RIGHTEOUS WOMEN SAVE THE DAY
By LORETTA FULTON
Dr. George Knight would have been proud.
Three of his former students were featured speakers for the annual George Knight Lectures Oct. 28-29 at Hardin-Simmons University. Theme for lectures was “Women of the Old Testament,” with Dr. Susan Pigott, Dr. Robert Ellis, and Dr. Meredith Stone delivering the lectures.
Knight, a professor for years at Logsdon School of Theology, died in 2018, shortly before the annual lectures in his honor.
Up first for the 2019 lectures was Pigott, who spoke on “Text, Tradition, and Art: Re-envisioning Hagar’s Story” as told in Genesis 16. Pigott’s lecture was followed by a dramatic reading of two of her peoms, “Pas de Trois” and Pas de Deux.” The readings were performed by HSU theater students Dylan Scott, Kyrsten Roach, Arianna Reed, and Jake Hamilton, under the direction of Dr. Victoria Spangler.
Different biblical translations, personal interpretations, and traditions can affect how Bible stories are interpreted, sometimes innocently and sometimes causing trouble.
“Some traditions are harmful,” Pigott said, especially when they are used to demean others.
Misinterpreting the story of Hagar, a slave-girl who gave birth to Abram’s first son, Ishmael, has led to justifying prejudices against Muslims. In many translations of the story, Ishmael is described as “a wild ass of a man, with his hand against everyone, and everyone’s hand against him.” But, Pigott said, the passage could just as easily read, “And he himself will be a wild-stallion-man. His hand will be with everyone and the hand of everyone will be with him.”
Those two interpretations stem from how certain words are translated. For example, the word “onager” is the literal word used, not “wild ass.” An onager, Pigott explained, is like a donkey or ass but is undomesticated and, therefore, wild. The word does not convey stubborness and stupidity, Pigott said, like the English words “donkey” and “ass.”
Pigott handed out a translation comparison, with the New Revised Standard Version of Genesis 16 in one column and the “Translation by S. Pigott” in another. Her translation presented an entirely different view of Hagar and Ishmael than the one that Christians traditionally hear.
Hagar should be held in higher esteem than she is by many Christians, Pigott argued, because God spoke to her and she gave God a name, El Roi.
“Perhaps now,” she said, “we can see Hagar as she was meant to be seen.”
Dr. Ellis, dean of the Logsdon School of Theology, spoke at the university chapel service on the morning of Oct. 29 and was followed by Stone, speaking at noon. Ellis spoke on “The Most Righteous Women” and Stone spoke on “Why the Empire Always Strikes Back: Reading Esther With Imperial-Critical Eyes.”
Ellis noted that the Talmud, the ancient Jewish oral and written tradition, says that the Hebrews, who were held captive, were redeemed by righteous women.
“It is a remarkable statement,” Ellis said.
Ellis related the story of several of those women, including the women who saved Moses and Rahab, the prostitute who worshipped Canaanite gods but recognized Yahweh as the one true God. She is named in the geneaology of Jesus in Matthew 1.
“This is pretty amazing,” Ellis said.
Ellis related the stories of several other righteous women of the Old Testament, the ones that the Talmud says redeemed the captive Hebrews. This generation needs redemption, too, Ellis said, speaking specifically to the students in the audience.
“Will you be the righteous ones of God in your generation?” Ellis asked them.