ECR Interview: Dr. Kai Akagi


Lecturer in New Testament at Japan Bible Seminary (Seisho Senkyokai); University of St Andrews (PhD in New Testament, 2017)

Areas of Interest/Research:

Gospels, Acts, Second Temple Judaism

What is it about your field that you love researching?

I began studying the Bible formally not because of initial intentions of becoming an academic, but out of a love for reading the Bible and learning about it. While my research is not limited to canonical texts, being a biblical studies researcher has meant continual learning and extensive engagement with these texts, and the opportunity to engage with them in depth with others, both academics and non-academics.

I find that my teaching and research develop together and complement each other. Research stimulates and gives depth and nuance to my teaching, which my students seem to enjoy. At the same time, classroom teaching and church ministry forces me to consider focusing on scriptural texts in ways that I may not have thought to do otherwise. Some of my journal articles are the results of observations made during sermon preparation, and some of my sermons have been applied summaries of work I have done for academic publications.

What is one “big idea” in your scholarship?

My book, Proclaiming the Judge of the Living and the Dead, considers the role of Jesus in some of the speeches in Acts in light of eschatological judgment figures in Judaism from the Second Temple period and slight later. It argues that, in light of this context and within the narrative of Luke-Acts, Jesus’s role as judge in these speeches points to his messianic identity and suggests his divine authority.

My diversity of interests within biblical studies has made it difficult to settle on a single theme that extends throughout my work, but it tends to focus on messianism in Second Temple Judaism, early christology, and on the use of scriptural texts in other texts, both inside and outside in the New Testament.

What is your current research about?

I am working on several small projects, but I would like to do work at monograph length that combines text-criticism, questions of composition, and study of quotations and allusions in the New Testament gospels. I have in mind the kind of work that I presented in my article “Luke 1.49 and the Form of Isaiah in Luke: An Overlooked Allusion and the Problem of Assumed LXX” (JBL, 2019) but on a much larger scale.

At the same time, I have been working on a side-project on the differing ways in which certain themes (eternal life, fear of death, guilt) function narratively, often very differently, in a handful of New Testament gospel texts and selected Japanese films. I will probably finish the latter before the former.

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

I find it difficult to pick one individual. Four whose influence I think are particularly perceptible in my work are my two Doktorväter, Grant MacAskill and David Moffitt, and my two Doktorgroßväter, Richard Bauckham and Richard Hays.

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

This is a difficult question for me to answer concisely. When significant identifiable developments in my thinking have occurred, I was usually reading several works by several authors. I often read multiple books simultaneously, so I find developments in my thinking often to result from the experience of engaging with books together to a greater degree than engagement with single works. I have also tended to focus on extensive reading and engagement with specialized works in order to be able to present what a specialist in each minor area I discuss would consider accurate, but I would benefit from more attention to “big pictures” and “frameworks.” That being said, I think my work on christology can justifiably be placed into the neue religionsgeschichtliche Schule and shows the influence of other Early High Christology researchers.

Do you have any publications we can showcase?

Proclaiming the Judge of the Living and the Dead: The Christological Significance of Judgment in Acts 10 and 17, Wissenschaftliche Untersuchungen zum Neuen Testament, 2nd ser., 494 (Tübingen: Mohr Siebeck, 2019).

Kai Akagi, “The Treatise of the Vessels (Massekhet Kelim) and Traditions concerning Eden and the Gold of Parvaim,” Journal for the Study of the Pseudepigrapha 29.3 (10 May 2020)(March issue): 184-196.

Kai Akagi, “Luke 1.49 and the Form of Isaiah in Luke: An Overlooked Allusion and the Problem of Assumed LXX,” Journal of Biblical Literature 138.1 (28 March 2019): 183-201.

Kai Akagi, “The Light from Galilee: The Narrative Function of Isaiah 8:23–9:6 in John 8:12,” Novum Testamentum 58.4 (16 September 2016): 380–393.

Where can we follow you online?

I have been experimenting with tweeting at @kai_akagi. My Twitter feed is mostly research related, but I occasional make other personal posts.

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?

I love learning, including about fields besides my own. I would be happy to hear from you about your research. I also enjoy learning about fields outside of biblical studies, such as physics, chemistry (the class I most enjoyed in high school!), linguistics, cultural studies, philosophy, archaeology, AI, music, etc. On the other hand, I know very little about sports (except that I casually follow International Table Tennis Federation rankings!), television, and popular movies, so I do not tend to do well in conversations on those topics.

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

I currently have a list of over 50 projects on which I am working or ideas on which I would like to write. I become intrigued and excited about things too easily.

>> Thank you so much, Dr. Akagi, 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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