Alumnus Davis Hankins Wins 2017 Manfred Lautenschlaeger Award for Theological Promise
May 13, 2017—Columbia Theological Seminary alumnus Davis Hankins (’05) is one of this year’s winners of the 2017 Manfred Lautenschlaeger Award for Theological Promise, an international award given annually by Forschungsinstitut Internationale und Interdisziplinäre Theologie to outstanding first books in theology. He received it for his work The Book of Job and the Immanent Genesis of Transcendence (Diaeresis. Evanston, Ill.: Northwestern University Press, 2015). He is among ten winners who will be recognized at a celebration to take place at the University of Heidelberg (Germany) later this month.
Dr. Hankins is currently Assistant Professor of Religious Studies at Appalachian State University in Boone, NC; and faculty affiliate in the Judaic, Holocaust, and Peace Studies program and in the Gender, Women’s, and Sexuality Studies program. He is completing a commentary on Ecclesiastes and its reception history with Dr. Brennan Breed, Assistant Professor of Old Testament at Columbia Theological Seminary and winner of the 2016 Manfred Lautenschlaeger Award for Theological Promise.
“For Davis Hankins, the Lautenschlaeger Award is richly deserved!” exclaimed Dr. Breed. “His thoroughly interdisciplinary work breaks new ground in several fields at once, most notably in biblical studies, philosophy and psychoanalysis. Davis’ book is also a testament to the excellent history of teaching at Columbia Theological Seminary, as it is indelibly stamped by the work of such faculty as Kathleen O’Connor and Walter Brueggemann. It also reflects the collaborative brilliance of Davis’ closest colleague, the late David Knauert, a fellow Columbia Seminary graduate.”
“Columbia is so proud of the excellent work Davis Hankins has done and continues to do,” said Dr. Christine Roy Yoder, Interim Dean of Faculty and Vice President for Academic Affairs at Columbia Seminary, as well as Professor of Old Testament Language, Literature, and Exegesis. “We consistently strive to bring rigorous, interdisciplinary, and relevant scholarship to bear for the sake of God’s church and the world. Davis’ book exemplifies such scholarship, and this prestigious award distinguishes him as one more scholar connected to Columbia to watch closely now and in the years to come.”
In his book, Dr. Hankins offers a new reading of the book of Job, largely rooted in his approach to the place of Job in ancient Israel’s wisdom tradition. Many describe Job as a critic of traditional wisdom, but his differs from most characterizations of Job’s critique. Job rejects the tradition’s reflexive recourse to God’s sure distance from situations that exceeded their understanding. Job, by contrast, insists on God’s absolute proximity to himself and his world as a force that keeps himself and his world from being understandable or at one with themselves. God in Job is a force of transformation without external limit, as opposed to the wisdom tradition’s constant references to God as beyond what human beings can know.
According to Dr. Hankins, these debates within Israel’s wisdom tradition resonate deeply with contemporary concerns, “Early Jewish wisdom literature includes nearly equivalent amounts of material both from representatives of the tradition and from counter-traditional voices. The current global cultural climate includes both increased interest in religious traditions and sustained suspicion about religious communities and theological commitments. In our context, Israel’s wisdom tradition sounds intriguingly resonant.”
Dr. Hankins’ book also raises many questions about spirituality and ethics. He argues that Aristotelian, virtue-based approaches are inappropriate and actually obscene in relation to Job’s experience of trauma. He then pursues alternative frameworks that respond more satisfactorily to experiences, like Job’s, that are grounded in disaster and trauma.
In addition to receiving his MDiv at Columbia Theological Seminary, Dr. Hankins received his PhD from Emory University and his BS from North Carolina State University.
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