Interview: Gregory E. Lamb

School/Institution:

Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary (SEBTS)

Areas of Interest/Research:

Biblical Studies – NT

What is it about your field that you love researching?

I love listening to the voices of scholars past and being a part of an interpretive community of lifelong learners. In this sense, every voice has a unique perspective and important role to play in terms of how texts have moulded and shaped their lives and beliefs within their own particular Sitze im Leben. I was introduced to TIS (Theological Interpretation of Scripture) by Dan Treier at Samford/Beeson during the 2014 Southeast Regional ETS conference I was presenting in and Treier served as the plenary speaker. This was the first time I had been introduced to the importance of reception history and was instantly hooked.

One of the most enjoyable and deeply rewarding aspects of dissertation writing and research is to recover voices of scholars seemingly silenced over the centuries. To give them a voice through translating the primary sources (ad fontes!) and to experience biblical texts and concepts from the lenses of their lives and perspectives. This helps me see the text in new and exciting ways. While I may not always agree with their conclusions, they help me trace the founts of various interpretations and theological positions over the centuries and to have a more fully orbed basis for my own thinking on certain texts and issues. Studying reception history helps me have a more fulsome understanding regarding paradigmatic shifts in biblical studies to have a thicker, more fulsome description as to why these shifts took place to begin with.

What is one “big idea” in your scholarship?

There are many research avenues that excite me. When I began my Ph.D. journey, I was hoping to continue my Th.M. studies on a biblical theology of marriage and family. My Th.M. thesis was titled, “Family as Mission: A Biblical Theology of the Purpose for Marriage and Family.” However, one of my first Ph.D. seminars was on Philippians and taught by Dave Black, who had published a Novum Testamentum article on the structure and rhetorical features of Philippians. God used Dr. Black to shift the focus of my doctoral studies to Paul and Philippians.

Specifically, there are a couple of “big idea” contributions I feel that my dissertation will (hopefully) make to the field of biblical studies (specifically) and to contemporary Christianity (generally). First, I am studying the concepts of living and dying well as a Christian. “Human flourishing” is en vogue these days. Numerous works discuss the raison d’être for Christian living—some even contemplate Christian death and dying—but few (if any) adequately discuss these concepts together in toto. My dissertation seeks to explore Paul’s understanding of the art of Christian living and dying (ars vivendi/moriendi) from the pages of Philippians, which I feel is representative of Paul’s mature thinking on these important topics.

A second contribution would be that my dissertation does not choose a monolithic Greco-Roman or Jewish lens through which to view Paul. Such division is commonplace in Pauline studies between the traditional (Lutheran), New Perspective, and Paul within Judaism camps. My own approach tends to be more “kaleidoscopic” in that I investigate diverse texts (even Egyptian texts) that do not neatly fit into the standard Greco-Roman or Jewish categories. This helps me see and present Paul in a more cosmopolitan light.

What is your current research about?

The title of my dissertation is, “Living and Dying Well in Philippians: A Comparative Analysis of Ancient Sources.” The thesis of my dissertation is that Paul was likely aware of numerous competing worldviews on what it meant to live and die well within his first-century Mediterranean world, and that Paul turned these competing views on their head in Philippians—showing the absolute sovereignty and supremacy of Christ and his gospel. Philippi—given its rich history, abundant resources, and proximity to the major trade route of Paul’s day (the famed Via Egnatia)—was an important hub of intersecting religions and worldviews that Paul realized was a strategic missional centre in reaching Europe with the gospel.

The methodology of my dissertation is a comparative analysis—utilizing a hybrid, synthetic blend of the work of Jonathan Z. Smith (Drudgery Divine), David Freidenreich (“Comparisons Compared”), and John M. G. Barclay’s (Paul and the Gift) work. Essentially, I compare/contrast Paul’s conception of living and dying well in Philippians with other ancient sources (including literary texts, Grabinschriften, inscriptions, and numismatics) up to 100 CE. Obviously, translating the primary sources has been seminally important to my study and has thus far proven to be a difficult, yet vastly rewarding, labour of love. I have been living in LCL and TLG these days!

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

Wow. This is a difficult question because there are so many who have inspired me over the years. Amongst living scholars, I would say the Very Rev. Fr. John Behr has been a seminal influence on my scholarly work (and my Christian life). Fr. Behr visited our seminary back in 2015 to give a lecture and I asked him a question that he spent nearly an hour answering about the nature of living and dying well as a Christian. At the time, one of my dear friends and mentors was dying—battling Stage IV cancer—and taught me much about dying well as a Christian. Heretofore, I had only read Fr. Behr for church history courses and had never interacted with or engaged Fr. Behr on the topics of living and dying well.

What I admire most about Fr. Behr is that he, a senior scholar, sought me out in the crowds after his talk and personally encouraged me—taking down my address so we could keep in touch. Fr. Behr then personally invested in me—mailing me copies of all his books and writing encouraging notes in each one to me on his own dime. If the good Lord ever calls me to a full-time teaching ministry, I want to selflessly and sacrificially invest my life in other students the way Fr. Behr invested in me.

Another living scholar who exemplifies such a warm, encouraging love for students is Emanuel Tov. I have conversed with Dr. Tov via academia.edu to bounce ideas regarding the Greek OT and he is always quick and warm to respond. Again, having such access and interaction with senior scholars has proven foundational and inspirational in my life and emerging academic career.

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

This is another difficult question to answer succinctly as so many have proven influential and fruitful. In terms of my dissertation writing, Markus Bockmuehl’s BNTC volume on Philippians has proven seminal in my studies. Bockmuehl, like Abraham Malherbe, took a cosmopolitan approach to Paul—viewing him from a variegated perspective rather than a monolithic Greco-Roman or Jewish lens. All sources should be investigated—leaving no stone unturned. Methodologically, J. Z. Smith’s works (especially, Drudgery Divine), Barclay’s Paul and the Gift, and C. Kavin Rowe’s One True Life have also been formative.  Rowe’s work has been especially helpful in thinking through the genesis of the various Pauline schools of thought (“guilds” to use Rowe’s nomenclature) over the past century and to situate my own thinking and future as a scholar in this ever-evolving field.

Seminally important to the direction of my thesis was Fr. Behr’s slim volumes, Becoming HumanThe Mystery of Christ, and The Role of Death in Life. These works gave voice to the pain and confusion I was feeling during the process of my mentor’s death as well as my best friend’s suicide later that same year. Rather than eschew the language of dying and death (as so often happens in culture and the church), Fr. Behr’s works show the utter inseparability and synergy of living and dying as a Christian. This experience became the catalyst for changing my dissertation topic to both write academically on these important topics but also, more practically, to teach my congregation these truths as well through my sermons and devotional writings. I currently serve as a bi-vocational pastor of Mays Chapel Baptist Church (founded in 1802 as a part of the historic Sandy Creek Baptist Assoc.) and am celebrating my fourth anniversary there this week (Nov. 06).

Do you have any publications we can showcase?

I have published eight journal articles so far with a ninth one currently in publication (in Brethren Life and Thought) as well as a book chapter within a Fortress Academic/Lexington Books anthology currently undergoing the publication process. My published articles and book reviews can be accessed at my academia.edu page: https://sebts.academia.edu/GregoryLamb

Specifically, my published works include: 

“The Art of Dying Well: Missions and the Reality of Martyrdom,” EMQ 55.1 (2019): 43–45.

“Living is Christ and Dying is Gain: Paul’s Reimagining of Human Flourishing in Philippians,” SBJT 22.4 (2018): 7–31

“Saint Peter as ‘Sympresbyteros’: Mimetic Desire, Discipleship, and Education,” CEJ 15.2 (2018): 189–207.

“Verbal Aspect, Aktionsart, and the Greek New Testament: The Approaches of Constantine R. Campbell and Stanley E. Porter,” Presbyterion 43.2 (2017): 95–130.

“Fatherlessness,” CEJ 14.1 (2017): 99–108.

“Sinfully Stereotyped: Jesus’s Desire to Correct Ancient Physiognomic Assumptions in the Gospel according to Luke,” WW 37.2 (2017): 177–85.

“What Is the Purpose and Scope of New Testament Theology?” “Qual é o propósito e o escopo da Teologia do Novo Testamento,” Via Teológica 18.35 (2017): 247–61.

“Fatherlessness: The Implications for God’s Word, Church, and World,” EJ 33.2 (2015): 89–96.

Where can we follow you online?

My published articles, book reviews, and informal writings can be accessed through my academia.edu page: https://sebts.academia.edu/GregoryLamb. I am also on Research Gate: https://www.researchgate.net/profile/Gregory_Lamb, and Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/gregory.lamb.5. Would love to connect, so please do reach out!

If we ran into you at a conference and you didn’t want to talk about your field what would you want to talk about?

Most likely my kids (I have five of them), pastoral ministry, or fine arts and film (my undergrad degree is in fine arts and I work as the creative director of my home-based ad agency, Lamb Designs).

What research/writing project are you working on right now that you’re excited about?

Currently, I am putting the finishing touches on my IBR (Institute for Biblical Research) and SBL talks for this December’s Virtual Annual Meeting. My IBR talk (Early Christian Judaism Research Group) is titled, “The Reception History of Phil 3:2–3a in Dialogue with Mark D. Nanos” and explores the reception history surrounding Phil 3:2–3a as well as engages Nanos’s thesis (in Reading Corinthians and Philippians within Judaism) regarding the Cynics as Paul’s opponents in Phil 3:2.

My SBL (Gospel of Luke Program Unit) talk is titled, “Reception, Rediscovery, and Reimagination: Codex Bezae Cantabrigiensis and Luke 16:19–31.” My primary thesis is that there was a paradigmatic shift of interpretation of Luke 16:19–31 (the pericope of the rich man and Lazarus) during the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries, which appears to have gained momentum after the rediscovery of Codex Bezae in 1562 by Theodore Beza. I hope to do more work in Luke (especially, parables work) upon graduation.

Lastly, I will be presenting a paper for the Tyndale Fellowship this June titled, “Citizenship as a Conduit for Flourishing in Philippians.” In this paper, I investigate Paul usage of πολιτεύεσθε (Phil 1:27) and τὸ πολίτευμα (Phil 3:20). Specifically, I examine how this citizenship language relates to the imprisoned apostle’s conception of human flourishing and what it means to live and die well as a Christ-allegiant. I contend that Paul’s conceptions of citizenship and human flourishing in Philippians are inextricably linked.

>> Thank you so much, Greg, 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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