences between early Christian groups’ articulations of gender and women’s public roles. Moreover, Briggs conducted this research out of concern for women’s authority and leadership in the church of her time. In this project I will work with archival collections to photograph, transcribe, and publish Briggs’s dissertation, making this neglected and relatively inaccessible work available to a wider audience. This critical edition will include commentary as well as a major critical essay providing an accessible overview of major women’s contributions to biblical scholarship for churches, academy, and society in this earlier period. This work will help situate Briggs’s work in the broader spectrum of American female biblical interpreters and provide opportunity to reflect on the current state of affairs with regard to gender justice in the church and academy in North America.