ECR Interview: Dr. Miriam DeCock

School/Institution:

Aarhus University

Areas of Interest/Research:

early Christian exegetical culture; patristics; late antiquity; biblical reception; ancient authorship and book culture; Origen of Alexandria

What is it about your field that you love researching?

Since I began reading early Christian exegetical texts as a Master’s student, I’ve been quite taken with how creative these interpreters were, exegetically, theologically, and rhetorically. I am still fascinated by the ways in which early Christians interpreters positioned themselves within the overarching interpretive tradition. They were forced to negotiate between prior authoritative interpreters’ readings of scripture, and, in order to prove their own worth or authority, the expectation that their contribution offered something new. (Perhaps this resonates a bit too much with contemporary academic culture.) 

What is one “big idea” in your scholarship?

Well, I’m not sure how “big” it is, but an important thread of my research over the past few years has been to tease out some of the rhetorical claims of Origen (and other early Christian exegetes) to exegetical authority. In Origen’s case, this included claims to hear directly from the Logos as he interpreted scripture for his homiletic audience; claims to access angelic epistemological and exegetical understanding of reality and thus scripture; and the claim to possess direct lineage to the apostles. I imagine that others have observed some of this, but have perhaps not reflected on what such claims might mean for Origen’s self-understanding as a prophetic-apostolic-angelic exegete in the formative years of the earliest churches. This is something I hope to develop in my current work.

What is your current research about?

I’m currently writing a book in which I seek to complicate scholarly understandings of the genre of the homily in the oeuvre of Origen of Alexandria, preliminarily titled “Reading Scripture with Origen: A Study of the Greek Homiletic-Exegetical Material.” This in light of the 2012 discovery of 29 new Greek homilies of Origen on the biblical psalms. In the book I compare the homilies on the psalms with his Greek homilies on Jeremiah, and, in order to demonstrate one of my book’s main theses, namely, that his homilies are every bit as scholarly and advanced as his commentaries, I compare the homilies with his commentaries on Matthew and John. This is less visible if one constructs a picture of the homily genre based primarily on the fourth-century Latin translations of Origen’s homilies. This research will also contribute to our understanding of early Christian understandings of authorship and book culture, for I also attend to Origen’s self-conscious production of books, a distinguishing feature of the great exegete’s commentaries vis-à-vis the homilies.

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

Given my field of interest, the name that first comes to mind is Margaret M. Mitchell. She is an elegant person and scholar, and has always been kind to me and engaged with my work when we encounter each other at conferences or colloquiums. I admire how she is able to operate in the worlds of biblical studies and patristics simultaneously, seamlessly fusing the two in ways that most are simply unable to even attempt. Her engaging writing style is also a rarity in our discipline, and to this I aspire as well.

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

Frances Young’s Biblical Exegesis and the Formation of Christian Culture has been highly influential. This is surely the answer of most scholars currently working on early Christian exegesis, and there’s good reason for this. One simply must deal with her thesis concerning the two so-called schools of exegesis in Alexandria and Antioch if one wants to work seriously on early Christian exegesis. While I challenge some of Young’s conclusions in my recent book, I return to this text again and again, no matter the project. Many of her observations, some of which she makes only in passing, are highly suggestive and the scholars in her wake have only begun to work through their implications in subsequent studies. 

Do you have any publications we can showcase?

Two recent publications to which I’m particularly happy to draw your attention are: 

My reworked doctoral dissertation, titled, Interpreting the Gospel of John in Antioch and Alexandria, now published in the SBL Press’ Writings from the Greco-Roman World Supplement Series, and an article in Patristica Nordica Annuaria, “Angels, Scripture, and the Exegesis of Origen”

Where can we follow you online?

You can follow me on Twitter @MiriamJane5. My institution webpage is:

https://pure.au.dk/portal/da/persons/miriam-jane-de-cock(ce91083d-dd48-47b6-b5ad-9fca28502119).html

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?

The Toronto Raptors, past and present! Possibly the latest collection of short stories I’ve read, and perhaps the woes and joys of ex-pat life in Denmark, including Danish language learning. More than likely, however, I’d want to talk about you! I am rather shy, so I much prefer to listen and ask questions upon first meeting than to talk about myself or my own interests.

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

Other than my current book project, I am working on an essay focused on Origen’s use of Paul as an exegetical role model for a forthcoming T&T Clark volume titled, Origen and Paul. This is part of an exciting series called Pauline and Patristic Scholars in Debate. Otherwise, I’m currently spending lots of time editing a collection of essays in honour of my doctoral supervisor, Peter Widdicombe’s retirement in collaboration with Elizabeth Klein at the Augustine Institute. This is titled Patristic Exegesis in Context: Exploring the Genres of Early Christian Biblical Interpretation. 

>> Thank you so much, Dr. DeCock, 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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