Interview: Gideon Sam

School/Institution:

The University of Gloucestershire, Cheltenham

Areas of Interest/Research:

Social world of Luke-Acts, Lucan meals, and Theology of hunger and hospitality 

What is it about your field that you love researching?

I love setting-out biblical and theological principles in aiding the Church and theological institution in their journey with the oppressed and marginalised. In particular, I admire the narratives by Luke which gives us a clear picture of the social world of the first-century Mediterranean world – who they are, whose they are, and how is their situation portrayed. If you ask ‘Why Luke-Acts?’ it is obvious that the theology of the poor is one among the major themes of Luke-Acts. Luke, among all other New Testament writers, seems to pay more attention to social problems.  It is exciting to read the first-century text in enlightening the Christian community of the twenty-first century. 

What is one “big idea” in your scholarship?

There has been a movement in every generation, which emphasises human dignity. The debate on Human Rights continues to be important because it is a debate on ‘right to life with dignity.’ At the same time, the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (U.N. 1948), Article 25, states “Everyone has the right to a standard of living adequate for the health and well-being of himself and his family, including food”. The statistics from the International Food Policy Research Institute states that about 60 million children in India are underweight and malnourished, whereas 21 per cent of the population as a whole general is malnourished. The area chosen for the research is to assist the Church with the Theology of Hunger and Hospitality and to make a positive contribution to the ongoing debate on food justice in India.

What is your current research about?

My research is concerned with interpreting the Lucan meal narrations to elucidate what Luke was saying about human needs, especially in relation to food, to bring that message to bear the question of food justice in India. The issue of hunger in post-independent India, culminating in the National Food Security Act of 2013, has evoked the following questions: (a) Was Luke concerned about the destitute?; (b) If the Lucan Jesus’ “Good news to the πτωχοί” represents Luke’s concern for the destitute, how do the Lucan meal scenes serve his purpose in connecting faith and food in society in reaching across the margins and partnering with the destitute; and (c) How can Luke’s insights be articulated into theology to address food insecurity in today’s India?

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

Well! It is a tricky question. 

During the days of undergrad in Biblical Studies (at the Union Biblical Seminary, Pune, IN) Professor Jay J Kanagaraj inspired me with his knowledge in Greek. Though being an experienced academician, his way of new preparation for each class and his updation with the current scholarship in the NT have impressed me greatly. I’d like to add also his integration of academic scholarship with the pastoral application.

The second academic hero to make an impact in my career is Professor Philip Esler my research guide who moulds me academically till date. Being a person coming from India with all-round biblical and theological education in India, I was unaware with some latest research. However, he believed in my commitment and he shaped my academic thought world. I always see him busy with publications. Since he is one among the members of the Context Group 1990 which integrates biblical studies and the social sciences, much of his scholarship is rooted in Mediterranean culture and ancient texts. I salute for his dedication to the NT scholarship.  

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

The very moment I could recollect three books those amazed and influenced me at the start of my research.

The publication of Peter Berger’s The Social Construction of Reality: A Treatise on the Sociology of Knowledge (1966) written along with Thomas Luckmann charted the way in which social contexts and ideational constructs were dialectically related and allowed scholars to think and write about such things without the risk of being labelled Marxists. It explains the socialization process and the role of knowledge in the society which lays a foundation for my research. 

The second book is The Shape of the Past: Models and Antiquity (1975). The methods and cross-cultural models employed in the book picturizes the society in Antiquity. As Carney claims it is a textbook to the students who are in the study of first-century Mediterranean society. This book has been an eye-opener to me and helps to understand the society in Antiquity as well the audience of Luke-Acts, especially the hard facts of destitution. And finally, Philip Esler’s work Community and Gospel: The Social and Political Motivations of Lucan Theology (1987) which brought a fresh and revealing light on social and political motivations of the theology of Luke-Acts and Galatians (1998) have been formative and helped me to build his work on Lucan table fellowship.

Do you have any publications we can showcase?

  1. Sam, S. P. Gideon (2020). Expanding the Table: Lucan Jesus in the Debate on India’s Food Justice. Mathew Koshy Punnackad (Ed.), Sustainable Living (pp. 88-112). Delhi: ISPCK/Church of South India.
  2. Sam, S. P. Gideon (2012). He Himself is our Peace. NCC Review, CXXXII, 163-168.

Where can we follow you online?

I’ve tried Twitter several times and can never keep up with it, but I do have Orcid: https://orcid.org/0000-0001-7697-2752

You can also reach me through Gmail: samgiddy@gmail.com

And I’ll try to blogging after completion of my research.

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?

Interesting question! I’d probably like to talk about the role of Christians in the realm of government and politics. Christianity and politics is historically complex and history of Christianity witnesses an animosity between these two. Furthermore, many (almost all) think that politics and Christian-living cannot go shoulder to shoulder. 

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

At present, I’m converting some sections of my dissertation into articles. After successful completion of my dissertation, I’ll try a monograph proposal (if God willing!).

I am also considering to further my dissertation to appraise the Theology of Hunger and Hospitality as a fully-fledged systematic theology with the primary affirmation which is ‘for’ and ‘of’ the destitute in their liberation from hunger.

>> Thank you so much, Gideon, 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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