Interview: Morgan K. Johnson


The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary

Areas of Interest/Research:

The Gospels, The Sermon on the Mount, New Testament Ethics, Greco-Roman philosophies

What is it about your field that you love researching?

One thing I love about biblical studies in general is its interdisciplinary nature, involving areas like interpretation, history, and ancient philosophy. In particular, I love studying the Gospels with a view towards New Testament Ethics because I get to study things like narratives and discourses in the Gospels along with what they teach us about who we ought to be. So, I love asking some “big questions” about philosophy and ethics but from a decidedly biblical studies approach.

What is one “big idea” in your scholarship?

Similar to what I mentioned in the first question, one “big idea” I want to communicate is that biblical studies should be asking the “big questions” of life that deal with topics like epistemology, anthropology, and ethics. Early on in my academic journey, the only connection I was aware of between philosophy and Christianity was philosophy of religion or apologetics. Thankfully, I discovered that many NT scholars were looking at how Christianity compares to other philosophical traditions such as Stoicism. I hope to meaningfully contribute to this conversation.

What is your current research about?

I am currently researching how righteousness in Matthew’s Gospel functions as a kind of virtue and perhaps how it compares to other ancient conceptions of virtue. Righteousness in Matthew relates to many interesting ethical themes such as the Law, love, hypocrisy, and wisdom. For example, I have most recently been researching how righteousness and wisdom relate to one another in 4 Maccabees to see if there is a fruitful comparison between Matthew and 4 Maccabees concerning righteousness and wisdom as interrelated virtues.

Who is one of your academic heroes and why do you admire them?

There are many, but I would say one is Jonathan T. Pennington, who is actually my doctoral supervisor. Dr. Pennington writes, teaches, and lives in such a way that I admire and desire to emulate. As he has done for many students, he helped rekindle my love for the Gospels. I find his work both academically interesting and practically beneficial. In large part, I wanted to be at Southern Seminary for doctoral work because of him. 

What books have been formative for you in your study? Why were they so important? How did they shape you?

Since I am thinking about Dr. Pennington, his book The Sermon on the Mount and Human Flourishing has shaped me personally and formed many of my academic interests. Not only is this book a helpful guide to the Sermon, it also points out that Jesus is training his disciples how to view the world and how to be truly righteous—whole people—in the kingdom. 

A Hermeneutic of Wisdom by J. de Waal Dryden has been formative for how I study the Bible for transformation. It convinced me that theology and ethics cannot be divorced. Another influential book for me was Josh Jipp’s Saved by Faith and Hospitality, a great example of NT theology meshed with NT ethics. Two other books worth mentioning are One True Life by Kavin Rowe and The King in His Beauty by Tom Schreiner.

Do you have any publications we can showcase?

I have not published anything so far; I am in my first semester of Ph.D. coursework.

Where can we follow you online?

I am on Twitter @mojomorganj

If we ran into you at SBL/AAR and you didn’t want to talk about your field what would you want to talk about?

Food. I love to grow, cook, and eat all types of food. I really enjoy eating Italian pasta dishes as well as many types of sushi.

Other than your thesis, what research/writing project are you working on right now that you’re excited about?

For a seminar I am taking in Old Testament right now, I am beginning to research epistemology in Ecclesiastes and how it compares with a few other epistemologies of the Ancient Near East. I am not exactly sure of the method yet, but I might look at this topic from a metaphor theory perspective.

>> Thank you so much Morgan for taking the time to share a bit about yourself and your work.

Are you a PhD student or Early Career Researcher working in Religion or Biblical Studies? If so, we’d like to hear from you. This website is dedicated solely to interviewing PhD students and ECRs on who they are, what they love about their work, and what has inspired them. If you’d like to be interviewed, head over to the Contact page and fill out the form. There’s no catch. Don’t be shy. Self-promotion is a virtue.

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